Cancer Survival Rates differ in Britain based on Locality and trail European Survival Rates

Posted by PITHOCRATES - December 15th, 2012

Week in Review

Despite Britain’s national health care British patients don’t receive equal health care.  Or equal chances of survival.  For all hospitals in the NHS are not the same.  Despite that being one of the driving arguments for national health care.  So everyone has access to quality care.  Not just the rich.  Or the otherwise located (see Jeremy Hunt: cancer postcode lottery ‘cannot be right’ by Rowena Mason posted 12/10/2012 on The Telegraph).

Jeremy Hunt, who took over the role in September, said it “cannot be right” that some patients have a worse chance of surviving because they do not live near the best hospitals…

Last night, he expressed disbelief at the huge variation in survival rates for bowel cancer patients within five years of diagnosis based on their location.

“It cannot be right that the five-year survival rate for colorectal cancer varies between areas – 68 per cent in the highest and 40 per cent in the lowest,” Mr Hunt said last night…

Five-year survival rates for bowel cancer have more than doubled over the last 40 years, but British patients still have a higher chance of dying from the disease than in many parts of Europe…

For some cancer types, survival rates are 10 to 15 per cent lower in England than in comparable countries like Australia, Canada and Sweden.

Here’s why your chances are better of dying from colorectal cancer in the UK than in Australia, Canada and Sweden.  Costs.  National health care is very, very expensive.  And the more patients you have the greater these costs are.  But if the costs grow so great for, say, an aging population, nations with more patients may have to make budget cuts, increase wait times and ration services more than nations with fewer patients.  As the NHS is doing.

The UK can’t fight cancer as well as Sweden because the UK has over 6 times (6.52) the population Sweden has.  The UK can’t fight cancer as well as Australia because the UK has almost 3 times (2.73) the population Australia has.  The UK can’t fight cancer as well as Canada because the UK has almost twice (1.78) the population Canada has.  And the United States under Obamacare will not be able to fight cancer as well as the UK because the United States has 5 times (5.06) the population the UK has.

The smaller the population the easier national health care is.  Because fewer patients means less cost.  No one has ever tried national health care on the scale the United States is about to try under Obamacare.  Or what Obamacare will morph into once it drives the private health insurance companies out of the market.  And the worst thing is that unlike patients in the UK, Canada, Australia and Sweden who had the option of traveling to the United States for better health care, there will be no place for Americans to travel to once Obamacare reduces the quality of American health care.  Just a pill to take to manage our pain until we feel pain no more.

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The Economic Prognosis is Not Good in the U.S., China or Europe

Posted by PITHOCRATES - April 22nd, 2012

Week in Review

For those of you who think the U.S. economy is picking up don’t get your hopes up.  The same goes for the Europeans.  And anywhere governments actively interfere with market forces.  They can provide a little succor.  But their efforts provide only temporary relief from reality.  And what is that reality?  That Keynesian economics and state capitalism do not work.  And that government meddling makes things worse in the long run.  Which is no secret.  Investors know what’s going on.  And aren’t fooled by the self-congratulatory praise the politicians heap upon themselves (see Analysis: Spluttering economies to curtail earnings horizon by Mike Dolan posted 4/18/2012 on Reuters).

Exuberant global markets have taken a reality check this month on chronic U.S., Chinese and European growth concerns, and investors should hold companies’ relatively rosy profit outlooks up for scrutiny too…

Macroeconomic hopes hinge on a U.S. recovery gaining more traction, a soft landing of Chinese growth to about 7.5 percent from the double digits of the past decade and a resolution of euro zone’s systemic sovereign debt and banking problems.

All three of these, however, were in doubt again in April and the anxiety knocked some 5 percent off MSCI’s world equity index from their March peaks. That leaves stocks still up 8 percent on the year but, just like last year, the price momentum and direction seems to have stalled.

