FT217: “If you want to know what it was like living under an absolute monarchy just think of the IRS.” —Old Pithy

Posted by PITHOCRATES - April 11th, 2014

Fundamental Truth

Thomas Jefferson wanted to keep the New Federal Government and Money Apart

Thomas Jefferson did not trust government.  And he didn’t trust moneyed men.  Because when the two come together they cause nothing but trouble.  That’s why he hated and distrusted Alexander Hamilton.  Hamilton wanted a strong central government.  A central bank.  And an economic system favoring merchants and bankers.  With big city moneyed men financing the government in return for special favors.

This is why the nation’s capital isn’t in New York City.  It once was.  But one of the first deals the Hamilton and Jefferson camps made was the relocation of the nation’s capital to a mosquito-infested swamp on the Potomac River.  A long, long way from the moneyed men in New York City.  To try to keep the new federal government and money apart.  To restrict the influence of the moneyed men on the government.  And to prevent the government from having easy access to big money.

Why did Jefferson want to do this?  Well, they fought for their independence from Great Britain.  Which was a constitutional monarchy.  Where some in Parliament were no friends of British America.  And got the king to agree with them rather than the pro-British America faction in Parliament.  Ironically, the Americans got help in their War of Independence from France.  Which had an absolute monarchy.  Whose king ruled with no check on his power.  Both governments were in the big cities.  London.  And Paris.  Where the moneyed men were.  In the big cities.  Allowing these monarchies to do a whole lot of mischief all around the world.  And a fair amount of mischief inside their own countries.  Because the money and the government were in the same city.

Government + Money = Corruption

Great Britain and France were forever at war with each other.  And with other countries.  Requiring a lot of money.  Which they got from the moneyed men.  In return for special privileges that allowed them to get ever richer.  Of course the mischief grew greater as they fought a world war or two.  Requiring ever more money.  Which they got from, of course, taxing the rest of the people.  Even those who could little afford it.  And once this starts, once the government starts accumulating debt, that taxation will only get greater.

This is what Jefferson was worried about.  And why he so distrusted Hamilton.  The Founding Fathers were all gentlemen of the Enlightenment.  Disinterested public servants.  Honorable men who would never take advantage of their position in government for personal gain.  Because for these men honor was everything.  Some even fought duels to protect their honor.  As Hamilton did.  And died.  Washington, Adams, Hamilton, Jefferson, Madison, Jay and Franklin were men of exceptional integrity.  Men who could be trusted.  But here is where Hamilton and Jefferson differed.  Hamilton believed only men like them would ever enter government.  While Jefferson believed that government service would one day attract mostly scoundrels and knaves.

Of course, Jefferson was right.  For as the nation grew so did the size of government.  And the need for great big piles of money.  Which the moneyed men provided.  In exchange for special privileges.  Patronage.  Lucrative government contracts.  Etc.  Big piles of money flowed into Washington.  And favors flowed out from Washington.  With many a politician getting rich in the process of getting rich moneyed men richer.  Politicians who used their position in government for personal gain.  Corrupted politicians.  As government + money = corruption.  Which is why politicians always leave office richer than when they entered office.

Power + Corruption = Tyranny

This is how it started.  As the size of government grew corruption grew.  Just as Jefferson feared.  All that money flowing into Washington corrupted ever more politicians.  Who were not gentlemen of the Enlightenment.  But the scoundrels and knaves Jefferson knew would come.  Who used their position in government for personal gain.  Whose corruption grew so great it exploded federal spending.  So great that taxes from the moneyed men AND the middle class were unable to fund it.  So the taxation grew more aggressive.

The government created by the Founding Fathers had no income taxes.  They funded the few things the new national government did with tariffs for the most part.  People lived from day to day without any fear of the taxman.  The United States even did away with debtors’ prison.  Prison where people were sent who could not pay their debts.  A relic of the 19th century.  Sort of.  For there is one debt people can still go to prison for not paying.  Past-due taxes.  For the IRS can take everything you have and imprison you if you don’t pay your taxes.  And those taxes have grown great as of late.  As the tax code has grown convoluted.  Requiring businesses to hire armies of accountants and lawyers to comply with.  So the government can help the moneyed men who help the government.  In return for special privileges, of course.  Leaving the masses dreading April 15.  As they dread opening any letter from the IRS.

If you want to know what it was like living under an absolute monarchy just think of the IRS.  People fear the IRS.  Just as people feared the arbitrary power of an absolute monarchy.  A king could take your property and lock you away.  Just like the IRS.  And if you spoke out against the monarchy the king could make your life really unpleasant.  Just like the IRS.  During the 2012 election the IRS targeted conservative political groups to stifle their free speech.  Delayed their tax-exempt status approval.  And harassed them with costly tax audits.  And now their tyranny has extended to people in the middle class.  Who unbeknownst to them had a family member owe the federal government.  Years earlier.  Even a generation earlier.  And the IRS is arbitrarily seizing the tax refunds from these debtors’ distant relatives to pay these debts.  Even though they are in no way responsible for these debts.  And the government has no documentation for this debt.  Doesn’t matter.  Because they have the power to do this.  And these people are powerless to stop them.  Just like people living under an absolute monarchy were powerless to stop their king from doing anything to them.  And this is what Jefferson feared.  For after corruption comes tyranny.  For power + corruption = tyranny.  (Just look at every tin-pot dictator that has oppressed his people).  Which is why people fear the IRS.  And the federal government the IRS is beholden to.  Because they have become everything Jefferson feared they would.

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FT172: “Damn the truth, promises and the Constitution,” said the politician. “I’m trying to get reelected.” —Old Pithy

Posted by PITHOCRATES - May 31st, 2013

Fundamental Truth

The People ratified the Constitution only because George Washington would be the First President

George Washington did not want to be president.  After winning the American Revolutionary War his place in history was set.  If the first government following the Constitutional Convention failed he didn’t want history to remember him for that.  Also, Washington was an old man.  Most Washington men were already dead at his age.  Something he was very conscious of.  And he wanted to live out his remaining days, however few he had, at Mount Vernon.  With Martha.  But America’s Cincinnatus would, reluctantly, answer the call of duty again.

The new Constitution was not very popular.  The old patriots of 1776 hated it.  With a passion.  While Washington, Alexander Hamilton and others who served in the Continental Army were generally for it.  Because they saw how the weak Continental Congress had almost lost the war.  Starving the Continental Army of the supplies they needed.  Unable even to provide it with shoes and clothing during the long cold winters at Valley Forge and Morristown.  And then there was the inflation.  Worthless Continental paper dollars that forced the Army to take what they needed to survive.  Giving the people they took from IOUs for the Continental Congress to honor later.

With the British defeated the Americans lost the common enemy that held the states together.  And they were soon back to looking after their own interests.  Charging tariffs to other states.  Even sending militias to fight over disputed land.  The nation was falling apart before it even became a nation.  The Philadelphia Convention addressed these problems.  And over a long, hot, humid and horsefly invested convention they wrote a new Constitution.  Few loved it.  But understood that it was probably the best they would ever get.  Ratifying it was another brutal battle.  And all throughout this process people reluctantly got on board.  Basically because of one thing.  The first president would be someone that all the people could trust with such great powers.  The man who gave up power when he could have been king.  George Washington.  So Cincinnatus laid down his plow once more.  And went to serve his nation.  Again.

The most Important Precedent Washington set was not Exceeding the Limits of the Constitution

This is how it used to be.  When our politicians were men of the enlightenment.  Disinterested men who went out of their way NOT to profit from the offices they held.  Men who would rather have been back home.  But reluctantly served.  Because the nation needed the best leaders during that formidable time.  That’s why Washington served a second term.  Not because he wanted to.  But if he didn’t Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton would have paralyzed the government with their constant fighting and seething hatred of each other.  So Washington stayed on.  Father to these children that couldn’t get along.  And father to a nation.

