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Economics Made Simple: How money, trade and markets really work by Madsen Pirie

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Prices, selling and buying

AMONGST THE EARLY examples of human writing are those which survive from the Babylonian Empire of the ruler Hammurabi, approximately 4,000 years ago. Hammurabi was a lawgiver as well as a conquering emperor, and the Code of Hammurabi ranks alongside the law codes of Justinian and Napoleon as one of history’s greatest. In amongst the 3,600 lines of cuneiform script carved on a pillar found at Susa, and referred to among the innumerable clay tablets that survive from his period, are the maximum prices allowed by the law for a whole range of commodities, and the appropriate wages to be paid for various occupations. A few examples serve to convey its flavour:

“If a man hire cattle, wagon and driver, he shall give 180 ...

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