Week in Review
The problem with a generous welfare state and porous borders is that they attract a lot of foreign-born people to your country to cash in on those generous welfare benefits. Some even make the journey while pregnant so their child is born in the country with the generous welfare benefits. And not the cruel, cold-hearted benefit-free country they are escaping. Giving them an ‘anchor’ in the country they’d much rather live in than the country they don’t want to live in. Their native country.
The United States has a porous border with Mexico. And many Mexicans give birth in the United States while in the country illegally just so their child doesn’t have to grow up in Mexico. Which when you think about is a statement on how these Mexicans feel about the ‘imperial’ United States. They must really hate them for not taking the rest of Mexico when they won the Mexican War. Had the Americans done so there would be no need for anchor babies. For they would already be enjoying American citizenship south of the Rio Grande. Based on the number of Mexicans entering America illegally, at least.
The United States isn’t the only country people want to live in. Canada, too, is a beautiful country with a generous welfare state. The winters are a little colder, though. But that doesn’t stop people from trying to become Canadian citizens with anchor babies. Only they call them ‘passport babies’ in Canada (see Canadian citizenship bill to be tabled Thursday by Susana Mas posted 2/2/2014 on CBC News).
Alexander said the proposed changes to the Citizenship Act would also aim to reduce the current backlog of applications and change the conditions for eligibility.
The government is also considering changes to tackle the problem of so-called “birth tourism” or “passport babies,” but Alexander told CBC News they would not be included in this bill.
Americans and Canadians aren’t better people. They just live in countries that allow their people to be better. Which is the problem in Mexico. Not the people. As the Americas were colonized Britain was further along in representative government than Spain. Free market capitalism replaced mercantilism quicker in British America than it did in Spanish America. And democratic institutions were more developed in British America than they were in Spanish America. Such that the foundation for representative government, free market capitalism and democracy was more robust in British American than it was in Spanish America.
Because of this when the Americans gained their independence great peace and prosperity followed. A first following a civil war. Allowing America and Canada (later granted their independence from the British Empire) to be lands of opportunity. With strong human rights. Ironically, in large part to the School of Salamanca. One of the greatest gifts Spain gave to the world. Which is why people want to have their babies born in these countries. So they can be as great as they want to be. Because only representative government, free market capitalism and democracy can make this possible. At least based on history.
But you can’t have people entering your country unchecked. Especially if they’re coming for the benefits. And your country has annual deficits and a growing national debt. For adding more people to the benefits roll when you can’t afford it will transform the country from that land of opportunity people want to come to into the country they are fleeing. Countries with high spending and devalued currencies that lead to black markets and lawlessness. The very things people want to get away from by having their babies in the United States and Canada.
Tags: America, anchor babies, Britain, British America, Canada, capitalism, citizenship, democracy, free market, free-market capitalism, Mexicans, Mexico, passport babies, porous borders, representative government, Spain, Spanish America, United States, welfare benefits, welfare state
Week in Review
People think renewable energy is the answer to all our energy problems. But that isn’t quite so. In fact, all it does is increase the cost of our electric power. For sunshine and wind may be free. But the equipment to harness the energy in sunshine and wind is not free. It is very, very expensive. And you need a lot of it. You will not see one wind turbine service the power needs of one metropolitan area. You may see a wind farm providing a small percentage of the electric power needs of a large metropolitan area. And only when the wind blows.
Wind can blow day or night. But it can also NOT blow day and night. While solar panels will not work at all at night. So you have massive investments to install renewable energy generation capacity. And there will be times when they will provide no power. So what do you do? What do you do when the wind doesn’t blow and the sun doesn’t shine? You turn to old reliable. The electric grid.
This is why renewable energy is so costly. It cannot replace our fossil-fuel power plants that can provide reliable power day or night in any type of weather. It can only supplement what we call our baseload power. Like our beloved coal-fired power plants. One of the most cost-efficient ways to produce reliable electric power. Which the power companies have to still run and maintain day and night. For those who don’t have a wind turbine or a solar array providing their electric power. And to light up the night. So instead of one cost-efficient power generation system we have two systems. One cost-efficient and one cost-inefficient. And those who invested heavily into renewable energy are now having to deal with these very real problems (see Out Of Ideas And In Debt, Spain Sets Sights On Taxing The Sun by Kelly Phillips Erb posted 8/19/2013 on Forbes).
With so much sunshine at its disposal, Spain has aggressively pursued the development of solar energy: over the past ten years, the government has made significant advances in pressing solar energy and is one of the top countries in the world with respect to installed photovoltaic (PV) solar energy capacity.
