Citation (APA): Leeson, P. (2014). Human Sacrifice [Kindle Android version]. Retrieved from Amazon.com
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Human Sacrifice Peter T. Leeson
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I argue that human sacrifice is a technology for protecting property rights. It improves property protection by destroying part of sacrificing communities’ wealth, which depresses the expected payoff of plundering them.
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immolating a live person is nearly impossible to fake,
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human sacrifice is presented as a religious obligation.
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here we find a warlike ferocious race, delighting in cruelty and devastation, we may be assured that they will have deities delighting in slaughter, and rites polluted with blood.”
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DOVE C È GUERRA C È SACRIFICIO
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human sacrifice in support of behavioralist doubts about the canonical rendition of “economic man”
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My theory builds on Allen (2002) who introduced the idea that lowering an asset’s gross value might sometimes be a sensible way to improve its enforcement.
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If conflict’s cost is sufficiently high, it is cheaper for communities to protect their property rights by destroying part of their wealth.
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CONFLITTI E RICCHEZZA
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The Aztec’s sacrificial victims were overwhelming one of two sorts: captured enemy soldiers and criminals. Here human sacrifice was little more than capital punishment.
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human sacrifice is spectacular, communicating a sacrificing community’s wealth destruction far and wide.
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unlike burning a mound of crops, which can be manipulated to appear to destroy more wealth than is in fact destroyed, immolating a live human is nearly impossible to fake.
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it helps explain why some persons who live in unsafe neighborhoods drive cheaper cars than persons with similar incomes who live in safer ones;
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why persons in ancient societies expended inordinate resources building monumental tombs, such as pyramids; and why these same persons buried their most valuable goods with the dead.
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Zomia people of Southeast Asia who choose to live at near subsistence levels. Gypsies, who have traditionally prevented themselves from accumulating greater wealth by refusing even basic literacy, might exemplify such a group too. 2 So may the members of ascetic groups, such as monks, who take vows of poverty, or the Jewish Essenes, who, famously, lived in voluntary destitution for centuries.
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what distinguishes them from others may not be different preferences for material wealth,
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2 A Theory of Human Sacrifice
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Human sacrifice must destroy valuable property:
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This precludes immolating criminals or enemies, whose death would not depress
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Purchasing innocent humans with valuable property, such as part of a community’s land or that land’s output, and then slaughtering them accomplishes this.
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Sacrificed humans must be purchased from outsiders:
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only persons who lie outside the society the community inhabits will be willing to sell it victims for immolation.
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In Section 4, I test these predictions using human sacrifice as practiced by the Konds.
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my theory also suggests that when relatively favorable agricultural shocks are stronger— i.e., produce relatively more output— communities should destroy more wealth and thus should sacrifice more innocents.
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3 Human Sacrifice among the Konds
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3.2 Kond Sacrifice
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Kond communities sacrificed humans. 15 Their victims were called meriahs. Konds purchased these persons from meriah sellers called Doms (or Pans) who I discuss in Section 4.16 In principle meriahs could be persons of any age, sex, race, or caste. In practice they were nearly always non-Konds. 17
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ACQUISTO DEL SACRIFICIO
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Sacrifice was “celebrated as a public oblation ... both at social festivals held periodically, and when special occasions demand[ ed] extraordinary propitiations”
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These festivals’ main event was the immolation itself, which took place on the party’s third day. On this day the sponsoring Kond village’s head brought the meriah, intoxicated with alcohol or opium, to a spot previously appointed for the sacrifice.
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In some cases the victim’s arms and legs were broken to prevent his motion. After this and some final prayers, the priest gave the word, and “the crowd throws itself upon the sacrifice and strips the flesh from the bones, leaving untouched the head and intestines”
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4 Testing the Theory of Human Sacrifice
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According to Kond belief, “To be acceptable to Tari a victim had to be purchased” by a sacrificing community
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In slaughtering meriahs, communities destroyed the valuable property they exchanged for them.
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A life consisted of property such as “a bullock, a buffalo, goat, a pig or fowl, a bag of grain, or a set of brass pots.... A hundred lives, on average... consist[ ing] of ten bullocks, ten buffaloes, ten sacks of corn, ten sets of brass pots, twenty sheep, ten pigs, and thirty fowls” (Macpherson, 1865, p. 64).
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This constituted a “very great expense attendant upon procuring the victims”
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4.2 Wealth Destruction is Preemptive
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By sacrificing humans between the sewing and harvesting of crops, Kond communities destroyed wealth preemptively. Communities did not learn their natureassigned output values, and so could not sensibly choose whether or not to aggress against their neighbors’ property,
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4.3 Wealth Destruction is Public and Verifiable
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How could immolation-festival attendees, and thus those who heard about such festivals second-hand, be sure that the victim a community immolated was a purchased victim?
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Kond communities ensured others that the meriahs they sacrificed were purchased by leveraging the persons who sold them meriahs.
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Knowing a meriah had been purchased was not the same as knowing how much that meriah had been purchased
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First, as themselves buyers in the meriah market, communities knew the approximate price of a meriah.
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there was “a fixed price for each person” set by custom
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4.4 Contributions to Wealth Destined for Destruction are Incentivized
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Konds’ solution to this problem was the second means they employed to overcome the collectiveaction problem that threatened their ability to use wealth destruction to protect property rights: human sacrifice was rendered a religious obligation.
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4.5 Sacrificed Humans are Purchased From Outsiders
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Kond communities purchased meriahs from the members of an untouchable caste called Doms (or Pans).
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The meriah trade was simple. Doms “purchase[ d] them without difficulty on false pretenses, or kidnap[ ped] them from the poorer classes of Hindus in the low country” (C.R., 1846a, p. 61). 22 Having done so, they traded their human victims to Kond communities in the hill tracts for wealth in the forms described earlier.
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Because these Doms lived outside Kond society, when they received Kond wealth in exchange for meriahs, that wealth exited Kond society with them.
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4.6 Human Sacrifice Ends when Government Protects Property Rights
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Kond communities should have ceased to sacrifice humans when government became available to them to protect their property rights.
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IPOTESI DA TESTARE
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threatening the Konds with violent punishments if they refused to abandon human sacrifice, and attempting to reason with the Konds by “educating” them about the barbarity of the practice and the scientific baselessness of their belief in the necessity of satisfying an earth goddess with the blood
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DUE STRATEGIE INEFFICACI
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5 Summary and Conclusions