Primary Economics: A hero's journey (part one)


By John F. Sase, Ph.D.
Gerard J. Senick, Senior Editor
Julie G. Sase, Copyeditor

“Myths are public dreams, dreams are private myths.”

—Joseph Campbell, American mythologist, writer, and lecturer, “The Power of Myth” (Doubleday, 1988)

Last month, we concluded our three-part series on Internet Content Marketing. In this month’s column, the first month of our sixteenth year of publication, we return to our theme of Sufficient Affluence/Sustainable Economy. In Primary Economics, we delve into the source of all economic understanding—ourselves as the human species as we have developed as productive beings over many millennia.

We will consider the need for a strong primary sector that includes agriculture, forestry, fishing, and mining, not only for ongoing production of finished goods and services but as a firm foundation for human organization. The most durable and functional organizations may be those that we can trace to our distant human past. Through our sources and approaches, we seek to unravel the mystery of Economics in a universal way that is understandable to attorneys and all other human beings. By unraveling this mystery, we hope that every reader will gain enlightenment of the world as a whole and the important place that each of us plays in its continued growth and development.

What does this material have to do with attorneys specifically? Look at the attorney as Hero. By using the model introduced by American author and lecturer Joseph Campbell, the attorney embarks on a journey of self-discovery as well as on one to grow his/her practice and client base. In order to do this successfully, the attorney must have a strong knowledge of Economics in its purest and most basic form.

In respect to our deeper human heritage, we seek to provide a feasible explanation for our ability to regroup and rebuild after cataclysmic events. Then, we will reflect on the basics of productive economies in respect to work published a half-century ago by the noted New Zealand-born economist Allan G(eorge) B(arnard) Fisher.

Building upon these two approaches, we will apply the traditional method of storytelling explored in depth by Joseph Campbell, whose specialties were the fields of Comparative Mythology and Comparative Religion. Campbell discussed this story form in his many publications, which include “The Hero with a Thousand Faces” (Pantheon Books, 1949) and “The Power of Myth” (Doubleday, 1988). He outlines the inner journey of the archetypal hero, who appears in stories ranging from Gilgamesh to Star Wars and beyond, as follows: the hero becomes aware of a problem, resists change, feels fear and overcomes it, encounters challenges, and finally accepts the consequences of his new life. Thus, through his experiences and inner growth, the hero is able to help others.

Primary Economies
Economist Allan G. B. Fisher concerned himself with the nature of primary economies and how they contribute to the advancement of higher economic development. His noted contribution to the field, “Production, Primary, Secondary and Tertiary,” Economic Record, 15.1, 1939, involves the investigation of economic development in terms of Sequential Dominance of the different sectors of the economy: the primary, secondary, and tertiary sectors. The primary sector of the economy is the one that makes direct use of natural resources. These resources include fishing, mining, agriculture, and forestry. The primary sector contrasts the secondary one, which involves the production and distribution of durable and non-durable manufactured goods, with the tertiary sector, which encompasses the production of services.

The Journey

In order to illustrate the hypotheses and observations put forth by Fisher, let us develop an allegory in the tradition of the Hero’s Inner Journey as explained by Joseph Campbell. In our allegorical tale, we will ask how our society and economy have evolved, devolved, and re-evolved into similar patterns of structure and behavior across the millennia. Let us commence by creating a scenario that puts you, the reader, in the aftermath of a cataclysmic event. Rather than using the singular “I” or “you” as the hero, let us call the subject “we,” as in an Encounter


We experience “first consciousness” while standing waist-deep in the waters of a large cove that opens past rocky cliffs into a great sea. Given our limited awareness of the disaster that brought us to our present state, we can do little more than notice our most immediate surroundings—the sea below and the air above—and experience the cross-movement of the complementary waves of the sea and air as they meet on the surface of the water.

Recognizing our growing hunger, we search in close proximity for something to eat. Fortuitously, we gather green vegetation that has risen to the surface while we feel some aquatic creature brush against our legs. Intuitively, we reach down and retrieve the creature, which turns out to be a fish, with our hands. Holding up our fish and seaweed to an indifferent sun, we shout in silence. Sustenance! It begins to rain and we tip back our heads to fill our mouths with fresh water.

With our awareness increasing, we feel the lust of returning to a primitive state of economic survival. As we scan the horizon, we recognize remnants of our pre-cataclysmic advanced economy, one that is totally dysfunctional now. For the moment, we are left to survive by the most rudimentary means of catching fish. Looking upward, we notice other survivors sloshing about in the water with varying degrees of success in their efforts to retrieve a meal. We see that some of these people are poking sharp sticks into the water in order to spear the fish. This method seems to work better than the use of mere hands. Have we emerged as a tribe of stick-pokers, surviving on raw fish, seaweed, and rainwater?

A keen awareness of our present situation helps to clear our fragmented memories of the horror that caused us to be here in the first place. In response, we silently despair of the inherent fragility of our former economy and social organization. Simultaneously, our faces reflect our fear of rebooting the old system, even though our unfamiliar primitive state leads us to resist change and its concurrent hardships. Night falls as the last slip of sunlight vanishes. We discover that some of our kind managed to build a fire on the sands of the beach. We decide to join these survivors, offering the remains of our fish and seaweed to them. Bringing together what we have gathered and caught, we share these goods with those who have provided nighttime warmth and light for all.

Surrounding the fire, we discover that we have come together from groups that speak different languages. This observation raises questions about our respective pasts that no one can answer at present. For now, our concern demands that we learn to communicate with one another in a rudimentary but effective manner that incorporates sounds and gestures. Continuing our attempt to “talk,” we find that humor has returned to soothe us.