Washington was never happier than when he left office.  This man who could have been king.  Sacrificing all of his wants and desires.  And putting the nation first.  This old man that was cheating death.  Living beyond his years.  Who was used to giving orders in the army and having subordinates dutifully following them.  He hated the political process.  The deal making.  The special interests.  Those things modern politicians live for.  Because it is the pathway to wealth and power.  Which is why people serve today.  Who do not understand the meaning of selfless disinterest.  For they’re in it for number one.  And when they leave office they want to have more wealth than they know what to do with it.

Whereas Washington kept true to the Constitution.  And didn’t make arguments about it being a living document.  Or questioned the intent of the Founding Fathers.  For he was one of them.  He was there in Philadelphia in 1787.  He sat in the chair with that sun on it.  The one Benjamin Franklin studied for so long while sitting in that stuffy hall.  Wondering if the sun was rising.  Or setting.  After they signed the Constitution Franklin was certain the sun was rising for the new nation.  A nation of laws.  Where no man was above the law.  And the supreme law of the land was there in the Constitution.  Washington was the first president.  Setting the precedent for all that would follow.  And the most important precedent was not exceeding the limits of the Constitution.  For he knew a strong central government was necessary for the nation to have any hopes of surviving.  But he feared that once anyone exceeded the limits of the Constitution the whole experiment in self-government would come crashing down.

Life is so Good in an Aristocracy that Politicians will do Anything it takes to Win Reelection

What Thomas Jefferson feared most was consolidation.  Fears of a strong central government turning independent states into federal districts of the new government.  With growing powers to administer these lands from afar.  Turning the people living on these lands once again into subjects of a distant ruling power.  Who are there to serve.  To be obedient.  And revere this distant power.  Giving the duly elected president king-like powers.  Who would further consolidate his power.  This was Jefferson’s fear.  A fear Alexander Hamilton did not share.  Because he assumed all men in the government would be disinterested men of the enlightenment.  Like the Founding Fathers were.  But Jefferson knew you could not trust men to refrain from using power given to them.  So it was best not to give them that power in the first place.

Today you can see all of Jefferson’s fears come to pass.  A federal government larger and more powerful than even Alexander Hamilton could have imagined.  And a new fourth branch of government.  The IRS.  Powerful.  And fearsome.  Which appears to be helping the current administration to suppress the political opposition.  By harassing anyone espousing Jeffersonian principles.  Limited government.  States’ rights.  Constitutional limits.  Etc.  Which are also Tea Party principles.  That set of principles that launched a great grassroots movement that helped the Republicans win back the House of Representatives in 2010.  Something the Democrats were very conscious of.  And have since pilloried the Tea Party with every invective under the sun.  To delegitimize the Tea Party.  To prevent another 2010 from happening again.

President Obama is the most liberal president to ever occupy the White House.  And he won reelection.  Which isn’t easy for a liberal to do on a national stage.  Because only about 21% of the people call themselves liberal.  While 35% call themselves moderate.  And 40% call themselves conservative (see Conservatives Remain the Largest Ideological Group in U.S. posted 1/12/2012 on Gallup).  So liberals are in the minority.  Yet they hold majority power.  Which begs the question.  How do they win elections when the majority opposes their ideology?   Well, you don’t do it by acting like George Washington.  You know, with integrity.  But, instead, with rascality.  You don’t exactly tell the truth.  You make a lot of promises.  Even if you have no intention of keeping them.  And you use the awesome power of your office to attack your political enemies.  For it’s a different mindset today.  Whereas the Founding Fathers were trying to destroy an aristocracy today’s politicians are trying to build and maintain one.   And life is so good in an aristocracy that once you get in you never want to leave.  Which is why politicians will do anything it takes to win reelection.  Anything.  And if they were honest you’d hear them say so.  “Damn the truth, promises and the Constitution.  I’m trying to get reelected.”  But they’re not honest.  So you will never hear them say this.  You’ll just have to see it in their deeds.  And how unlike the Founding Fathers they are.

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Tyranny of the One, Tyranny of the Few, Tyranny of the Many, Drone Strikes and the Rand Paul Filibuster

Posted by PITHOCRATES - March 7th, 2013

Politics 101

Trusting that only Good People will Serve in Government is Sheer Folly

History has been a struggle for power.  Those who wanted it fought those who had it.  And those who had it tried to eliminate anyone who didn’t have it but wanted it.  So people have killed each other since the dawn of time for power.  Making for a rather Hobbesian existence.  “Solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.”  A quote from Thomas Hobbes’ Leviathan.  Where he posits that only an all powerful dictator can provide a just society.  Otherwise there would be great unrest and civil wars.  Such as was going on in England at the time he wrote Leviathan.

England, though, would choose a non-Hobbesian path.  Choosing to restrict the powers of their monarch with a represented body of the people.  Parliament.  Evolving into what John Adams once called the best system of government.  A constitutional monarchy where power was balanced between the few, the many and the one.  The few, the rich, paid the taxes that the one, the king, spent.  The common people were the many.  Who had a say in what the rich and the king could do.  So everyone had a say.  And no one group, the majority, the minority or the one, could do whatever they wanted.  Which is why John Adams once thought it was the best system of government.

John Adams wanted a strong executive in the new United States.  Not a hereditary king.  But something close to the king of England.  Who would advance the new nation to greatness.  And with disinterested men of the Enlightenment serving in the new government Adams didn’t worry about any abuses of power.  For this wasn’t Great Britain.  But not everyone had Adams’ confidence in the nobility of men.  Worrying that given the chance they would try to form a new nobility.  As James Madison said in Federalist 51, “If men were angels, no government would be necessary.”  And that was the problem.  Men are not angels.  And trusting that only good men would serve in government was sheer folly.  So we should form governments under the assumption that bad people would reach positions of power.  And thus limit the power of government.

Today both Houses of Congress win Elections by Appealing to Populism

So the Americans settled on a similar system.  They separated powers between a legislature, an executive and a judiciary.  Further, they separated the legislature into two bodies.  The House of Representatives.  And the Senate.  Representation in the House being apportioned by population.  The more populous a state the greater that state’s representation.  And the greater influence they had in writing law.  They chose their representatives by popular vote.  Making it truly the house of the people.

The states, though, feared a tyranny of the majority.  Where the largest states could have their way.  And force the smaller states to accept their rule.  For in a true democracy the majority could vote anything into law.  Such as the subjugation and oppression of a minority group.  Like the Nazi Party passed legislation subjugating and oppressing the Jews.  So minorities need protection from majorities.  In the United States the Senate provided a check on majority rule.  For each state had equal representation.  Each state had two senators.  And to further protect the interests of the states (and their sovereignty) the states chose their senators.  A constitutional amendment changed this later.  Which weakened the sovereignty of the states.  By making the Senate a true democracy.  Where the people could vote for the senators that promised them the most from the treasury.

Today both houses of Congress win elections by appealing to populism.  Representatives and Senators are, in general, no longer ‘disinterested men of the Enlightenment’ but pure politicians trying to buy votes.  Which is what James Madison worried about.  The people in government are not angels.  And they’re becoming less like angels as time goes on.  Proving the need of a separation of powers.  And a bicameral legislature.  To keep any one group, or person, from amassing too much power.  So there can be no tyranny of the many.  No tyranny of the few.  And no tyranny of the one.

The Obama Administration can’t use the Military to Kill Suspect Americans on U.S. Soil

Senator Rand Paul just recently completed a 13 hour filibuster on the floor of the Senate.  To delay the vote to confirm John Brennan as CIA director.  Not because he had a problem with Brennan.  But because he had a problem with the Obama administration.  Specifically with Attorney General Eric Holder.  Senator Paul had asked Holder if the Obama administration could use a drone to kill an American on American soil without due process even if that person posed no imminent threat.  The attorney general gave his answer in a letter.  In which he didn’t say ‘no’.  Which bothered Senator Paul.  Because the Obama administration had killed an American or two on foreign soil without due process.  Including the son of a guy that posed an imminent threat.  While the son did not.

