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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FT185: “When it comes to foreign policy the Republicans do what is best for the country while Democrats do what is best for their party.” —Old Pithy

Posted by PITHOCRATES - August 30th, 2013

Fundamental Truth

Wherever the Soviets pushed the Americans pushed back to Contain the Expansion of Communism

Once upon a time Democrats were practically warmongers.  Woodrow Wilson got us into World War I.  FDR got us into World War II.  Harry Truman got us into the Korean War.  And LBJ got us into the Vietnam War.  While Republicans were nearly pacifists.  Dwight Eisenhower got us out of the Korean War.  And Richard Nixon got us out of the Vietnam War.

Eisenhower was the Supreme Allied Commander in Europe during World War II.  Saw the carnage of war up close.  And was glad when it was over.  Unlike General Patton.  Who wanted to invade the Soviet Union.  Because he knew we would have to fight them sooner or later.  And rather do it then when they had the most awesome military force in the world still in Europe.  General Patton lost command of Third Army because of talk like that.  And later would die from injuries he got in a freak car accident.

It didn’t take long following the end of World War II for the Soviets to become the new big bad in town.  Just like General Patton foresaw.  Truman stood up to them in Berlin.  Greece.  Turkey.  Iran.  And Korea.  Wherever they pushed the Americans tried to hold the line.  To contain the expansion of communism.  It was the Cold War.  And it first got hot in Korea.  But the UN forces held the line in Korea.  After three years of war.  About as long as America spent fighting in Europe during World War II.

JFK’s refusal to commit American Military Power during the Bay of Pigs Invasion led to the Cuban Missile Crisis

Communism was a thorn in the side of democracy.  The democratic West believed in peace through strength.  With the occasional war breaking the peace.  While the communist East believed in a perpetual state of war with the occasional peace breaking that war.  The communists sought to expand through violent revolution.  If you contained it early (like in the Berlin Airlift) you could avoid a shooting war.  And keep it cold.  But if they got a foothold you could find yourself mired in a hot and prolonged war.  Like in Korea.

When Fidel Castro turned Cuba communist it was not a good thing for the United States.  For all their efforts to contain communism throughout the world here they were.  On Cuba.  Within missile range of the United States.  And Castro was cozying up to the Soviets.  Which is why President Eisenhower gave the green light for the CIA to remove Castro from power.  To remove a threat so close to the United States.  The plan was the Bay of Pigs Invasion.  Which proceeded under the following administration.  JFK’s.

The invasion, though, did not go well.  And unlike in the Guatemalan coup d’état, JFK did not commit American military power to help the invaders (unlike Eisenhower did in the Guatemalan coup).  Who were soon pushed back.  And defeated.  Which breathed new life in Cuba’s communist revolution.  Brought them more into the Soviet sphere.  And encouraged the Soviets to test this young president.  Which they did.  By sending nuclear missiles to Cuba.  Leading to the Cuban Missile Crisis.  And near nuclear war (Castro’s right hand man, Che Guevara, was angry with the Soviets because they refused to nuke the United States during the crisis).  While the Cuban people suffered under their communist oppressors.  And still do.

Today Iran—and Radical Islam—is the Thorn in the Side of Democracy that Communism once Was

Truman was the last Democrat warrior president.  LBJ got us into Vietnam.  But he also gave us the Great Society.  Turning the nation towards a welfare state.  A very costly welfare state.  Which the great costs of the Vietnam War threatened.  The government, much like they did during the Revolutionary War, began printing money to pay for all of this spending.  Devaluing a dollar pegged to gold.  With nations concerned with this devaluation they traded their dollars for gold.  Which is what is supposed to happen under a gold standard.  So nations don’t devalue their currencies.  But printing money is easier than cutting spending.  So President Nixon decoupled the dollar from gold.  So they could really print it.  Giving us the inflationary Seventies.

Since then Democrat presidents have done two things.  Expanded the welfare state.  And demonized their political opponents.  Which extended to their foreign policy.  President Carter cut back on defense spending.  And tried to make friends with our archenemy.  The Soviet Union.  A president the Soviets had little respect for.  Even considering a nuclear first-strike policy as they didn’t think Carter would ever launch his nuclear weapons.  And then President Carter criticized American ally, Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi, the Shah of Iran, for his human rights violation.  There was revolutionary fervor in the air.  The Shah implored for help from their long-time friend and ally.  The United States.  Who assured the Shah that the Americans would intervene militarily on his behalf.  But didn’t.  The Iranian Revolution followed.  And Iran became America’s new archenemy.

Iranian oil won World War II.  It fed the Red Army.  Iran served as a portal into the Soviet Union.  War material as well as oil flowed through Iran and into the Soviet Union.  After the war the Soviets didn’t want to leave Iran.  Give up that oil.  Or a warm-weather port on the Indian Ocean.  But the British and the Americans helped the Iranians keep the Soviets at bay.  Their actions included a coup.  And some human rights violations.  To keep what happened in Eastern Europe following World War II from happening in Iran.  Iran prospered.  And Westernized.  It was becoming everything the American left loved.  Secular.  It was becoming more like America.  Where men and women enjoyed doing things they could enjoy in New York City.  Which angered the Islamists.

Today Iran—and radical Islam—is the thorn in the side of democracy that communism once was.  And unlike their Cold War warrior forefathers, today’s Democrats choose party over country.  Basing their foreign policy on expanding the welfare state.  Or demonizing their political opponents.  President Clinton treated al Qaeda’s increasing acts of hostility against Western/American interests as a legal issue.  Which grew bolder until they culminated in the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.  Clinton did this so he wouldn’t waste money on defense by risking war to protect America.  Or anger his liberal base.  After 9/11, George W. Bush fought back.

The Democrats have demonized George W. Bush as a rich oil man who traded blood for oil.  While at the same time they said he was purposely causing oil shortages to raise the price of oil.  When an opportunity came to overthrow America’s new archenemy, Iran, President Obama did nothing to support the Green Revolution in Iran following questionable election results that kept Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in power.  An intervention that would have been in the best interests of both America and the Iranian people.  But when the Arab Spring blew through Egypt he was quick to tell our friend and ally, Hosni Mubarak, that he had to go.  Turning Egypt over to the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood.  But when civil war came to Syria he chose to do nothing.  Until now (to save face from his ‘red line’ comment about chemical weapons?).  When the opposition has most probably been infiltrated by al Qaeda.

What is the constant in these Democrat foreign policy decisions?  They are the opposite of what the Republicans would have done.  So they couldn’t have done them.  For it would have vindicated George W. Bush.  Angered their liberal base.  And made the world a safer place.

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Political Right, Left and Center

Posted by PITHOCRATES - November 22nd, 2012

(Originally published December 8th, 2011)

The French Left wanted Radical Change and Launched the French Revolution

The terms Right, Left and Center go back to the French Revolution.  To the National Assembly.  Where people sat according to their political preferences.  Those who wanted to kill the king, the queen, the nobility, the clergy and pretty much anyone rich sat to the left of the president.  Those who wanted to maintain the monarchy and the established institutions sat to the president’s right.  Those who fell between these views sat in the center.

