Ea-Nasir has some complaints about his copper business on tablets written in cuneiform that might kind of undermine that idea... It's not the -modern- idea of capitalism, but the exchange of goods and services, the idea of individuals owning means of production, the division of labor largely determined by class, etc are way older than Adam Smith. S'why he wrote about it and codified the idea, but it had already been happening before him.
Debt, too. In which the wealthy lent land, resources, or straight up cash to others and expected prompt repayment with interest. And in the Code of Hammurabi there were lines about how debts were to be repaid and -whether- a debt needed to be repaid if circumstances made it impossible.
It may not have been named "Capitalism", yet... but what's in a name? A rose by any other would smell as sweet.
No. This is absolutely not a "rose by any other name" situation.
I am disappoint [sic], as they say.
This is a particular line of nonsense that I've seen way too many times. It's sophomoric, it's silly, and it's extremely wrong and actively hampers understanding of the past
. Worse, it's illustrative of a sadly very common mindset (particularly among younger people, and usually grown out of), where they can't understand stuff without back-projecting stuff from the modern day onto it, even when it's entirely inappropriate.
Money isn't capitalism. Exchanging goods is not "capitalism". Debt isn't capitalism. The division of labour is not "capitalism" (indeed it's pre-civilization!). Owning things is not "capitalism". It's not "proto-capitalism" either. The idea that Ea-Nasir was living in anything resembling a capitalist society is as dumb, or possibly even dumber
than the idea that he was living a communist society (where, by the way, you find plenty of similar exchanges). Both of them are awful, wilfully ignorant, silly ideas. Capitalism is a very specific thing, very modern thing. I feel like you know this.
Sorry to be mad (which I am, I admit), but I've seen this way too many
times. This isn't the tenth time, this is more like the hundredth, and it's always by blithe, at least somewhat smart people who have just unable or worse unwilling to process what capitalism actually is
. It's genuinely harmful to push the line of nonsense you've got here though, because of the active harm to understanding
it does. People who are mentally trapped in a box where they can't understand exchanges except in the context of capitalism. I mean, I'm not saying I'm Morpheus here to "red pill" you into actually seeing capitalism for what it is, but hopefully someone will at some point. It has not been a constant. It is a novel and bizarre thing.
All of these ancient societies possess tons of characteristics that put them completely at odds
with Adam Smith. He didn't invent capitalism, but he formalized many of the ideas (as did Hume and others), and they were not
ideas you found much in earlier societies (hence him needing to write them down), indeed they were typically against the character of such societies. If you squint your eyes and ignore 90% of how a society functioned, you can pretend for a minute, but to be clear, you can also do that with communism, anarchism, socialism, democracy (!!!), and so on. In no case is it actually anything but shenanigans. Talking of squinting your eyes we could look at LGBT rights too, that way - most successful societies had some kind of outlet or safety valve for LGBT people, whether it was just blithely pretending lesbians didn't exist, or reliably sending gay men to become monks, or whatever. Some had bizarre ideas like Rome, which tolerated male homosexuality among non-citizens, and where it was fine for a male Roman citizen to be a top, but an executable offence for them to be a bottom. I wish I was joking. I am not. But that doesn't mean any of those societies believed in LGBT rights at all in the modern sense, just that they found their ways of making things work. Equally those societies didn't believe in any of the fundamental approaches of capitalism, and would have actively stymied many of them. You mention debt, and the way debt was handled in the code of Hammurabi is actively anti-capitalist.
In fact, Hammurabi's code is interesting, and you've forgotten about something rather important. That being that according to the Code of Hammurabi, Babylon was arguably*
a CENTRALIZED PLANNED ECONOMY. Prices for many goods, including the most important ones, were set or tightly regulated by the BY THE STATE. Debt had sharp rules around it that conflict hard with capitalism. There are lot of other interesting little rules that are hard-incompatible with capitalism, too - not least that being that if you left your house (and IIRC fields) alone long enough (and it wasn't very long), the state could simply hand them over to someone else. There were huge rules about aqueduct maintenance that are incompatible with any kind of free-market capitalism, too, or even really with mercantilism.
