The Rise and Fall of World Commerce
Part 1b—Why Examine the World of Commerce?
A WORLD without political rivalry, religious bickering, and economic anxiety is hard to imagine. Not a day passes but that politics, religion, and commerce reach out to touch us in any number of ways. Remove these three pillars of human society, and the result could be chaos.
Whenever groups of people live together, some system of economics—household management—is essential to provide them with the goods and services they need. (See box below.) So every household strives to have a healthy economy. Likewise, the economy of every government involves four basic factors: (1) establishing what goods and services are to be produced, (2) deciding how those goods and services are to be produced, (3) determining how to distribute what is produced, and then (4) regulating matters so that the economy will grow at a proper speed and provide employment for all.
The economic systems developed by man have undeniably made life more comfortable, providing us with goods and services we would be unable to provide for ourselves. These systems have often substantially raised standards of living. Improved communications permit us to reach people in any part of the world by telephone within seconds, fax material to them within minutes, and even travel to talk to them face-to-face within hours.
Yet, we cannot overlook that the world of commerce influences humans in a way that is even more far-reaching. Together with religion and politics, it can affect our very destiny.* So it is appropriate now to turn our attention to the third main element of human society, the world of commerce. How did it become so powerful? Where is it headed? What implications does this have for us personally?
Awake! has published two series of articles that clearly showed how this is true of religion and of political systems. “Religion’s Future in View of Its Past,” January 8 through December 22, 1989; “Human Rule Weighed in the Balances,” August 8 through December 22, 1990.
[Box on page 5]
Defining the World of Commerce
You may find it difficult to define words such as “commerce,” “trade,” “industry,” “business,” and “economics.” Collins Cobuild English Language Dictionary defines “commerce” as simply “the activities and procedures involved in buying and selling things.” This necessarily involves “trade,” which is “the activity of buying, selling, or exchanging goods or services between people, firms, or countries.” Of course, goods must be manufactured or processed before they can be traded, a process known as “industry.” And work related to commerce and trade is termed “business.”
As for “economics,” it is “the study of the production of wealth and the consumption of goods and services in a society, and the organization of its money, industry, and trade.” Giving us further insight into the meaning of this word is the fact that it is derived from Greek roots designating the management of a household or estate.