Why did the French Revolution erupt?  The people were starving.  Taxes were high.  And the government was trying to raise taxes again.  Because the government was drowning in debt.  From decades of war with their archenemy.  Great Britain.  And their financing of the American Revolution.  Where the British Americans were rebelling against the French’s archenemy.  Great Britain.

So France was a tinderbox.  To make matters worse for the monarchy was all that liberty talk of the Americans.  It was like a disease.  And it infected the French.  Who looked at the wealthy few.  The king.  The queen.  The nobility.  The clergy.  And then listened to their empty tummies rumbling.  The French Left wanted radical change.  And revolution.  The French Right said whoa now, let’s not act hasty here.  Yes we have some problems but our glorious French institutions have been around for centuries.  It’s in large part to them that France is great.

The Revolution to Topple a King ended with the Coronation of an Emperor – Napoleon

Well despite France’s great and glorious past the radicals got their way.  And blood ran in the streets of Paris.  Starting with the Storming of the Bastille.  The great medieval fortress housing prisoners of the realm.  The revolutionaries threw open the gates.  And freed all seven prisoners.  Being more a symbolic act than one of substance.  But this led eventually to a number of legislative assemblies.  A lot of blood.  Carnage.  And the beheading of King Louis XVI.  And his queen.  Marie Antoinette.  Eventually the seats on the right side of the National Assembly emptied.  As everyone moved to the president’s left.  Lest they be killed, too.

The revolutionaries aimed their wrath at anyone who was not supportive of the Revolution.  And even those whose support was only lukewarm.  They killed these enemies of the Revolution.  Or any other enemies that they conveniently identified as enemies of the Revolution.  Leaders rose.  And leaders fell.  Jean-Paul Marat.  Georges-Jacques Danton.  And Maximillien Robespierre.  All three were killed.  Charlotte Corday, a supporter of the Right, stabbed Marat in his bath tub.  Danton and Robespierre were guillotined.  Leaders of violence.  Victims of violence.  These members of the French Left.  Who killed and terrorized the people unlike the king they killed.  King Louis XVI.  Or the queen they killed.  Marie Antoinette.

Ultimately the French Revolution gave the world Napoleon.  And world war.  And the Revolution to topple a king ended with the coronation of an emperor.  For this opportunist ultimately had the biggest army.  Napoleon could consolidate his power.  Unlike Marat.  Danton.  Or Robespierre.  But Napoleon could.  And did.  Then he set out to create an empire.  Much like the kings that came before him did.

Those on the Right are Distrustful of those on the Left when they Talk about Egalitarianism and Fairness

Today the meaning of Left, Right and Center vary.  But, in general, those on the Right prefer the way things are.  Proven by time to work.  And those on the Left are never happy with how things are and want to change them to some new theoretical ideal that time hasn’t proven as a viable workable system.  Such as socialism.  And communism.  Generally referred to as ‘leftist’ systems.  And both are systems that have never worked.

Fascist Italy, Communist Russia and Nazi Germany were all new experimental systems to right all the wrongs of past governments.  And all three governments made their citizens’ lives worse with harsh police states.  With the state summarily executing enemies of the state.  Much like Marat, Danton and Robespierre did in France.  Many refer to Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy as right-wing states.  But both were fascist states.  Which was nothing more than a national socialism.  Which was a combination of socialism.  And nationalism.  These were people who wanted radical change.  Control over the masses.  And empire.  If these governments sat in the French National Legislation they all would have taken seats to the left of the president.

Leftists hate the rich and successful.  And want to confiscate their wealth for themselves.  Instead of trying to achieve wealth on their own merit.  Those on the Right are distrustful of those on the Left when they talk about egalitarianism and fairness.  Because they know what that means.  They are going to take their wealth via the power of government.  By a progressive tax system.  Inheritance tax.  Capital gains tax.  Surtaxes to punish success.  Regulatory laws and fees that increase the cost of doing business.  (As well as increases the prices of goods and services.)  Etc.

The Left champions the poor and downtrodden as they ascend to power.  But rarely have they helped the poor and downtrodden.  Only a select few in the party upper echelons ever live a better life.   For example, the Democrat Party launched a war on poverty in the Sixties and yet there is still poverty.  Despite a myriad of government programs that has exploded the size of government.  All headed by rich bureaucrats living better lives.  While the poor and downtrodden are still wallowing in poverty.  And we know this because the Left is constantly telling us this.  In their never ending quest to expand the size of government.

The center is somewhere between the Left and the Right.  It’s not really a group with core political beliefs.  But more of a group that that likes a little from column ‘A’.  And a little from column ‘B’.

Politics is a Procession – We tend to Start on the Left, Work our Way through the Center and End on the Right

Perhaps another way to look at this is those on the right being parents in a family.  Children of these parents who are now raising their own families are in the center.  And the young children who are still in college are on the left.

The young know little and have even less responsibility.  They like to stay out late, party, do drugs and have consequence-free sex.  They don’t like anything that restricts their good times.  Hence they are always hostile to authority.  Church.  Or state.  And their vote tends to lean towards anarchy.  Where anything goes.

The children starting their own families are slowly giving up the ways of their youth.  They are becoming established in their careers.  Raising children.  Which leaves little time for fun.  But they are hesitant to admit that they have become their parents.  So they hang on to some of their idealistic ways of their youth.  While starting to save for their kids’ college education.  And their retirement.  They even start going to church.  To get their kids started on the right foot.  And to try and keep their kids from doing everything they did when they were young.

The parents have worked long and hard.  They have a family.  And grandchildren.  They want the best for their family.  And a happy and secure retirement.  After playing by the rules all of their lives they don’t want to rock the boat now that they are so close to retirement.  So they are very pleased to stay with the proven ways of the past.  And prefer to help others at their church.  Rather than giving money to a leviathan government.

Politics is a procession.  We tend to start on the Left.  Work our way through the Center.  And end on the Right.  For we tend to grow less radical with age.  Because as we age we accumulate wealth and have far more to lose with radical change.

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Moving from Capitalism towards Socialism in America and Life in the Former Soviet Union

Posted by PITHOCRATES - October 28th, 2012

Week in Review

Clearly President Obama is trying to move the country away from laissez faire capitalism.  And towards something where the government has a much larger role in our lives.  Such as Obamacare.  More government into our lives.  The question is where does it end?  For it is a slippery slope.  In Europe there was capitalism before there was social democracy.  A transition from capitalism towards socialism without a revolution.   Does a social democracy end in socialism?  Which is a real concern as America is moving ever closer to the European social democracy.  For someone who lived in a full-blown socialist state, this trend isn’t a good one (see If You Had Actually Grown Up In A Soviet Country, This Is What You Would Have Experienced by Rob Wile posted 10/22/2012 on Business Insider).

“I grew up in a socialist country. And I have seen what that does to people. There is no hope, no freedom. No pride in achievement.

“And that’s what I see happening here.”

So begins an ad that’s been airing in the run-up to November elections, narrated and paid for by Thomas Peterffy, in support of Republican candidates.