U.S. drone strikes have killed many terrorists overseas.  And they’ve killed a lot of innocent bystanders who had the misfortune to be in the same vicinity.  Such as being in the same coffee shop.  Basically a policy of ‘kill them all and let God sort them out’.  But you don’t hear a lot about this collateral damage.  As the Obama administration simply counts all the dead from a drone strike as being a terrorist that posed an imminent threat to U.S. security.  And the innocent son that was killed in a drone strike?  Well, he should have chosen a better father.  Or so said a member of the Obama administration.  Which is what so bothered Senator Paul.  For in the War on Terror the battlefield is worldwide.  Including the United States.  Which means given the right set of circumstances the Attorney General of the United States stated the government had the legal right to use a drone to kill an American on U.S. soil without due process.

In the United States there is a thing called the Constitution.  Which guarantees American citizens due process.  If you’re an American fighting Americans on foreign soil you have no Constitutional protections.  And can be killed by a drone strike without due process.  But if you’re on U.S. soil you have Constitutional protections.  Which means the government can’t use the military to kill suspect Americans.  No.  On U.S. soil we have police forces.  And courts.  Miranda rights.  On U.S. soil you have to convince a judge to issue an arrest warrant.  Then you have to collect evidence to present in a trial.  And then you have to convince a jury of a person’s guilt.  Then and only then can you take away a person’s freedom.  Or life.  Thus protecting all Americans from the tyranny of the one.  The tyranny of the few.  And the tyranny of the many.

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FT159: “There’s more to know than most people know.” —Old Pithy

Posted by PITHOCRATES - March 1st, 2013

Fundamental Truth

Some want to Lower the Voting Age despite our Teens’ Penchant for Making Poor Decisions

Parents can’t tell their kids anything.  Because they know everything already.  Despite doing a lot of stupid stuff.  They smoke cigarettes.  Do drugs.  Binge drink.  Drink and drive.  Have unprotected sex.  And a whole lot of other things that can have lasting consequences.  Consequences such as cancer.  A drug addiction.  An arrest for driving under the influence.  An arrest for vehicular manslaughter.  Catching a venereal disease.  Becoming a single mother while still in high school.  Or becoming a single mother with a venereal disease.  While still in high school.

Teens and young adults have a history of making poor decisions.  Why?  Is it because they are stupid?  No.  It’s because they are young.  Inexperienced.  And grow up in an environment that tells them they are far wiser than they are.  As they grew up people constantly told them that they are smart.  They are wise.  And that we need to listen to what they say.  For they are our future.  Some even wanting to bring them into the political process earlier.  By lowering the voting age.  Which is an odd thing to do.  Considering their penchant for making poor decisions.

Of course kids are all for lowering the voting age.  For if they could vote earlier there would probably be more than 2 states that have decriminalized marijuana by now.  And they could lower the drinking age, too.  For let’s face it kids are going to binge drink no matter what we say.  Just as they are going to smoke marijuana and have sex.  So we might as well help them do these things.  And lowering the voting age will be a step towards making that happen.

The Founding Fathers wanted a Government of the People not a Ruling Elite in a Faraway Place telling them what’s Best for Them

So we know what kids want.  Less parenting.  And more fun.  They want the freedom to enjoy whatever they want to enjoy.  And believe they are enlightened like our Founding Fathers were when they wanted the freedom to do what they wanted to do.  Of course, the Founding Fathers’ Enlightenment was a lot different from that of the kids’ today.  The Founding Fathers were interested in science, economics and religious freedom.  They were familiar with the history of Greece and Rome.  Magna Carta.  The Protestant Reformation.  The English Civil War.  They were proud of their membership in the British Empire.  The most enlightened and free empire, or country, in the world.  Thanks to their representative government.  But when Parliament did not let them have any representation in that house while passing laws to govern them, well, they didn’t love the British Empire as much as they once did.

The Founding Fathers weren’t fans of mercantilism.  Then the dominant economic policy of the day.  European powers fought each other for colonies.  Their colonies shipped raw materials back to the mother country.  Who then used them to manufacture finished goods.  That they then sold to the world.  And to their colonies.  Keeping the net flow of gold and silver flowing to the mother country.  While exporting more finished goods than they imported.  With the state helping a few well-connected domestic businesses.  Keeping the state coffers flush with money.  While the people paid higher prices than they normally would have paid.  Thanks to those government policies favoring the well-connected businesses.  Basically like what China is doing today.  Maintaining a strong export economy with cheap labor.  That doesn’t benefit the Chinese masses all that much.  Creating basically two Chinas.  The rich in the cities.  And the poor and impoverished everywhere else.

The Founding Fathers wanted liberty.  Political liberty.  And economic liberty.  Laissez-faire capitalism.  Where the people taking the greatest risk profited the most.  Not the state.  They wanted a limited federal government.  Just large enough to protect the nation.  To treat with other nations.  Those things best suited for the federal government.  While the vast majority of power belonged to the states.  Closer to the people.  And not in some distant land.  They wanted a government of the people.  Not a ruling elite in a faraway place telling them what’s best for them.  That’s why they fought for their independence from a distant power in the first place.  The British Empire.  And they sure didn’t want to trade one distant power oppressing them for another.  They didn’t want money corrupting the federal government.  They wanted the seat of financial power and the seat of government power separated.  For the greatest abuses of power came when wealth joined power in the Old World capitals.  London.  Paris.  Madrid.  Thomas Jefferson wanted the federal capital as far from the bankers and merchants in New York as possible.  Which is why they placed the new federal capital in a swamp on the Potomac River.

Sadly, those who Know the Least often determine who Wins Elections

Those who have studied history understand how the United States came to be.  And what made it the world’s number one economic power.  Laissez-faire capitalism.  Free trade.  Sound money.  In particular the gold standard.  They saw history prove Say’s Law.  Supply creates its own demand.  No one demanded personal computers or the Internet.  But when those who brought these to the market place showed how wonderful they were demand soon followed.  They saw history prove David Ricardo’s comparative advantage.  How free trade lets nations produce what they do most efficiently and trade for what they don’t.  Thus increasing the economies of all nations trading freely.

People who know history understand that the prevalent economic policy today, Keynesian economics, is a failed policy.  For Keynesian economic policies are more like mercantilism than free market capitalism.  Calling for more government intervention into the market.  Inflationary monetary policy (i.e., printing money).  As well as tax and spend fiscal policies so the government can redistribute wealth.  So the government can choose winners and losers.  Not the free market.  Policies that all go against what made America the world’s number one economic power.  The Seventies, a time when the Keynesians got everything they wanted when President Nixon decoupled the dollar from gold, saw double-digit inflation, high unemployment and a stagnant economy.  Everything the Keynesians tried failed to improve the economy.  In fact, their policies only made the economy worse.  And the only thing that pulled us out of the stagflation and misery of the Seventies was Ronald Reagan.  Who embraced the classical economic policies that made America the number one economic power in the world.  Laissez-faire capitalism.  Say’s Law.  David Ricardo’s comparative advantage.  Sound monetary policy (i.e., noninflationary).  The policies we call Reaganomics.

People who study history know this.  But teens and young adults?  Those more interested in drinking alcohol, smoking marijuana and having sex?  They haven’t a clue about economics or their history.  Yet they often determine elections.  Sad but true.  And it’s just not teens and young adults who don’t understand economics or know their history.  Thanks to the hippies of the Sixties moving into education most people coming out of our public schools don’t.  For the hippies of the Sixties changed the curriculum.  To help them in their quest to destroy capitalism.   By dumbing down the curriculum.  So it’s easier for Keynesians to keep passing the failed policies of the past.  To help them keep expanding the size of government.  To turn this nation back to what the Founding Fathers fought to get away from.  The mercantilism of the Old World.  Of present day China.  Where the few in power have all the power.  And all the wealth.  All because people think they know more than they know.  And vote as if they know everything they need to know.  But there’s more to know than most people know.  And, sadly, those who know the least often determine who wins elections.

