Byzantine Empire, Bosporus, Silk Road, Dutch East India Company, English East India Company, Tea Act and Opium Wars

Posted by PITHOCRATES - March 11th, 2014

History 101

(Originally published May 15th, 2012)

To encourage Risk Takers to Travel Halfway around the World Mercantile States granted Monopoly Charters

The modern world began because Europeans had a penchant for silk and spices.  Something they enjoyed during Roman times.  When the Romans ruled the world.  And the Mediterranean Sea was nothing more than a Roman lake.  But when the empire stopped conquering new lands and sending the spoils of war home they had to turn to other means to pay for the cost of empire.  Taxes.  To pay for the Roman government and their public spending.  And the Roman legions.  This excessive government spending led to the fall of the western half of the empire.  But the eastern half lived on for another 1,000 years or so.  Why?  Because the capital of the Byzantine Empire was Constantinople.  On the Bosporus.  Trade crossroads of the world.

This city was so rich everybody wanted to conquer it.  So they could have all those riches.  For everything that came along the Silk Road from China crossed into Europe at the Bosporus.  Soon Muslims fought Christians in the Holy lands.  Then more Christians came.  The Crusaders.  Those who didn’t die went back to Europe with some of those Chinese luxuries.  Spices.  Silk.  Porcelain.  Etc.  Sparking a renewed interest in these finer things in Europe.  Especially the spices.  For European cooking was horribly bland at the time.  The Ottoman Turks eventually took Constantinople.  Renamed it Istanbul.  And controlled that lucrative trade.  Making those much sought after Asian goods rather expensive in Europe.  Which they had no choice but to pay.  Because if you wanted those luxuries you had to go through Istanbul.  Until the Portuguese sailed around Africa and found a direct route to those cherished goods, that is.

It was the Commercial Revolution.  A new age of international trade.  A trade even more profitable than what the Ottoman Turks controlled.  Because big ocean-going vessels can carry more cargo than anything coming over land on the Silk Road.  And these new European maritime powers wanted that wealth.  And the power it would provide.  To encourage risk takers to get into those wooden ships and travel halfway around the world they granted monopoly charters.  The Dutch East India Company (VOC) was one of the largest.  And one of the wealthiest.  But this was not your typical company.  The VOC established overseas colonies.  It waged war.  Established treaties.  Even coined its own money.  Because of this thousands of VOC ships stuffed full of valuable cargoes sailed to Antwerp and Amsterdam, making the Dutch very wealthy.  And powerful.

The Tea Act allowed the Company to Ship their Tea Directly to America and exempted them from any Duties

Of course the Dutch weren’t the only ones doing this.  They had competition.  Portugal.  Spain.  France.  And England.  Who would bump into each other numerous times fighting for control of this trade.  And those colonies.  The English and the Dutch would fight 4 wars.  Which is how Dutch-founded Manhattan became part of the British Empire and, subsequently, one of America’s greatest cities.  The English East India Company gave the VOC a run for its money.  Parliament even passed legislation to give the English a monopoly on all trade with their American colonies.  The Navigation Acts.  Which stated that all trade to and from America had to be on English ships.  And all trade had to go through an English port.  Where the ships were unloaded and the cargoes inspected.  And taxed.  Then they could reload their cargoes and continue on their journey.  All tenets of mercantilism.  This kept the lower-priced Dutch goods out of America.  And prevented the Americans from selling to the Dutch directly for higher prices.  So it shut down the Dutch from all American trade (except for a prosperous black market). And brought in some lucrative tax revenue for England.  While extending shipping times and increasing prices for the Americans.  Which they were not happy about in the least.

The English East India Company (the Company) was similar in structure to the VOC.  And soon made the Indian subcontinent a wholly owned subsidiary of the Company.  But it wasn’t cheap.  Waging war was costly.  As was managing those conquered territories (something the Romans had also learned).  Then a famine in Bengal in 1770 claimed about one-third of the local population.  Making laborers more scarce.  And more expensive.  All at a time when the sales of their imported goods were falling in Europe.  There were warehouses full of unsold Chinese tea that they couldn’t sell.  Making for a bad time for the Company.

Higher costs and lower sales spelled trouble.  And that’s what the Company had a lot of.  Trouble.  So the Company turned to Parliament for help.  And Parliament helped.  By allowing the Company to ship their tea directly to America without having to unload it in a British port.  Or pay a duty on that tea.  Which would greatly reduce their costs.  And allow them to sell it in America cheaper than they did before.  So Parliament passed the Tea Act in 1773.  Making life better for all involved.  But the Tea Act left in place another tax in the previous Townshend Acts.  Which was a bigger problem than getting cheaper tea (which they could get on the black market from the Dutch).  These taxes on the British subjects in America were unconstitutional.  Because there were no Americans sitting in Parliament.  This was taxation without representation.  A much bigger issue than cheap tea.  So they threw that first ‘cheap’ tea into Boston Harbor.  The Boston Tea Party being a major step towards war with the mother country.  And American independence.

Britain became the Lone Superpower after Abandoning their Protectionist Mercantile Policies and Adopting Free Trade

The American Revolutionary War was not the only headache the British got from their mercantile policies.  Part of those policies required maintaining a positive balance of trade.  So there was always a net inflow of bullion into the mother country.  That’s why raw materials shipped into Britain from America.  And finished goods shipped out to America.  Finished goods are more valuable than raw materials.  So the Americans had to make up for this balance of trade in bullion.  Resulting in a net inflow of bullion into the mother country.  Very simple.  As long as you can manufacture higher valued goods that other people want to buy.

And this is the problem they ran into with the Chinese.  For though the British wanted those Chinese spices, silk and porcelain the Chinese didn’t want anything the British manufactured.  Which meant Britain had to pay for those luxuries with bullion.  Including all that Chinese tea they craved.  Which resulted in a net outflow of bullion to the Chinese.  The British fixed this problem by finding the one thing that the Chinese people wanted.  Indian opium.  Grown in Bengal.  Of course, this turned a lot of Chinese into opium addicts.  The addiction problem was so bad that the Chinese banned opium.  But the British were able to smuggle it in.  They sold so much of it that they used the proceeds to buy their tea.  Thus reversing the bullion flow.

Not the finest hour in the British Empire.  The Chinese and the British would go on to fight a couple of wars over this opium trade.  The Opium Wars.  Which the British did all right in.  Even gaining Hong Kong in the bargain.  They didn’t build any long-lasting love with the Chinese people.  But Hong Kong turned out pretty nice under the British.  Especially after they abandoned their protectionist mercantile policies and adopted free trade.  Which made the British the lone superpower for about a century as they modernized the world by leading the way in the Industrial Revolution.  And the Chinese in Hong Kong were very happy indeed to be there when the communists took over the mainland.  And caused a famine or two.  For they lived comfortably.  In a state founded on mercantilism.  That achieved its greatest prosperity during the free trade of capitalism that followed Britain’s mercantile ways.

