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In Ersilia, to establish the relationships that sustain the city's life, the inhabitants stretch strings from the

corners of the houses, white or black or grey or blackand-white according to whether they mark a relationship of blood, of trade, authority, agency. When the strings become so numerous that you can no longer pass them, the inhabitants leave: the houses are dismantled; only strings and their supports remain. From a mountainside, camping with their household goods, Ersilia's refugees look at the labyrinth of taut strings and poles that rise in the plain. That is the city of Ersilia still, and they are nothing. They rebuild Ersilia elsewhere. They weave a similar pattern of strings which they would like to be more complex and at the same time more regular than they other. Then they abandon it and take themselves and their houses still farther away. Thus, when travelling in the territory of Ersilia, you come upon the ruins of the abandoned cities without the walls which do not last, without the bones of the dead which the wind rolls away: spiderwebs of intricate relationships seeking a form. To me this excerpt represents social media and international trade. This makes me question the view of human nature that "Invisible Cities" endorses. Could it be optimistic? Pessimistic? Divided? Or perhaps even totally unclear? Many of the passages in the book speak about the fate of civilisation. In relation to last week's reading assignment "Introduction Into Politics", I was intrigued by this statement: "The response to the question: What gives you greatest cause for concern today? was almost unanimous: man. This was not, however, meant in the manifest sense of the threat the atomic bomb poses to the human race (a concern indeed only too justified); evidently what was meant was the nature of man, whatever each individual respondent may have understood that to be. In both of these cases and we could, of course, city any number of others - there is not a moment's doubt that it is man who has lost his bearings or is in danger of doing so, or who, at any rate, is what we need to change." I feel that this somewhat relates to "Invisible Cities" as "Invisible Cities" frequently calls attention to the destructive effects of time and the uncertainty of humanity's future. As quoted by Calvino, "It is the desperate moment when we discover that the empire, which had seemed to us the sum of all wonders, is an endless, formless ruin, that corruption's gangrene has spread too far to be healed by our scepter, that the triumph over enemy sovereigns has made us the heirs of their long undoing." There must be farmers to produce food, men to extract the wealth of mountains and marshes, artisans to process these things and merchants to circulate them.

There is no need to wait for government orders: each man will play his part, doing the best to get what he desires. So cheap goods will go where they fetch more, while expensive goods will make men search for cheap ones. When all work willingly at their trades, just as water flows ceaselessly downhill day and night, things will appear unsought and people will produce them without being asked. For clearly this accords with the Way and is the keeping with nature. Murray Rothbards Austrian Perspective on The History of Economic Thought Since Chien thought very little of the idea of limiting ones desires, he was impelled, far more than the Taoists, to investigate and analyse free market activities. He therefore saw that specialisation and the division of labour on the market produced goods and services in an orderly fashion: Each man has only to be left to utilise his own abilities and exert his strength to obtain what he wishes. When each person works away at his own occupation and delights in his own business, then like water flowing downward, goods will naturally flow ceaselessly day and night without being summoned, and the people will produce commodities without having been asked. To Chien, this was the natural outcome of the free market. Does this not ally with reason? Is it not a natural result? Furthermore, prices are regulated on the market, since excessively cheap or dear prices tend to correct themselves and reach a proper level. But if the free market is self-regulating, asked Chien perceptively, What need is there for government directives, mobilisations of labour, or periodic assemblies? What need indeed? Ssu-ma Chien also set forth the function of entrepreneurship on the market. The entrepreneur accumulates wealth and functions by anticipating conditions (i.e., forecasting) and acting accordingly. In short, he keeps a sharp eye out for the opportunities of the times. Finally, Chien was one of the worlds first monetary theorists. He pointed out that increased quantity and a debased quality of coinage by government depreciates the value of money and makes prices rise. And he saw too that government inherently tended to engage in this sort of inflation and debasement.