Peterrfy, the CEO of Interactive Brokers, came to America in 1965 to escape Communist Hungary.

He fears a world where, if we’re not careful, “people will lose interest in really working hard and creating jobs. I think this is a very slippery slope.

“It seems like people don’t learn from the past…”

We turned to “Steeltown, USSR,” a book-length work of reportage from current Princeton University History Professor Stephen Kotkin, to see what life under socialism is really like.

Published in 1991, the book is Kotkin’s account of his trips to the Russian city of Magnitogorsk in the late-80s, on the eve of the fall of Communism, and his interviews with the city’s residents.

If you follow the above link you can see what it was like to live in a socialist country.  In the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR).  Here are some excerpts:

“This apartment, I waited 18 years for it. During that time, we lived four in one room. No one remembered what color the walls were. You couldn’t see them, they were so covered with our belongings stacked up to the ceiling. I worked and struggled and endured all manner of humiliation for eighteen years for this pathetic, unexceptional new apartment. It makes me sad and angry to think about it. How much evil has accumulated! I have so much on my soul!”

“If you work hard, they demand from you. You have to get up in front of everyone and make speeches; they give you medals with pompous names. So it’s best to stay quiet, not attract attention to yourself. Once in a while, you work like a bull; the remainder of the time, you rest.”

“No one makes a move until we see where the power lies. As soon as it is clear, we all quickly take that side. We’re completely dependent on them. Food, clothes, apartments, furniture, day care, summer camp, vacations — everything is allocated by them according to their lists, with which they rule over our lives. Everyone has something to lose. It might seem you have nothing, but they take something away, and you have even less.”

“A handful of Magnitogorsk youth were fortunate enough to gain acceptance to university in Sverdlovsk, the ‘capital’ of the Urals, or even to Moscow University. Yet even this select group often found itself back in Magnitogorsk upon graduation, unable (in some cases unwilling) to secure the necessary official permission to remain in the larger city.”

“For every 100 Magnitogorsk families, there were 96 radio receivers, 99 TV sets, 39 tape recorders, 34 photo cameras, 92 refrigerators, 70 washing machines and five cars.”

Sugar, meat, butter and sausages had to be rationed — they could only be purchased using coupons distributed at residences in accord with the number of people in the household.

Fewer than 50 percent of Magnitogorsk residents enjoyed their own self-contained apartments without living with the rest of their relatives. You had to qualify for new housing by having less than 9 square meters per person. And you couldn’t move.

“There were approximately 30,000 cars for the city’s 438,000 residents (135,000 households). Only 22,000 were privately owned… the wait to purchase a car was more than 10 years.”

“There was only ‘children’s’ shoes, ‘women’s’ boots or ‘men’s’ coats…Discounts or markdowns were not permitted, even if goods were not selling. There were no seasonal sales.”

“An individual established himself or herself in the community not by purchasing a home in a particular neighborhood but by landing a job in a favored shop. ‘The shop or work unit is an entire social milieu,’ one official explained. ‘It’s not a job, but a life.’ In short, the steel plant was not relaly a ‘business’; rather, it was an industrial welfare agency.”

“At home we get together with friends, sit around the talbe. All we do is talk about our problems, and insufficienceis, endlessly, until someone bangs the table and shouts, ‘Enough. No more about that.’ But what else can we discuss?”

This is where you end up when you move away from capitalism and towards socialism.  A grey and dreary life.  Long waiting lists for apartments and cars.  Where hard work is only rewarded with more hard work.  So workers strive to do the minimum.  You live in fear of the authorities because everything you have in life is dependent on how they felt towards you.  If you were quiet and suffered your privations quietly you experienced no new privations.  If you complained you suffered more privations.  The state allowed few to go to college.  And those that did rarely saw an improvement in their lives.  They rationed your food.  And forced you to live with your relatives in tiny apartments.  Everyone wore the same shoes, boots and coats.  And few found any enjoyment in life.

So should Americans be worried about sliding towards socialism?  Well, soon our health care will be dependent on some bureaucrat’s whim under Obamacare.  Student loans are now provided by the government.  More people are dependent on the government for their food than ever before.  And their housing.  The government is subsidizing green companies that can’t compete in the market place.  To provide ‘high-paying’ jobs in companies that often go bankrupt.  So a lot of what is happening typically doesn’t happen in laissez faire capitalism.  These are things that are closer to socialism than capitalism.

These expansions in the welfare state come courtesy of class warfare.  The government’s relentless attacks on those who don’t need government benefits.  Accusing them for not paying their fair share in taxes.  Creating anger in lower-income people.  And agitation.  To support further transfers of wealth.  All the elements of a worker revolution.  But without the actual revolution.  Because they’re doing it at the ballot box.

Life is better under capitalism.  Which is why athletes from behind the Iron Curtain left their socialist paradise whenever they could.  Ballet stars.  Even military jet pilots who flew their planes to freedom.  Unless Americans want a country like the country these people fled we probably should do something about our slide on that slippery slope.

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Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, Silas Deane, Arthur Lee, John Jay, Mississippi River and Dutch Treaty of Commerce and Friendship

Posted by PITHOCRATES - May 17th, 2012

Politics 101

Franklin spent a Great Deal of Time in France during the Revolution enjoying Social Gatherings and Social Drinking

People are disgusted by politics today.  Negative campaigns.  Personal attacks.  Special interests.  People using their public office for personal gain.  Scandals.  Intrigue.  It’s enough to turn anyone off of politics.  Forever.  For it seems like no matter what the politicians say nothing ever changes.  And you know what?  They haven’t changed.  For even before there was a United States of America this stuff was going on.  Even threatening the success of the American Revolutionary War.

George Washington is criticized for many things.  For owning slaves (which he released and trained to enter the workforce as free men in his will).  That he wasn’t a great general.  For he did lose more battles than he won.  But even his critics have to give him this at least.  He was a man of honor.  With impeccable integrity.  His men respected him.  His officers respected him.  His enemies respected him.  One of Britain’s last attempts of treachery was to try and bribe Washington to defect to the British side.  Where he could live out his life very comfortably.  Knowing the Americans would give up without him.  But he did not waiver.  Resolute to the end.  The indispensable one.  The Father of our Country. 

Sadly, though, there weren’t many indispensable ones.  And few that matched Washington’s stature.  Perhaps the one coming closest was Benjamin Franklin.  Our most respected diplomat.  Who played a large part in gaining French support for the American cause.  Franklin spent a great deal of time in France during the Revolution.  The French loved him.  And he loved his time there.  Perhaps a little too much.  Staying up late.  Getting up late.  Enjoying social gatherings.  And social drinking.  Something that John Adams couldn’t stand.  Who was very religious.  And all-business.  About as different from Franklin as you could get.  But the French liked Franklin.  And did not like Adams.  Because he was all-business.  And a bit insufferable.

