The First, Second and Third Reich

Posted by PITHOCRATES - April 1st, 2014

History 101

The Holy Roman Empire was the First German Reich

At the height of the Roman Empire the Mediterranean Sea was a Roman Lake.  For the Romans controlled all the land around the Mediterranean Sea.  As the Roman Empire controlled most of the civilized world.  From Africa to Britain.  From Spain to the Middle East.  And its presence in Europe would shape Europe and the world we know today.  But before the Romans could shape our world the barbarians had to destroy theirs.

The northern frontier of the Roman Empire ran along the Rhine and Danube rivers.  West of the Rhine and south of the Danube was the civilized Roman Empire.  On the other side of those rivers were the Ostrogoths, the Visogoths and the Vandals.  Barbarians.  Germanic people.  Who would sweep down (along with the Huns from Central Asia) and conquer the Western Roman Empire.  With a Germanic chieftain, Odoacer, deposing the last Roman emperor in the West.  Romulus Augustus.

After about 3 centuries Charlemagne, King of the Franks (Germanic tribes in and around modern day France), would unify Western Europe.  In a Christian kingdom.  Pleasing Pope Leo III.  Who went on to crown Charlemagne emperor of the Roman Empire.  But after he died his empire broke apart.  Meanwhile to the east Otto I was unifying the Germanic tribes into a single kingdom.  A German empire that stretched from northern Italy to the North and Baltic seas.  Encompassing a huge swathe of Central Europe (including but not limited to modern day Germany, Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, The Netherlands, Switzerland, France (eastern lands), Italy and Poland).  A Christian empire.  Pleasing Pope John XII.  Who crowned Otto emperor.  And the First Reich (the first German empire) became the Holy Roman Empire.

Winning the Franco-Prussian War ushered in the Second German Reich

The First Reich would last for about 850 years.  Coming to an end in 1806 when the last Holy Roman Emperor, Francis II, abdicated after fighting and losing to Napoleon.  Who reorganize it into the German Confederation.  And reduced the First Reich to a French satellite.  Up until this time there were two large powers in the Reich vying for power.  Austria in the south.  And Prussia in the north.  Otto von Bismarck was a Prussian.  And Prussia was a militaristic nation.  That believed less in diplomacy and more in power.  And Bismarck would use force to unite the German states into a Prussian-dominated Germany.  While getting rid of its rival.  Austria.

War followed.  The Austro-Prussian War (1866) ended the German Confederation.  Prussia replaced the German Confederation with North German Confederation that excluded Austria.  This confederation included much of the northern lands of the First Reich.  To sooth the feelings between the north (led by Prussia) and the south (led by Austria) Bismarck made the French declare war on Prussia.  And when they did the southern German states sided with Prussia.  The Prussians and Germans moved quickly into northern France.  And after a long siege of Paris the Germans won the Franco-Prussian War (1870-1871).  They took back a lot of lands lost to France.  Including Alsace-Lorraine.  Much to the chagrin of the French.  And unified the German states into a German Empire.  The Second Reich.

The German Empire industrialized.  Greatly increasing its economic and military might.  Shifting the balance of power in Europe.  Germany was now the most powerful nation in Europe.  Which concerned the other powers of Europe.  So they began to enter treaties with each other.  Such that if Germany attacked one nation another nation (or nations) would declare war on Germany.  To provide a deterrent against German aggression.  And rebalance the balance of power in Europe.  But then Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria, heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, traveled to Sarajevo.  Where Gavrilo Princip assassinated him.  Pushing the first domino in a sting of dominos to fall as all of Europe honored their treaties.

The Third Reich was the Largest and Shortest-Lived German Reich

Austria-Hungary invaded Serbia.  In support of Austria-Hungary Germany invaded Belgium and Luxembourg on their way to France.  Causing the United Kingdom to declare war on Germany.  In support of Serbia Russia declared war on Austria-Hungary.  Allying with France and the United Kingdom.  The Ottoman Empire declared war on Russia.  Then nation after nation joined a side and entered the war.  Even the United States.  By the time it was all over some 16 million people were dead.  As were the Russian, Austro-Hungarian, Ottoman and German empires.  The map of Europe changed.  And the Second Reich was over.  Having lasted 47 years.  Large chunks of the Second Reich were taken away.  Including Alsace-Lorraine.  And much of Prussia.  Which was restored to Poland.  Which infuriated a lot of Germans.  Especially one German war veteran in particular.  A corporal.  Adolf Hitler.

World War I ended in an armistice.  Meaning that no one surrendered.  But the American entry into the war pretty much meant that the Germans were going to lose.  All the nations had long grown weary of the war.  But here was a fresh nation that could field fresh troops against Germany.  Which was exhausted.  It had nothing left.  Which gave the Allies the upper hand in the peace that followed.  And it was a bitter peace for the Germans.  Who were singled out as the sole responsible party for the war.  Well, one thing led to another and Adolf Hitler inaugurated the Third Reich.  And he set about retrieving all that lost German territory.  He annexed Austria.  The Sudetenland in Czechoslovakia.  Then he took the rest of Czechoslovakia.  A country that conveniently ran along the southern border of Poland.  And then he kicked off World War II.

