Generally, bad stuff seems to happen most often in cities. Why is that? Cities are where most people live. It is where governments are. And it is where the labor force is most specialized.
There are no subsistence farmers living in cities. Nor do urban populations “live off the land.” Instead, they depend on complex networks of commerce. The typical city dweller produces neither food nor energy. He sits all day in an office – completely dependent on others to provide power and food. Then, he goes home – still completely dependent on the division of labor for his most important needs.
Progress can be described as the elaboration of the division of labor. In man’s most primitive state, specialization is extremely limited. From what we’ve been told, the early man was the hunter. Early woman gathered…that’s about the extent of it.
As the tribe grows larger, specialization increases. One person might tend the fire. Another might be in charge of making clothes or arrows.
The advent of sedentary agriculture and towns caused a big leap forward in human progress and, not coincidentally, the division of labor. Some townspeople went out to tend the fields. Others began to focus on woodworking…or iron mongering…or making weapons…or clothes. Some played cards and hung around at bars. There was soon a homebuilding industry…and, not long after, merchants, prostitutes and bankers…and even shyster lawyers and tax collectors.
As the division of labor expanded, the average person became richer…and more dependent on others. In order to eat, someone else had to plant…and till…and harvest…and hunt…and gather. And then, when agriculture became mechanized, he depended on faraway people who produced oil and gasoline…and people who built tractors and combines…and bankers who financed industries and factories. And, of course, he was more dependent on money too. In the days when he bartered, money was no threat. Then, when he traded only with gold and silver coins, there were no monetary breakdowns…no hyperinflations…and no financial crises.
As the 20th century progressed, more and more people gave up agriculture, moved to cities and took part in other industries.