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Scotland wants to Keep the Pound in a (somewhat) Independent Scotland

Posted by PITHOCRATES - March 8th, 2014

Week in Review

The Greek crisis happened because there was a currency union without a political union.  The Eurozone set some pretty strict limits on deficits and debt to join.  Why?  Because people in the Eurozone would all be using the same Euro.  So they didn’t want one country running up deficits or their debt.  Because if they did they wouldn’t just be messing with their economy.  They would be messing with the entire Eurozone economy.

Well, that’s what Greece did.  They were spending so much money that they had large deficits that added to a large debt.  A euro-denominated debt.  Which meant a default would raise borrowing costs for other euro-denominated debt.  Raising the borrowing costs for the Eurozone.  So to avoid that required other Eurozone nations to help Greece with their debt.  Requiring higher taxes in the more responsible countries of the Eurozone to pay for the irresponsible spending of Greece.  Neither option (default or rescue package) being a popular option.  Especially for the Greek people.  For the rescue package came with strings.  And the big one was austerity.  They had to stop spending so much.  Which meant a lot of people lost some of their government benefits.  Making them very unhappy.  Leading to some rioting in the streets.

Had there been a political union this would not have happened.  For there would have been only one entity borrowing and spending Euros.  One entity taxing the Eurozone nations.  And one entity printing money.  Much like the federal government in the United States.  And London in the United Kingdom (see Scotland’s referendum: Salmond says independence will benefit whole UK posted 3/4/2014 on BBC News Scotland Politics).

An independent Scotland with a strong economy would benefit the whole of the UK, First Minister Alex Salmond has told a gathering in London…

“I believe George Osborne’s speech on sterling three weeks ago – his ‘sermon on the pound’ – will come to be seen as a monumental error.

“It encapsulates the diktats from on high which are not the strength of the Westminster elite, but rather their fundamental weakness.

“In contrast, we will seek to engage with the people of England on the case for progressive reform.”

But Tory MP Mr Mundell said that Mr Salmond was saying that a choice to leave the UK and become independent “means staying exactly the same as we are now”.

He added: “By definition, that simply cannot happen.

“No one should be under any illusion that voting for independence means getting independence, which means becoming a new country outside the UK.

If the Eurozone sovereign debt crisis has taught us anything it’s that a currency union without a political union is not a good thing.  An independent Scotland would eliminate the political union there is now.  And the reason why England does not want a currency union with an independent Scotland is because of what happened in the Eurozone.  It doesn’t work.  At least, it doesn’t work well.  Which begs the question why do they want independence but not complete independence (keeping the pound)?

One can only surmise so they can have more autonomy over their taxing, borrowing and, of course, spending.  Perhaps to spend more.  Creating larger deficits.  And a greater pound-denominated debt.  Which would be of great concern to other holders of pound-denominated debt.  The rest of the United Kingdom.

It is unlikely that independence would lead to a stronger Scottish economy.  Or a stronger UK economy.  If it did then the whole point of the Eurozone would be a lie.  To create a larger economic zone to compete with the large economic zone that is the United States.  Because bigger is better.  At least in terms of GDP.  The British Empire was bigger than the United Kingdom is now.  And the United Kingdom is bigger than a United Kingdom without Scotland.  And an independent Scotland would be smaller than all of the above.  So if you want to maximize GDP you would want to maximize the size of your economy.  Not shrink it.  Which leads one to believe that the reason for independence is something other than economic.  Because the UK is too English?  Perhaps.  Whatever the reason let’s just hope everything works out for the best.  For the United Kingdom did make the world a better place.  With great people like Adam Smith from Scotland.  And John Locke from England.  To name only two of the greats to come from the United Kingdom.

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Peace through Strength

Posted by PITHOCRATES - March 6th, 2014

Politics 101

Bad Guys won’t open their Can of Whoop-Ass if there is a Chance they’ll get their Ass Kicked

Bullies generally pick on smaller and weaker people.  Smaller and weaker people don’t pick on tough guys.  They don’t walk up to a bully and give him a wedgie.  They’d like to.  But they don’t.  Why?  Because if a small and weak person did they’d get their ass kicked.  That’s why.  And people don’t like getting their ass kicked.  But sometimes it’s the tough guys that save the day.

In the opening scene of V for Vendetta Evey was about to get raped by some government thugs.  Then tough guy V came along and kicked their asses.  Saving Eve from a brutal rape.  In Die Hard the evil Hans Gruber was going to kill everyone in that building until tough guy John McClane happened on the scene.  And started killing the bad guys.  Saving the day.  In the movie Patton everyone wanted him thrown out of the Army after he slapped that crying soldier.  But when the Allies’ drive stalled in the Normandy hedgerow country who did they turn to?  That’s right.  Tough guy General Patton.  Who started kicking Nazi ass big time.  Breaking through their lines and advancing in every compass direction while British General Bernard Montgomery was still struggling o take his D-Day objective.  Caen.

People don’t like getting their ass kicked.  But if they are in danger of a good ass-kicking they’d want someone on their side who can kick ass as good as the next guy.  For even bad guys don’t want to get their ass kicked.  And if there is a chance of that happening they’re going to think long and hard before opening their can of whoop-ass.  Especially when someone else’s can of whoop-ass is bigger.

Only the Military Might of the United States could contain Soviet Expansion

The Roman Empire had one mighty can of whoop-ass.  Something her potential enemies understood.  And feared.  So they didn’t cause any trouble.  Because they didn’t want to get their ass kicked.  Which is why from approximately 27 BC to 180 AD there was relative peace in the world.  Pax Romana.  For the Romans had the mightiest military force in the world.  And if you went up against them you were most likely going to lose.  So they didn’t.  Instead, choosing to live in peace.

The British Empire was even larger than the Roman Empire.  And had an even larger can of whoop-ass.  Not only did they have armies throughout their empire which was so large that the sun never set on it.  The Royal Navy ruled the seas.  Which meant if you caused any trouble in the world you could expect an ass-kicking.  Either from her mighty military power.  Or her aid to a smaller and weaker country under threat from an aggressive neighbor.  The bad guys learned.  It wasn’t worth it.  If you tried to break the peace you were going to get your ass kicked.  Which is why from 1815 through 1914 when the British Empire ruled the world there was relative peace.  Pax Britannica.

The United States of America had come of age during the 20th century.  Growing even bigger and stronger than the empire that sired her.  The British Empire.  Who went into decline during the 20th century.  But just as Pax Britannica drew to a close and the world became a more dangerous place the United States stepped in.  Allowing the Allies to defeat Nazi Germany.  And Imperial Japan.  She grew to have the biggest can of whoop-ass in history.  And became the world’s policeman.  Pushing back against Soviet expansion.  In Europe.  The Balkans.  The Middle East.  And Southeast Asia.  The Soviets wanted to conquer the world.  And would have if not for America’s mighty military to counter their threat.  Leading to a period of relative peace following World War II.  Pax Americana.  As only the military might of the United States could contain Soviet expansion.

