Natural economy is a type of economy in which money is not used in the transfer of resources among people. It is a system of allocating resources through direct bartering, entitlement by law, or sharing out according to traditional custom. In the more complex forms of natural economy, some goods may act as a referent for fair bartering, but generally currency plays only a small role in allocating resources. As a corollary, the majority of goods produced in a system of natural economy are not produced for the purpose of exchanging them, but for direct consumption by the producers (subsistence). As such, natural economies tend to be self-contained, where all the goods consumed are produced domestically.
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The term has often been used in opposition to other forms of economy, most notably capitalism. Rosa Luxemburg believed that the destruction of the natural economy was a necessary condition for the development of capitalism. Karl Marx described the Inca Empire as a natural economy because it was both isolated and based around exchange rather than profit.
Other writers have used a more relative sense of natural economy. Belgian economic historian Henri Pirenne noted that medieval Europe has often been described as a natural economy despite the existence of money, since money played a much less significant role than in earlier or later periods.
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