It didn’t take a Genius to know that the Americans Planned on Moving West to the Mississippi River and Beyond

France was America’s most important ally during the war.  And technically speaking their only ally.  There were many foreigners who sought a commission in the American army.  But that was more for glory and fame than support of the cause.  France, though, entered into treaty with the independent United States.  And supplied a large part of the war effort in both money and arms.  Granted this was more to get back at their archenemy, the British, than it was to help the Americans.  But the love and respect for Franklin was real.

Franklin was a self-made man living his third life.  He was a small business owner and writer.  He was a scientist.  And now he was a diplomat.  He had little to prove.  And needed no money.  All he wanted was to enjoy what life he had left.  And champion the American cause.  Not so with his co-emissary Arthur Lee.  Whose interests centered more on Arthur Lee than the American cause.  He didn’t like Franklin because the French liked and respected him more.  And he didn’t like America’s other emissary, Silas Deane, who was in France before Franklin and Lee joined him.  And who the French liked and respected, too.  Which really annoyed him because the French didn’t like him at all.  In fact they thought Lee liked England just a little too much.  For he had a brother in England.  Which didn’t go over well with the French.  Despite his having two brothers in the Continental Congress you just didn’t know where his allegiance lay.  Lee aggressively tried to disgrace both Deane and Franklin to make his star shine brighter.  Franklin’s character was impeccable, though.  No one believed anything he said about Franklin.  But, alas, they did about poor Deane.  At least enough to recall him to Congress.  The French, though, respected Deane enough to give him safe passage back on a French warship with the new French minister to America.  This whole episode did little to impress upon the French the professional stature of American diplomacy.   Nor did it impress the other European courts.  America just wasn’t being taken seriously in Europe.

Except, perhaps, in Spain.  John Jay went to Madrid to get Spanish recognition.  And Spanish aid.  Getting little of either.  Spain entered the conflict.  As an ally to France, though.  Because they, too, hated the British.  And they used this opportunity to get Gibraltar back from the British.  (They didn’t.)  Other than that they had little interest in helping the Americans.  For they didn’t trust the Americans.  France may have lost all of their North American possessions to the British but they hadn’t.  They still had the Louisiana Territory.  Western Florida.  The land from the Texas Gulf coast to California.  As well as the port of New Orleans.  And control of the lower Mississippi River.  Which the Americans wanted navigation rights on.  And god knows what else.  For it was no secret that the Americans wanted to expand west.  That’s why they wanted the Ohio country.  And the Ohio River flowed into the Mississippi River.  It didn’t take a genius to know what that meant.  The Americans planned on moving west to the Mississippi River.  And beyond.  Using the Mississippi to ship all of their goods from the interior of the country to the Port of New Orleans.  And on to the world.  All they needed to do was to remove one last obstacle.  The Spanish.  And the Spanish grew weary of John Jay.  Who only wanted two things.  To get Spain to recognize their independence.  And for Spain to give them money.  Suffice it to say the Spanish did not enter into an alliance with the United States.  And gave little money.

Catherine the Great’s League of Armed Neutrality isolated Britain and helped Adams in the Netherlands

Meanwhile John Adams, having annoyed the French, headed to the Netherlands.  And was more successful.  Not so much because they supported the American cause but because of their commerce.  The Dutch and the British had been bitter rivals.  The Dutch East (and West) India Company.  The English East India Company.  They both wanted what the other had.  Commerce.  They would actually go to war over this trade.  Some 4 times.  And now the British were interfering with their trade once again.  Interfering with their lucrative black market trade from the Dutch West Indies to the United States.  Through the British blockade.  Which may have broken a treaty they had with the British.  So Adams found commercial incentive for Dutch support.  But what he didn’t find was Dutch respect for the American cause.  And a general ignorance of the American cause.  There was just little information about the United States in the Netherlands.

They did see a rising commercial power in the U.S.  That would have a lot of food and materials to ship.  And being good businessmen they wanted a piece of that action.  And they certainly didn’t want to see the French and Spanish monopolize that trade.  Which could happen based on the treaty between France and America.  And the treaty between France and Spain.  Of course if they backed the wrong horse that could hurt them in post-war relations with Britain.  Should Britain win.  But neither was it in their best interests for Britain to win.  For that would only make their greatest rival stronger.  But what if the Americans won with the help of the Franco-Spanish alliance?  Would the Americans keep their independence?  Or would they get absorbed into France and/or Spain?  That wouldn’t be good.  For it wasn’t that long ago that they won their independence from Spain.  So making Spain stronger and/or richer wasn’t high in their to-do list. 

Catherine the Great of Russia finally helped push the issue.  Indirectly.  To keep the seas free and to protect neutral nations she organized a League of Armed Neutrality of which the Netherlands was signatory.  Neutral nations wanted no part of Britain’s war with America.  And they didn’t want it to interfere with their trade on the high seas.  Even if that trade favored the Americans somehow more than the British.  So if the British fired upon a neutral engaging in trade the British did not approve of these neutrals would fire back.  Thus isolating Britain.  And shortly thereafter Adams negotiated a couple of loans.  Got recognition as the minister representing the United States of America.  And as one of his first duties in that capacity he signed a treaty of commerce and friendship.  He may not have had the stature of a Washington or a Franklin but he had the same dedication to the cause.  And refused to quit.  He was successful.  But few other American diplomatic missions were.  And they probably caused more harm than good.  The antics of a few bringing ridicule to the new nation.  Franklin in fact did not approve of this ‘cold calling’ on countries for recognition and aid.  Perhaps explaining his laid back ways in France that so irritated Adams.  “A virgin state,” Franklin said, “should preserve its virgin character, and not go about suitoring for alliances, but wait with decent virgin dignity for the application of others.”  It seemed to do wonders for him.  And the nation.

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Continental Army, Continental Congress, Inflation, Wage & Price Controls, Paper Money, Specie, IOUs, Impressment and Repudiation

Posted by PITHOCRATES - May 3rd, 2012

Politics 101

The Articles of Confederation made the United States of America a Confederacy of Sovereign States that had Little Power to Raise Revenue

By the time the Continental Army left Valley Forge they could hold their own against the British Army.  The British couldn’t push them around any longer.  They became so good that they fought the war to a standstill.  They came close to some major wins on the field of battle.  But close didn’t diminish the staying power of the British Army.  And they stayed.  On the battlefield.  And in their cities.  Dragging the conflict out for a total of 8 years.  And no matter what era of warfare you use to measure war-years 8 years of war is very costly.  Someone has to pay for it.  And, ultimately, it’s the people.  Either through taxation.  Or the loss of wealth through inflation.  Or simply the loss of wealth through the losing of your stuff.  And going without.  Because the army fighting for your liberty had no choice but to take what was yours.

This made the Revolutionary War unlike other wars.  For this war was about liberty.  Property rights.  The tyranny of a distant power.  And unjust taxation.  In other words this war was against all the things that made fighting a war possible.  You can’t really draft men to fight in a country that stands for liberty.  You just can’t confiscate the things you need to wage war from your people in a country built upon the principle of property rights.  You can’t declare martial law and suspend the rule of law on people you deem not to be patriotic enough in supporting the cause when you’re fighting the tyranny of a distant power that does.  (Even the Americans gave British soldiers a fair trial for the Boston Massacre).  And taxes?  The people that dumped tea into Boston Harbor over the principle of no taxation for revenue purposes without representation in Parliament was not going to be able to tax their people on a federal level.  Which proved a big obstacle in paying for the war to win their liberty.