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Hope, Fear and Lies

Posted by PITHOCRATES - December 13th, 2012

Politics 101

The Founding Fathers were Gentlemen of the Enlightenment with Sound Philosophical Beliefs

Politicians have to win elections.  They have to persuade and convince people to vote for them.  Once upon a time that meant vigorous debate where candidates explained why their way was the better way.  Going right back to the Founding.  Where Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson bitterly contested each other’s vision for the country.  And the debate often got dirty.  Such as when Hamilton’s political enemies exposed his extramarital affair with the con-woman Mrs. Reynolds who seduced Hamilton with the purpose of blackmailing him.  Who wanted to use this information to say he was involved in a bigger scheme with Mr. Reynolds in defrauding the federal government.

Treasury Secretary Hamilton met three gentlemen of the political opposition in private.  Admitting to his affair.  And proved beyond a shadow of doubt that all money paid to the blackmailers came from Hamilton’s private funds.  Not a penny came from the Treasury Department.  According to 18th century gentlemanly behavior the matter was closed.  The affair was a personal matter.  It would be imprudent to make it a public issue.  But upon Hamilton’s retirement a bitter political enemy leaked this information to a scandalmonger.  James Callender.  Who wrote a book exposing this private matter.  The History of the United States for the Year 1796.  Jefferson had helped to finance Callender.  And reveled in Hamilton’s scandal.  But when you lie down with dogs, you get up with fleas.  And Jefferson did.  For Callender published articles confirming rumors that Jefferson had fathered children with his slave Sally Hemings.

Politics then were just as dirty as they are today.  And often crossed the line.  But underneath all the scandals and mudslinging there were philosophical principles.  They did these things for principle.  For they feared the opposition and what their policies would do the fledgling nation.  There was political patronage and political corruption.  But above that was a battle of competing political ideology.  Waged by men well read in history.  Familiar with John Locke.  And Charles-Louis de Secondat, baron de La Brède et de Montesquieu.  Icons of the Enlightenment.  Whose philosophies can be found in the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution.  These Founding Fathers were rich propertied men.  Established in their careers.  Who had little left to prove.  These gentlemen of the Enlightenment did what they did not for money or political favor.  So they could live a more comfortable life.   They did these things out of principle.  Based on sound philosophical beliefs.

The Democrats try to Scare the Bejesus out of People to Get and Keep the Republicans out of Office

It’s not like that anymore.  Instead of rich successful people entering politics for selfless reasons people of no accomplishments enter politics to become rich and powerful.  Who have no principles.  Who will buy and sell anyone to remain in power.  Of course they don’t campaign by saying this.  Instead, their campaigns are based on hopes and fears.  And the telling a lot of lies.  With little principle.  Or sound philosophical beliefs.

In 2008 President Obama campaigned on hope and change.  To get away from the partisan politics of the past.  Democrats continue to peddle hope.  Health care for everyone.  College degrees for everyone.  High-paying green jobs and energy independence.  A return of manufacturing jobs.  Spending our way out of recession with Keynesian stimulus spending.  A bigger social safety net.  Talking to our enemies instead of going to war with them.  And making them like us by resolving all of our differences with diplomacy.  That we can have whatever we want.  If only we got the Republicans out of office.

While at the same time the Democrats try to scare the bejesus out of people if we don’t get and keep the Republicans out of office.  For the Republicans want to take away birth control and abortion from women.  And keep them from being independent and having careers.  The poor will remain poor.  The rich will get richer.  And the hungry will die.  Slavery will be reinstituted.  The Republicans will tax the middle class more so they can give tax breaks to rich corporations.  They will burden the nation with massive deficits with their tax cuts for the rich.  Global warming will continue unchecked.  Our drinking water will be polluted.  And our atmosphere will become poisonous to breathe.  All because Republicans put profit before people.

The Left tells a lot of Lies to Win Elections because all they have are Failed Keynesian Economic Policies

Republicans, on the other hand, peddle the hope that we can return to the prosperity of Ronald Reagan.  By cutting tax rates.  For throughout U.S. history whenever the government cut tax rates prosperity followed.  As well as flooded the treasury with tax dollars.  For contrary to the fear peddling of the Democrats cuts in tax rates have historically increased tax revenue.  And can again.  As Ronald Reagan campaigned in 1984, it can be Morning in America again.  We can be prouder, stronger and better.

While at the same time Republicans like to scare people with national security issues.  The Clinton administration handled terrorist attacks against America in the courts.  Which emboldened America’s enemies into an escalation of attacks resulting in 9/11.  The one in 2001.  Not the attack in 2012 on the U.S consulate in Benghazi.  While the Democrats believe our enemies hate us because George W. Bush made them hate us with his cowboy swaggering ways.  And that was the only reason.  Even though Bush had little time to swagger before the attacks on 9/11.  Those in 2001.  Not the ones in 2012.  The Republicans say our enemies hate us for who we are.  As we are too Christian.  And allow our women to have careers and use birth control and abortion.  Something our enemies won’t allow their women to have.

President Obama did not end partisan politics.  He lied about that.  For his administration has been perhaps the most partisan in U.S. history.  With no interest whatsoever in compromise.  He and the Democrats continue to lie about the Reagan tax cuts.  And the Bush tax cuts.  Blaming tax cuts for all our woes.  And our deficits.  Despite those tax cuts increasing tax revenue.  They lied about a war on women.  Having one of their cronies in the mainstream media create it by asking Mitt Romney if he wanted to take away women’s birth control.  And they continuously spread the lie that the rich aren’t paying their fair share in taxes.  When the top 10% of income earners pay about 70% of all federal income taxes.

So the Left tells a lot of lies to win elections.  Because that’s all they have.  They do not have a Morning in America they can talk about.  Just failed Keynesian economic policies.  Like the 4 years of Jimmy Carter.  The 4 years of President Obama.  And what may have been the 4 years of Bill Clinton had it not been for the Republicans taking control of Congress 2 years into his presidency.  Of course the Republicans can tell a lie, too.  The big one being their claim of being conservative like Ronald Reagan.  As they too often fall for the lies coming from the Left.  And appear more interested in living a comfortable life than sound philosophical beliefs.

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Hamilton, Jefferson, Republicans, Federalists, Money & Power, Corruption, British, French, Neutral Shipping and Letters of Marque

Posted by PITHOCRATES - September 27th, 2012

Politics 101

Hamilton trusted Men of Integrity to Govern Justly while Jefferson believed Money and Power would Corrupt Anyone

Nasty politics began back in the Washington administration.  With the seething hatred between Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson.  These American greats had two different visions for America.  Based on their background.  Hamilton’s from his experience in the Continental Army and his business experience.  Jefferson’s from his books.  As different as their views for America were, and despite their hatred for each other, they both loved their country.  And wanted what was best for their country.  While absolutely sure that the other had nefarious plans for its ruin.

Both were students of the Enlightenment.  Both believed in the natural, God-given rights of the people.  And both believed vehemently in the rule of law.  In fact, both were lawyers.  But Hamilton was part of the Continental Army when its troops were barefoot, half-naked and starving.  Which were barefoot, half-naked and starving because of a weak Continental Congress that could not provide for them.  Because they were weak, impotent and could not levy taxes.  All they could do was ask the states to give them money.  The states promised little.  And delivered even less.  Threatening the American Revolution itself.

Jefferson, on the other hand, saw that history was replete with examples of corruption and oppression whenever financial centers and the seat of power got too close.  Hamilton may have seen this.  But what he was most conscious of was the British Empire.  The greatest empire in the world.  Which became the greatest empire in the world by bringing the financial centers and the seat of power together.  Which is what Hamilton wanted to do.  Trusting in the integrity and moral character of gentlemen of the Enlightenment.  Who would rule with selfless indifference.  Principled men with strong Judeo-Christian values.  These were the men that would rule America.  Men like the Founding Fathers.  Who they could trust with money and power.  Who America should trust with money and power.  To make an American Empire to surpass the British Empire.  This is what Hamilton wanted.  While Jefferson believed that money and power would corrupt anyone.  If not in their generation then surely in the generations to follow.  And the best way to prevent this was by giving government as little money and power as possible.