Even though bouts of central bank money-printing and cheap lending in the United States, Europe and elsewhere periodically offer a fillip, as the European Central Bank’s money flood did again spectacularly in the first quarter, the effect on the real economy and market prices tends to fade fast…

What’s more, ThomsonReuters data shows that margin gains from cost-cutting in jobs, pay and other expenses was a significant part of the U.S. profit recovery since 2009 but that this route to bottom-line improvement is reaching its limits.

The major economies aren’t improving.  All of those government fixes didn’t fix anything.  Printing money just put more inflation into the pipeline.  And increased prices.  You ever notice the boxes of cereal getting smaller?  The bags of chips getting smaller?  They’re getting smaller because of inflation.  Unable to raise prices anymore because people can’t afford them they’ve held prices steady.  And shrunk the portion size.  Making consumers spend more in the long run to buy the same quantities as before.  Or simply go with less.  This is the result of all that money printing.

In business you don’t solve problems on the cost side.  You solve them on the revenue side.  For healthy revenue can pay for anything.  Even the worst cost management.  That’s why during good economic times the focus is on revenue.  Not cost cutting.  During good times companies hire people and expand production.  To grow revenue.  It’s during recessions when they lay off people and cut costs.  Temporary provisions to make it through the recession.  And when they emerge from these recessions they start hiring people and expanding production again.  To grow revenue.  So when margin gains are due to cost-cutting and NOT revenue growth you’re still in a recession.  No matter what the numbers say.  And no one is optimistic about the future economy.  Businesses.  Or investors.

Now would be a good time for governments everywhere to acknowledge their failures.  And let the Invisible Hand take control of the economy again.  For the longer they wait the harder it will be for the Invisible Hand to do its magic.  And the longer and more painful the recovery.  It’s time we drop the ‘state’ from capitalism.  And replace it with ‘free market’.  And trust in the free market.  Like we did during the Industrial Revolution.  Like we did when we abandoned FDR’s New Deal during World War II.  And like Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan did during the Eighties.  All periods of incredible economic growth.  That no period of state capitalism ever equaled.

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Jumonville, Washington, Ohio Country, French and Indian War, California, Louisiana Territory, Gibraltar and League of Armed Neutrality

Posted by PITHOCRATES - April 12th, 2012

Politics 101

Washington’s Killing of Joseph Coulon de Jumonville Precipitated the Seven Years’ War

In the Revolutionary War the Americans were feeling out the French since hostilities broke out in 1775.  For good reason.  The French lost most of their North American possessions in their last war with Great Britain.  The Seven Years’ War (1756–1763).  Where the French were in Canada and in the great river valleys in the interior of North America.  And the British were in what is now the U.S. east of the Appalachians.  The British and their American colonists won that war.  And took the French possessions.  In fact, the American commander in the Revolutionary War, George Washington, opened hostilities against the French in the French and Indian War (1754–1763).  Which precipitated the subsequent world war.  The Seven Years’ War.

As the French and the British expanded their territories in North America they eventually bumped into each other.  And it was in the Ohio Country that the name George Washington entered our history books.  Then only a major.  Governor Dinwiddie of Virginia sent Washington into the Ohio Country to tell the French to kindly vacate their posts in the area.  The French refused.  Washington returned to Virginia.  Governor Dinwiddie sent him back to the Ohio Country to protect a fort the Ohio Company was building at present day Pittsburg.  Before he got there a French force had chased out the British.  And then began building Fort Duquesne for their own post at present day Pittsburg.

While on the march to what was now going to be Fort Duquesne Washington’s Indian allies discovered a small French force led by Joseph Coulon de Jumonville.  Which the Americans and their Indian allies ambushed.  The facts are a little hazy about what exactly happened but Jumonville ended up dead.  And the French blamed Washington.  Said that he killed a diplomat who was doing exactly what Washington had done earlier.  Trying to reach a foreign power with a diplomatic message about the Ohio Country.  Only the French didn’t kill Washington.  As Washington (or someone under his command) had killed Jumonville.  Both sides debated the truth for a long time to come.  But the French response was to attack the nearby Fort Necessity that Washington built to keep an eye on Fort Duquesne.  Captured Washington and his men.  But then let them go.  And shortly thereafter France and Great Britain declared war on each other.  To settle the Ohio Country question.  As well as other outstanding issues between the two great powers.  Which precipitated the Seven Years’ War.  That didn’t end well for the French.