The Articles of Confederation made the United States of America a confederacy of sovereign states.  And those sovereign states held the real power.  Virginia.  Massachusetts.  Pennsylvania.  New York.  And the other 9 sovereign states.  Not the United States of America.  That confederation that was waging war against the mightiest power in the world.  Which made raising funds difficult.  For without the power to levy taxes all they could do was ask.  Just like George Washington did all of the time.  Especially during that horrible winter at Valley Forge when his army was naked and starving.  He asked the Continental Congress for provisions.  And the Continental Congress asked the several states for their apportioned funds raised by their state legislatures.  Per the Articles of Confederation.  If they didn’t pay these funds timely or in full (or at all) they could ask again.  And that’s all they could do.  Which is why George Washington’s army suffered through that horrible winter.  Because the funds weren’t there to buy Washington the provisions his army needed.

Thanks to Inflation the Continental Army often had No Choice but to Take what they Needed from the People they were Fighting For 

The Americans never had enough money.  Which makes it amazing that they held off losing for 8 years.  Eight very costly years.  And won.  Especially considering how bad the economy was during the war.  Unable to tax or get sufficient loans from Europe they had little choice but to print money.  Which caused a whole lot of trouble.  For the more money they printed and put into circulation the more the value of their currency fell.  And soon a Continental was “not worth a Continental.”  And when the currency lost its value it took more of it to buy things.  Which led to price inflation.  The price of material and parts grew so high that it increased the cost of American manufactured muskets over the cost of imported French muskets.  Which they had to bring in through a British blockade.  Giving what should have been a cost advantage to the Americans.  Had it not been for the inflation.

To try and keep prices under control they implemented wage and price controls.  Which didn’t work.  The continued devaluation of the currency forced sellers to raise their prices to cover their rising costs.  Forcing them to sell below their costs would just put them out of business.  Voluntarily.  Or involuntarily.  Creating shortages in the market place.  Some offered lower prices for specie (gold and silver coins).  You can’t print hard money (specie).  So it held its value.  Unlike the paper money.  So a little of specie went a long way compared to paper money.  Of course, this didn’t help their wage and price controls.  It just made the paper more worthless.  And raised prices further.

There was yet another ugly side to this sordid business.  High prices and shortages created opportunity to profit handsomely.  There was speculation and market manipulation (hoarding, cornering the market, etc.) to take advantage of those highly priced items that were in scare supply.  Further raising prices for the people.  And compounding the problems of provisioning the army.  Which infuriated the low-paid soldiers.  Who the Continental Congress paid in that worthless paper money.  Angry mobs arose to address this profiteering.  As well as new laws and enforcement.  But they helped little.  The army often had no choice but to take what they needed from the people they were fighting for.  Either outright.  Or in exchange for IOUs.   Promises that the Continental Congress of the United States of America would make good on.  Just as soon as the several states paid their apportioned funds raised by their state legislatures. 

If you Violate the Ideals you’re Fighting for while Fighting for those Ideals it can Complicate the Peace

Fighting for an ideal makes war complicated.  If you’re just a tyrannical dictator looking to rape and pillage it makes things easier.  You don’t have to worry about liberty.  Property rights.  Debt.  Or taxes.  In the short term.  Or the long term.  Which made the American Revolutionary War a very difficult war to fight.  Because at the heart of the United States of America were those ideals.  To win this war to grant liberty to the people required taking their liberty away.  A little.  To win this war to guarantee property rights you had to violate property rights.  A little.  To win this war against tyranny you had to use excessive force against your people.  A little.  To win this war to establish taxation only with representation caused the destruction or personal wealth.  A lot.  Through impressment (taking things from the people).  Borrowing from foreign countries.  Or through inflation.

When the French joined the Americans in 1778 inflation was already out of control.  They printed twice as many Continentals in 1778 as they did in the last three years combined.  And there was serious discussion about doing the unthinkable.  Repudiation.  To simply escape the inflation by escaping the currency.  To retire the bills from circulation.  At a fraction of their value.  And that’s what they did in 1780.  Issuing new currency based on specie for the old currency at a 40 to one ratio.  The states were to tax their people to raise the funds for the new currency.  So the people took a huge short-term loss.  For a stable long-term future.  Based on specie.  That they couldn’t inflate.  This hard money would come from in large part the Spanish and the French.  The Spanish in Cuba buying American flour with specie.  And French aid.  As well as their army and navy spending their hard money in the American economy.

Wars are costly.  And they are rarely nice.  Trying to make them nice can make them last longer.  Which will make them more costly.  Of course, if you violate the ideals you’re fighting for while fighting for those ideals it can complicate the peace.  Luckily, for the Americans, they won their peace.  Their allies, the French, were not so lucky in their revolution.  The French Revolution.  Fought less than a decade after the American Revolution came to a close.  And unlike the Americans the French peace that followed was a bloody one.  That would eventually replace the king they executed with an emperor.  Napoleon Bonaparte.  Who the Americans helped bring to power in part due to the crushing debt King Louis XVI incurred supporting the Americans in their revolution.

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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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War Debt, Seven Years War, Revolutionary War, Articles of Confederation, U.S. Constitution, Central Government, Federal Spending and Fiscal Policy

Posted by PITHOCRATES - February 7th, 2012

History 101

Americans don’t like Paying Taxes

Americans don’t like paying taxes.  A dispute over taxation without representation led to American independence from British rule.  For Britain had been fighting for many years in many wars.  And ran up an enormous war debt.  Which they had to repay.  Because some of that debt was incurred protecting the American colonists from the French and Indians during the Seven Years War, some had a bright idea.  “Here’s a thought,” they said, “Let’s have the Americans pay their fair share.  I mean, fair is fair, right?  Besides, it’ll be a lot easier getting money from the Americans than it will be getting it from Parliament, eh wot?” 

The Seven Years War, though, was a world war.  Fought in many countries and on many seas.  Costing lots of money.  Which Parliament was financing with lots of taxes.  But the British taxpayer had tax fatigue.  And felt they had no more taxes to give.  Or wanted to give.  As they had a say in Parliament raising taxes further was a nonstarter.  But the Americans had no representation in Parliament.  So what could they do?  Turns out they could do a lot.  Now the Americans weren’t unreasonable.  They just didn’t appreciate the, “Oh, by the way, here’s your share of the war debt.  We’ll tax you accordingly.”  Which the British did.  Without so much a by-your-leave.  Rubbed the Americans the wrong way.  If the British had shown them the numbers and gave them a chance to agree on what their ‘fair share’ was they probably would have paid.  And stayed loyal to the Crown.  But the British didn’t.  So the Americans didn’t.