The Third Reich invaded Poland.  Norway.  The Low Countries.  France.  And the Soviet Union (the former Russian Empire).  Reclaiming all lost German lands.  Including Alsace-Lorraine.  And unifying them once again.  Even adding on to them.  Through the use of force.  The Prussian way.  The Third Reich was the largest German Reich yet.  But it was the shortest lived Reich.  Lasting only 12 years.  By the time World War II was over some 70 million people were dead.  Making the Third Reich the bloodiest Reich.  The Allies helped to rebuild West Germany (East Germany was behind the Iron Curtain) to keep her out of the Soviet Sphere.  To give it a thriving free market economy.  And prosperity.  By providing full employment.  Which also helped to prevent gangs of unemployed young men from getting nationalistic fervor.  Again.  West Germany integrated into the west.  Away from the Soviets.  And away from her Prussian past.


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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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Businesses and Jobs tend to move from Countries with High Regulatory Costs to ones with Low Regulatory Costs

Posted by PITHOCRATES - February 23rd, 2014

Week in Review

A business is an investment.  Business owners invest capital and labor to make money.  Just like people buy government bonds to make money.  Of course, investing in government bonds is safe but it doesn’t create any jobs.  So we prefer when investors invest in a business.  Because a business will create jobs.

So where would investors prefer to risk their money?   That depends on the expected return on investment.  Historically there was always more money to be made in a business.  But higher regulatory costs have reduced that return on investment.  Leading a lot of investors to turn to government bonds.  Or to move their businesses to another country.  One with a less costly regulatory environment (see The rich world needs to cut red tape to encourage business posted 2/22/2014 on The Economist).

Singapore has come out on top as the least burdensome for the past eight years (see chart 3), whereas many EU countries are bumping along near the bottom. Of the 148 countries surveyed in 2013, Spain was ranked 125th, France 130th, Portugal 132nd, Greece 144th and Italy 146th.

Americans who complain about the Obama administration’s unhelpfulness towards business will also note ruefully that over the past seven years their country has slipped from 23rd to 80th place…

Broadly speaking, in recent years emerging markets seem to have been cutting their red tape whereas the rich world has been strengthening its regulatory regime…

But not all labour laws are equally useful. In much of Europe the problem is that regulations designed to protect existing workers from unfair dismissal often make employers reluctant to take on new ones. One international executive recounts the tale of a French worker who had been with his employer for just three years but was entitled to five years’ compensation for dismissal. “We wouldn’t put anyone in France if we can possibly avoid it,” the executive said…

The danger is that, once European companies come to expand capacity again, they may do so outside the euro zone, where employment contracts are more flexible and wages and social costs are lower…

The EU not only has inflexible labour markets and high costs; it has slower growth prospects than most emerging markets. That will tempt many businesses to move elsewhere. “Western Europe is at a severe disadvantage because of the costs when you have to restructure your operations,” says Martin Sorrell, the boss of WPP. By contrast, Singapore has a low tax rate, a light regulatory regime and an enviable location at the heart of Asia. Sir Martin thinks some multinationals will eventually move their headquarters to the city-state.

The best way to protect workers is with a robust economy.  Not regulations.  If you lower the tax burden and regulatory costs the return on investment on businesses will soar past the return on investment from government bonds.  And investors would put their money into businesses to make more money.  This is how you help workers get better pay and benefits.  You create such economic activity that there are more jobs than people to fill them.  Forcing employers to offer higher wages and better benefits.  The way it was when the United States became the number one economy in the world.  Not the way it is currently in the EU.  Or the United States.  Where the Great Recession lingers on.  Thanks to an anti-business economic climate.  And the mother of all costly regulatory policies.  Obamacare.


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The Russian Empire

Posted by PITHOCRATES - February 11th, 2014

History 101

The Europeans built Larger Ships and used Advanced Navigational Skills to sail from Europe to the Far East

The Anatolian peninsula (roughly the area of modern day Turkey) has long been a trade crossroads.  It’s where the Black Sea (and the rivers into Europe and Russia) met the Mediterranean Sea.  It’s where Europe met Asia.  Where East met West.  All important long-distant trade traveled through the Anatolian peninsula.  Right through the Bosporus.  The straits between East and West.

The Greeks, the Persians, the Romans and the Ottoman Turks all coveted this region.  When the Western Roman Empire fell the great Italian city-states rose.  They dominated the Mediterranean.  And the trade through the Bosporus.  Where the Silk Road for centuries brought riches from the Far East into Europe.  The Italian merchant banks controlled that trade.  Until the Eastern Roman Empire (the Byzantine Empire) fell to the Ottoman Turks.  Which, lucky for the Europeans, happened at the time of the Renaissance.  Bringing an end to the Middle Ages.  And ushering in the modern era.