The French hoped to Dictate the Terms of Peace once the Americans won the Revolutionary War

Flash forward some twenty years and here were the Americans feeling out the French to help them in their cause.  So they could gain their independence from Great Britain.  So they could control the Ohio Country.  And other parts of North America.  Whose military was led by the guy that killed Joseph Coulon de Jumonville.  And started the war that lost France her North American possessions.  Which created a very interesting political picture. 

The French hated the British.  That goes without saying.  For they gave the French a humiliating defeat.  But the British had help from their British North American colonists to win that fight.  Who also helped to take away not only the Ohio Country but New France itself.  All of Quebec.  And the Surrounding areas of the St. Lawrence Seaway and the Great Lakes.  So would they enter into another costly war with Great Britain?  To help someone obtain their independence from Britain’s constitutional monarchy?  Would the French, an absolute monarchy, help the Americans?  Of course they would.  If the Americans could just impress them enough that they might win this thing.  So the French wouldn’t risk losing anything more to the British.

Well the French were impressed with the American win at Saratoga.  And they joined the Americans.  Made some treaties with them that were favorable to the French.  And hoped that once they won that it would be the French who would dictate the terms of the peace.  For one of their conditions of joining the Americans was that there would be no separate peace between the Americans and the British.  No.  That peace would involve the French.  As the French were already going into great debt helping the Americans in every way short of fighting alongside of them, they were going to make sure they got a favorable return on their investment when taking that last step. 

When Aid came it was not to Support the Americans but to Gain Something from their Common Enemy, the British Empire

After negotiating this treaty the French turned to the Spanish.  Another longtime foe of Great Britain.  And who still had sizeable possessions in the New World.  From South America all the way up the Pacific coast to California.  And up through Mexico all the way through the Mississippi River and surrounding areas.  That big chunk of North America between the Mississippi and the Rocky Mountains we called the Louisiana Territory.  And parts of southern Florida they ceded to Great Britain in the last war that they wanted back.  So unlike the French the Spanish worried more about the Americans than the British.  Especially their southern and western boundaries.  But the French made their case anyway. 

France’s foreign minister, the Comte de Vergennes, said the Spanish had much to lose if the Americans lost.  For a strong British presence in North America would eventually threaten California.  And her other possessions.  Great Britain was the threat.  Not the Americans.  Who had no Army, Navy or manufacturing base that could threaten Spain’s North American possessions.  At least, not in the immediate future.  Whereas the British did.  So it was in Spanish interests to help the Americans.  And weaken the British Empire.

Well, the Spanish were all for weakening the British Empire.  But they didn’t trust the ambition of the Americans.  They still saw them as the immediate threat to Spanish territory in North America.  Besides, the whole idea about rebelling against sovereign authority didn’t sit well with them.  Sovereigns had sacred rights to their territory.  They may not have liked the British but they believed in those sacred rights.  Especially when they were holding a lot of territory in the New World.  And the idea about supporting a people in their rebellion against their sovereign was risky business.  It just might give their own people ideas.  They would enter the war.  But not in an American alliance.  They made a treaty with the French.  Offered little to the Americans in blood or treasure.  Then declared war on Great Britain.  Her immediate goal being Gibraltar.  The southern tip of the Spanish peninsula.  That the British had taken in a previous war.

As the Americans approached other European nations the result was pretty much the same.  When aid came it was not so much to support the Americans.  But to gain something from their common enemy.  The British Empire.  Most European nations stayed out of the war.  At most joining in the League of Armed Neutrality to protect their commercial trade.  To protect their ships from the Royal Navy trying to prevent arms and supplies reaching America.  Though this didn’t help the Americans in the short run.  It did make the war far more costly for the British.  Which helped the Americans in the long run.