The were major changes in how economies functioned in the 1700s and 1800s, and a large part of them was capitalism essentially allowing fantasy to rule over reality in terms of how economies worked, and for increasingly fantastical and notional things to be assigned monetary values, something which continues to this day (and regularly causes disasters), but which you would just not find in say, Babylon, or Rome, or Tenochtitlan, or really anywhere before that. It's funny that you mention division of labour because you don't note that that's a major anti-capitalist factor as well, because societies often divide labour in ways that conflict extremely hard with the accumulation of wealth by anyone but a hereditary or appointed ruling class. You can see that tension all the way back in Rome, because the most important or honoured positions and the ones which people can corruptly extract the most sestertii from are not, eventually, the same ones. But equally, Rome often shows us that sestertii always don't count for much, because this wasn't a society where wealth could give you that much power without a whole lot of other things aligning.
Sorry this is very long, and I'm making a real internet of myself here, so feel free to ignore it, but I just really want to push back on this ridiculous idea that Ea-Nasir was a "proto-capitalist" or something. He wasn't. He was a dude who sold crap quality copper, razzed someone's servant, and got a strongly-worded letter about it (also probably a serial offender on this front from other tablets found at his place!).
* = I would reject that argument as too extreme, but it's a lot easier to make than an argument that it was a capitalist society in any meaningful way.
Physical money is just a representation of value as a form of abstraction. The actual source of the wealth comes from resource control and control of means of production. So long as the elf owns the mine or the forest or the farmland the money they use to represent the resources that are produced isn't disadvantageous at all.
This is some in-the-box thinking of a terrible kind. Money is extremely dangerous if you let it get out of hand. There's a reason a lot of society were quite frown-y faced about it, and had strict laws around it. It's not just this thing everyone agrees is fine, nor is it an abstraction, that's pure capitalist thinking of the most 20th-century kind.
Money in ancient times and the middle ages is generally not representational, it has inherent
value. It is not an abstraction. That's an active misunderstanding. I feel like if you studied history or archaeology (which I kind of suspect you might have), you really skipped some important classes here.
But whether that wealth is land, gemstones, coins, paper, or floating numbers the same remains true. And unless the elves are willing to destroy the systems of other races in the worlds (Humans gonna human after all) and have religious pogroms and so forth... not a lot to be done about it.
A) No. It's not the same if wealth is paper or land or coins. Those are three different with very different characteristics, and the paper can lose 99.9% of its value in literally a heartbeat, whereas the other two generally cannot (barring incredible magic).
And yes, I'm proposing elves would absolutely do pogroms and so on. Why wouldn't they? If you live hundreds of years, grinding these threats under your boot is going to make a hell of a lot of sense.
Also in 99% of campaign settings GODS ARE REAL so whether you like their religion or not is kinda irrelevant since they can drop lightning, plagues, or curses on you for getting uppity.
That's why you need to eliminate their worshippers and force them to worship your gods, and also make the priests all be elves. I mean, you're almost there!
That stuff gets lost in the "Minutiae" pile of irrelevancies for someone who has seen -so much- change in regards to all those things.
I think what you're missing here is that you're acting like the Elves are just passive secondary people who sort of chill and let all this happen.
I mean, why would they though? They're people. They're smarter and more experienced than others. They're more familiar with patterns of behaviour than others. They're going to be active participants in society, and they're going to throw the brakes on massively, even work hard to reverse change. We wouldn't get slavery suddenly re-appearing if elves were around - it'd never have gone in the first place, they'd never have let it, unless forced. And if they were forced, they'd still be incredibly bitter and trying to wind back the clock, because the Elven Slave-Empire got over thrown 600 years ago, which is the equivalent of about 50-odd years ago. You think "The South Will Rise Ag'in!" is bad? Try that when loads of people who fought back then are still alive hundreds of years later!
To put it another way, If elves liked vinyl, there'd still be vinyl, because they'd buy it. Even if new tech kept coming out, them wanting the old stuff (and also some humans and others would want it too), would retard the acceptance-rate of that tech, and make it far less profitable to advance tech, because a big chunk of the market won't buy it, and so long as the old stuff remains available, others will prefer it too.