It started in Italy.  And then spread into Europe.  A rebirth (hence Renaissance) of all that Greek learning.  Which shifted the trading center from the eastern Mediterranean to Europe.  Where the Europeans built larger ships and used advanced navigational skills to sail from Europe to the Far East.  Bypassing the Silk Road.  And the Ottoman Turks in the Anatolian peninsula.  Making the Europeans the new rich traders.  Knowledge and wealth created more ships for trade.  And advanced armies and navies.  Making the Europeans the masters of the world.

Peter the Great pulled Russia out of the Middle Ages by making it more European

While the Mediterranean and European nations were ushering in the modern world not all of Asia followed them.  Russia in particular remained in the Middle Ages.  A vast land full of disparate peoples.  Not a unique and singular Russian people.  Until Ivan the Terrible came along.  The Grand Prince of Moscow from 1533 to 1547.  Then Tsar of All the Russians.  Ivan the Terrible united Russia by conquering it.  But at a cost.  Continuous wars killed a lot of Russian people.  Which left a lot of farmland fallow.  Giving Russia a chronic problem they would have for centuries.  The struggle to feed themselves.

Tsar Peter the Great (1682 – 1725) modernized Russia.  To be a more modern country like those in Europe.  He even went to Europe incognito to learn as much as he could about advanced European ways.  And had Europeans help him pull Russia out of the Middle Ages.  He made his army to be like European armies.  Learned about shipbuilding.  And built a Russian navy.  Which was a problem as the only access to the sea Russia had was the Arctic Ocean via the White Sea.  Which meant, of course, war and conquest.  He fought the Swedes for access to the Baltic Sea.  And he fought the Ottoman Turks for access to the Black Sea.

The disparate people of Russia were not all that happy with his ideas or the money he spent.  So he brutally suppressed any discontent.  Peter built his navy.  And a new capital on the Baltic Sea.  Saint Petersburg.  A European cultural center.  And the Imperial capital of Russia.  He also attacked the Ottoman Empire.  And lost.  Losing his Black Sea ports.  But Russia would return to fight the Ottoman Turks.  Under Catherine the Great.

The Bolsheviks killed Tsar Nicholas and his Family and ushered in the Oppressive Soviet Union

Catherine the Great ruled during Russia’s Golden Age.  Continuing the work started by Peter the Great to modernize Russia.  Making Russia a great European power.  Through military conquest.  And diplomacy.  She was even an international mediator.  And established the League of Armed Neutrality to protect neutral shipping from British attacks during the American Revolutionary War.

Catherine pushed Russia’s borders out largely at the expense of the Ottoman Empire.  And the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth.  These conquests cost, though.  And she turned to the nobility to pay for them.  In return she supported the nobility.  But the wealth she got form the nobility came from the serfs (basically slave laborers) working their land.  Which took a lot of work to pay for her conquests.  Leading to a peasant uprising or two.  But serfdom would continue in Russia.  Tsar Alexander I advanced the status of Russia with his defeat of Napoleon.  They even called him the Savior of Europe.  But serfdom remained as the Industrial Revolution took off in Europe.  Halting the modernization of Russia.

Tsar Alexander II emancipated the serfs in 1861.  Ending the landed aristocracy’s monopoly of power.  Serfs left their lands.  And moved into the cities.  Selling their labor.  Industrializing Russia.  Still, their freedom favored the landed aristocracy.  Who were compensated for their serfs’ freedom with a tax paid by the freed serfs.  Which little improved the life of the freed serfs.  And did little to ease the revolutionary fervor long simmering in the Russian people.  Especially those outside the nobility.

When Tsar Nicholas II entered Russia into World War I things did not go well for Russia.  Military losses, food shortages, fuel shortages, inflation and striking factory workers made the nation ripe for revolution.  Tsar Nicholas went off to command the Russian Army personally.  Leaving his wife Alexandra to run the country in his absence.  Who turned to Grigori Rasputin for help.  Which didn’t help quell the revolutionary fervor simmering in the Russian people.  They didn’t like Rasputin.  Or the Tsar.  And made Tsar Nicholas the last emperor of the Russian Empire.  Which the Bolsheviks made permanent.  By killing Nicholas and his entire family.  Which ultimately ushered in the Soviet Union.  One of the most oppressive regimes of all time.


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The French People have reached their Limit on Taxes and Protest their Government

Posted by PITHOCRATES - November 10th, 2013

Week in Review

The American left wants what Europe has a lot of.  Social democracies.  They want a great nanny state in the United States that provides cradle-to-the-grave welfare.  All funded with lots and lots of taxes.  Look to Europe, they say.  No one there complains about their high taxes.  And they enjoy wonderful cradle-to-the-grave welfare.  This is what the American people want, too.  So they can be as happy and content as Europeans (see French riot police use tear gas on anti-tax protesters by AFP posted 11/9/2013 on France24).