It might, however, be too much of a good thing. Spain is generating so much solar power, according to its government, that production capacity exceeds demand by more than 60%. That imbalance has created a problem for the government which now finds itself in debt to producers. And not by a little bit. The debt is said to have grown to nearly 26 billion euros ($34.73 billion U.S.).
So how do you get out of that kind of debt? You propose incredibly onerous taxes and fines, of course. And you do it on exactly the behavior that you encouraged in the first place: the use of solar energy panels. That’s right. Spain is now attempting to scale back the use of solar panels – the use of which they have encouraged and subsidized over the last decade – by imposing a tax on those who use the panels…
…many residents in Spain generate enough electricity from solar that they get paid to selling the excess energy back to producers. This, it turns out, is a problem. The government is putting a stop to that, too: as part of the reform efforts (read: desperate measures), there will be a prohibition on selling extra energy.
If the power companies are providing all the power at night they have to maintain their power plants. And their power distribution system. Which means they even have to trim the trees away from their overhead power lines from people who use solar power during the day. Nothing changes for the power companies. Except that they can’t sell as much power as they once did. So their costs of producing power remain the same. But their revenue has fallen. Forcing them to operate at a loss. Or find other ways to replace their lost revenue. Which they have to. Because they must have the same capacity available during the day that they have at night. Even if they aren’t selling as much power during the day as they are at night. And the last thing they want to do is buy excess power back from homeowners with solar panels on their house when they’re producing their own power that they can’t sell.
Baseload power plants like coal and nuclear take time to bring on line. They have to produce the heat that boils water into steam. Then superheat the steam to remove all water from it. So the steam can spin the generator turbines without damaging the vanes on the turbine. And once they start these plants up they run these systems at full capacity where they produce power most cost-efficiently. During peak demand they may bring on some gas-fired turbines that can start and produce power quickly. And add them to the grid. When the peak subsides they can shut down these gas-fired turbines and let the baseload generation carry the remaining load.
The Spanish government invested heavily into solar power for whatever reason. It’s ‘free’ power. It’s ‘clean’ power. Or it was just a good way to create a lot of jobs. But what Spain has now is a surplus of peak power generation during the day that doesn’t eliminate the need to maintain baseload power generation during the day. Creating a surplus of electric power during the day no one wants. While requiring power companies to maintain their baseload power during the day so they can provide power at night. Incurring great costs on the power companies. Which must be passed on to the same people who paid for the renewable energies subsidies. The electric power consumer.
This is a classic example of a Hayekian malinvestment. Friedrich Hayek of the Austrian school of economics said this is what happens when governments interfere with free markets. They make investments to produce what they think is best while the market demands something else. The market demanded low-cost electric power. Which baseload power plants (coal and nuclear) provided. But the government intervened and subsidized the more costly solar power. This bad investment—or malinvestment—has only increased the cost of electric power for the Spanish consumer. And now the Spanish have a big problem on their hands. What to do with this surplus of peak power no one wants to pay for? And how to replace the lost revenue of the power companies so they can cover their costs? Two problems they didn’t have until the government intervened into the free market.
Tags: baseload generation, baseload power, electric grid, electric power, free markets, malinvestment, peak demand, power generation, power plants, renewable energy, solar array, solar energy, solar panels, solar power, Spain, sunshine, turbine, wind, wind turbine
Week in Review
8/14/2013 CORRECTION: There were factual errors/omissions in this piece. We apologize for them. And we apologize to the good people of Spain if we have offended them. But it should be noted that some of the corrections are from quotes pulled from the sourced Mirror article. A British newspaper.
The point of the piece is a recurring theme in history. There are rarely any innocents when it comes to international disputes. That was the point of the French and the Spanish helping the Americans during the Revolutionary War. They did this not for American interests but for their own interests.
We also will note that the world’s power center shifted from the Mediterranean to the great sea powers of Europe. Because these great European powers advanced seafaring to the point that they were first to conquer the oceans. Also, the man that discovered America (Christopher Columbus) was sailing for Spain. During the time of the Age of Discovery. Where Spain dominated that discovery. And Spain was home to the School of Salamanca. Where the seeds of the Renaissance and the Enlightenment were sown. And they would bear their greatest fruit in the late 18th century. Thanks to America’s Founding Fathers being students of the Enlightenment. So Spain has a formidable place in world history. One that we admire and greatly respect.
A reader from Madrid sent in a well-written and very respectful criticism. We include it here in its entirety.