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British, French, Quebec City, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Pierre Beaumarchais, Silas Deane, King Louis XVI and Entangling Alliances

Posted by PITHOCRATES - March 29th, 2012

 Politics 101

When the American Colonists rebelled against their British Overlords it created a Complex Political Landscape

For about a hundred years the nations of Europe had been at war.  Over religion (Protestantism versus Catholicism).  Oversea colonies to build trade networks.  And the balance of power of the European nations.  Often tilted by the acquisitions of their overseas possessions.  These nations have been at war with each other off and on from the late 17th century to the late 18th century.  Alliances formed and shifted during this century of war.  But one thing was constant.  The Protestant British and the Catholic French were always on opposing sides.

The most recent war that ended in 1763 (the Seven Year’s War) was a particularly bitter pill for the French to swallow.  They lost pretty much all of New France in North America to Great Britain.  Including Quebec City.  Founded by Samuel de Champlain in 1608.  The British occupation defiled 155 years of French history.  This was the heart and soul of New France.   The French culture was so deep that they still speak French there today, having never accepted their British overlords.  And never have forgotten their French heritage.  For as Quebec’s official motto says today, “Je me souviens.”  Which translates to, “I remember.”  Remember what?  That they were French.  And remain French.

When the American colonists rebelled against their British overlords it created a complex political landscape.  In a drawn out war with Great Britain the Americans would more than likely need foreign assistance.  Meaning an alliance.  However, the reason why they declared their independence from Great Britain had a lot to do with all those European wars that Britain fought.  Which were expensive.  As was the following peace.  For they now had to defend their newly conquered lands.  Exhausted from all these wars the British taxpayers felt taxed out.  So Parliament turned to their British brethren in America.  And taxed them.  Which led, of course, to the Americans’ Declaration of Independence.  So the Americans were very wary of joining into any European alliances.  Fearful that the Europeans would pull them into a future European war.  And bankrupt them.  Before they even had a chance to become a country. 

The European Monarchs weren’t going to help the Americans Rebel against Monarchy out of the Goodness of their Hearts

So the Americans were wary of alliances.  But they were thinking about it.  Especially with the most likely candidate for an alliance.  In September of 1776 John Adams wrote, “our negotiations with France ought, however, to be conducted with great caution, and with all the foresight we could possibly attain; that we ought not to enter into any alliance with her which should entangle us in any future wars in Europe; that we ought to lay it down as a first principle and a maxim never to be forgotten, to maintain an entire neutrality in all future European wars; that it never could be in our interest to unite with France in the destruction of England, or in any measures to break her spirit or reduce her to a situation in which she could not support her independence.”  This from one of the most outspoken Founding Fathers for independence.  One of the few men Britain was not willing to forgive for the things he said and wrote.   A man the British condemned to death even if the Americans reconciled with the British.

At the time of the Revolution The Hague in the Netherlands had diplomats from all the courts of Europe.  One of these diplomats was a friend of Benjamin Franklin.  Charles William Dumas.  Franklin wrote to him to feel out the foreign powers.  In September of 1775 he wrote asking if there was any “state or power in Europe who would be willing to enter into an alliance with us for the benefit of our commerce, which amounted, before the war, to near seven millions sterling per annum…”  Like Adams, he wanted to avoid any alliance that could draw America into a future European war.  Feeling that American commerce would be reason enough to support the Americans.  As at that time all American trade went though Great Britain.  So treating directly with the Americans would cut out the middle man.  Making American goods less costly.  Surely a financial incentive for any nation.