Vladimir Putin feels that he can put the old Soviet Union back together during the Obama Administration

During a sound check before a radio address President Reagan made a joke.  He said, “My fellow Americans, I’m pleased to tell you today that I’ve signed legislation that will outlaw Russia forever.  We begin bombing in five minutes.”  Reagan had a sense of humor and those present laughed.  The joke leaked.  The Soviets heard it.  And they put their Soviet Far East Army on alert.  You see, they had great respect for the awesome military power of the United States.  And they respected Reagan.  They did not like him.  But they respected him.  And if he said he was going to open a can of whoop-ass on them they got nervous.  For President Reagan may have spoken softly.  But he was not afraid to kick ass.

The Soviets had no such respect for Reagan’s predecessor.  Jimmy Carter.  In fact, they had so little respect for him that they developed a nuclear first-strike plan.  For Carter was gutting the military.  And wasn’t a tough guy when it came to foreign policy.  He was a president who wanted to focus on domestic policy.  A sign of weakness the Soviets could smell.   Anyone who gutted the military to pay for more domestic spending would never pull the nuclear trigger.  At least that’s what the Soviets thought.  Which is why they prepared a nuclear first-strike plan during the Carter administration.  Sure they could win a nuclear war against him.  The Soviets thought no such thing during the Reagan administration.  So instead of a nuclear war (which may have happened in a Carter second term) we had peace.  Because of our strength.

Peace through strength.  If you’re a bad-ass people will leave you alone.  Because no one wants to get their ass kicked.  If you’re hell-bent on beating the crap out of your neighbor so you can take her resources and there is a bad-ass in the world that can bring a world of hurt down on you it will make you think.  And pause.  This is why there was a Pax Romana.  A Pax Britannica.  And a Pax Americana.  Because people respect a bad-ass.  And will not incite it.  They may hate the bad-ass.  But they will respect it.  And not piss it off.

President Obama has a strong domestic agenda.  Like Jimmy Carter.  He doesn’t want to deal with foreign policy.  Like Jimmy Carter.  And he is not respected or feared by the world’s bad guys.  Like Jimmy Carter.  Who is far more inclined to make a speech and threaten action.  But is far less likely to open a can of whoop-ass.  Like Ronald Reagan.  Which is why Vladimir Putin feels that he can put the old Soviet Union back together during the Obama administration.  Because he doesn’t fear the wrath of President Obama.  As no one does.  For he is all bark and no bite.  At least, so far.  Apart from killing a bunch of people that can’t fight back.  Drone strikes.  Bombing Libya (that was no threat to American interests).  And killing Osama bin Laden with a SEAL team.  More of an imperial use of force than acting as the world’s policeman to safeguard liberty and democracy.  So Vladimir Putin has little to worry about during an Obama presidency.  Unlike conservatives in America.

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How Christianity gave us the United States and made the World a Better Place

Posted by PITHOCRATES - December 31st, 2013

History 101

The Pope kept European Rulers from Oppressing their People lest they get Excommunicated from the Church

In 39 AD the Romans crucified Jesus of Nazareth.  Because they said he called himself the King of the Jews.  Or rather those with political power who felt threatened by Jesus’ popularity said this.  His death was to protect power and privilege of those who had it.  Ultimately, though, His death would do more to destroy power and privilege.  For the Golden Rule allowed people to live together in peace.  To build communities.  And to help one another.

Emperor Diocletian split up the vast Roman Empire into four parts.  The tetrarchy.  The rulership by four.  Each of the four parts had its own emperor.  When Diocletian stepped down from power those emperors began vying for power.  By 312 two emperors were in open war with each other.  Constantine.  And Maxentius.  On October 28, 312, they met in battle near the Milvian Bridge over the Tiber.  On the eve of battle Constantine had a vision.  The Christian God would help him win the upcoming battle if he placed the Christian symbol on his soldiers’ shields (accounts differ it was either the Chi-Rho sign or the Latin cross).  He did.  He won.  And became Constantine the Great.  Sole ruler of the Roman Empire.  And because of his victory in the Battle of the Milvian Bridge he began his conversion to Christianity.  Making the Roman Empire Christian.

Christianity spread throughout and united Europe.  And the Pope kept European rulers from oppressing their people.  Lest they get excommunicated from the Church.  In time, though, some resented rule from Rome.  In particular when Pope Leo X sold indulgences (a way to help purify one from sin) to fund the rebuilding of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome.  This was one of many problems that had many calling for a reform of the Church.  One in particular, Martin Luther, published his The Ninety-Five Theses in 1517.  Kicking off the Protestant Reformation.

Plymouth Colony succeeded when Communal Property became Private Property

Henry VIII, King of England, was a good Catholic.  But his wife wasn’t giving him any sons.  And he wanted a male heir.  So he asked the Pope for an annulment from his wife.  Catherine.  So he could marry Anne Boleyn.  The Pope refused.  So Henry left the Catholic Church.  And initiated the English Reformation.  Making England Protestant.  England would swing back and forth between Catholicism and Protestantism without being either but something in between.  Making a group of Protestants very unhappy.  As they felt the English Reformation did not go far enough.  A group referred to derisively as Puritans.  They were so hated that they were being persecuted along with the Catholics.  So they left England.  Landing in the Netherlands first.  Then they sailed across the Atlantic.  They sighted land on November 9, 1620.  They eventually came ashore and established Plymouth Colony.

About half of Plymouth Colony died within the first few years.  From disease.  And hunger.  The economic system they were using was killing them.  Communal property.  Everything the colonists produced belonged to everyone.  People produced according to their ability and took from the common store according to their needs.  A sort of Marxism.  Before there was even a Karl Marx.  To save the colony Governor William Bradford abandoned the idea of communal property in 1623.  Communal property became private property.  And the colony was saved.  As people worked twice as hard to produce more on their land than they did on communal land.  And because they did they replaced famines with bumper crops.  So instead of dying off the American colonies became the prosperous New World.

The Seven Years’ War (1756–1763) came to the New World.  By the time it ended Catholic France lost its North American possessions to Protestant Great Britain.  To pay off the enormous debt of that war Parliament decided to tax their British American colonists.  Who made out very well in the conflict without the costs the British incurred.  But they did this without discussing it with the colonists.  Treating them as second-class citizens in the British Empire.  Who had no representation in Parliament.  Which led to anger over taxation without representation.  Leading to the Boston Tea Party (December 16, 1773).  Which led to the Intolerable Acts and the Quebec Act (1774-1775).  Which led to the shot heard ’round the world.  The Battles of Lexington and Concord (April 19, 1775).  Which ultimately led to July 2, 1776.  When the Continental Congress voted to adopt the Declaration of Independence.  After a few revisions it was formally passed 2 days later.  On July 4, 1776.  Known forever after as Independence Day in the United States.