Dear Pithocrates, I have read your paper on Gibraltar which is rather accurate but there are some missing points which are very relevant to understand the roots of the issue. These points are as follows:
a) It is true that the Spanish captured Gibraltar from the moors in 1462, but you shouldn´t omit that the moors captured it previously from the visigotic kingdom of Spain in 711.
b) You state that “Gibraltar was captured in turn by the Royal Navy in 1704”, but you omit that it was in the context of a Spanish dynastic sucesion war and this capture was in the name of one of aspirants to the Spanish crown, supported by British and Dutchs.
c) The Treaty of Utrecht didn´t handed over the surrounding waters and the istmus where the airstrip lies. The istmus was a neutral zone wich was taken by the British in XIX century by asking quarantine land due an epidemy in Gibraltar. It doesn´t seem fair play. This is the key point for Spain since Gibraltar has no waters to drop blocks in and the airport is out of Gibraltar territory.
I fully agree that we can´t go back to the first wrong but your statement that Spain wants to tear up the treaty is far from reality. In essence Spain wants the British to meet the treaty in full since is not an acceptable behave to throw concrete blocks in non British waters nor contaminate them with chopy bunkering practice,. If you study the history of Spain, you will learn that some part of it was outstanding, glorious and brilliant and some not, but ALWAYS we have been people of honour and we honoured the treaties we signed off.
Finally I believe that in XXI the gunboat policy is out of place, but in any case it is clear that Spain was not the first to put the navy in this conflict.
I would be very grateful if you share these lines with your readers in order to clarify the situation. Spaniards and British have had a long common history. We have been rivals for centuries and in the past we fought very often each other and sometimes were allies. We have in Gibraltar a common “heritage” and we should be intelligent enough not to make it a wedge but a hinge between us.
[name withheld by Pithocrates to protect writer’s privacy]
PD: In addition there is a little geographical mistake in your text: none of the sides of Gibraltar is on the Atlantic ocean, both are in the Med (Mediterranean sea is considered eastward Tarifa).
Do you know what you will find at the southern tip of Spain? Britain. That’s right. Gibraltar belongs to Britain. Something Spain isn’t all that happy about. Kind of how Argentina isn’t all that happy about Britain being in the Falkland Islands. And both Argentina and Spain try to make life difficult for the British living in these British possessions (see Gibraltar: Britain to send Navy warships to Mediterranean in show of force to Spain by James Lyons posted 8/9/2013 on the Mirror).
Britain is sending warships to Gibraltar after David Cameron failed in his attempt to end the diplomatic row with Spain…
The 10-vessel Med visit follows weeks of rising diplomatic tension as the Madrid government holds up traffic at the border in retaliation for Gibraltar’s efforts to stop Spanish trawlers plundering fish stocks…
The PM, in a phone call to his Spanish counterpart Mariano Rajoy, issued a coded warning of legal action over the border checks and the threat to impose a £43 crossing fee.
But the checks still happened today and the Spanish hit back by criticising the Gibraltar government for making an artificial reef to protect fish stocks.
Under the seas surrounding the Falkland Islands are oil and gas deposits. In the waters around Gibraltar it’s fish stocks. So there are economic reasons. But what really irks Spain is that unlike the cold and windy Falkland Islands Gibraltar is a sunny vacation paradise. And you don’t need a boat or a plane to get there from Spain. All you have to do is drive there. And cross an active runway. Yes, the road through Gibraltar actually crosses an active runway. Why, you may ask, doesn’t the road go around the runway? Well, the thing is, Gibraltar is so narrow that one end of the runway ends at the waters of the Atlantic Ocean. While the other ends at the water of the Mediterranean Sea.
Gibraltar is an outpost of Britishness at the mouth of the Mediterranean, and has been for 300 years.
The 2.3 square miles land mass, dominated by the 1,300-foot limestone Rock of Gibraltar, is one of the last remaining parts of the empire…
The 30,000 inhabitants of the British Overseas Territory cling to their UK roots.
Sterling currency, red post boxes, familiar British shops and banks and the use of the English language are all legacies of the Rock’s long association with Britain…
The results of several referendums in Gibraltar over the years, the most recent in 2002, have been overwhelmingly in favour of remaining linked to Britain.
So it’s only a small sliver of land. And the people who live there are British. And want to remain British. As it is in the Falklands. Referendum after referendum is always the same. These British people want to remain British. It makes one wonder what would happen to them if Spain and Argentina got their way. Would they deport them? Segregate them? Or simply make them stop being British?
So how did it come to this? How did a tip of Spain become British?
Captured from the Moors by the Spanish in 1462, Gibraltar was captured in turn by the Royal Navy in 1704.
Nine years later it was officially handed over to Britain in the Treaty of Utrecht, and it has remained in British hands ever since.
It is this treaty which is at the heart of Spain’s claim to the land.
The Rock was ceded to Britain “to be held and enjoyed absolutely, with all manner of right for ever, without any exception or impediment whatsoever”.
But successive Spanish governments have argued that this is an anachronism and that Spain’s territorial integrity justifies the return of Gibraltar to Spanish control.