An Outbreak of Yellow Fever in Philadelphia nearly settled the Quarrel between Hamilton and Jefferson

So Jefferson opposed Hamilton at every opportunity.  Such as the Bank of the United States.  And Hamilton’s funding system.  Making matters worse was that Hamilton’s Treasury Department was the largest department in the federal government.  While Jefferson’s State Department was one of the smallest.  So Jefferson tried to transfer some parts of Treasury to his State Department.  The Post Office.  Which he failed in getting.  But he did succeed in transferring the Mint from Treasury to State.  Hamilton even learned that James Madison and Jefferson met with Robert Livingston and Aaron Burr to conspire against Hamilton to remove him from office.  Hamilton saw an ambitious Jefferson.  Who wanted the kind of power Jefferson accused Hamilton wanted for himself.

So these gentlemen began a campaign to force the other from office.  Hamilton had an ally in the Gazette of the United States who championed his policies.  To counter Jefferson hired Philip Freneau into the State Department to help finance a new paper.  The National Gazette.  Whose sole purpose was to attack Hamilton while praising everything Jeffersonian.  Hamilton wrote anonymous attacks published in the Gazette of the United States.  While Jefferson left his dirty work to Freneau.  And the attacks grew uglier.  The attacks were not just on policy or the future vision of the nation.  But these were personal attacks on each other.  Where accuracy was not a major requirement.  Such as when Hamilton took Jefferson out of context.  Quoting selective excerpts from a 1787 letter to suggest that Jefferson wanted to rob the Dutch to repay the French.  Hamilton and Jefferson became like two quarreling children in Washington’s cabinet.  Each running to ‘father’ tattling on the other.  Insisting that Washington demand the resignation of the other.

An outbreak of yellow fever in Philadelphia nearly settled the question.  By almost killing Hamilton.  But he survived.  Unlike some 4,000 others in Philadelphia.  Even Hamilton’s illness was seen through a political lens.  Hamilton sought the medical advice from an old college buddy.  As opposed to following the good advice of Dr. Benjamin Rush.  Who recommended massive bloodlettings.  When Hamilton recovered he publically thanked his friend (who had nothing to do with his recovery) and encouraged others to follow his recommended treatment.  Which didn’t include bloodletting.  Dr. Rush was infuriated.  Accusing Hamilton of killing countless others through this quackery instead of the sensible bloodletting that was established medical practice.  Of course, this was a personal attack on Dr. Rush.  Because he was not a Federalist.  But a Republican.  And a friend of James Madison and Thomas Jefferson.

While the French were causing Headaches for Jefferson and his Republicans the British were doing the same to Hamilton and his Federalists

The yellow fever also claimed another casualty.  The National Gazette.  As people fled Philadelphia, or died, circulation fell.  And the paper lost money and closed shop.  About the same time that happened Jefferson resigned from the cabinet.  And returned to Monticello.  Things were looking up for Hamilton.  Until the reverberations of the French Revolution further divided the country.  The Federalists were reestablishing trade with the British.  So when the French and British were back at war with each other it caused some problems in America.  For the American people still hated Britain.  While having deep emotional ties to the country that had helped them win their independence.  France.  The United States had proclaimed their neutrality in this new war.  But being a maritime nation dependent on exports her best interests lay with Great Britain and the most powerful navy in the world.  Which further proved that Hamilton and his Federalists were secret monarchists.  And that Hamilton wanted to be king.

Meanwhile, the French had sent their new ambassador to America.  Citizen Genêt.  Who Jefferson, the Republicans and the American people welcomed with open arms.  But then he started issuing letters of marque to American captains to attack and capture British shipping.  Bringing them back to American ports to refit them.  Which was a dangerous thing for a neutral nation to do against the nation that kept the sea lanes safe for their commerce.  Then Citizen Genêt tried to raise an American army to attack the Spanish in Florida and in New Orleans.  With further aims of attacking the British in Canada.  This was too much even for Jefferson.  And it was one of the few times that Jefferson and Hamilton were in agreement.  Citizen Genêt had to go.  For Jefferson he was proving to be an embarrassing liability for the Republicans.

While at the same time the British were retaliating.  Issuing orders to blockade France and to seize any neutral shipping trying to supply France with corn.  Which was pretty much any agricultural grain product.  A major export of the United States.  So this was a direct blow against U.S. commerce.  Even though she was a neutral in this current war between France and Great Britain.  This did not make the American people happy.  Nor did it help Hamilton or his Federalists with their rapprochement with Britain.  Then the British began to seize all shipping going to and from the French West Indies.  Which were mostly American ships.  So while Citizen Genêt was causing great headaches for Jefferson and his Republicans the British were doing the same to Hamilton and his Federalists.  Further dividing the nation.  And bringing them closer to war.  In large part due to the politics dividing the nation.

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Greece, Rome, Western Civilization, Alexandria, Londinium, Enlightenment, Adam Smith, Free Market Capitalism and Gender Equality

Posted by PITHOCRATES - April 17th, 2012

History 101

Greece gave Western Civilization Math, Science, Engineering and Philosophy

History has been a political struggle over power.  Kings and emperors and priests and nobles had it.  While other kings and emperors and priests and nobles wanted it.  They fought wars.  They oppressed their people.  They’ve committed acts of genocide on their enemies.  And on their people.  To get that power.  To keep that power.  And that’s the way it was for a long time.  The ruling class at the top battling it out.  While the people suffer abject poverty, famine and genocide at the bottom.  Until something came along to change that.  An advanced civilization.  That could produce a food surplus.  Freeing up people to become artisans.  Specialists.  Who could invent and make things.  To make life better.  Especially for a large group of people called the middle class.

The Greeks and Romans took civilization to new heights.  When Edgar Allen Poe wrote To Helen (1845) he chose Greece and Rome to describe his most beautiful Helen.  Because Greece and Rome were that beautiful.

On desperate seas long wont to roam,
Thy hyacinth hair, thy classic face,
Thy Naiad airs have brought me home
To the glory that was Greece,
And the grandeur that was Rome.

Western Civilization began in Greece.  Food surpluses freed the great thinkers.  Math, science, engineering and philosophy took roots in Athens and spread through the Greek world.  The Hellenistic civilization.  That Alexander the Great spread east all the way to Iran and the Indus Valley.  And south into Egypt.  Where he founded the great city of Alexandria.  Repository of some of the greatest Greek books of knowledge.  When Rome conquered Greece they spread that great Hellenistic civilization east to Spain.  North to France and Germany.  Even to England.  London itself was once a Roman city.  Londinium.  And everywhere the Romans went they brought with them Greek math, science, engineering and philosophy.  Building engineering marvels.  And creating a very high standard of living.

Where the Romans went they also built roads.  Primarily to move their legions throughout their empire.  But they also used them for trade.  Where they traded the goods made by that rising middle class of artisans.  Economic activity was bustling.  Until the government grew.  To pay for an ever larger government bureaucracy and military they started taxing that economic activity.  And regulating it.  Rather harshly.  Restricting freedoms.  Eventually tying farm workers to the land.  Even their children.  Turning that once bustling economy into feudalism.  Serfdom.  Until the growth of government expenditures made the Western Empire so weak that the Germanic barbarians sacked Rome.

Enlightened Thinking and Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations helped make Great Britain the Leading European Power

While Europe went through the Dark Ages the Eastern Roman Empire continued on.  Centered on Constantinople (modern day Istanbul) on the Bosporus, she was smack-dab in the middle of the trade crossroads between Europe and Asia.  And continued to prosper economically.  Until the Arabs began attacking her.  And the Christian Crusaders.  Who came down to reclaim the holy land for the Catholic Church.  Where they fought Muslim Arabs.  As well as Orthodox Christians.  While in the area they visited the sights.  Including that great repository of books in Alexandria.  Which they packed up and brought back to Europe.  And changed the world.

As the Christian monks translated these books all of Europe read them.  Math, science, engineering and philosophy.  Kicking off the Enlightenment.  Advanced economies appeared in the Italian city-states as they controlled trade in the Mediterranean.  But with all that Greek knowledge Portugal, Spain and the Netherlands built bigger ships and learned to navigate across the oceans.  Moving the center of trade from the Mediterranean to northern Europe.  The Europeans established colonies in the Old World.  And the New World.  France and England soon followed.  Trade exploded.  And fortunes were made.  But something really special was happening in England. 