In the United States your Last Name does not Determine the Quality of your Life

The American Revolutionary War did not start out well.  As the British pushed them back with little effort.  Until Benedict Arnold (future traitor) did some superb soldiering.  Impeding the advance of General Burgoyne.  The Americans met him in battle for the last time on October 7, 1777.  On the second day of fighting in the Battle of Saratoga.  And won.  Forcing an army in the mightiest empire in the world to surrender.  Shocking the world.  And getting the French to take notice.  Who then entered the American War of Independence.  The turning point of the war.  And world history.  For France was anxious to get back what they had lost to the British.  As was Spain.  Who joined the conflict as France’s ally.  Turning the American War of Independence into a world war.  And a war of attrition.  As their new foes forced them to send British forces all around the globe.  Leaving fewer to fight in North America.  With a British public growing weary of the war in North America.

America won.  Eventually.  Taking 8 years until the Treaty of Paris officially ended the conflict (September 3, 1783).  And peace and prosperity followed.  Thanks in large part to Jay’s Treaty (ratified by the Senate in November 1794).  Which improved relations between Great Britain and the new United States of America.  And began a Special Relationship between two nations of a common people, culture, religion and tradition.  When the treaty expired there was a minor hiccup in that Special Relationship that resulted in war.  The War of 1812 (1812-1815).  But peace and prosperity soon resumed.  With the South having a larger say in the national direction thanks to the Three-Fifths Compromise in the United States Constitution (1787).  Giving the South greater representation in the House of Representatives as they counted 3/5 of each slave to determine their number of representatives.  As the North industrialized and immigration filled their factories and swelled her population the South was losing that larger say.  One thing led to another that eventually resulted in the American Civil War (1861-1865).

The agrarian South had more in common with feudal England than they did with the industrial North.  Rich landowners (the planter elite) comprised an aristocracy that controlled politics.  While peasants/slaves worked the land.  The South was holding onto the Old World.  Where there was power and privilege.  While the North was building the New World.  Though the South talked about states’ rights they used the power of the federal government wherever they could.  Such as the Fugitive Slave Act (1850).  When war broke out the South won most battles.  Until General Grant started his great advance down the Mississippi River.  With the Vicksburg Campaign (May 18 – July 4, 1863) culminating in the capture of Vicksburg.  And control of the Mississippi River.  Severing the Confederacy into two.  Pretty much guaranteeing a Union victory.  It was just a matter of time.  In the east the Battle of Gettysburg (July 1–3, 1863) also ended in a Union victory.  President Lincoln went to the Gettysburg battlefield for the dedication of the Soldiers’ National Cemetery there.  Where he gave his Gettysburg’s Address (November 19, 1863).  Which ended with “we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”  And so far it hasn’t.  Remaining that shining city upon a hill.  The destination of people everywhere yearning liberty.  And a better life.  Where all men are created equal.  And your last name does not determine the quality of your life.

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Trade, Colonization, South Africa and Apartheid

Posted by PITHOCRATES - December 10th, 2013

History 101

Alexander Spread the Advanced Greek Civilization from the Mediterranean to the Indus River Valley

The first civilizations grew up on the great rivers.  The Nile.  The Tigris and Euphrates.  The Indus.  And the Yangtze.  For the river was the source of life.  The flooding of its banks produced the rich black earth that gave us farming.  They helped us irrigate land further from the banks.  And they allowed the spread of civilizations.  For these rivers provided our first means of transporting people and cargo.  Allowing food and goods to travel between settlements.  This cross-pollination of settlements of different people and resources flowered into the great civilizations of the world.

The Chinese civilizations along the Yangtze grew in isolation from the rest of the world due to the geography at first.  Then, later, by choice.  The other three great civilizations came into contact with each other.  The Egyptians on the Nile spread east and made contact with the Sumerians of the Tigris and Euphrates.  Who were in contact with the Harappan of the Indus River valley.  These civilizations traded with each other.  And fought with each other.  As their civilizations flourished they attracted the attention of envious neighbors.  Who wanted what they had.  And conquered them.

Wars pushed boundaries back and forth.  Civilizations rose and fell.  One of the last great empires of the ancient world, the Persian Empire, bumped into a new rising power.  Athens.  Which was conquered by a Greek-trained king from the north in Macedonia.  Whose son, Alexander, went on to conquer the known world.  Spreading the advanced Greek civilization from the Mediterranean world to the Indus River valley.  Creating a Greek-speaking world steeped in science and philosophy.  Creating a greater Hellenistic civilization out of the lands Alexander conquered.  The shared Greek culture allowing an explosion of trade and commerce.

In Time the English and the Dutch would Bump Heads in South Africa

The Romans adopted Greek knowledge and used it for great engineering projects.  Roads, aqueducts, ships, weapons of war, etc.  Soon the Roman Empire displaced the Hellenistic civilization and spread even further.  Ironically, it was the cost of empire that began the fall of the Roman Empire.  High taxes to fund a huge army on the frontier and to pay for a massive bureaucratic state.  Including welfare programs.  The empire first collapsed in the West.  It lasted another 1,000 years in the East as the Byzantine Empire.  With its capital in Constantinople (modern day Istanbul, Turkey).  Named by the Roman Empire Constantine the Great.  Who helped turned the Roman Empire Christian.

Constantinople was the center of the world.  It was where East met West.  Where Europe met Asia.  All trade from the East went through Constantinople on its way to the West.  For the Silk Road passed through Constantinople.  Making it a very rich city.  As it controlled trade.  After the fall of the Western Roman Empire the great Italian city-states rose.  Venice, Milan, Florence, Genoa, Pisa, Siena, Lucca and Cremona.  With their merchant banking they controlled the Mediterranean trade.  Until the Muslims conquered Constantinople.  Which is when the center of economic power moved north to Europe.  Thanks to advances in navigation that allowed ships to sail around Africa to the East.  Bypassing the Muslim-held Constantinople.

It was the Age of Discovery.  And the great European powers discovered new lands full of valuable resources.  The Portuguese and the Spanish lead the way.  And were soon followed by the Dutch.  And the English.  These nations established colonies around the world.  And, in time, the English and the Dutch would bump heads in South Africa.  Where they discovered gold.  Leading to a century of conflict between the British Empire and the Dutch settlers.  Known as Boers.  During the Napoleonic Wars the British defeated the Boers in Cape Colony in 1806.  And officially took possession of the colony in 1814.  Then it was Britain’s turn to send settlers to the region.  As a prosperous colony at the southern tip of Africa would come in handy for the empire that controlled the trade routes with the most powerful navy in the world.