Then again, these European powers they were feeling out were all monarchies.  Would these monarchies support a rebellion against royal authority?  France, their most likely alliance partner due to their history with Great Britain, was an absolute monarchy.  Would they support the Americans in their bid for independence with French taxes?  Would they take a chance that their oppressed masses wouldn’t rise up in defiance of those high taxes and/or royal authority (which they eventually did)?  Then there was a moral element as Robert Morrison noted in a letter to John Jay in September of 1776.  “Can this be morally right?”  Bringing war to the people of Europe in their bid for independence?  Their kings may not care about what they do to the innocents.  But a government of the people would.  Or should.  But if they got any support from these European monarchs the big question would be at what price?  For these monarchs weren’t going to help the Americans in their rebellion against monarchy out of the goodness of their hearts.  For, as monarchs, they kind of liked the institution of monarchy.  So any involvement on their part wasn’t going to be for any moral imperative.  It was for personal gain.  New territory.  Getting back lost territory.  Or changing the balance of power in Europe to their favor.

Despite all of their Misgivings the Americans entered into an Entangling Alliance with the French

Monarchies were getting a little nervous about the impoverished masses around this time.  For there were a lot more poor people than royals and nobles.  Revolution was in the air.  They made fun of the noble classes in some of the leading plays of the day.  In fact, one play was banned in Vienna.  For being less than respectful of the aristocracy.  But that didn’t stop a composer from using it to write a new opera from it.  That play?  The Marriage of Figaro.  The composer was, of course, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.  Who based his new opera on the play written by a Frenchman.  Pierre Beaumarchais.  Who plays a prominent role in America’s Revolutionary War.

Beaumarchais had written a play making fun of the aristocracy.  And the American rebellion against aristocracy piqued his interest.  So he decided to aid the Americans in their cause.  He strongly encouraged Louis XVI to support the Americans in their cause.  For if they did not they would not only lose in the balance power to Great Britain.  But likely the very valuable sugar trade coming from the French West Indies.  He also set up a private company to ship war material to America in exchange for tobacco.  Silas Deane arrived from America in Paris in July 1776.  He, too, worked on obtaining the materials of war as well as skilled officers.  America’s greatest diplomat and propagandist was also in Paris.  Benjamin Franklin.  Who the French adored.  For his scientific experiments.  And his plain American airs.  They really got a kick out of the coonskin hat he wore.  Which he wore only for them.  Never having worn one back in America.

So the Americans were really working their mojo behind the scenes to get French support for the cause.  As well as French money and arms.  Which they were getting.  And after the American win at the Battle of Saratoga, they got a whole lot more.  Formal recognition of the United States.  And despite all of their misgivings, an alliance.  On January 7, 1778 they entered into a treaty of amity and commerce.  Followed by (on February 6) the treaty of alliance.  And these treaties were rather entangling.  But so dictated the necessities of war.  And what did the Americans agree to?  In exchange for French military support against the British in North America the Americans would support the French militarily in the French West Indies.  In any future French war where the Americans were neutral the French and their warships would have access to American ports.  While the French adversary would not.  Also, the French could bring in any captured ships into American ports to refit and re-provision them.  And then leave freely.  Which came back to haunt the Washington administration during the next war between the French and the British.  Following the French Revolution.  A war in which America not only remained neutral.  But her neutrality ‘favored’ the British.  As the vast majority of her trade was with the British.  Causing a lot of animosity in America.  For we had a treaty with the French.  Who helped win them their independence from the nation they were now currently fighting.  Again.  A treaty some of the Americans noted, though, that they made with King Louis XVI.  Who the French recently executed.  Brought about, in part, by the incredible French debt incurred financing the American Revolution.  Providing the tinder for the French Revolution.

A complex political landscape indeed.  Of course the Americans didn’t know what was awaiting them in the future.  All they knew is that when General Washington left winter quarters at Valley Forge they were no longer alone in their struggle.  After their win at Saratoga and their new ally things were looking up.  Little did they know that there would still be 5 more years of war.

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Moody’s teaches France, Austria and the UK that Debt Matters

Posted by PITHOCRATES - February 18th, 2012

Week in Review

Things are not well in the Eurozone.  After a series of credit rating downgrades Moody’s warns France and Austria.  And even one country outside the Eurozone.  The UK (see Moody’s warns UK, France, Austria over AAA rating by Rodrigo Campos and Walter Brandimarte posted 2/14/2012 on Reuters).