French riot police fired tear gas at hundreds of anti-tax demonstrators in northwest France on Saturday after protesters pelted them and tried to drive a tractor through a barricade, an AFP photographer said…

Demonstrators chanted slogans against France’s Socialist government, which earlier this month suspended the application of the so-called ecotax…

There were more anti-tax protesters elsewhere in Brittany and also around the country, including near the major cities of Lyon and Marseille, and in the capital Paris.

The ecotax, aimed at encouraging environmentally friendly commercial transport, imposes new levies on French and foreign vehicles transporting commercial goods weighing over 3.5 tonnes.

Well, apparently the French have reached their limit on taxes.  And this after they elected a socialist to office.

This is why there is such a sense of urgency on the left.  When Barack Obama became president what did the left do?  Address the horrible economy?  No.  They passed one of the largest welfare programs in history.  Obamacare.  While they held the House and Senate.  So instead of trying to make life better for all Americans by cutting taxes and regulations to stimulate economic activity they rammed Obamacare into law.  While they could.  For it isn’t often when the Democrats control the presidency and both houses of Congress.

And now there is even greater urgency.  For Europe’s social democracies are imploding.  And these nations are even turning away from their socialist pasts.  Turning back towards capitalism.  Which explains the urgency.  They want to hurry up and get a European-style social democracy in America before all of Europe abandons them.  Severely weakening the ‘look to Europe’ argument.  Especially if Europe embraces capitalism following the collapse of their social democracies.


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The Europeans are moving away from Green Energy as President Obama moves toward Green Energy

Posted by PITHOCRATES - June 30th, 2013

Week in Review

Europe had gone all in on the green energy bandwagon.  To save the world from catastrophic climate change brought about by manmade global warming.  But they paid a price.  They have increased the cost of electric power.  Which increased the cost of manufacturing.  Making them less competitive on the world markets.  Resulting in anemic economic growth.  And a sovereign debt crisis as tax revenues fell.

Their journey into green energy has been an unmitigated disaster.  They are now reversing course.  And climate change be damned.  If there ever was a problem to begin with.  For let’s face, what good did all of Europe’s green energy efforts do anyway?  The climate doomsayers are still warning us that we must act now before it’s too late.  So apparently whatever the Europeans did had no impact on the climate.  Only their economies (see Europe exits climate money pit as Obama jumps in by RON ARNOLD posted 6/27/2013 on the Washington Examiner).

Myron Ebell, director of the Center for Energy and Environment at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, told me, “The centerpiece of President Obama’s climate plan is a declaration of all-out war on coal. The only affordable way to reduce emissions from existing coal-fired power plants – which now provide 40 percent of the nation’s electricity – is to close them down…”

Ebell added that “Obama is pursuing his anti-energy agenda undemocratically through executive actions that bypass the people’s elected representatives in Congress.”

Autocrat Obama is also doing it without learning from the European Union’s green energy experience: skyrocketing energy prices, a ruinous slide into fuel poverty, solar panel financial meltdown, wind power bankruptcies and the specter of EU disintegration. As a result, the EU suffered an outbreak of realism.

In May, Europe’s heads of state and government at the EU Summit promoted shale gas and reduced energy prices. They would rather promote competition than stop global warming.

Obama just returned from Northern Ireland at the G8 meeting where he evidently didn’t ask why the United Kingdom removed climate change from the agenda.

European carbon markets had collapsed with the price of carbon hitting record lows, wrecking the European Union’s trading scheme for industrial CO2 emissions.

British Gas owner Centrica was buying up shale gas drilling rights in Lancashire for fracking operations. Green investors faced bankruptcy as Spain cut subsidies even further.

Large German companies such as Siemens and Bosch abandoned the solar industry, which had lost them billions, while investments in failed solar companies, including Q-Cells and SolarWorld, destroyed 21 billion euros of capital.

In response, German Chancellor Angela Merkel told a June energy conference in Berlin to expect reduced government spending on energy like wind and solar power to keep Germany economically competitive. Europe’s clean energy economy had become a black hole eating euros.

The United Kingdom is struggling to maintain their National Health Service (NHS) under the pressures of an aging population.  Fewer people are entering the workforce to pay taxes to fund the NHS.  While more people are leaving the workforce and consuming more and more NHS resources as they live longer into retirement than ever before.  A clarion call for anyone considering moving in the direction of a national health care system that also has an aging population.  Yet that is exactly what president Obama did during his first two years in office while the nation was suffering in the worst recession since the Great Depression.  Instead of cutting taxes to put people back to work he put into place massive tax hikes coming our way to fund Obamacare.  Learning nothing from the British.

