Part 11

The wealth and economic activity between cities depend on their population size Icon

January 28, 2022

This is because each person cannot obtain all the necessities of life by himself. For instance, no one, by himself, can obtain the wheat that he needs for food.

But when six persons work together to obtain their food separately or collectively, they will be able to have an excess of food. Such persons include:

  • a smith and a carpenter to make the tools,
  • a person to be in charge of the oxen,
  • persons to plow the soil and harvest the ripe grain and all the other agricultural activities

The combined labor produces more than the needs of the workers. The minimum combined labor of a town or city will be enough to provide for the needs of its population if that labor is distributed according to those needs.

The available labor is more than is needed and so it is spent to provide for luxury and to satisfy the needs of other cities. Those other cities import through exchange or purchase. Thus, the exporting city grows wealthy.

Chapter 5 will explain profit and sustenance. Profit is the value realized from labor.

When there is more labor, the value realized from it increases. Thus, their profit of necessity increases. The prosperity and wealth they enjoy leads them to luxury such as:

  • splendid houses and clothes
  • fine vessels and utensils
  • the use of servants and mounts.

All these incur a cost. Skilled people must be chosen to do them and be in charge of them. This causes industry and the crafts thrive and increases the income and expenditure of the city. Affluence comes to those who work and produce these things by their labor.

When population increases, the labor again increases. In turn, luxury again increases in correspondence with the increasing profit, and the customs and needs of luxury increase. Crafts are created to obtain (luxury products).

The value realized from them increases, and, as a result, profits are again multiplied in the town. Production there is thriving even more than before.

And so it goes with the second and third increase. All the additional labor serves luxury and wealth, in contrast to the original labor that served (the necessities of) life. The city that is superior to another in one (aspect of) civilization (that is, in population), becomes superior to it also by its increased profit and prosperity and by its customs of luxury which are not found in the other city. The more numerous and the more abundant the civilization (population) in a city, the more luxurious is the life of its inhabitants in comparison with that (of the inhabitants) of a lesser city.

This applies equally to all levels of the population, to the judges (of the one city) compared with the judges (of the other city), to the merchants (of the one city) compared with the merchants (of the other city), and, as with the judges and merchants, so with the artisans, the small businessmen, amirs, and policemen.

This may be exemplified, for instance, in the Maghrib, by comparing the situation of Fez with other Maghribi cities, such as Bougie, Tlemcen, and Ceuta. A wide difference, both in general and in detail, will be found to exist between (them and Fez).

The situation of a judge in Fez is better than that of a judge in Tlemcen, and the same is the case with all other population groups. The same difference exists between Tlemcen on the one hand and Oran or Algiers on the other, and between Oran or Algiers and lesser cities, until one gets down to the hamlets where people have only the necessities of life through their labor, or not even enough of them. The only reason for this is the difference in the labor (available) in (the different cities).

They all are a sort of market for their labor (products), and the money spent in each market corresponds to (the volume of business done in it). The income of a judge in Fez suffices for his expenditures, and the same is the case with a judge in Tlemcen.

Wherever income and expenditure (combined) are greater, conditions are better and more favorable. (Income and expenditure) are greater in Fez, since its production thrives because of luxury requirements (there). Therefore, greater opulence exists (in Fez). The same applies to Oran, Constantine, Algiers, and Biskra, until, as we have stated, one gets down to the cities whose labor does not pay for their necessities.

They cannot be considered cities. They belong to the category of villages and hamlets. Therefore, the inhabitants of such small cities are found to be in a weak position and all equally poor and indigent, because their labor does not pay for their necessities and does not yield them a surplus which they can accumulate as profit. They have no increasing profit. Thus, with very few exceptions, they are poor and needy.

This can be seen in the condition of the poor. A beggar in Fez is better off than a beggar in Tlemcen or Oran. I observed beggars in Fez who, at the time of the sacrifices (of the `Id festival), begged for enough to buy their sacrificial animals.

I saw them beg for many kinds of luxuries and delicacies such as meat, butter, cooked dishes, garments, and utensils, such as sieves and vessels.

If a beggar were to ask for such things in Tlemcen or Oran, he would be considered with disapproval and treated harshly and chased away. At this time, we hear astonishing things about conditions in Cairo and Egypt as regards luxury and wealth in the customs of the inhabitants there. Many of the poor in the Maghrib even want to move to Egypt on account of that and because they hear that prosperity in Egypt is greater than anywhere else.

The common people believe that this is so because property is abundant in those regions, 106 and (their inhabitants) have much property hoarded, and are more charitable and bountiful than the inhabitants of any other city.

(However,) this is not so, but, as one knows, the reason is that the civilization (population) of Egypt and Cairo is larger than that of any other city one might think of. Therefore, (the inhabitants of Egypt) enjoy better (living) conditions.

Income and expenditure balance each other in every city. If the income is large, the expenditure is large, and vice versa. And if both income and expenditure are large, the inhabitants become more favorably situated, and the city grows. No (phenomenon) of this sort one may hear about should be denied, but all these things should be understood to be the result of much civilization and the resulting great profits which facilitate spending and giving bounties to those who ask for them.

This might be compared with the difference existing in one and the same town with regard to the houses dumb animals keep away from or frequent. The premises and courtyards of the houses of the prosperous and wealthy (inhabitants ofthe town), who set a good table and where grain and bread crumbs lie scattered around, are frequented by swarms of ants and insects. There are many large rats in their cellars, and cats repair to them.107 Flocks of birds circle over them and eventually leave, satiated and full with food and drink. (But) in the premises of the houses of the indigent and the poor who have little sustenance, no insect crawls about and no bird hovers in the air, and no rat or cat takes refuge in the cellars 108 of such houses, for, as (the poet) said: The bird swoops down where there is grain to pick up And frequents the mansions of noble (generous) persons. 109

One may compare the swarms of human beings with the swarms of dumb animals, and the crumbs from tables with the surplus of sustenance and luxury and the ease with which it can be given away by the people who have it, because as a rule they can do without it, since they have more of it. It should be known that favorable conditions and much prosperity in civilization are the results of its large size.


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