Now fighting wars is expensive.  Especially long ones.  And the Revolutionary War was a long one.  Eight years until they penned their names to the Treaty of Paris (1783) officially ending it.  In these eight years the Americans ran up a great war debt.  And needed to repay it.  Just like the British.  The very thing that started the Revolutionary War.  Now it was the Americans’ turn to raise taxes.  They tried taxing whiskey.  Which led to another tax rebellion.  The Whiskey Rebellion.  For Americans still didn’t like paying taxes.  This time, though, it was a tad different.  Because those they were taxing had representation.  And the new ‘nation’ (a confederation of ‘equal’ states) had the legal authority to impose this tax.  And to put down the rebellion.  Which General Washington did.  To the howls of liberty-loving patriots everywhere.  The tax quietly went away.  But it didn’t solve the nation’s problems.  They were broke.  Needed money.  And they had to get a handle on the massive sums they owed for the world of nations to take them seriously.

Hamilton thought both Jefferson and Burr were Scoundrels but at least Jefferson was a Principled Scoundrel

The new ‘nation’ (that confederation of ‘equal’ states) was the problem.  Just as the world of nations didn’t take the Americans seriously these ‘equal’ states didn’t take the new national government seriously.  There was no taxing authority.  So the federal government could only ask for contributions from the states.  Which often came in late.  And when they did they were often less than they requested.  Some states even refused to pay anything.  Worse, the states were making their own treaties with other nations as well as the Indian Tribes.  Or reneging on the treaties the federal government made with other nations and the Indian Tribes.  The confederation wasn’t working.  They needed something new.  And once George Washington was onboard they called a meeting in Philadelphia (1787) to rework the Articles of Confederation.

Of course they didn’t rework the Articles of Confederation.  They replaced them with a new U.S. Constitution.  And a new nation.  The Preamble to the U.S. Constitution began with “We the people.”  The sovereignty of the new nation wasn’t with the states.  It wasn’t with the new federal government.  It was with the people.  It was a nation of the people, by the people and for the people.  To borrow some words from Abraham Lincoln.  Which meant that although the thing they created had more power than the confederation of states it replaced, its power was limited.  Very limited.  The Framers designed it to do only those things the states could not do well individually.  National defense.  Coin uniform money.  Establish post offices and post roads.  Make national treaties with other nations and Indian Tribes.  Declare war.  Create a standard of weights and measures.  But little more.  In fact, the Constitution listed more things the new government couldn’t do than listed what it could do.  To quell everyone’s fear that they just replaced one far away central power (the British Crown) with another far away central power (the central government of the United States).  Especially when it came to taxes.  Raising taxes required approval by two houses of Congress and by the President.  Making it difficult to raise taxes.  The way Americans liked it.  For Americans didn’t like paying taxes.  And still don’t.

Getting the new Constitution ratified wasn’t a walk in the park.  The size and power of the new central government appalled those Patriots who worked so hard during the Revolution.  James Madison, the Father of the Constitution, joined forces with Alexander Hamilton and wrote a series of articles arguing for ratification.  The Federalist Papers.  And were successful.  Then when Alexander Hamilton was putting the Constitution into action as Secretary of the Treasury in the Washington administration, Madison didn’t like what he saw.  For Hamilton wanted to use the power of government to make the United States an economic superpower like Britain.  His opponents, though, saw a man who wanted to be king.  So Madison joined the opposition.  Led by Thomas Jefferson.  And the politics got ugly.  Before it was done the Jefferson camp would write about an affair Hamilton had.  And the same muckraker who exposed this affair would later write about a Jefferson affair with a slave.  Sally Hemming.  The people in the different camps hated each other.  Especially Hamilton and Jefferson.  They hated each other with a passion.  But they were principled men.  For when the election of 1800 came down to either Thomas Jefferson or Aaron Burr, Hamilton backed his archenemy.  Thomas Jefferson.  Both Jefferson and Burr were scoundrels as far as Hamilton was concerned.  But at least Jefferson was a principled scoundrel.  Burr took great offense to some things Hamilton said about him around this time.  And challenged him to a duel.  In which Hamilton suffered a mortal wound.  Pity.  For Hamilton was a true Patriot.  And perhaps the greatest treasury secretary the United States ever had.

It’s not the Spirit of Alexander Hamilton, Thomas Jefferson or James Madison that lives on in Politics but Aaron Burr

Funny how things change.  The new nation almost didn’t survive because of the opposition towards a strong central government.  And towards federal taxes.  Now federal spending includes just about everything under the sun.  Most of which the Framers excluded from the Constitution.  And the taxes!  They have reached a level none of the Founding Fathers thought would ever be possible.  Even Hamilton.  He was ‘big government’ for his day but he would be disgusted to see what became of his beloved Treasury Department.  And the money they pull out of the private sector economy.  Not to make America an economic superpower.  But to buy votes.  And for personnel gain.  The true underbelly of democracy.  Where people come to public service not to serve.  But to enrich themselves at the expense of the taxpayer.  Like that scoundrel that killed him.  Aaron Burr.

Even worse they use fiscal policy to further their spending ways.  The federal debt grows.  And now whenever a recession rolls around they use Keynesian fiscal policy to ‘lessen’ the affects of the recession.  Which is just a clever way to keep on spending after they’ve run out of money.  Because this spending is now stimulus.  And if the government stops spending it will make the recession worse.  Clever.  And it’s just coincidental that friends of the administration benefit most by this Keynesian stimulus spending.

It would appear it’s not the spirit of Alexander Hamilton that lives on in Washington.  Or Thomas Jefferson.  Or James Madison.  It’s the spirit of Aaron Burr.  Scoundrel extraordinaire.  And role model for the political elite.

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Political Right, Left and Center

Posted by PITHOCRATES - December 8th, 2011

Politics 101

The French Left wanted Radical Change and Launched the French Revolution

The terms Right, Left and Center go back to the French Revolution.  To the National Assembly.  Where people sat according to their political preferences.  Those who wanted to kill the king, the queen, the nobility, the clergy and pretty much anyone rich sat to the left of the president.  Those who wanted to maintain the monarchy and the established institutions sat to the president’s right.  Those who fell between these views sat in the center.

Why did the French Revolution erupt?  The people were starving.  Taxes were high.  And the government was trying to raise taxes again.  Because the government was drowning in debt.  From decades of war with their archenemy.  Great Britain.  And their financing of the American Revolution.  Where the British Americans were rebelling against the French’s archenemy.  Great Britain.

So France was a tinderbox.  To make matters worse for the monarchy was all that liberty talk of the Americans.  It was like a disease.  And it infected the French.  Who looked at the wealthy few.  The king.  The queen.  The nobility.  The clergy.  And then listened to their empty tummies rumbling.  The French Left wanted radical change.  And revolution.  The French Right said whoa now, let’s not act hasty here.  Yes we have some problems but our glorious French institutions have been around for centuries.  It’s in large part to them that France is great.

