A Socialist Empire: The Incas of Peru

By Louis Baudin; Katherine Woods et al. | Go to book overview

12
A Menagerie of Happy Men

1. The Effacement of the Individual

And men delighted in being driven like a herd of animals...

-- Dostoevski, The Brothers Karamazov

Was the Indian satisfied with his lot? Such is the grave question that we must answer if we wish to pass judgment on the social system of the Incas. We know that the monarch supplied his subjects with everything they needed; but happiness consists in a state of consciousness, not in an accumulation of products.

At the very outset of our investigation we immediately find ourselves confronted with an obstacle. The chroniclers speak of the "rich" and the "poor."1 What meaning are we to give to these words? We know that Peru is not to be considered as a communist state. Hence, the Indians who had received gifts or grants from the Inca could be regarded as rich, while those who had lost their crops because of a frost, a flood, or a drought, and who were being fed from the reserve stocks in the national granaries were really the poor. Others to be called poor were the aged, the disabled, or the ill, who were supported by their communities,2 and the Indians who had no children to help them in their work.3 In brief, a subsistence minimum was assured to every individual, absolute destitution was unknown, and great inequalities of fortune were and remained exceptional.4 A man could not become completely impoverished, but it only rarely happened that anyone grew rich. The

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