Now he has an entire continent showing how wrong it is to pursue green energy.  And what does he do?  Ignores the Europeans completely and plunges headlong into the same foolish mistake they made.  Instead of cutting taxes to help put Americans back to work in the worst recovery since that following the Great Depression he plans on raising taxes on energy producers.  To fund green energy.  While increasing regulatory costs on good, dependable coal-fired power plants.  Which will increase the cost of electric power.  As well as the cost of doing business.  Not to mention the higher electric bills coming our way because of his desire to follow the Europeans down the dead-end road of Green Energy.

It’s as if the president is doing everything within his power to destroy the American economy.  Or he is completely clueless on how economies work.  He went to Occidental College, Columbia University and Harvard Law School.  So either these institutions are clueless on how economies work.  Or President Obama is purposely trying to destroy the American economy.  For someone or some institution is responsible for the president’s horrible economic policies.  They didn’t just happen.  There must be a method to this madness.  At least a reason for it.  Some reason for turning us into a failed European social democracy.

Of course, many believe that is the reason.  To turn us into a European social democracy.  To transform the country from the free market capitalism of the Founding Fathers into something closer to the state socialism favored by such anti-capitalists like Karl Marx.  Those on the left ridicule any such claims.  But Obamacare and this new Green Energy policy sure have more in common with socialism than capitalism.  As does the present anemic economy.


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Coin Debasement, Currency Inflation and the Loss of Purchasing Power

Posted by PITHOCRATES - April 16th, 2013

History 101

The Roman Citizens welcomed the Barbarian Invaders as Liberators from the Oppressive Roman Regime

The Roman Empire pushed its borders out for centuries.  And when they did their legions conquered new territories.  And other civilizations.  Allowing them to send a lot of spoils back to Rome.  Providing the necessary funds for the empire.  With this lucrative stream of wealth flowing back to Rome they could leave the economy alone.  And did.  Economic activity was pretty much laissez-faire.  Then something happened.  The Romans had conquered pretty much all of the known civilized world.  And they stopped pushing their borders out.  Putting an end to that lucrative stream of wealth flowing back to Rome.

This created a problem.  For the empire was never larger.  With a greater border to protect than ever before.  And more territory to administer.  Which meant more soldiers.  And more civil servants.  Neither of which worked for free.  Which changed how the Romans handled the private sector economy.  They began to tax and regulate the hell out of it.  To raise the funds to pay the costs of empire.

Things got so bad that some people just started disappearing.  So the Romans introduced something that would evolve into European feudalism.  They forbade people from leaving their jobs.  Ever.  They even forbade the children from leaving their father’s profession.  While they were doing this they were debasing their coins.  The gold a little.  As it paid the soldiers and the civil servants.  And the silver a lot.  The money of the common people.  Who weren’t as important as the soldiers and the civil servants.  Until their silver was nothing but worthless slugs.  Causing prices to soar.  And the economy to collapse back into the barter system.  Hastening the fall of the Roman Empire.  As the Roman citizens welcomed the barbarian invaders as liberators from the oppressive Roman regime.

The Spanish brought back so much Gold and Silver from the New World that it actually Depreciated the Money Supply

Europe met Asia on the Bosporus.  The straits that connected the Black Sea and the Mediterranean Sea.  And it was where the Silk Road brought the exotic goods of the Far East into Europe.  Which the Europeans just couldn’t get enough of.  Making the Mediterranean powers the dominant powers.  For they controlled this lucrative trade.  Until, that is, the European nations made better ships.  Ships that could cross oceans.  And were bigger than the ships that plied the Mediterranean.  So they could bypass the Mediterranean powers.  And sail directly to the Far East.  Fill their large holds with those goods the Europeans couldn’t get enough of.  Getting rich and powerful.  And shifting the balance of power to these European nations.

But the Europeans just didn’t go east.  They also went west.  And bumped into the New World.  The Dutch, the French, the British, the Portuguese and the Spanish all had colonies in the New World.  It was the age of mercantilism.  Colonies sent raw materials to their mother country.  Who manufactured these raw materials into finished goods.  And shipped them from the mother country on the mother country’s ships through the mother country’s ports.  For the name of the game was balance of trade.  Which meant you imported lower-valued raw materials and you exported higher-valued finished goods.  And because the value of their exports was greater than the value of their imports there was also a net in-flow of gold and silver.  Which was what mercantilism was all about.  Trying to accumulate more gold and silver than your trading partners.

And the Spanish hit mercantile pay-dirt in the New World.  Gold and silver.  Lots of it.  So they loaded it up on their ships.  And sent it back to Spain.  Where it entered the European money supply.  And none too soon as the Europeans were cash-starved.  Because of all those exotic goods the Europeans couldn’t get enough of.  While those in the Far East had no interest whatsoever in European goods.  Which meant that European gold and silver went to the Far East to pay for those exotic goods.  Leaving the Europeans starving for gold and silver.  But thanks to the New World, they were able to reverse that net outflow of gold and silver.  In fact, so much gold and silver arrived from the New World that it actually inflated the money supply.  Which actually devalued the currency.  And because the currency lost purchasing power prices rose.  Making food more costly.  And life more difficult.