Mandela Languished in Jail in part because of his Being a Communist

The Boers resented British rule.  And they didn’t like their abolishing slavery.  So they moved north.  Establishing two Boer independent republics.  The discovery of diamonds and more gold would make the region the richest and most powerful in southern Africa.  There was only one problem.  They didn’t have the manpower.  Or an industrial base.  Which led to another wave of immigration.  Mostly from Britain.  Which soon outnumbered the Boers.  Tensions led to the two Boer Wars.  The second one being the longest, costliest and bloodiest war the British fought in the century following the Napoleonic Wars.  With the British ultimately winning the African territories from the Boers in 1902.

The contested areas were all absorbed into the British Empire in 1910 as the Union of South Africa.  And became independent of the British Empire in 1931.  As the foreign powers fought over the African lands they pushed aside the native blacks.  And segregated them.  In 1948 the National Party rose to power.  And began to make segregation law.  The official beginning of apartheid.  Where the whites lived in a first-world nation (which they built with their capital along with black labor).  While the blacks lived in third-world conditions.  The African National Congress (ANC) fought apartheid.  Which was good.  But the ANC was a communist organization during the height of the Cold War.  Which did not make it a friend of the Western World.  Nor was Nelson Mandela.  Who was a communist.  Mandela co-founded the militant wing of the ANC in 1961.  Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK).  Which planned a campaign of sabotage against the apartheid government.  Landing Mandela in jail for 27 years.

Mandela languished in jail in part because of his being a communist.  For they didn’t want what happened in Southern Rhodesia to happen in South Africa.  Alignment with the Soviet Union.  And bloody civil war.  This is what they feared if the ANC/MK rose to power under the charismatic Mandela.  Civil war in South Africa fueled by the Soviet Union to aid in their war with the West.  As it turned out, though, Mandela was more like Abraham Lincoln when he emerged from jail.  Who told his generals that once the American Civil War was over there was to be no reprisals or retaliation against the South.  For once the war was over they would move on together as Americans.  Both North and South.  Which made the peace that followed much easier on the South.  Allowing the nation to heal her wounds more quickly than if there had been a period of bloody purges and reprisals.  And this is the gift Mandela gave to South Africa.  Allowing the nation to move forward after apartheid without bloody purges or reprisals.  Which is why South Africa went on to become one of the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) economies.  While another former member of the British Empire in Africa, Southern Rhodesia (today’s Zimbabwe), suffers corruption, poverty, human rights abuses and one of the lowest life expectancy in the world.  Because Mandela spoke of peace and reconciliation when released from prison.  Not vengeance.  Like they did in Zimbabwe.

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King George, President Nixon and President Obama

Posted by PITHOCRATES - November 7th, 2013

Politics 101

As far as Countries went in 1775 there were None Better than Great Britain

As late as 1775 the American colonists were still seeking reconciliation with Great Britain.  For they were proud to be British.  Citizens of the greatest empire in the world.  The British Empire.  Where there was representative government.  The rule of law.  Free market capitalism.  And no taxation without representation.  As far as countries went in 1775 there were none better.

The problem the colonists had wasn’t with the British Empire.  Or their king.  It was with the people who worked for the king.  And Parliament.  Who were denying them the rights every other British subject enjoyed in the greatest empire in the world.  With things taking a turn for the worse with the Townshend Acts.  The Tea Act.  The Stamp Act.  The Intolerable Acts (Boston Port Act, Massachusetts Government Act, Administration of Justice Act, Quartering Act and Quebec Act). 

The colonists pleaded to King George.  Who they affirmed their loyalty to.  But expressed their frustration with the king’s representatives and Parliament.  Their great incompetence.  And corruption.  Requesting relief from the king.  Wishing the king would see things their way.  And fix things.  Maybe even fire some of his people who were responsible for causing all the trouble they found themselves in.  But kings don’t fire people by request.  For kings are very intolerant.  Especially when their subjects dare to defy them.  Which is why the colonists last attempt at reconciliation, the Olive Branch Petition, was met with scorn from King George.  While the Americans were still debating whether to declare their independence King George saved them the trouble.  And declared that they were in open rebellion.  Hired Hessian mercenaries.  And waged war on his own subjects.

Nixon did not order nor was he aware of the Watergate Break-in but faced Impeachment over the Cover-up

Andy Reid is the most successful coach in the history of the Philadelphia Eagles.  Or, was.  For after going 4-12 in the 2012 season they fired him.  Because the team owner thought he was doing a poor job.  A fate many other head coaches face when they don’t deliver a winning season.  If they aren’t great in their job that’s it.  Owners fire them.  And start looking for someone who will be great.  For the owners have a large investment in their teams.  Money they won’t get back if people stop buying tickets.  Which they will do if they don’t start winning games.

Jacques Nasser was CEO of the Ford Motor Company from 1998 to 2001.  When he took office Ford was the most profitable of all automakers.  During his tenure he tried to change Ford.  To make it even more profitable.  And make Ford more than just a car company.  Sort of what Jack Welch was doing over at GE.  He acquired some other auto companies.  Dabbled in ecommerce.  And other auto businesses down the food chain from new car sales.  Including repair shops.  And even junkyards.  While he was doing all of this Firestone tires were disintegrating on the Ford Explorer.  Suffice it to say that Ford wasn’t as strong financially as it was when Nasser became CEO.  And when you do that there is but one thing to do.  Submit your resignation.  Which he did.

On June 17, 1972, a security guard caught five ‘burglars’ inside the Democratic National Committee’s headquarters at the Watergate Complex.  One of the reasons they were there was to place illegal listening devices.  To hear things that would help President Nixon’s reelection chances.  Nixon did not order this nor was he aware of it.  But names on the burglars led to the White House Plumbers.  Whose job was to stop security leaks.  Something the president did not want made public.  Which led to President Nixon’s involvement as he ordered the cover-up.  A crime so heinous he ultimately had to resign to avoid impeachment.

History shows President Nixon and King George were better Heads of State than President Obama

Scandals have plagued the Obama administration.  Fast and Furious (sending guns to Mexico so they could be ‘found’ after they were used in gun crimes to advance the gun control agenda).  Benghazi (ignoring the security risk in Benghazi and then blaming the murder of 4 Americans by terrorists on a YouTube video to help the president’s reelection chances).  Monitoring phone calls and emails of the Associated Press and Fox’s James Rosen (trying to find the source of security leaks like Nixon’s White House Plumbers).  IRS-gate (using the IRS to target political enemies of the Obama administration to suppress the opposition vote, especially the Tea Party).  And Obamacare. 

The president said if you like your insurance you can keep your insurance.  If you like your doctor you can keep your doctor.  Statements that weren’t true.  As they specifically wrote the new health care law to make sure we would lose our policies and lose our doctors.  Because we had to.  For if they didn’t get these people (the young and healthy with inexpensive ‘crappy’ policies) into their health exchanges Obamacare would be underfunded.  And if these people don’t pay for the old and sick who would?  Besides, the ultimate goal of Obamacare is to get America to a single-payer system.  What the people don’t want.  So the Affordable Care Act has to destroy the private health insurance industry first to force single-payer on the people.  Which will be easier to do when they have no other alternative.

