We tend to take it for granted that nature—being basic to everything—is the place to begin when we try to understand regional economies. The given natural attributes of a region certainly do explain much about subsistence economies: why some people eat seals and caribou while others eat dates and goats; why herders in some places stay put beside their fields while others traipse back and forth between summer and winter pastures; why some people shelter in thatch and mats while others build with stone and timber; why some spin wool, others cotton, and so on. But interesting as such economic travelogues are, they don’t go far to explain even subsistence economies. For one thing, they don’t explain why these are subsistence economies instead of something else.
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