President Andrew Jackson joined the Hard-Money People and refused to renew the Charter of the BUS

Responsible nations have chosen gold and silver as their currency as it is difficult to increase the money supply and cause inflation.  Because mining these precious metals, refining them and minting coins is very costly.  Unless you discovered a New World with gold and silver paving the streets.  But that didn’t happen every day.  The irresponsible government, though, figured out a way to make that happen every day.  By just getting rid of the responsible gold and silver.  And replacing it with paper notes.  Fiat money.

Fiat money dates back to 11th century China.  To the Song Dynasty.  Which allowed the government to spend more money than their taxes raised.  Especially during war time.  But printing money devalued the currency.  And when you make the currency worth less it takes more of it to buy the things it once did.  Reducing purchasing power.  And unleashing price inflation.  Making food more costly.  And life more difficult.  During the American Revolutionary War there was so little gold and silver available that the Continental Congress turned to printing money.  And they printed so much that they unleashed a punishing inflation.  Causing prices to soar because the money became so worthless.  People wouldn’t accept it for payment.  So the Continental Army had to take the provisions they needed.  Leaving behind IOUs for the Continental Congress to make good on.  Later.

Of course, not everyone suffered during times of inflation.  Speculators did very well.  For their friends in the government’s central bank could print money and loan it to them on very favorable terms.  The speculators then used this cheap money and bought and sold assets.  Pocketing handsome profits in large part because of that inflation.  As the currency depreciation raised prices.  Including the prices of the assets they were selling.  So the rich got richer during periods of inflation.  While the working class just lost purchasing power.  Which is why President Andrew Jackson joined the hard-money people.  Those who favored gold and silver over paper currency.  And refused to renew the charter of the Second Bank of the United States (BUS).  Being one of the first world leaders not to choose destructive inflationary policies.  Instead choosing policies that favored the people.  Not the state.


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Almost two-thirds of British Adults say Students need to Study Christianity in the Public Schools

Posted by PITHOCRATES - December 1st, 2012

Week in Review

The U.S Constitution forbids the government from establishing a religion.  Or interfering with a state’s religious business.  For if a state wanted to establish the Catholic religion that was their business.  Not the federal government’s.  If a state wanted to establish the Protestant religion that was their business.   Not the federal government’s.  If a state wanted to establish the Calvinist religion that was their business.  Not the federal government’s.  So the Americans distanced themselves from the Church of England.  But most Americans were still practicing Christians.  Like the English.  So they didn’t stray far from the mother country in their religion (see Teaching of Christianity ‘lacks intellectual development’ by Judith Burns posted 11/27/2012 on BBC News Education & Family).

Almost two-thirds (64%) of adults questioned for Oxford University agreed pupils must know about Christianity to understand English history.

Absolutely.  There is a reason why European nations became the dominant world powers following the Mediterranean empires.  Christians brought back the great books of knowledge from libraries around the Mediterranean.  Christian monks translated these books.  And while they used the knowledge in these books to advance the European nations Christian values settled Europeans into a common, Christian people.  European kings exercised moral restraint in deference to Christian virtue.  At least they tried to look as if they were.  For they did not want to be excommunicated from the Church.  Cities grew where people lived peacefully together.  Commerce and trade flourished.  Making Portugal, Spain, France, the Netherlands and England rich and powerful nations.

And then England rose above them all.   Thanks to English common law.  Representative government.  Laissez faire capitalism.  And Christian virtue that made good leaders.  And honest people.  They weren’t perfect.  But it was that combination that made the British Empire.  Which gave us some of our greatest countries.  Australia and New Zealand down under.  Canada and the United States up on the other side of the globe.  And other countries scattered across the globe.  Sure, some will say they oppressed and conquered people.  But as far as oppressors and conquerors went they weren’t all that bad.  For life under British rule sure was better than life under other conquerors and oppressors throughout most of history.  For anyone who had a choice to pick their conqueror who do you think they would choose?  An Islamist conqueror?  A communist conqueror?  A Nazi conqueror?  A Mongol conqueror?  Or a British conqueror?  Most would probably choose a British conqueror.  During World War II the worst Nazis fought hard to surrender in the West.  To become a prisoner of the British or the Americans.  For being their prisoner was going to be far better than being a Soviet prisoner.  A country they brutally raped and pillaged.  An atheist, communist nation that had no Christian qualms about exacting their revenge.

