Gemlife Financial Education Series
The Past, Present and Future of Social Security
Traditional Sources of Economic Security
All peoples throughout all of human history have faced the uncertainties brought on by unemployment, illness, disability, death and old age. In the realm of economics, these inevitable facets of life are said to be threats to one's economic security.
For the ancient Greeks economic security took the form of amphorae of olive oil. Olive oil was very nutritious and could be stored for relatively long periods. To provide for themselves in times of need the Greeks stockpiled olive oil and this was their form of economic security.
In medieval Europe, the feudal system was the basis of economic security, with the feudal lord responsible for the economic survival of the serfs working on the estate. The feudal lord had economic security as long as there was a steady supply of serfs to work the estate, and the serfs had economic security only so long as they were fit enough to provide their labor. During the Middle Ages the idea of charity as a formal economic arrangement also appeared for the first time.
Family members and relatives have always felt some degree of responsibility to one another, and to the extent that the family had resources to draw upon, this was often a source of economic security, especially for the aged or infirm. And land itself was an important form of economic security for those who owned it or who lived on farms.
These then are the traditional sources of economic security: assets; labor; family; and charity.