Thanks to all that enlightened thinking the English took the lead in Europe.  And the world.  Modern farming practices improved yields and created great food surpluses.  She had representative government in her Parliament.  The rule of law.  Banking institutions.  Joint-stock companies to raise large amounts of capital.  An insurance industry to manage the great risks of transoceanic trade.  And an economist up in Scotland who wrote a book about new ideas in economic thought.  Adam Smith.  Who wrote The Wealth of Nations.  Championing something he called the Invisible Hand in free market capitalism.  Taking away the economic decisions making from the kings and emperors and priests and nobles.  And giving it to the people.  Which Great Britain embraced.  Kicking off the Industrial Revolution.  Other European nations followed her lead.  As did one young upstart nation.  The United States.

Famine has been Rare in Western Civilization since the 18th Century

Western Civilization dominated the world in every measurable way.  Economic output.  Living standards.  Public health standards.  Gender equality.  You name it and the free market capitalism of Western Civilization made it better.  The general path of emigration of great minds traveled in one general direction.  From eastern/southern Europe to Germany, France and Great Britain.  Then on to the United States.  Or directly to the United States.  Where free market capitalism was the freest.  Making the Untied States the new world superpower.  Following the Industrial Revolution with even greater innovation.  Providing ever greater living standards.  And individual liberty.  For everyone.

The freedom in free market capitalism brought women into the workforce.  Take the automobile.  When Henry Ford first mass produced the car it was not people-friendly.  Men started our first cars by turning a hand crank.  Sometimes losing a finger or breaking a wrist in the process.  Once started he adjusted his goggles and gloves and took the wheel.  His face being the bug screen.  His muscles being his ‘powered’ steering.  Clutching through the gears.  Gearing down and stomping down on the breaks to stop.  It was man’s work driving our first cars.  Dirty, filthy man’s work.  The automatic starter, automatic transmission, power steering and breaks, though, changed all of that.  All American developments.  Allowing women in heels and a short dress to start and drive a car as well as any man without losing any of her dignity.  And she could sip a latte on her drive to work.  While listening to music.  And on those hot days she didn’t sweat through her clothes before getting to work.  Thanks to air conditioning.  Another American invention for the car.  And she’s able to enjoy this freedom because of some other inventions.  Two in particular that let her pursue a career.  And enjoy any activity whenever she chooses.  The birth control pill.  And the tampon.  Again, products of Western Civilization. 

Women in Western Civilization have it pretty good these days.  Where for the most part their standard of living has caught up to men.  There are some earning disparities.  But a lot of that is due to women leaving the workforce to raise children.  And then reentering at a later time.  Having to play catch-up with those who didn’t leave the workforce to raise a family.  Not too bad when you consider what women are going through where they don’t embrace free market capitalism.  For not only do they have none of these everyday comforts we take for granted but they often go without food.  Up until the 18th century famines were pretty common.  But with the advances we’ve made in farming and our other institutions we have that give us a modern and bustling economy (and our high living standards) there really haven’t been any famines in Western Civilization since the 18th century.  There may have been a few but they were very rare.  Unlike the famines in the 20th century that killed tens of millions in Russia, the Soviet Union, China, North Korea, Southwest Asia, Southeast Asia and Africa.  But famine is not the only thing killing people in these countries.  They have also suffered the greatest acts of genocides.  As rival groups battle each other for political power.  With the innocent masses stuck in the crossfire.  Something a prosperous middle class has put an end to in Western Civilization.

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Chinese Trade, Constantinople, Compass, Stirrup, Gunpowder, Cannon, Renaissance, Enlightenment and Gunboat Diplomacy

Posted by PITHOCRATES - January 18th, 2012

Technology 101

The Ottoman Turks used the new Cannon to Breach the Great Stone Walls of Constantinople

China was a mysterious and distant place.  It was about as far away from Europe you could get.  But the things that came from there were intoxicating.  Caravans working the Silk Road brought things west.  To Constantinople.  And to northern Europe.  Silk.  Porcelain.  And those eastern spices.  If you were interested in having the finer things in life you bought them from China.

Constantinople was the capital of the Byzantine Empire.  The eastern part of the Roman Empire that survived through the Middle Ages.  Constantinople sat on the Bosporus.  The trade crossroads of the world.  Where Europe met Asia.  Where the Black Sea (and the rivers of Eastern Europe and Russia) met the Mediterranean Sea.  Where Christianity met Islam.  Where Catholicism met Christian Orthodoxy.  Not only a city of great wealth but of strategic importance.  And coveted by everyone who didn’t have it.

China also invented paper, the compass, the stirrup, the ship rudder and moveable-type printing.  And they were pretty good at map making, too.  Things that Europeans used to great success.  Including another Chinese invention.  Gunpowder.  But the Europeans weren’t the only ones using these inventions.  The Seljuk Turks made good use of the stirrup.  Riding out of central Asia.  Whose archers were able to stand in their stirrups while at full gallop and bring down a withering and accurate fire upon their enemies.  Who went on to conquer much of the Byzantine lands.  Except Constantinople.  Whose thick stone walls were impervious to the archer’s arrow.  But the Ottoman Turks were able to break down those thick walls with another Chinese invention.  Gunpowder.  Used in cannons to hurl great projectiles into the stone walls of Constantinople.  Breaching them.  Allowing them to finally conquer the great city in 1453.  When Constantinople became Istanbul.

The Renaissance and the Enlightenment bloomed in Italy

When the Western Roman Empire fell the Byzantine Empire retained some portions of it.  Including what grew into the Italian city-states.  Tied into the Byzantine economy they grew wealthy from that Asian trade.  Many of those coveted Chinese goods that made it to Europe went through them.  It was their wealth that led them out of the Dark Ages.  Kicked off the Italian Renaissance.  And rekindled an interest in the ancient Greek texts and the knowledge they contained.  The chancellor of Florence invited a scholar from Constantinople to Florence to teach their students Greek.  To help these students read the old Greek texts.  More scholars followed after the Ottoman Turks captured Constantinople.

The flourishing trade helped to create the banking industry.  Aided by their development of double-entry bookkeeping that the Italians invented.  The Italian city-states were making money.  Which made good use of that Chinese paper.  To account for all the money they were making from those Chinese luxuries.  Made a lot of rich men.  Who indulged in the arts.  Renaissance art bloomed in Italy.  As did the Enlightenment.  From all that Greek learning the Italians gained from those Greek texts.  And it flowered from Italy throughout Europe.

But all was not good.  As these city-states grew great and wealthy they became targets for their rivals.  And plunged them into a series of wars that consumed more wealth than the city-states created.  Wars they fought with hired mercenaries.  Which Venice and Florence financed with some of the first government bonds.  But their days were numbered.  Because others wanted that wealth.  And they wanted to find a way to get to those Chinese goods without going through the Ottoman Turks.  And they soon found it.

It was the Europeans’ Turn to Build Empires Thanks to their Taste for Chinese Luxuries and Technology

With the Turks in Istanbul and the Italians in the Mediterranean, the Portuguese, the Spanish and the Dutch looked for a direct sea route to China.  With the English close behind.  With modern ocean-going ships.  Employing a lot of that Chinese technology.  Including the compass.  And that gunpowder.  Taking them to the source of those Chinese goods.  Soon the Europeans moved in.  And began to dictate their own terms.  Cutting out the Italians.  And the Turks.  It was the end of the great Italian city-states.  The days of the great warships had arrived.  Ships bristling with decks of cannon.  Introducing the era of gunboat diplomacy.

It was the Europeans’ turn to build empires.  Thanks to their taste for Chinese luxuries.  And an insatiable appetite to use the latest in technology to help them get what they wanted.  Their dominance would last centuries.  Until the latest in technology took warfare to such heights that it plunged continents into war.  The Great War was so devastating that it wiped out a generation of people.  Bankrupted those European empires.  Destroyed the Ottoman Empire.  And left the European nations impoverished.  But they would recover.  And then do it all over again.  Only worse.  For World War II demoted the Great War to World War I.  Which turned out not to be the war to end all wars after all.