It is Christianity that made Europe different.  And it is Christianity that made England great.  For it was Christianity that softened the brutal hand of power.  Emphasizing that we are all God’s children.  Urging us to extend Christian charity to our brothers.  They didn’t do that in Eastern Europe under Soviet rule.  Where the people did not embrace their forced socialism.  They tried hard to escape it.  And many who saw no hope of escaping it committed suicide.  The number one and two countries for suicide in Europe were Hungary and East Germany.  Which is why the West won the Cold War.  For life behind the Iron Curtain was wretched.  Where there were no moral restraints on the state.  Who tortured and abused their people at will.  Leaving people broken, frightened and despondent.  Which did not help the state provide for her people.  Instead everyone did the minimum to escape the brutal oppression of the state.  And tried to be as invisible as possible.  For if you drew too much attention onto yourself the state may just round you up for questioning.  This is why East Germany did not produce a Steve Jobs.  There was no reward for taking such great risks of bringing government scrutiny on every aspect of your life.  It was easier and safer to sweep floors than create new technology.

We can trace back some of the finest institutions free people enjoy everywhere to that country that adopted Christianity as their state established religion.  For Christ is the Prince of Peace.  And you want your rulers to favor peace over brutality.  Not warrior kings bent on world conquest.  Who rule by force and intimidation.  With absolute power and no moral restraint.  No.  That’s not what you want.  You want a ruler who lives by the Golden Rule.  Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.  The kind of thing that made England great.  As well as the nations she gave us.


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As the Financial Crisis deepens in Greece the Best and Brightest are choosing to Leave Greece

Posted by PITHOCRATES - June 23rd, 2012

Week in Review

Greece struggles to remain in the Euro.  But it may all be for naught.  For the damage is done.  The best and brightest have been leaving Greece for sunnier pastures (see Greece brain drain ‘wrecking my social life’ by Giorgos Christides posted 6/22/2012 on BBC News Magazine).

According to the latest national polls, more than seven out of 10 young Greeks aged 18 to 24 believe that emigration is the ideal – indeed the only – way out from the crisis. Two out of 10 have already applied for jobs and university places abroad.

For many Greek high school graduates, who are currently sitting for their university entrance examinations, studying in Greece is not a choice but an imperative dictated by their families’ lack of economic means to fund a university education abroad.

Those families who can afford it, don’t give the matter a second thought – they hide their tears and frustration as best they can, and wave their children goodbye, wishing them to go abroad and stay there for good…

Little did we know that a decade later, Greece would be considered an economic wasteland for ambitious young students and graduates, who are now suffering from unemployment rates in excess of 50%.

Workers’ and students’ mobility has been, of course, one of the landmarks and major achievements of European integration. But it is now evolving into a medium-term death sentence for the ageing Greek society and economy.

In an era characterised by intensified global competition for talented, innovative and highly-skilled workers, the brain drain afflicting Greece means the country is losing its best hope of revival.

Rather ironic, isn’t it?  The thing that brought Europe closer together, the Eurozone, may be the thing that makes the Greek tragedy so tragic.  As the politicians massaged the financial numbers to get Greece into the Eurozone, and to keep Greece in the Eurozone, the young people who were to pay for their financial chicanery saw no future and left.  Saying goodbye to that generous social democracy.  Walking away from the welfare state.  And all of that government spending that caused all of this trouble in the first place.  To get a good education.  So they can get a job.  Which they can do relatively easily thanks to the currency union and European integration.

Greece is in a world of hurt.  An unemployment rate of 50% for the young and ambitious is bad.  But it’s better than having the young and ambitious leave.  Because these are the people who get good jobs.  And make a lot of money.  Who pay a large share of the taxes.  These are the tax contributors.  Who barely consume any taxes.  As they leave the tax consumers will be the only ones left.  Which will only make the current financial crisis worse.

The austerity requirements for their financial bailout caused rioting in the street.  And the rioters were primarily tax consumers.  For who else would riot over these spending cuts?  The taxpayers?  Not likely.  The tax consumers are the ones panicking over proposed austerity measures.  Because they are wholly dependent on government spending.  But while they protest the tax contributors, like Elvis, have left the country.  Making the future indeed a dark one.


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Mercantilism, Royal Navy, Napoleon, Pax Britannica, Corn Laws, David Ricardo, Comparative Advantage, European Union and NAFTA

Posted by PITHOCRATES - May 22nd, 2012

History 101

Mercantilism gave Britain the Royal Navy which Ushered in the Pax Britannica

Great Britain had a rough go of it at the end of the 18th century.  They lost their American colonies in the American Revolutionary War.  A war that started over the issue of taxation to pay for the previous Seven Years’ War.  So instead of securing new revenue to pay down old debt they incurred new debt.  The French Revolution closed out the century.  Causing concern for some in Britain that their monarchy may be the next to fall.  It didn’t.  For the constitutional monarchy and representative government in Britain was a long cry from the absolute monarchy that they had in France.  So revolution did not come to Britain.  But war did.  As the French expanded their revolution into a European war.  Pulling the British back into war with their old enemy.