Rating agency Moody’s warned it may cut the triple-A ratings of France, Britain and Austria…

Moody’s move was less aggressive than rival agency Standard & Poor’s, but its action puts London’s prized top credit rating in jeopardy for the first time…

Germany’s top-tier rating was described as “appropriate” by Moody’s, and it affirmed the triple-A rating on the euro zone’s bailout fund, the European Financial Stability Fund (EFSF)…

The precarious state of European sovereign finances was underlined on Monday, when the head if [sic]China’s sovereign wealth fund brushed aside an appeal from German Chancellor Angela Merkel to buy European government debt, saying such bonds were “difficult” for long-term investors…

A retreat from European government debt has already been boosting relatively high-yielding Australian and New Zealand debt, as cashed-up Asian sovereign wealth funds and other major bond investors look for safe havens to diversify their holdings.

The two big countries of the Eurozone are Germany and France.  If they go so does the Euro.  So far Germany retains its triple-A rating.  But France may lose theirs.  Even the UK may lose its coveted triple-A rating for the first time.  Just like the U.S. did last year.  Neither of which is in the Eurozone.

Things are not well in the world of government finance.  Even the Chinese are refusing to buy European debt.  And they’re not the only ones.  And it’s because of the debt levels.  Australia and New Zealand debt is closer to 30% of GDP.  Compared to the European Union.  Which is closer to 80%.  Simply put, debt matters.  And the more you have the less perfect your credit rating.  And the lower your credit rating the higher the interest rates you must pay to sell your government bonds.  If you can sell them.

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Standard & Poor lowers the Credit Rating for Nine European Countries

Posted by PITHOCRATES - January 15th, 2012

Week in Review

Interest rates are subject to the laws of supply and demand.  The more questionable a borrower looks to be able to repay the loan the higher the interest rate.  Because there is a low supply of people willing to loan to such risky borrowers.  So they have to offer higher rates to get people to take a greater risk.

When S&P took away America’s AAA rating this did not happen, though.  Not because America was immune to the laws of supply and demand in the bond market.  But because Europe had even bigger problems.  And they just got worse (see S&P cuts credit ratings for France, Italy, Spain by JAMEY KEATEN posted 1/14/2012 on Yahoo! News).

Standard & Poor’s swept the debt-ridden European continent with punishing credit downgrades Friday, stripping France of its coveted AAA status and dropping Italy even lower. Germany retained its top-notch rating, but Portugal’s debt was consigned to junk.

In all, S&P, which took away the United States’ AAA rating last summer, lowered the ratings of nine countries, complicating Europe’s efforts to find a way out of a debt crisis that still threatens to cause worldwide economic harm.

Austria also lost its AAA status, Italy and Spain fell by two notches, and S&P also cut ratings on Malta, Cyprus, Slovakia and Slovenia.

Some are arguing that this won’t impact the Eurozone bailout.  Because of the austerity measures the troubled countries have taken.  But it doesn’t help.  It just pushes the final resolution of the Eurozone debt crisis further out.  And probably makes it more unpleasant.

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The European Central Bank Acts to add Liquidity to European Banks

Posted by PITHOCRATES - January 7th, 2012

Week in Review

The European Central Bank (ECB) offers up some cheap loans to add some liquidity to the Eurozone economy.  A liquidity problem caused by the Eurozone debt crisis.  Which was caused by excessive government deficit spending.  So the ECB’s solution to this problem is to throw more cheap money into the economy.  Problem solved (see Europe banks gobble up cheap loans offered by Central Bank by Henry Chu posted 12/21/2011 on The Los Angeles Times).

Faced with the threat of another regional recession, the European Central Bank said Wednesday that it was doling out more than half a trillion dollars in special long-term loans to hundreds of financial institutions in a bid to keep credit flowing…

The money, lent at the low interest rate of 1%, proved attractive to many financial institutions that are highly exposed to government debt and that have therefore found it hard to borrow commercially.