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The Line of Diocletian, the Byzantine Empire, Italian City-States, Banking, Usury and the Protestant Reformation

Posted by PITHOCRATES - January 3rd, 2012

History 101

Europe began to Awake from its Slumber of the Dark Ages in about 1300 Italy

Once upon a time the only lending was to help someone in need.  Such as someone with a poor harvest to survive the winter.  We did it out of the goodness of our hearts to help others in need.  So to charge interest for a loan like this would have been cruel.  Taking advantage of someone’s misfortune wasn’t the Christian thing to do.  Or the Jewish.  Or the Muslim.  That’s why no one then charged interest for loaning money.  You just didn’t kick a person when he or she was down.  And if you did you could expect some swift justice from the religious authorities.  As well as the state.

Rome was once the center of the civilized world.  All roads led to Rome, after all.  Then Diocletian split the Empire into two in 285.  Along the Line of Diocletian.  Into East (Greek) and West (Latin). The West included Rome and fell around 486, ushering in the European Dark Ages.  Meanwhile the Eastern half, the Byzantine Empire, carried on.  And skipped the Dark Ages.  Its capital was Constantinople (named in 330) .  Formerly Byzantium.  Modern day Istanbul.  Where all Asian overland trade routes led to.  This city of Emperor Constantine.  His city.  Who reunited East and West.  And adopted Christianity as the Empire’s new religion (381).  Located at the crossroads between Europe and Asia, trade flourished and made the Byzantine Empire rich.  And long lasting.  Until weakened by the Venetian-financed Fourth Crusade (1202–1204).  (The Latin Christians’ attack on the Greek Christians was fallout from the Great Schism of 1054 where Christianity split between Latin Catholic and Greek Orthodox).  And then falling to the Ottomans in 1453.

Europe began to awake from its slumber in about 1300 Italy.  Great city-states arose.  Genoa.  Pisa.  And Venice.  Like those early Greek city-states.  Great ports of international trade.  Rising into trade empires with the decline of the Byzantine Empire.  Where these Italian merchants bought and sold all of those Asian goods.  Putting great commercial fleets to sea to bring those Asian goods into Genoa, Pisa and Venice.  Getting rich.  But to make money they had to have money.  Because in the international trade game you had to first buy what you sold.  Which included the cost of those great merchant fleets.  And how did they pay for all of this?  They borrowed money from a new institution called banking.

That Europe that Slumbered during the Dark Ages Arose to Rule International Trade

Modern finance was born in Italy.  Everything that makes the commercial economy work today goes back to these Italian city-states.  From international banking and foreign exchange markets to insurance to the very bookkeeping that kept track of profits and losses.  It is here we see the first joint-stock company to finance and diversify the risk of commercial shipping.  London would use the joint-stock company to later finance the British East India Company.  And Amsterdam the Dutch East India company.  Where the Dutch and the English sent ships across oceans in search of trade.  Thanks to their mastery of celestial navigation.  And brought back a fortune in trade.  Putting the great Italian city-states out of business.  For their direct sea routes were far more profitable than the overland routes.  Because the holds of their ships could hold far more than any overland caravan could.

The Catholic opposition to usury (charging interest to borrow money) opened the new banking industry to the oppressed Jews in the European/Christian cities.  For it was one of the few things the Christian rulers let the Jews do.  Which they did.  Even though it was technically against their religion.  And they did it well.  For they had an early monopoly.  Thanks to that same Catholic Church.  Then came another schism in the Christian church.  The Protestant Reformation.  Where, among other things, Protestants said the Old Testament did not bind them to all rules that the Jews had to follow.  Then John Calvin took it a step further and said commercial loans could charge interest.  And, well, the rest is banking history.

Europe was then the dominant region of the world.  That region that slumbered during the Dark Ages arose to rule international trade.  Thanks to their navigational abilities.  And their banking centers.  Which financed their trade.  And the great things to come.

The Enlightenment led to the Modern World, Limited Government, the Industrial Revolution and Beyond

With the fall of the Byzantine Empire and the rise of the Italian city-states, Greek thinkers left the Byzantine Empire and went West.  To those rich Italian city-states.  Bringing with them great books of Greek knowledge.  The intellectual remnants of the Roman Empire.  Translated them.  And massed produced them on the new printing press.  And kicked off the Enlightenment.  Which then spread throughout Europe.

The Enlightenment led to the modern world.  From limited government.  To the Industrial Revolution.  And beyond.  All thanks to those Italian city-states.  International trade.  And banking.

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FUNDAMENTAL TRUTH #33: “The founding fathers weren’t perfect but they were closer than most.” -Old Pithy

Posted by PITHOCRATES - September 28th, 2010

George Washington

George Washington owned slaves.  We all know this.  Whenever we try to revere our Founding Fathers, someone on the Left will speak up and remind us of this fact.  Of course, the context of the times means nothing to them.  We’ll forgive Robert Byrd’s racist and KKK past because of the context of his times.  But not the father of our country. 

Washington inherited his slaves.  With the property he inherited.  He wasn’t a huge fan of slavery.  In fact, he wanted to replace his slaves with paid laborers.  Because he wasn’t making a lot of money with his slaves.  There were large families.  Many old who could no longer work.  And lots of children.  This large slave holding consumed a good percentage of his crops for their subsistence.  While a smaller percentage of them contributed labor to produce those crops.  He tried to sell them.  But others were only interested in the workers.  Not the old and the young.  But he didn’t want to break up the families.  So he didn’t sell.  He continued to use slave labor.  Made less money than he could.  Because it was the decent thing to do.

His will freed his slaves after his wife’s death.  It also provided for them.  His heirs were to provide sufficient training to help these former slaves get a job.  To help them integrate into the community.  But you don’t hear that part from the Left.  Just that he owned slaves.

In the context of his times, he was a great man.  And he still is.  Despite what the Left will remind us of.  He was the father of our country.  The indispensable one.  Without him, there would have been no nation.  For he truly was “first in war, first in peace, and first in the hearts of his countrymen.”

Ben Franklin

Ben Franklin lived a long life.  So long you could say he lived a couple of lives.  Printer and entrepreneur.  Writer and publisher.  Inventor and scientist.  Diplomat, peacemaker and Founding Father.  A great man.  And, yes, with a few flaws.  He saw a prostitute or two in his youth.  Sired an illegitimate child.  William (who would go on and father his own illegitimate child).  He wasn’t the greatest husband.  He could have been a better father.  But he did a lot for this country.  Few did more.  So we can forgive him these few trespasses.  Most did.  Even John Adams would speak kindly of him.

Franklin and Adams were very different people.  Yes, Franklin wrote, “Early to bed, early to rise, makes a young man healthy, wealthy and wise.”  But as an elder diplomat in Paris, he came to see the pleasures in staying up late.  Enjoying the company of the ladies in the Paris salons.   And drinking Madeira.  He was a social butterfly.  And the people of France loved him.  The great American scientist and inventor.

When Adams joined Franklin in Paris, their personalities clashed.  Adams went to bed early.  Got up early.  And didn’t enjoy the company of the very forward (for the time) salon women of Paris.  Only one woman interested him.  His beloved Abigail.

Adams resented Franklin’s celebrity.  And had difficulty working with him.  Especially with the hours he kept.  But Franklin’s style worked.  Paris preferred him over Adams.  And they made it known to the Continental Congress.  This strained their relationship.  Adams was concerned the French were playing Franklin, for the French were very adept at diplomacy.  But in the end Franklin proved to be no slouch himself.  He maintained French funding, arms and supplies for the American cause throughout the Revolutionary War, promising all along there would be no separate peace with Great Britain (France was, after all, in it for the spoils a British defeat would provide).  But we made a separate peace.  France got little for all her efforts (other than her own revolution).  And Franklin minimized the damage to the Franco-American friendship.  Not bad for a naughty old drunk.