With a large conscripted French Army and the concept of total war France made total war.  Napoleon Bonaparte won a lot of battles.  Conquered much of Europe.  Even marched back and conquered Paris.  Proclaimed himself emperor of France.  And continued waging war.  Including an ill-conceived invasion of Russia.  Which marked the beginning of the end for Napoleon.  And the French Empire.  Weakened from war France saw her old nemesis, Great Britain, rise as the first superpower since the Roman Empire.  And like the Romans’ Pax Romana Britain entered a century of peace.  Pax Britannica.

The reason the British could do this was because of their mercantile past.  They set up colonies and international trade networks.  And they used the proceeds from that lucrative trade to finance the greatest naval power then in the world.  The Royal Navy.  And the Royal Navy would help keep the peace in the Pax Britannica.  She became the world’s policeman.  Making the world safe for trade.  Especially on the high seas.  But then something interesting happened.  She broke from her mercantile past.  Because they saw the shortcomings of mercantilism.  One of which produced wealthy landowners at the expense of a hungry population.

When the British repealed the Corn Laws in 1846 Food Prices fell and the Standard of Living Rose 

The British Corn Laws were a series of laws protecting those who grew cereal crops.  The stuff we grow that has edible grains.  Corn, rice, wheat, barley, etc.  What we call staple crops as they form the basic sustenance of humans everywhere.  We grow these in greater abundance than all other foods.  And when you look at the grain size you come to one realization.  It takes a lot of land to grow these crops.  And who owns large tracts of land?  The landowning aristocracy.  A small group of people with a lot of wealth.  And a lot of political influence.  Hence the Corn Laws. 

The Corn Laws were legislation with one goal.  To prevent the British people from buying less expensive food.  By either forbidding any importation of cheaper grains until the domestic price had reached a certain price level.  Or adding tariffs to the less expensive imports so the landowners could still sell their grains at higher prices.  Thus preserving their wealth.  And they made specious arguments about how lower-priced food was actually bad for the people.  For it was just a way for manufacturers to maximize their profits.  For if food was cheaper they could pay their workers less.  Being the greedy bastards that they were.  So the only fair thing to do was to keep food prices high.  To keep the living wage high.  To force manufacturers to pay their workers more.  You see, the only way to help the poor and middle class was to let the wealthy landowners become even wealthier.  By keeping the price of the food they sold high.

Opposition grew to the Corn Laws.  People studied the works of their fellow countrymen.  Adam Smith and David Hume (both Scottish).  And the Englishman David Ricardo.  All great economists and thinkers.  Who were all proponents of free trade.  Ricardo’s Comparative Advantage basically proved the case of free trade over the protectionism of mercantilism.  Eventually the political power of the landowners could not overcome the economic arguments.  Or a famine in Ireland.  And, in 1846, they repealed the Corn Laws and adopted free trade.  Food prices fell.  Leaving people with more disposable income.  To purchase the goods the Industrial Revolution was making.  Increasing their standard of living.  While small famers had to leave their farms being unable to farm efficiently enough to pay their bills at the prevailing prices.

The Success of NAFTA proves David Ricardo’s Comparative Advantage

Mercantilists and other opponents to free trade like to point at the human costs.  Small farmers losing their farm.  Just so they can preserve some semblance of privilege to protect the high prices in their industry.  But it was becoming more and more difficult to make the argument that the masses were better off paying higher prices.  Because they’re not.  Lower consumer prices increase the standard of living for everyone.  Higher living standards create healthier living conditions.  And reduces child mortality.   For the greatest killer of children in the world is poverty.

The British were both a military and an economic superpower during the 19th century.  But someone was chasing her.  The Untied States.  Who was feeling her economic oats.  Her economy would catch up and surpass the British.  Making it the mightiest economic power of all time.  How did this happen?  Two words.  Free trade.  The United States was the largest free trade zone in the world.  The economic advantages of all those states trading with each other freely across their state borders made Europe stand up and take notice.  And in response created treaties that ultimately led to the European Union and the Eurozone.  To replicate the large free trade zone of the United States.

Back across the Atlantic the Americans, Canadians and the Mexicans took it up a notch.  And created the North American Free Trade Agreement.  NAFTA.  Extending the free trade that existed in each of their countries across their international borders.  The mercantilist fought against this.  Because protectionism, restrictions and tariffs helped the privileged few protect the high prices in their industry.  In America they talked about a great sucking sound as all American jobs went to low-wage Mexico.  Some manufacturers did move to Mexico.  Primarily because like the small farmers in Britain after the repeal of the Corn Laws they could no longer sell at prices to meet all of their costs.  But it was not as the mercantilists predicted.  Yes, imports increased.  In 2010 they were up 235% from pre-NAFTA 1993.  But exports were up, too.  Some 190% for the same period.  Proving Ricardo’s Comparative Advantage.  By focusing on what we do best and trading for everything else all countries do better.


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