“It provides some stability to the funding of banks which have more or less completely lost market access,” said Sony Kapoor of the think tank Re-Define.

But the record response to the ECB’s offer is a sign of how dire the situation has become, Kapoor said. He warned that the new loans failed to address the heart of the euro crisis: the loss of faith in Europe’s banks and in the heavily indebted governments that stand behind them, especially in peripheral countries of the Eurozone…

Meanwhile, European government bond yields rose on fear that banks might back away from buying more sovereign debt amid pressure to reduce risk on their balance sheets.

Perhaps not.

This is why there is no easy solution to the Eurozone debt crisis.  European banks aren’t buying sovereign debt.  Because their balance sheets are full of risky sovereign debt.  So much that these banks have lost market access.  They can’t borrow because they are now risky, too.  Much like the countries of the Eurozone who are having trouble selling bonds.

All of this bad debt has resulted in a liquidity crisis.  And weakened European banks.  So the European Central Bank stepped in to relieve this liquidity crisis.  By providing low interest loans.  In hopes that these banks will use that cheap money to buy more of that risky sovereign debt.  That has caused the liquidity crisis.  And weakened European banks.

So either the banks will sit on that money to improve their balance sheets.  Or they will further weaken their balance sheets by buying more of that risky sovereign debt.  Neither which will fix the underlying problem.  Too much debt.  These countries with too much debt need more austerity.  To reduce their borrowing needs.  Before the European banks start failing.

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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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Manorialism and Serfdom

Posted by PITHOCRATES - December 29th, 2011

Politics 101

High Taxes and a Declining Birthrate marked the Beginning of the End of the Roman Empire

Serfdom dates back to European Manorialism.  But it was born in the decline of the Roman Empire.  When the Romans stopped pushing their borders out they lost a key source of revenue for their empire.  The spoils of war.  This coincided with the rise of their welfare state.  An ever larger bureaucracy to manage the breadth of empire.  And a loss of Roman identity and pride.  Taxes were rising.  And they were debasing their coin.  To monetize their debt.  People tried their best to evade taxes.  And had no desire to serve in the mighty Roman Legions securing the empire’s borders.  Which turned out to be quite the problem for the Romans.

The Romans had to hire soldiers to defend their borders.  A very costly endeavor.  Which added greatly to the cost of empire.  Hence the high taxes.  And debasing of their silver coins with lead.  But only the silver coins.  Not their gold.  Because they needed those to have value.  As they used them to pay for their hired soldiers.  And that’s one thing you don’t want to do to a hired army.  Anger them by paying them with worthless lead.  Because they could attack you as easily as protect you.

Soon being a Roman wasn’t fun anymore.  Taxes were so high people were working more for the Roman government than their families.  And inflation was making daily life difficult.  The people’s money was becoming worthless.  Which raised prices.  Soon the Romans were taking tax payments in kind.  Instead of money they took wheat, wine, clothing, etc.  Whatever a person made a large portion of what they made went to the Roman government.  It became so bad people were quitting to do something else.  A lot of them.  So many that it was cutting into what the Romans were collecting.  That and a declining birthrate marked the beginning of the end of the Roman Empire.  Large armies.  A growing bureaucracy.  And a declining tax base.  Not a formula for fiscal stability.  So they said enough.  No more quitting and moving on.  Whatever your father was you’ll be.  You have no choice.  You’ll do as he did until the day you die.

The Lord of the Manor owned Great Tracts of Land that Needed Laborers, Peasants had Labor to Offer but no Land

It was the rural part of this Roman directive that shaped future history.  Especially in Europe.  When the Roman Empire collapsed civilization went backwards.  To a rural, agrarian way of life.  A rural self-sufficiency.  Where people either owned land.  Or worked on land owned by others.  And that Roman idea to prevent people from quitting and moving on?  That became serfdom.  Where people who worked the land were bound to the land.  And not allowed to leave or look for a new job.  And if the lord sold the land the people bound to the land went with the land.  Not the lord.