The Revolution to Topple a King ended with the Coronation of an Emperor – Napoleon

Well despite France’s great and glorious past the radicals got their way.  And blood ran in the streets of Paris.  Starting with the Storming of the Bastille.  The great medieval fortress housing prisoners of the realm.  The revolutionaries threw open the gates.  And freed all seven prisoners.  Being more a symbolic act than one of substance.  But this led eventually to a number of legislative assemblies.  A lot of blood.  Carnage.  And the beheading of King Louis XVI.  And his queen.  Marie Antoinette.  Eventually the seats on the right side of the National Assembly emptied.  As everyone moved to the president’s left.  Lest they be killed, too.

The revolutionaries aimed their wrath at anyone who was not supportive of the Revolution.  And even those whose support was only lukewarm.  They killed these enemies of the Revolution.  Or any other enemies that they conveniently identified as enemies of the Revolution.  Leaders rose.  And leaders fell.  Jean-Paul Marat.  Georges-Jacques Danton.  And Maximillien Robespierre.  All three were killed.  Charlotte Corday, a supporter of the Right, stabbed Marat in his bath tub.  Danton and Robespierre were guillotined.  Leaders of violence.  Victims of violence.  These members of the French Left.  Who killed and terrorized the people unlike the king they killed.  King Louis XVI.  Or the queen they killed.  Marie Antoinette.

Ultimately the French Revolution gave the world Napoleon.  And world war.  And the Revolution to topple a king ended with the coronation of an emperor.  For this opportunist ultimately had the biggest army.  Napoleon could consolidate his power.  Unlike Marat.  Danton.  Or Robespierre.  But Napoleon could.  And did.  Then he set out to create an empire.  Much like the kings that came before him did.

Those on the Right are Distrustful of those on the Left when they Talk about Egalitarianism and Fairness

Today the meaning of Left, Right and Center vary.  But, in general, those on the Right prefer the way things are.  Proven by time to work.  And those on the Left are never happy with how things are and want to change them to some new theoretical ideal that time hasn’t proven as a viable workable system.  Such as socialism.  And communism.  Generally referred to as ‘leftist’ systems.  And both are systems that have never worked.

Fascist Italy, Communist Russia and Nazi Germany were all new experimental systems to right all the wrongs of past governments.  And all three governments made their citizens’ lives worse with harsh police states.  With the state summarily executing enemies of the state.  Much like Marat, Danton and Robespierre did in France.  Many refer to Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy as right-wing states.  But both were fascist states.  Which was nothing more than a national socialism.  Which was a combination of socialism.  And nationalism.  These were people who wanted radical change.  Control over the masses.  And empire.  If these governments sat in the French National Legislation they all would have taken seats to the left of the president.

Leftists hate the rich and successful.  And want to confiscate their wealth for themselves.  Instead of trying to achieve wealth on their own merit.  Those on the Right are distrustful of those on the Left when they talk about egalitarianism and fairness.  Because they know what that means.  They are going to take their wealth via the power of government.  By a progressive tax system.  Inheritance tax.  Capital gains tax.  Surtaxes to punish success.  Regulatory laws and fees that increase the cost of doing business.  (As well as increases the prices of goods and services.)  Etc.

The Left champions the poor and downtrodden as they ascend to power.  But rarely have they helped the poor and downtrodden.  Only a select few in the party upper echelons ever live a better life.   For example, the Democrat Party launched a war on poverty in the Sixties and yet there is still poverty.  Despite a myriad of government programs that has exploded the size of government.  All headed by rich bureaucrats living better lives.  While the poor and downtrodden are still wallowing in poverty.  And we know this because the Left is constantly telling us this.  In their never ending quest to expand the size of government.

The center is somewhere between the Left and the Right.  It’s not really a group with core political beliefs.  But more of a group that that likes a little from column ‘A’.  And a little from column ‘B’.

Politics is a Procession – We tend to Start on the Left, Work our Way through the Center and End on the Right

Perhaps another way to look at this is those on the right being parents in a family.  Children of these parents who are now raising their own families are in the center.  And the young children who are still in college are on the left.

The young know little and have even less responsibility.  They like to stay out late, party, do drugs and have consequence-free sex.  They don’t like anything that restricts their good times.  Hence they are always hostile to authority.  Church.  Or state.  And their vote tends to lean towards anarchy.  Where anything goes.

The children starting their own families are slowly giving up the ways of their youth.  They are becoming established in their careers.  Raising children.  Which leaves little time for fun.  But they are hesitant to admit that they have become their parents.  So they hang on to some of their idealistic ways of their youth.  While starting to save for their kids’ college education.  And their retirement.  They even start going to church.  To get their kids started on the right foot.  And to try and keep their kids from doing everything they did when they were young.

The parents have worked long and hard.  They have a family.  And grandchildren.  They want the best for their family.  And a happy and secure retirement.  After playing by the rules all of their lives they don’t want to rock the boat now that they are so close to retirement.  So they are very pleased to stay with the proven ways of the past.  And prefer to help others at their church.  Rather than giving money to a leviathan government.

Politics is a procession.  We tend to start on the Left.  Work our way through the Center.  And end on the Right.  For we tend to grow less radical with age.  Because as we age we accumulate wealth and have far more to lose with radical change.

www.PITHOCRATES.com

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The Wall Street Protesters’ Pain is a Joke to those Truly Suffering around the World

Posted by PITHOCRATES - October 10th, 2011

Cuba is Imploding.  Like all Communist Countries Have.  Are.  Or Will.

Wall Street is bad.  Capitalism is bad.  Because they put profits ahead of people.  Instead of putting people before profits.  Like they do in Cuba (see A Troubling Sign that Economic ‘Reform’ in Cuba Isn’t Working by Juan Carlos Hidalgo posted 10/10/2011 on Cato@Liberty).

The number of Cubans intercepted at sea trying to reach the coast of Florida more than doubled in the last fiscal year according to figures released by the Department of Homeland Security…

This is yet another sign that the much heralded economic “reforms” announced by Havana aren’t working. The massive layoffs of hundreds of thousands of public employees undertaken by the government of Raúl Castro were meant to be absorbed by Cuba’s almost non-existent private sector…

Earlier this year I talked to an official from the U.S. Interest Section in Havana who told me that we shouldn’t be surprised if we see a steady increase of Cubans trying to escape the island towards the United States. Faced with a dilapidated economy, hundreds of thousands of unemployed, and growing social unrest, the Castro regime wouldn’t hesitate in letting more Cubans use the “escape valve” of emigration. We might be seeing the first signs of this.

The Castro brothers (Fidel and Raúl) are no fans of America.  Or capitalism.  No.  Cuba is a hardcore communist country.  Because the communist way guaranteed the best of everything for everyone.  Without corporate greed or the pursuit of profit getting in the way.  But Cuba is imploding.  Like all communist countries have.  Are.  Or will.  As they always will.  Whenever you have the government put people before profits.  Because when states do that somehow the people always take it on the chin.

So the solution to save their people?  Get rid of their people.  Let them swim to America.  Because if they’re no longer in Cuba they no longer have to feed them.  House them.  Or fight them in the inevitable revolution.

