Government, far more important than business

An early page in The Economist briefly describes the main political events of the world in the previous week. The next page is devoted to news about big business. About a dozen items on both pages. At first sight this implies an equality of importance between governments and business corporations — at least by The Economist. If so, what does the magazine think of the future? It’s an interesting question.

Business is certainly much more recent. The earliest evidence for manufacturing and trading — a cowrie shell necklace — comes from 70,000BC. Government extends backwards far further. The earliest human groups on the African savannah required expert leadership — and thus, probably, pecking order — and these go back at least 200,000 years. But there were many species of proto-humans before then — at least 6 million years elapsed before we separated from the original ape stock.

Government is not only immensely older than business but depends on an innate sense of justice. Without it not even the first trivial business exchange could have happened. Government is far more important than business and will survive it beyond the time that it will be seen as an historic relic.

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