John Adams

John Adams is the most unappreciated of the Founding Fathers.  There’s no memorial for him in our nation’s capitol.  And yet there probably wouldn’t have been a nation without him.  So why is he the Rodney Dangerfield of our Founding Fathers?

Adams was a flawed man who knew his flaws.  He didn’t try to hide them, though.  He tried to fix them.  But he wasn’t very successful.  He was a very religious man.  And he was oh so pious.  But irascible.  And vain.  It always bothered him that others got so much credit.  For doing far less than he did.  Especially Jefferson.  These were his flaws.  Which could make him hard to like at times.  And bitter.  The story that Adams often told about the writing of the Declaration of Independence went like this.  He said Jefferson should write the Declaration of Independence, not him.  First of all, Jefferson was a Virginian.  With all the trouble in the North, it was important to show a united front.  All the colonies.  Even those not facing the wrath of the British army and navy.  Second, no one liked him (Adams).  So no one would like anything he wrote.  (Which was not true as he did help some colonies write their state constitutions.)

And sometimes he could come across as kind of an elitist.  Because he was so well learned and so well disciplined.  He was part of that old school who thought that the best and brightest should serve in government.  And some thought he was too British.  Yes, he represented the British soldiers implicated in the Boston Massacre and supported the Jay Treaty, but he was no British toady.  At a last attempt at peace and reconciliation, King George was willing to forgive many who rebelled against the crown.  But not Adams.  He was ‘too’ responsible for all that independence trouble.  He would hang.

Anyway, that’s about the extent of Adams’ flaws.  A bad personality trait or two.  Nothing scandalous.  He had a loving marriage.  He was a good father.  Highly principled.  Honest.  And just.  One of the best of the best.

James Madison                                                        

James Madison was the most erudite of the Founding Fathers.  Jefferson may have thought big thoughts.  But Madison could, too.  As well as master the details.  When it came to constitutionality in the inaugural administration, Washington didn’t turn to his Secretary of State (Jefferson).  He went to the Speaker of the House.  James Madison.

Washington had no children.  But he admired and loved Hamilton, Jefferson and Madison like sons.  And then the fighting started between his ‘children’.  Especially between Hamilton and Jefferson.  Who saw two different Americas.  This animosity would extend to the president.  And the entire Federalist ‘party’.  Jefferson and Madison saw Washington as a senile old man manipulated by a puppet master.  Hamilton.  So Jefferson and Madison led an opposition party against the Washington administration.  While Jefferson was still a member of the administration.  The Jefferson-Hamilton feud got so bad that Jefferson would eventually leave and ‘retire’ to Monticello.  Madison would carry on the opposition, taking his orders from Monticello.  Sort of a Jefferson toady.

The Jefferson-Madison hatred of the Federalists bordered on the ridiculous.  They saw everything through a prism of conspiracy.  That the Federalists were trying to reunite America with Great Britain.  Thus making them, the Republicans, fiercely pro-France.  Even during the height of the Terror of the French Revolution.  Jefferson once advised the French ambassador not to worry about Washington.  He was old and senile.  Those of right mind were clearly on France’s side.  When Washington learned of this, he never would talk to Jefferson again.

Madison kept up the hysteria.  Even during the Adams administration.  He was sure Adams wanted war with France.  And when the French insulted the Americans in the XYZ Affair (you want to talk to us French?  First you give us French a lot of money), Madison said Adams fabricated the whole thing.  So he could declare war on France.  Well, he didn’t make it up.  It happened.  And while war fever gripped the nation, Adams tried one last time.  And got peace.

Despite this Hamilton/Federalist paranoia, Madison was one of our best.  He was the father of our constitution.  He (and strangely enough Alexander Hamilton) led the ratification process.  And Madison led the fight to add the Bill of Rights.  Few men have been so instrumental in the founding of a nation.

Thomas Jefferson

Thomas Jefferson may have had an intimate relationship with a slave.  Some may call it rape.  But, in the context of the times, it was no big deal.  Others were doing it.  Just like we forgive the Aztec for their human sacrifices.  In the context of their times, it was no big deal.  A lot of less-advanced people were doing it. 

Jefferson was a complex man.  Some would call him a sphinx.  He could tell lies that even he believed.  Quiet and shy, he was not the ladies man.  He looked like one, but he wasn’t.  Rejected once while in college and he was ready to live a life of celibacy.   But he did meet another woman.  Who he loved and married.  She was a frail thing, though.  And a couple of babies later, she died.  This just devastated Jefferson.  Shook him to his core.  It took months before he emerged from that deep depression.  He would never marry again.  And the female company he kept after that was often with married women.  His daughters.  Or, perhaps, a slave.  He no doubt yearned for female companionship.  But he would never open his heart again to another woman.

Perhaps he did, though.  With Sally Hemings.  His slave.  His concubine.  If the allegations are true (DNA evidence cannot conclusively prove but indicates a high probability).  She looked after his daughters.  Sort of a mother role.  Perhaps she was a surrogate wife.  If so, perhaps it was less than rape.  Maybe there were mutual feelings.  Anything is possible.  But we’ll never know.  What we do know is that if anything did happen, they hid it.  Out of shame on one part.  Perhaps fear on the other.  She was, after all, only a concubine.  Property.  And being a concubine is not being a wife, wedded or common-law.  No doubt it was a complicated ‘relationship’.  If there was a ‘relationship’.

That said, he did do a lot of good.  He was one of the greatest champions of limited government.  He was one of the gentlemen of the Enlightenment.  And there was little to fear from them.  But some of these gentlemen wanted to give the new central government great power.  Because it was the dawn of a new era.  Where like-minded gentlemen would follow them and continue to govern with disinterest.  But Jefferson had his doubts.  He didn’t trust men with power.  He didn’t trust government.  And because of him, they’d keep the beast of Big Government at bay.  For a little while.

Alexander Hamilton

Alexander Hamilton had illusions of grandeur.  And this from a man who had done some fantastic things.  Still, he always wanted more.  He was a driven man.  Probably goes back to his illegitimate birth and abandonment.  He always had something to prove.  To himself.

Some feared him.  First Jefferson.  Then Madison.  They thought he was pulling the strings in the Washington administration.  When he proposed his funding, assumption and banking plans as Treasury Secretary, Jefferson & Madison were frightened by what they saw.  A way too powerful central government.  So they formed the opposition.  Thus American party politics was born.  But neither side was as bad as the other side thought. Still, it didn’t stop Jefferson from trying to destroy Hamilton. 

Hamilton had money from a successful law practice.  And he ran the treasury department.  Someone took notice.  A guy named James Reynolds.  A con man that was in Philadelphia preying on veterans.  His wife, Maria, was beautiful.  And quite the actress.  One sob story of an indebted husband who abandoned her with his debts later, she lured Hamilton into her home.  He brought money to help her settle her debts.  But they soon ended up in her bedroom.  Once they consummated their affair, Mr. Reynolds stormed in on cue and began the extortion of Alexander Hamilton.

Well, when Jefferson learned of this juicy little morsel, he leaked it to the press.  The newspapers attacked him.  Said he was stealing money from the treasury to pay his blackmailer.  He wasn’t.  They did look, though.  And how they looked.  When they couldn’t find the evidence they wanted to find, Jefferson said that was proof positive of what a good thief Hamilton was.

But Hamilton was no thief.  Say what you will about him, but he was a man of integrity.  And the father of American capitalism.  The American dream took root and grew largely because of him.  And his financial acumen.  You know what they say.  Money talks and bull [excrement] walks.  Jefferson could write and he wrote some good stuff.  But words don’t build a nation.  Money does.  Foreign credit.  And Hamilton delivered.

Flawed but Great

Flawed men, yes.  But compare them to our contemporary politicians.  To their flaws.  To their accomplishments.  Who were/are better?  And who were/are more flawed?  More corrupt?  The comparison is ridiculous.  For there is no comparison.  Our Founding Fathers, with all of their flaws, are THE greatest generation.

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