Handre van Heerden
4 min readDec 19, 2022

The Tribal Business Cycle — Caveman Capital Theory and Satomoto’s wall.

Warning: This story might be offensive to Keynesian readers

An ancient tribe of hunter gatherers, known as the Keynesati, maintained a ledger system which they inscribed on a nearby cliff face. When a tribal member hunted a bison, deer or other game, or collected berries or caught fish, it would be shared between all tribe members. The provider would then mark his/her bounty next to his/her name on the cliff face. All tribe members could eat from the stock of hunted and gathered food. Next it would be someone else’s turn to provide food so that it evens out over time and every tribe members does their part.

By using this cliff wall ledger system, the tribe managed to keep everything fair and ensure that everyone did their part. The tribe was also able to keep track of what food were still in reserve.

Because of the success of this system, the tribe grew larger over time.

This system worked exceptionally well, until one fateful day. Some members of the tribe figured out a way to cheat this system. Seemingly simple in hindsight, this was considered revolutionary genius at the time: At night, when everyone was sleeping, these tribe members wrote on the ledger wall next to their names, without providing the actual goods.

These tribe members, called the “Bankari”, were able to live off of the other tribe members, for free.

But soon, problems arose. The entire tribe was under the impression that there are more supplies in store than there actually was. With the impression of abundance, they ate more than they would have had they known reality. Often feasting until late into the night and enjoying a boom of consumption.

One day when the tribal elders went into the cave where the supplies were stored, they realized it was completely empty. Flabbergasted about this, they went about finding out what went wrong, for according to the ledger on the cave wall, there were still ample supplies left.

The Elders soon discovered that the Bankari were writing on the wall without contributing anything, and confronted them. But the Bankari convinced the Elders to join their flagitious plot, for both Elder and Bankari could benefit from this at the expense of the other tribe members, as long as the other tribe members didn't find out about this.

The Elders decided to tell the other tribe members to work harder, hunt, gather and fish more, for it is their “tribal duty” to provide for the rest of the tribe. After all, who would care for the poor and build the roads if the normal tribe members did not consume less than they provided.

Every time a tribe member pointed out this thievery by the Bankari and the Elders, he/she was ridiculed as a conspiracy theorist or a “crank”. Furthermore, the Elders were in charge of who can and who can not write on the cave wall.

Over time, the Elders and the Bankari became exceptionally wealthy, for as the goods provided by the tribe members came in, they simply took and used as much as they wanted, writing it next to their own names on the wall. The other tribe members worked tirelessly, but could not seem to get ahead. It seemed that some kind of revolution would soon be at hand as the hardworking tribe members became dissatisfied by the situation.

One day, a young tribe member called Satomoto decided to announce publicly that he found a better system for keeping record of tribal affairs. Seemingly simplistic in hindsight, his solution was to start from scratch on a new wall, but with added rules. Anyone can write on the wall as long as they can prove that they delivered the goods they claimed to have provided, also, you may only write on the wall when witnessed by the entire tribe, out in the open.

Satomoto and his early followers were ridiculed by the Elders and the Bankari, for they immediately realized that Satomoto’s system would put an end to their racket. It was said that the new wall could never work as a ledger system because it has no Elders to control it.

But soon all the tribe members that chose to write on Satomoto’s wall, became wealthier than the tribe members who still wrote on the Elder’s wall. Not because they were better or more hardworking, but simply because a large percentage of the fruits of their labour wasn't stolen by the Elders and the Bankari.

Slowly but steadily, more and more tribe members started using Satomoto’s wall, until eventually there were only the empty and fake writings of the Elders and the Bankari left on the Elder wall.

Satomoto managed to peacefully circumvent the Elder wall, thereby ensuring peace and prosperity for all tribe members.

The end.