Watergate forced a president to resign and sent some 43 people to jail.  All because of the cover-up.  Which was worse than the crime.  The Obama administration scandals are all worse than a bungled burglary.  And some of the cover-ups have been whoppers of a lie (such as the Benghazi YouTube video).  Yet no one was fired.  No one resigned.  Not even with the debacle of the Obamacare rollout.  (Such a failure would result in firings/resignations in the private sector.)  Any requests for such actions are met with scorn by the Obama administration.  Just like King George did with the American colonists.  For President Obama acts like an imperial president.  Who will lie and deceive to get what he wants (e.g., Obamacare, reelection, etc.).  For he knows what’s best for us.  Gets annoyed when we don’t see his wisdom.  And fumes with rage when his subjects dare defy him.  So President Obama shares some of the worst of President Nixon and King George.  But, sadly, he shares none of their greatness.  For history shows that they were both better heads of state than President Obama.  And that’s with all of their faults.

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Women Doctors suffer Sexual Harassment thanks to the Left’s Sexualization of Women

Posted by PITHOCRATES - October 12th, 2013

Week in Review

Australia was once part of the British Empire.  Like the United States.  And both were very Christian when they were part of the British Empire.  And they remained religious following their independence.  For a while.  But then we both drifted away from our religious teachings.  And began to lose our civility (see Most female doctors suffer sexual harassment, say researchers by Australian Associated Press posted 10/7/2013 on The Guardian).

Most women GPs suffer sexual harassment from patients during their career, according to researchers, who have written a letter to the Medical Journal of Australia.

The most common concerns are requests for inappropriate examinations, inappropriate exposure of body parts and gender-based remarks.

Touching and grabbing are also problems, according to a questionnaire-based survey by Dr Peter Bratuskins of Monash University in Melbourne.

He and his colleagues report that 54.5% of respondents have been harassed by a patient.

Before the Sexual Revolution, birth control and abortion, before we sexualized women, we treated women like ladies.  The left thinks treating a woman like a lady means inferring she’s the weaker sex and should remain barefoot and pregnant.  To forgo a career so her husband can have one.  That’s what the left thinks.  But the right doesn’t.  They believe treating a woman like a lady means we don’t sexualize her.  And we see more than just her lady parts.

The percentage of people in Australia who have no religion jumped from less than 1% to 6.7% following the Sexual Revolution.  Rising to 18.7% in 2006.  The further we move from religion the easier it is to sexualize women.  Because we believe that there is no judgment of our behavior after we die.  Which turns medical examinations into cheap sexual thrills with women doctors.  Because today we live in a sex-dominated world. Where we use sex to sell everything.  Putting sex foremost on the mind of many men.  Who interpret the women’s movement as the nod of approval to look at women as the sum total of their lady parts.

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The Greatest Threat to an Oppressive Dictatorship is Free Market Capitalism

Posted by PITHOCRATES - September 22nd, 2013

Week in Review

When people enter economic exchanges voluntarily everybody wins.  For example, let’s say one person has a hundred dollars of spare cash.  And another person owns a mountain bicycle that sells for $350 new.  The one with the money wants to buy a mountain bicycle.  The one with the mountain bicycle needs cash and wants to sell the bike. These two people meet.  And exchange the $100 for the bicycle.  And both walk away with something they valued more.  The person originally with the $100 valued the bicycle more than the $100.  And the person originally with the bicycle valued the $100 more than the bicycle.  Each person wins in this voluntary economic exchange.

Now contrast that to a managed economy.  Where a few decide for everyone else.  Such as in socialism.  Or communism.  Say, in the former Soviet Union.  Where the economic planners decide to make more tractor parts and less toilet paper and laundry detergent.  Resulting in shelves full of tractor parts no one wanted to buy.  And empty shelves where there was once toilet paper and laundry detergent.  As you can see, when you have forced economic exchanges no one wins.

Countries with economic systems based on free market capitalism where people enter economic exchanges voluntarily have historically had the highest standards of living.  Whereas countries with managed economic systems have had the lowest standards of living.  Liberty and prosperity are synonymous with the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada, Australia and Hong Kong.  Which were once all part of the British Empire.  Which ruled the world and kept the peace for a hundred years or so.  The Pax Britannica.  She was able to do this because of her wealth.  Generated from free market capitalism.  The rule of law.  Representative government.  Sound money.  And free trade.  Things that today give these nations immigration problems.  Because everyone wants to go to these nations for a better life.

In capitalist nations people live better because there is a profit incentive.  Whereas the countries these immigrants left typically put people before profits.  Where instead of letting market forces set prices and allocate limited resources that have alternative uses the government decides.  Like they did in the former Soviet Union.  And the more government interferes with these market forces the more these economic decisions become political.  Where friends of the ruling power get those limited resources first and at favorable prices.  Allowing them and the ruling powers to profit handsomely from this political favoritism.  At the expense of the people who have to do with less.

The profit incentive puts people first.  Because in free market capitalism market forces are the people.  Hundreds of millions of people coming together to make voluntary economic exchanges.  Where each individual person looks out for his or her best interests.  But when a ‘caring’ government manages the economy to put the people first that government interferes with those market forces.  And goes against the will of the people.  Making the people worse off.  Which is why immigration is always from a country where there is less free market capitalism to a country where there is more free market capitalism.  Because the quality of life increases with increasing amounts of capitalism.  So we should be careful what we ask for when we ask to put people first.  Even when the Pope joins the ‘put the people first’ choir (see Pope condemns idolatry of cash in capitalism by Lizzy Davies posted 9/22/2013 on theguardian).

Pope Francis has called for a global economic system that puts people and not “an idol called money” at its heart, drawing on the hardship of his immigrant family as he sympathised with unemployed workers in a part of Italy that has suffered greatly from the recession…

“Where there is no work, there is no dignity,” he said, in ad-libbed remarks after listening to three locals, including an unemployed worker who spoke of how joblessness “weakens the spirit”. But the problem went far beyond the Italian island, said Francis, who has called for wholesale reform of the financial system…

Sardinia, one of Italy’s autonomous regions with a population of 1.6 million, has suffered particularly badly during the economic crisis, with an unemployment rate of 20%, eight points higher than the national average, and youth unemployment of 51%.

Last summer the island’s hardship became national news when Stefano Meletti, a 49-year-old miner, slashed his wrists on television during a protest aimed at keeping the Carbosulcis coal mine open.

There was one other thing these nations born of the British Empire shared.  Judeo-Christian values.  They lived by the Ten Commandments.  And the Golden Rule.  The good Christians of the British Empire followed the teachings of Christ.  “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”  These Judeo-Christian values went hand-in-hand with free market capitalism.  It’s what made us choose to live by the rule of law.  To honor the contracts we made with one another.  To voluntarily enter economic exchanges instead of just stealing and pillaging our neighbors.