Life is Truly Difficult in Syria with some 400 People Dying on Average each Month

Castro would rather these people flee his communist utopia than fight them.  Because this kind of thing has been going on in North Africa.  The Middle East.  And he wants none of that (see Syria violence: EU poised to announce fresh sanctions in wake of latest killings by Adrian Blomfield posted 10/10/2011 on The Telegraph).

More than 30 people were killed in the latest wave of violence after security forces opened fire on a funeral in the city of Homs and the army clashed with deserters from its ranks who have defected to the opposition. The battle underscored the growing shift in the uprising from the peaceful demonstrations of its early days to an armed insurrection that is gaining strength on the periphery of what is still an overwhelmingly civilian revolt.

The latest fatalities took the overall death toll since the uprising began to just under 3,000, according to UN calculations.

Makes you scratch your head about the Libyan War.  For we launched that war to prevent these things from happening in Libya.  And here they are.  Happening in Syria.  And yet we have a different policy.  Why is that?  But that’s another story.

This brutal oppression has been going on for some 7 months.  And it’s only gotten worse.  After living under such an oppressive regime these people won’t give up.  And neither will Assad.  Making life truly difficult in Syria.  And claiming some 400 lives on average each month.  For now.

Why is Europe the go-to Continent during Humanitarian Crises?  Because they are Richer and More Capitalistic.

Some of these Syrians are fleeing their country.  A lot of them are trapped for the duration.  Not really knowing what their nation’s fate is.  Or their own.  As millions of others face turmoil throughout the world.  And millions of these are fleeing their countries.  And for their lives (see Multiplying crises create 43 million refugees by D. Parvaz posted 10/10/2011 on Al Jazeera).

Regional conflicts and the potential for violence have complicated aid efforts aimed at the nearly 12 million affected by the drought in Africa. The unrest rose to such a level that people were crossing over from Libya to Tunisia, from which people were also fleeing to France and Italy due to mass unrest.

According to the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), as of September 30, more than 700,000 people have left Libya, with the bulk of that migration, 304,127, heading to Tunisia…

Livio Zilli, the international secretariat of Amnesty International’s Refugees’ and Migrants’ Rights Team, points out that many of the people leaving Libya aren’t Libyan nationals, but likely were already among transient populations who were forcibly displaced due to security or economic issues. These people are refugees twice over…

This, said Zilli, makes the current situation: “A refugee crisis on the doorsteps of Europe.”

And Europe might not want to deal with it, he said.

Like Europe doesn’t have enough problems to deal with.  What with that whole sovereign debt crisis crippling Europe.  They’re going broke.  And spending more and more tax dollars to try and save the Euro.  Which is in danger of going the way of the dodo because of excessive government spending.  That caused excessive government debt.  And the last thing they need are tens of millions of refugees being fed and housed on the taxpayers’ dime.

Yes, this is a humanitarian crisis.  But Africa was here before Europe.  So why is it that Europe is the go-to continent during humanitarian crises?  Because they are richer than most of these countries in crisis.  And more capitalistic.  Where the Rule of Law keeps the peace.  And puts no one above the law.  Setting the stage for a prosperous free market economy.  That can provide for all a nation’s needs.  Or trade for them during times of crisis.  All handy things for a safe, healthy, prosperous nation.

No Doubt some of the Egyptian Protestors from 8 Months back are having Buyer’s Remorse

Egypt had a lot of these things.  By Middle East standards it was a pretty prosperous nation.  People had more freedom than others.  A bustling tourism industry thanks to a rich and glorious past.  Peace and stability with its neighbors.  And within the country.  Even Muslims and Christians lived together in relative peace.  For all its corruption, oppression and faults, it was one of the most benign of Middle East dictatorships.  But the Egyptian people threw out the tyrant during the Arab SpringHosni Mubarak.  And it hasn’t been as peaceful since (see Coptics Criticize Egypt Government Over Killings by David D. Kirkpatrick posted 10/10/2011 on The New York Times).

Egypt’s Coptic Christian church harshly criticized the government on Monday over its actions in crushing a bloody protest in Cairo the night before that left at least 24 people dead, mostly Christians, as grieving families began to bury their dead, some of them mangled by tanks, bullets and beating wounds.

The protest on Sunday was the most violent in Egypt since the revolution that toppled Hosni Mubarak from the presidency eight months ago and raised new questions about the country’s ability to move forward toward a pluralistic and tolerant democracy…

The violence on Sunday began after a demonstration by Christians angry about a recent attack on a church. By day’s end it had morphed into a raging riot directed against the military council that has ruled Egypt since Mr. Mubarak was ousted in February. The violence seemed to be aggravated by the public’s widespread distrust of the military’s authority because of repeated delays in turning power over to Egyptian civilians.

After some 8 months of ‘freedom’ from the tyrant the country still bleeds.  And burns.

If you’re a Christian in Egypt you no longer have the peace and security you had under Mubarak.  And if you’re a Muslim that just wants to live in peace with everyone.  As you did before the Arab Spring.  You now risk being caught in the crossfire.  Eight months and still no democracy.  Still military rule.  And growing violence.  No doubt some of the protestors from 8 months back are having buyer’s remorse.  And probably believe perhaps Mubarak with some reforms might have been better than near-anarchy they’re seeing the occasional glimpse of.

The Protesters are Asking the People to Use the Power of Capitalism to Redress the Abuses of Capitalism

We finally have a demand from the Occupy Wall Street people.  Well, not so much of a demand.  But a request.  Not for the oppressive bankers and corporate thugs.  But for the people (see Wall Street Protests Get Specific: Could ‘Bank Transfer Day’ Pit Americans Against Their Big Banks? by Martha C. White posted 10/10/2011 Time Moneyland).

The growing anger directed at U.S. banks (especially the big ones that took federal bailout funds) over recent fee increases coalesced this weekend into a Facebook-driven campaign urging Americans to close their accounts at large banks and move their money to credit unions by Nov. 5.

Remarkable.  They’ll march on Wall Street because Bank of America imposed a monthly debit card fee.  But they could care less about the out of control government spending and regulation that takes more out of their pockets every hour of every day.  But I digress.

These protesters aren’t all that original.  I’ve heard of this request before.  They’re asking the people to use the power of capitalism.  If one business becomes less attractive to your needs let your wallet voice your displeasure.  They act as if we aren’t free to be able to do this already.  But we are.  And we have a myriad of choice available.  Because that’s what capitalism is.  Businesses compete against each other to see who can please us the most.

People Truly Suffering Around the World must be Thinking if Only they Had it so Bad as the Wall Street Protesters

There is real suffering around the world.  And these Occupy Wall Street people are whining about high bank fees.  They want government to intervene.  When they already have the power to cause change themselves.  We call it free market capitalism.  We have it.  A lot of people don’t.  People in Cuba.  Syria.  Libya.   Somalia.  Kenya.  Ethiopia.  And everywhere else where capitalism is constrained and maligned.

Can you imagine these people truly suffering around the world seeing these Wall Street protesters?  Playing their drums?  Tweeting their whiny tweets to family and friends?  Wearing face paint?  Women dancing topless?  While they starve.  Get run over by tanks.  And shot.  They must be thinking if only they had it so bad.

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