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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FUNDAMENTAL TRUTH #65: “The only thing the market is inefficient at is funneling money to anti-business politicians.” -Old Pithy

Posted by PITHOCRATES - May 10th, 2011

The Natural Order and a good Last Name

There are two types of people in America.  Those who work.  And elitists who want others to work for them.  It’s been this way since the dawn of civilization.  One group asserted their power over the masses.  The masses then worked.  The ruling elite didn’t.  They just gave the work orders.  The masses dutifully followed their orders and grew the food.  The ruling elite took in the bounty and ate until they were full.  And then some.  While famine thinned out the masses.  It was the natural order once upon a time.  And those who held dominion over the land liked it.

Land, then, was key.  The aristocracy owned the land.  Hence we called them the landed aristocracy.  They owned the land, the food and the wealth.  And the people.  In European and Russian feudalism there were serfs.  In the antebellum American South there were slaves.  The landed aristocracy may buy and sell land and move.  But the serfs/slaves stayed on the land.  Forever.  As their parents did.  As their children would.  It was the natural order.

Your name was very important in the landed aristocracy.  For land was hereditary.  As was wealth.  As was political power.  And it stayed this way for a long time.  While everyone who worked farmed.  But over time, something happened.  People got smarter.  They were able to grow food surpluses.  And they took these surpluses to markets.  Which became cities.  Where we saw the rise of artisans.  Skilled people who made tools and crafts that further improved our lives.  Allowed people to leave the farms.  And create a middle class.  Greatest thing that ever happened for the masses.  It allowed a way out from the back-breaking toil of working the land.  Even if you didn’t have a ‘good’ last name.

Representative Government changes the Natural Order

Of course, not everyone was keen about this.  Because it disrupted the natural order of things.  And threatened the old power structures.  Some adjusted.  Some shared the power.  Like in England.  Where there was a representative government.  There was a bicameral house.  The Parliament.  Representing all people.  The rich in the House of Lords.  And the common people in the House of Commons.  And, of course, the king.  Who represented the king.  And the state.  Now, kings like to wage war.  Conquer.  And add to empire.  But it takes soldiers and sailors to fight.  And money to pay for armies and navies.  Which the king didn’t have.  The rich people had the money.  The landed aristocracy.  The Lords.  So the king just couldn’t wage war unless Parliament consented.  Pretty nice thing this check on power.  This representative government.  It made for happy subjects.

It wasn’t like this in France. While the English were checking the king’s power, the French monarchy was absolute.  It  could do whatever it wanted.  And did.  Spent a lot of money.  Ran up great debts.  Fought a lot of wars.  Including the Seven Years’ War that lost much of French North America to Great Britain.  And helped the Americans in their War of Independence.  Helping them to gain their independence from the British monarchy.  Which proved to be a deadly game for the French monarchy.  For the French people grew fond of representative government themselves.  And they thought if the Americans can overthrow king-rule maybe they could, too.  So they gave it a try.  The French Revolution was a bit bloodier than the American Revolution, but it got the job done.  France, too, had a representative government.  Until Napoleon declared himself emperor, of course.  And then he did a lot of kingly things.  Waged war.  Conquered.  Built empire.  And added to the debt.

Great Britain gave up on minority rule.  France tried to hang on to it, lost it then Napoleon got it back.  The reason minority rule failed in these countries is because a minority ruling power needs money.  And it was easier to get money in an agrarian economy.  When all the wealth was concentrated in the few who owned the land.  The rise of a middle class changed all of that.  Artisans and merchants made a lot of money.  Some even without ‘good’ last names.  The people who didn’t have to kiss any royal ass to get or maintain their wealth.  It was a whole new game out there.  Minority rulers needed to find another way to amass money and power.  And they found it.  In the ‘lie’.

Lies from Marxism to Socialism

A ruling power lying wasn’t anything new.  But some of the lies were.  Marxism, for example, was a new brilliant lie.  It made those the ruling elite wanted to oppress ask to be oppressed.  In the name of egalitarianism.  Rise up you miserable oppressed factory workers.  Attack the industrial bourgeoisie (i.e., the middle class).  You have nothing to lose but your chains.  Karl Marx may have believed the claptrap he wrote.  But those who used it could care less about the underlying philosophy.  They just liked the power it gave them.  So those who aspired to rise to power and rule over the majority led worker revolutions.  And after they won, the workers went back to suffering just as they had before.  Only they had less.  Because the communist commissars knew jack squat about the means of production.  But that was okay.  For it just helped to enslave the masses more.  Well, that.  And the brutal police state that discouraged any inappropriate behavior.  Or thought.

It was a good run for the communist powers that be.  While the masses suffered they lived a very comfortable life.  Just like the landed aristocracy of old.  Unfortunately for them, their ruling policies sent their economies into nosedives.  And they suffered recurring famines.  Marxism was a failure.  The ruling elite knew it.  And most of the people knew it, too.  Often, those who could escape from their communist utopias did.  Because they were anything but utopian.  So those aspiring to ascend to the ruling elite needed a new lie.  And they found it in communism-light.  Socialism.  Which appealed to the people they wanted to oppress for the same reasons Marxism did.  It would stick it to the rich in an egalitarian utopia.

But there was little difference between Marxism and socialism.  Both systems tried to manage the economy.  And both did a horrible job.  Why?  Because state planning is not about improving the lives of those they rule over.  It’s about maintaining power.  An economy left alone will always outperform a managed economy.  Everyone knows this.  But if they leave the economy alone, how can the ruling elite amass power and wealth?  It can’t.  Ergo, the lie continues.  Not to improve the lives of the masses.  But to improve the lives of the ruling elite.  The minority power.  Who only ascends to power by a good lie.

Wealth Redistribution Killed the Golden Goose

The free market does have one inefficiency.  It does not enrich those who do not partake in it.  The ruling elite aspire to be in a minority rule for a couple of reasons.  First of all, when you’re stealing from and oppressing the people, the fewer people in the ruling elite the wealthier each member gets.  Which is what they want.  Wealth.  And being in the ruling elite gives them access to wealth.  Because they are so completely untalented that they could never make any wealth in the free market.  So they use the lie to acquire their wealth.  To live the good life.  Like the landed aristocracy of old.

So they become the champion of the working man and woman.  And promise to deliver that egalitarian society via wealth redistribution.  They promise to tax the rich.  And give to those who will vote for them.  It has proven to be a very effective system.  And in its heyday they were reaping in the money.  Even found a way to funnel tax money directly to them via public sector union dues.  But they just got too greedy.  Pulled too many people into the new aristocracy.  And too many people out of the work force who paid the taxes that paid for their comfortable lives of plenty.

The taxes and policies of the ruling elite have grown so anti-business that it’s reduced economic activity.  And tax generation.  So not only have they bloated the public sector with nonworking people and reduced the taxpaying workforce, they killed the golden goose as well.  And no lie may change the mess they created.  They may have no choice but to unfetter the free market.  And get real jobs.


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