Some of the fire-starters communicate that their group has foraged inland from the shore in an effort to gather dry wood to burn and edibles to sustain life. Gradually, others of us gesture the intent of embarking on a “walkabout” at daybreak. Through eye contact, we understand that this journey will allow us to appreciate the current situation and to learn the lay of the sea and the earth around us.

The Walkabout
As the sun rises over the trees beyond the shore, we gather both the leftover fish that we cooked in the fire the night before and the other edibles. A group of us head inland through the forestland. After travelling for a half-day, we emerge into a natural hall formed by overhanging oak-tree branches. Here, we encounter another group of humans. However, their leader approaches us with a marked degree of wariness. Gradually, we develop a sense of know, like, and trust with the leader and the rest of the group through sharing food with one another. We offer the bounty that we have brought from the cove and they offer a variety of nuts, fruits, and roots that they have found to be safe to eat.

A cluster of those who describe themselves as “watchers” motions for a small band of us to follow them to the inner edge of the forest. We come to a large plain of open land. As we stand alongside the watchers, we spot other humans moving about frantically on the plain. In an elaborate nonverbal manner, our forest host warns us to keep our distance from those on the open terrain. However, some of our group already had sensed a fear and a distrust of those beyond the forest. We return with the watchers to the forest hall as we communicate our deepened awareness and understanding of the situation.

After gathering the members of our travelling group, some of the watchers lead us safely through the forest and then vanish. We have come to a land where others have taken to work the core of the earth in a successful effort to obtain minerals in order to fashion goods. Those of the core have gathered dense, naturally pointed, aerodynamic stones that they affix to the ends of straight sticks. Using this product, they demonstrate their agility in the hunting of fowl in the sky above. This specific product resonates with our group.

Given the sparseness of vegetation in this region, these diggers rely upon the birds of the air as the central part of their diet. We present them with some of the nuts and berries that we obtained from the forest folk. The diggers display both familiarity and delight with these presents. However, when we bring forth our food from the sea, they respond with great awe and favor. With little difficulty in communication, we manage to trade some of our fish for sharply-pointed stones.

We depart our newly found neighbors of the core who hunt in the sky. After they show us the path that leads to the far side of this still-unfamiliar domain, we travel the remainder of the afternoon beyond the rocky terrain to a land of fertile ground that ends at a cliff with a sea beyond. Some of us look at one another with disconcerted apprehension. Could this be the same sea to which our cove opens? Has our world shrunken this much from the cataclysm?

Meanwhile, some of the folks from the fertile ground overlooking the sea approach us. They gesture that they knew we were coming because of a signal in the sky. However, we do not know from whence this signal came. Was it mystical? Was it an arrow sent by one of our previous hosts? Was it from some other source? In this new region, the habitants seem to be developing a working knowledge of the relation between the sea, the air that draws fresh water from it, and the ground upon which this water falls as rain and then flows back to the sea. These humans are collecting and replanting live plants for agricultural cultivation. Presently, their economy is limited to gathering food-bearing plants and to hunting rabbits, squirrels, and other small animals that could menace these plants.

The population of this region is smaller than those of the other regions that we have visited. However, they are able to gather enough food for themselves and to produce a surplus to share and to trade with others. We spend the night within their community, enjoying what they have produced and partaking in what we have accumulated on our walkabout. On the morning of the third day, these gatherer/hunters help to prepare us for the remainder of our journey. As did the watchers, they warn us of the dangers in the large open area beyond. Those of the ground along the sea suggest that we continue onward in order to meet the neighboring group that some of the gatherers had met on the first day.

We continue along our course from morning until midday. Along the way, we pass the edge of more densely forested areas. As we do so, we sense watchers looking at us from behind the foliage. We look to the sky to get our bearings as we travel. The path of the sun indicates that our route may be a circular one. Soon, we arrive at a region in which others like us are busy capturing wild beasts and keeping them inside the caves that spread throughout the rocky core. In addition, we see cages and pens built of stones and logs. Besides the wild beasts, domesticate animals such as cows and goats, abundant to this environ, are being rounded up.

When we enter the central area of this region, we meet some of its residents, who speak a dialect understood by some of us. They explain that they are aware that we are of the others who fish the cove that opens to the sea. We learn that they discovered our existence on the second day. Apparently, some of the bears that they were tracking had smelled the fish cooking on our fire. The front person who spoke said that it took most of the day to chase down the bears and bring them back. The bears were gentler than some of the other large creatures that the animal-capturers have caught. However, the bears need to be restrained because they scare the cows and goats being herded for milk.

Various members of this group pointed to the open area beyond the forest. We now realize that these forested areas encircle the central plain of the land, which now we recognize as an island. Those who track the beasts of the ground and trap them in holes in the core are less concerned about an attack from the open area at the middle of the island. This is due to presence of the bears, lions, and other fierce creatures that intimidate the hostile group in the middle plain. We explained our walkabout and the groups that we met previously.

Though the core-ground people knew of our existence and had met the gatherers of the sea-ground people from along the cliffs, they seemed surprised to learn of the existence of those who worked the core for minerals and hunted the sky. We explained that these people extracted forgeable metals from the core of the earth. The group that relied upon the caves to keep fierce animals from roaming freely about the grounds displayed great interest. They talked of obtaining metal bars for cave openings and metal chains to replace the fiber ropes, which the beasts chew through quickly.

Becoming aware that all of us were forming new economies on an island that contained a large open field at its center led us to realize the value of the central plain as a crossroads for travel and a place of trade for the four groups encircling the island. However, our present hosts sought to explain what had happened.

Originally, those who we came to know as the watchers had settled in the middle lands, where they began to establish communications and to share with other groups. Apparently, our host group was their first contact. It became obvious that we of the cove were the fourth group because those known to us as the watchers had been driven out of the plain and into the forest with others who resisted the forcible takeover of the crossroads region.