This is Manorialism.  As the Roman Empire disintegrated power shifted from a central government to manors.  The Lord of the Manor owned great tracts of land that needed laborers.  Peasants had labor to offer but no land.  So they made an agreement.  The Lord of the Manor would permit the peasant to live and work a small piece of his land.  In return the peasant would join other peasants and work the large landholdings of their lord.

A serf was little more than a slave.  But with a home and land to work to provide for his family.  Which was a lot in Medieval Europe and often meant the difference between life and death.  And he had something more.  Protection.  A set of laws to live by among his fellow serfs administrated by his lord and the manorial court.  And protection from outside threats.  Which was also part of the agreement.  The serfs agreed to fight alongside their fellow serfs in defense of their lord’s land.  Which was also their home.  And the source of all provision for their family.  So it was a very beneficial agreement for both lord and serf.

Serfdom was a Life of Subsistence and Prayer

The Lord of the Manor lived in a mansion.  The peasants lived in a little village.  Between the two was often a church.  Also in or near the village was the lord’s mill.  Operated by the serfs for both the lord’s harvest and their own.  Maybe even a bakery.  Surrounding these were the great tracts of land the serfs worked.  And forests where wild game was available to hunt.  And wood to burn.  But the forests were typically for the lord’s sole use.

So after the glory that was Greece and the grandeur that was Rome this was what civilization came to.  A life of subsistence.  Back-breaking work in the fields.  Eat what you grow.  Pray.  And try not to starve or freeze to death during the winter.  Not a life we would dream about today.  But one that worked for centuries.  And held Europe together during the Middle Ages.

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Canada may be out of the Kyoto Protocol, but Quebec is Proceeding with their own Cap-and Trade

Posted by PITHOCRATES - December 17th, 2011

Week in Review

Quebec is perhaps the most European of the Canadian provinces.  They don’t even speak English there.  Their road signs and billboards are all in French.  People talk to each other in French.  No.  When you’re in Quebec you don’t feel like you’re in Canada.  You feel like you’re in France.  So it’s no surprise that even though Canada pulled out of the Kyoto protocol that Quebec would still be all in for this global warming nonsense.  Because it’s so European (see Quebec goes it alone with cap-and-trade climate plan by Philippe Teisceira-Lessard posted 12/15/2011 on The Globe and Mail).

With global climate-change talks in limbo, Quebec is the first province to push ahead with its own cap-and-trade program.

The province says it’s emulating California as it becomes the first Canadian province to start enforcing cap-and-trade regulations for carbon emissions…

The new provincial program applies to large industrial emitters and will require them to reduce their carbon footprint or buy clean-air credits at $10 per tonne of greenhouse gases.

It is being run in conjunction with the Western Climate Initiative, whose stated objective is to reduce emissions 15 per cent below 2005 levels by 2020. Quebec’s own target is significantly stricter, with a planned 20 per cent reduction from 1990 levels by the end of this decade.

And this gives a little hint why they are all in for this global warming nonsense.  Their stricter requirements will not only punish businesses by making them less competitive, but it will be a windfall for government coffers.  For Quebec is European in more ways than one.  They, like their European brethren, have a costly and generous public sector.  Like all those social democracies of Europe causing that sovereign debt crisis over there.  So they can use this clean-air money to shore up some budget deficits.  Before they, too, have to start living within their means.

The global warming agenda is no different in Canada than it is in Europe.  It’s about the money.  Just another way for governments spending beyond their means to transfer more wealth from the private sector to the public sector.  Apparently the other provinces have made the hard choices and got their budgets in order.  Which is probably why Quebec is going down this road alone.  They refuse to make the hard choices.  So they make the easy one instead.   By raising taxes.  And over-regulating business.  Which, of course, will only hurt these businesses.  Reduce economic activity.  And bring in less tax revenue into government coffers.  Making cap-and-trade a lose-lose proposition for Quebeckers.  As it is for people everywhere betrayed by their governments in the name of global warming.

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