This chapter argues that before societies organized on a scale larger than the tribe, living conditions and human mentality did not conceive of profits. People had little material wealth or desire for gain, and their sense of time made calculation difficult. The possibility of profit first emerged in the organized irrigation societies of Egypt and southern Mesopotamia, an area known as Sumeria whose natural endowments made trade important. Their leaders began to accumulate material wealth. Traders could then earn profits, perhaps most often from buying and selling slaves, and use the profits for their own benefit. Other opportunities for profit, such as crop loans, shipping, and retailing followed. Over the next thousand or so years, culminating in the reign of Babylonia's King Hammurabi, most key business developments followed improvements in government. Another key development was the invention, discovery, or creation of tools that would be essential to business becoming a common and competent activity: calculation, writing, forecasting, and legal systems.
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