Friday, October 19, 2012

Gypsy vs. Farmer Strategy

Farmer Strategy - Pick a location, intensivly husband the area/resources, invest in infrastructure to improve area/resources. Store resources for seasonal lean periods.  Attempt to reduce the cost of resources/harvesting/storing by carefully investing in infrastructure/inventions/other strategies. No limit on size or volume of assets. Currency needs to only be locally valid (Reputation, trust, labour, relationships etc)

Gypsy Strategy - Travel to location, harvest area/resources while resources are cheap and easy to gather, then relocate to new area.  Invest only in what you can carry/move. Any infrastructure must be abandoned, so is a cost. Store nothing but fat. Reduce all wealth to smallest, lightes    items (gold, jewlery?) All currency must be portable. (Money)

Hunter/Gatherer Stategy is somewhere in between.   Some systems worked cyclicly, where the tribe/group moves around between fairly fixed locations based on natural features (Caves, seasonal crops, seasonal animal migrations etc) 

All strategies are successful within a facilitating context the issue's arise when two groups are trying to practice different strategies within the same limited resource pool.

In that case the Gypsy strategy ( assuming there is actually another location to move to - otherwise it would violate one of the assumptions for that strategy), they arrive and try to take all the low hanging fruit.  If the Farmer is already there... then the low hanging fruit is probably a substantive part of their "cash crop".  So, competition in all its glory.  However, in the case where the Famer has already cleared the low hanging fruit, then the Gypsy strategy fails, as they arive in an area that is relativly resource poor for their needs. They have no infrastructure with which to value add what resources they are able to harvest and so will probably move on quickly. Alternatly, they may seek to aquire the resources from any locals, by trade, theft, trickery etc. The final option is to move to the more successful farming strategy... but that has a very slow initial payoff which is unlikely.  Generally, they will probably move on, as the Gypsy strategy has this adaption as one of its base assumptions.  When resources are scarse... move to where resources are rich.

I guess in that respect, the farming strategy also has that assumption... but with a much higher cost-to-move.  I would phrase it as:  when farming is not viable... Pack up what you can transport and move to where farming is viable.  (Then go back and grab anything else thats not nailed down; take a crowbar if it is nailed down)

The conflict between these two strategies has been played out in any number of films and historical scenarios.  There is no obvious "better" strategy in even general scenarios.  Its only under harsh conditions that either or both of these strategies start to fail.

The Farming Strategy will fail when the resources in the local area are depleated to the point where the farmer(s) cannot sustain themselves through a seasonal cycle. (And they are unable to relocate to a suitable location)
The Gypsy strategy will fail when they cannot sustain themselves through the time it takes to move from one location of scarsity to another location of sufficient resources. Obviously being able to aquire resources along the route of travel will extend this time...but the rule still holds.

I have also been thinking about how the two strategies can complement each other. 

In the social context, consider a scenario where a small village is visited by Gypsy's (or traders or whatever name works).  Members of either community can "swap" strategies.  Those who wish to transition to the Farming Stategy can "marry" into the farming community, while those Farmers who have itchy feet can take off with the Gypsys.  As usual there are "people factors" that will probably get in the way, but the concept is essentially symmetrical.   It would be interesting to see how this played out under different scenarios of plentiful and scarse resources.  We would probably see the same sorts of Immigration and Migration that we see in history.  (Also all the issues that derive from scarsity of resources (or the perception of scarsity) such as "The're tak'n our jobs/daughters/houses/etc") The Australian scenario with the "Boat People" is an endlessly depressing example of this kind of social movement and the attitudes that it engenders.

I think the two strategies are probably more likely "complementary" and allow social groups to transition from one area to another in times of hardship.... while settling down and moving into a farming mentality when the location seems worth investing in.  The assumptions for either strategy are complex and probably need to be explored in detail.

* Resources in region
* Accessability and cost of harvest for the resource
* Access to "Other Locations"

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