Money doesn’t have value.  It’s a temporary storage of value.  It is our human capital that has value.  Our ability to create things that have value.  Things that other people will voluntarily enter into economic exchanges to trade for with things of value they created.  Whether it be a physical good.  Or money from a paycheck they earned creating value for an employer who uses it to produce a service or good.

Capitalists don’t worship money.  For money only makes those economic exchanges more efficient.  By eliminating the search costs of the barter system.  It’s human capital that capitalists are interested in.  This is what they worship.  People.  Unlocking the latent talent in all of us.  To bring incredible things into existence.  Sanitation.  Waste water treatment plants.  New farming advancements.  Coal-fired power plants.  Things that allowed greater groups of people to live together in growing cities.  Where we have food, clean water and shelter.  Things we take for granted in capitalists nations.  Things that are luxuries in North Korea.  An anti-capitalist country that puts people before profits.  Where people worship the ruling dictator (primarily to avoid imprisonment, torture and death).  And the only people that do well are those close to the ruling power.

We don’t need a new financial system.  We just need to return to what it was before governments intervened into the free market economy to put people first.  Before we completely forget the Ten Commandments.  And the Golden Rule.  For once we use the power of government to nullify contracts to help their crony friends we no longer have a nation of laws.  But one of political favors.  Where the friends of power do well.  While those with no power live at the mercy of those in power.

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John Kerry insults Britain because the House of Commons said ‘No’ to Military Action in Syria

Posted by PITHOCRATES - September 1st, 2013

Week in Review

There is a special relationship between Britain and the United States.  The first Americans were British.  As the American colonies were part of the British Empire.  The American colonists fought alongside British regulars against the French and Indians during the Seven Years’ War.  The cost of that war and the subsequent taxation to pay for it created a bit of a falling out between the British and the Americans.  In a little thing we call the American Revolution.  After that falling out, though, we resumed our special relationship with our former masters.  Who was our major trade partner.  Not France.  Who helped us in the American Revolution.  Why?  Because Britain’s Royal Navy ruled the seas.  And had a vast empire to trade with.

The French were inspired so much by our revolution that they had one of their own.  The French Revolution.  And unlike the American Revolution the French Revolution was rather vengeful.  With French citizens killing other French citizens.  Including their king and queen.  Which just appalled President Washington.  Then the French started waging war with her neighbors.  Including their eternal foe.  Britain.  The Americans remained neutral in the conflict.  But their neutrality favored the British.  As America’s economic future was tied more closely to the British than the French.  Something that irked the French in charge of France at the time.  The same people that killed King Louis XVI.  The head of France that helped the Americans in their revolution.

Then the Franco-American relations soured.  Citizen Genêt came to the U.S.  The new French ambassador.  To encourage the Americans to support France in their wars against Britain and Spain.  Recruiting American privateers to attack British shipping.  Even basing these operations out of American ports.  Bringing captured British vessels to American ports.  And he recruited a militia to march on the Spanish in Florida.  Infuriating President Washington.  It even got the ever-quarreling Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson to agree on something.  The danger Citizen Genêt was placing the Americans in.  Risking war with the British Empire.  So they asked for his recall.  Which the French did.  But because that probably meant the guillotine Genêt asked for asylum in America and got it.  Living out his days as an American.

Then there was the XYZ Affair.  The British and the French were interdicting trade of the other with neutral powers.   Including the Americans.  The Jay Treaty eased tensions between Britain and America.  But it angered the French.  Who stepped up their attacks on American shipping.  Hoping to avoid war with France President Adams sent a diplomatic mission to France.  But the French said before the Americans could enter any negotiations they first had to pay a bribe.  And agree to a loan.  The Americans refused and left.  When word reached America there was outrage.  Congress even annulled the 1778 Treaty of Alliance.  The treaty that brought the French into the American Revolution.  And promised America military support if the British ever attacked the French.  People wanted to go to war with France.  But eventually they reached an agreement and avoided said war.

So the Franco-American alliance was tenuous at best.  And short-lived.  The French entered into it not to help the Americans succeed in their lofty idealism.  Of life without a king.  For France was an absolute monarchy.  And the last thing an absolute monarchy wants is to fill their people’s heads with silly notions of liberty.  Because that could lead to things like the French Revolution.  No.  The French allied with the Americans to regain territory they lost to the British.  Which they lost a lot of at the conclusion of the Seven Years’ War.  Which the Americans helped them lose.  No doubt weighing heavily on their minds.  As during the peace negotiations they tried to strike a deal with the British to keep the Americans east of the Appalachians.  Thankfully, for the Americans, Benjamin Franklin was in Paris during the peace negotiations.  And made a more favorable peace for the Americans.  To France’s dismay.  Which no doubt led to the tenuous Franco-American relations following the French Revolution.

So this is America’s history.  A history that is based in friendship and amity between the British and the Americans.  Apart from that small episode called the American Revolution.  While King Louis XVI did help America win her independence from Britain France’s motive for their support was to take large chunks of North America back.  Even at the expense of the Americans.  We had a brief alliance during the Revolutionary War with France.  But the Americans have prospered because of the special relationship with Britain.  Two people that share a language, a history, a culture, a legal system and a form of government (representative government).  So what does the current American administration do to our BFF?  This (see Syria: John Kerry slaps Britain in face as he calls France ‘oldest allies’ by Peter Foster posted 8/30/2013 on The Telegraph).

John Kerry administered a diplomatic slap in the face to Britain following David Cameron’s withdrawal of military support for intervention in Syria, omitting the UK from a long list of ‘friends’ prepared to support US actions against the Assad regime.

The diplomatic smart was made worse by Mr Kerry’s pointed reference to the French as “our oldest ally” – a reference that dates back to France’s role supporting America against Britain in the American Revolutionary War that began in 1776…

He then listed the Obama administration’s supporters, including the Arab League, the Organisation for Islamic Cooperation, the Turks, Australians and the French. Britain, however, was conspicuous by its absence from that list…

“Turkey said there is no doubt that the regime is responsible. Our oldest ally, the French, said the regime, quote, “committed this vile action, and it is an outrage to use weapons that the community has banned for the last 90 years in all international conventions.”

What is it with this administration and the British?  First President Obama returns a bust of Winston Churchill to the British embassy.  And now this slap in the face.  One would get the impression that they don’t like the British.  Perhaps it’s because of Britain’s support in the Iraq War.  Or that John Kerry can speak French.  And is a Francophile at heart.  But as the U.S. Secretary of State he should not spurn our BFF.

America and France are great friends.  But Britain and America are greater friends.  Because of the special relationship.  Insulting them is not stately.  It’s just impudent and impertinent.  Things a secretary of state should just not be.

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North Korea Manufactures and Sells Meth to Chinese addicts to bring Hard Currency into the Country

Posted by PITHOCRATES - August 25th, 2013

Week in Review

Keynesian economists, and those on the left, think there is nothing wrong with printing money.  Because they don’t understand money.  What it truly is.  So what is money?  It’s a temporary storage of wealth.  It is not wealth.  Doctors make a lot of money because they have learned great skills.  Skills few people have.  And doctors are willing to exchange these skills for money.  The wealth is a doctor’s skills.  The money temporarily holds this wealth until the doctor finds something to trade that money for.  From someone else that has wealth.  Who created something of value the doctor is willing to trade for.

All money did was make this trading of valuable things easier.  So we could trade with anyone even if they don’t want anything we can make or do.  A doctor doesn’t have to find someone who wants their gallbladder removed who has a television set if the doctor wants a television set.  The doctor can just go to a store and buy one.  Because of money.  Making the exchange of goods and services far easier than in a barter system.

Those who think money is wealth and that we should just print it and hand it out to the people are missing one very important point.  If you did this no one would have to work.  Those on the left would applaud that.  But if no one worked there would be no valuable things to trade.  And if there are no valuable things to trade then your money is worthless.  For if there is nothing to buy what good is having money?

North Korea has a lot of money.  But their money is worthless.  Because they just print it.  While their economy contains no valuable things to trade.  Not a big problem in a closed economy.  And you make your people slaves.  But it’s a problem if you want to trade with the outside world for the luxury items the lucky few in the ruling elite enjoy.  For if you have no valuable things in your economy then you must trade for valuable things with hard currency.  Money that isn’t worthless paper.  So North Korea came up with a way to get hard currency (see How North Korea got itself hooked on meth by Max Fisher published 8/21/2013 on The Washington Post).

A new study published in the journal North Korea Review says that parts of North Korea are experiencing a crystal meth “epidemic,” with an “upsurge” of recreational meth use and accompanying addiction in the country’s northern provinces…

So how do people in North Korea, a country where markets are so tightly regulated that even video CDs can be considered dangerous contraband and where social controls are often beyond Orwellian, manage to get hold of meth..?

The problem actually goes back to the 1990s, when North Korea experienced a famine so devastating that virtually the entire world believed the country would collapse at any moment. But it didn’t, in part because Pyongyang finally decided to open up the world’s most closed economy just a small crack, by allowing a degree of black market trade across North Korea’s border with China. The idea was that the black market would bring in food, which it did, preventing North Korea’s implosion.

The black market trade into China has remained that little bit open ever since, either because Pyongyang authorities can’t close it now or because they see some trade as beneficial, probably both. Some provinces along the border have seen their economies liberalize a tiny, tiny bit — most notably North Hamgyung, which is named in the North Korea Review report as particularly blighted by meth addiction.

In the years after the border with China opened that little crack, two other things have happened that led to the current meth crisis. First, medicine ran out and the once-not-terrible health system collapsed — more on this later. Second, North Korea started manufacturing meth in big state-run labs. The country badly needs hard currency and has almost no legitimate international trade. But it was able to exploit the black market trade across the Chinese border by sending state-made meth into China and bringing back the money of Chinese addicts.

This is where things started to spin out of control for North Korea. The state-run meth factories and the cross-border black market trade started to mingle. And some of that meth ended up migrating back across the border and into North Korea, through the black market trade that brings in Chinese rice and DVDs and the like.

This is where the collapse of the North Korean health system becomes relevant. As Isaac Stone Fish reported in a great 2011 Newsweek story, many regular North Koreans started using meth to treat health problems. Real medicine is extremely scarce in the country. But meth is much more common, which means that the prices of medical drugs are artificially inflated, while the price of meth is artificially low. In a culture without much health education and lots of emphasis on traditional remedies, people were ready to believe that meth would do the trick for their medical problems, and many got addicted.

Poor Chinese.  First the British got them addicted to opium.  Then North Korea got them addicted to meth.  It appears the Chinese people are nothing but pawns in the game of international trade.

Back in the days of mercantile Britain trade was all about who collected the most hard currency.  Basically gold and silver in those days.  The British loved Chinese tea.  And were filling ships full of the stuff to bring it back to Britain.  The problem was that the Chinese didn’t want anything the British were selling.  So Chinese goods were flowing to Britain.  But no British goods were flowing to China.  And without having exports to offset imports Britain was forced to trade the only thing they had that China wanted.  Their hard currency.  Their silver.  So Chinese goods flowed out of china.  And Britain’s hard currency flowed out of Britain.  So China was accumulating piles of hard currency while Britain saw their piles diminish.  Which was the exact opposite mercantile Britain wanted.  So they did something about it.  Thanks to India.

India was part of the British Empire.  And she grew opium poppies.  Something some Chinese did want.  So the British used this opium demand to stop the flow of hard currency out of the empire.  And traded Indian opium for Chinese tea.  This solved the trade deficit problem.  But it created a lot of addicts in China.  The addiction problem got so bad that it spawned two wars.  The Opium Wars.  Which did not end well for China.  And things did not get better in the century or so that followed.  And now here is North Korea.  Turning Chinese into addicts to get hard currency out of China (and into North Korea).  Just like the British did.  Of course, North Korea is nothing like the mighty British Empire.  So one would believe that China is allowing this addiction problem to happen.  As it is probably a smaller price to pay than the refugee problem should North Korea collapse.  And they may like that North Korean buffer between them and South Korea.  Japan.  And the United States.

North Korea is everything the left would like to have in the United States.  Tightly regulated markets.  National health care.  No rich people accumulating private property.  Where they frown on profits.  The even put people before profits.  Just like liberals want to do.  There’s no talk radio.  No Rush Limbaugh.  No Fox News.  No free trade.  No low-cost imports to undermine union manufacturing.  No obesity.  Because there is no junk food.  And no 32 ounce sugary beverages.  And a government that can do what is right for the people without having to worry about a Tea Party challenger in the next primary election.  North Korea is liberal nirvana.  Yet life there is horrible and wretched.  Because it’s everything liberals want.  But nothing the people want.

Liberals want to keep expanding government.  To have more government intervention into the free market.  But where does it end?  How far do they want to take things towards North Korea before they say they have enough?  And why anyone should worry about this is because as horrible and wretched life is in North Korea, those in the ruling elite have it pretty darn good.  Because the people in charge of these regimes never suffer like the people outside of the ruling elite.  So the farther they move towards North Korea the less they have to worry about an election taking away their comfy life.  This is why we should worry about a government growing larger.  For throughout world history life like that in North Korea has been the norm.  While life like that in the United States has been the exception.  And the United States has only been around for 225 years (counting from the ratification of the U.S. Constitution).  A crazy new fad the entitled ruling elite (i.e., liberals) would like to do away with.  So they can rule like they did in the good old days.  Much like they do today in North Korea.  Where the supreme ruler, Kim Jong-un, has an obesity problem.  One of the few in North Korea that isn’t gripped with a gnawing hunger every minute of every day.  This is life in a country where the ruling elite hates capitalism.  And puts people before profits.  This liberal nirvana.  Those in power live well.  While everyone else suffers.

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