Critics of Spain’s attitude towards Gibraltar have pointed out that it has its own city enclaves, Ceuta and Melilla, on the north African coast, bordering Morocco.
Despite repeated demands by Morocco that the cities should be returned to its territory, Spain refuses to do so.
Interestingly, the Spanish took the land from someone else. The Moors. So the British didn’t do anything the Spanish didn’t do. They got the land by military conquest. Then made it permanent by treaty. A treaty they say now is silly to maintain. Because Gibraltar is attached to the Spanish mainland and logically belongs to them. While they themselves are holding on to lands that by their logic belong to Morocco.
The Spanish Empire once stretched throughout the world. But it was overtaken by the British Empire. Whose representative government and capitalism vaulted the British into the number one world power. While the Spanish Empire declined the British Empire only grew stronger. France, too, lost bits of her empire to the British. Which is why the French aided the Americans in the American Revolutionary War. And why the Spanish joined that conflict by allying themselves with the French against the British. Neither of them cared about helping the Americans. They went to war against the British when they were preoccupied with the Americans to reclaim their lost pieces of empire. And hoped to limit the Americans’ expansion into North America by the treaty that would end the war. A treaty that would undo the Treaty of Utrecht. And allow further expansion of France and Spain into North America.
How far back do you go to right past wrongs? Should Spain return their land to the Moors? Should they take back Mexico and return it to the Aztecs? Do you go back to the first wrong? Which would be difficult without a historical record going back to the first wrong. So do you go back just far enough? And if so who determines how far that is?
No. You can’t do this. All you can do is honor the treaties you have now. Treaties that were signed willingly by all parties concerned. Yes, some parties were negotiating from a position of weakness. But that’s war. In hindsight Napoleon would much rather have signed a treaty before losing at Waterloo. Just as Hitler would have, in hindsight, preferred to sign peace treaties with all combatants before his invasion of the Soviet Union. But when you wage war and lose you have little choice but to negotiate from a position of weakness. And because the British bested the Spanish in battle Gibraltar belongs to Britain. Just as the Spanish would be holding on to Cornwall in England if the roles were reversed.
Tags: Americans, Argentina, Britain, British Empire, Falkland Islands, Gibraltar, Mediterranean, Moors, Morocco, Rock of Gibraltar, Spain, Spanish Empire, treaties, Treaty of Utrecht
Week in Review
Trains are heavy. Getting a train moving is one thing. But getting it to stop is another. Because heavy things moving fast have a lot of kinetic energy. The energy of something in motion. In classical mechanics we calculate the kinetic energy by multiplying one half of the mass times the velocity squared. That last part is really important. The velocity part. For as the speed increases the kinetic energy increases by a far greater amount. For example, a train increasing speed from 30 kilometers per hour (18 mph) to 190 kilometers per hour (114 mph) increases its speed by 533%. But because we square the velocity the kinetic energy increases by 3,911%. Making high-speed rail more dangerous than regular rail. Because of the great amounts of kinetic energy involved.
Airplanes are very heavy. They travel at great speeds. And have great amounts of kinetic energy. Which is why plane crashes or so horrific. Anything with that amount of kinetic energy suddenly stopping dissipates that energy in great heat, noise and the explosion of solid parts. But plane crashes, thankfully, are rare. For when they are travelling at those great speeds they’re up in the air thousands of feet (or more) away from anything they can hit. And if there is a malfunction they can fall safely though the sky (with enough altitude) until the pilots can recover the aircraft. For airplanes have the best friend to high speed objects. A lot of empty space all around them. Not so with high-speed rail (see Driver in custody after 80 killed in Spain train crash by Teresa Medrano and Tracy Rucinski posted 7/25/2013 on Reuters).
The driver of a Spanish train that derailed, killing at least 80 people, was under police guard in hospital on Thursday after the dramatic accident which an official source said was caused by excessive speed.
The eight-carriage train came off the tracks, hit a wall and caught fire just outside the pilgrimage destination Santiago de Compostela in northwestern Spain on Wednesday night. It was one of Europe’s worst rail disasters…
Video footage from a security camera showed the train, with 247 people on board, hurtling into a concrete wall at the side of the track as carriages jack-knifed and the engine overturned…
El Pais newspaper said the driver told the railway station by radio after being trapped in his cabin that the train entered the bend at 190 kilometers per hour (120 mph). An official source said the speed limit on that stretch of twin track, laid in 2011, was 80 kph…
Investigators were trying to find out why the train was going so fast and why security devices to keep speed within permitted limits had not slowed the train…
Spain’s rail safety record is better than the European average, ranking 18th out of 27 countries in terms of railway deaths per kilometers traveled, the European Railway Agency said. There were 218 train accidents in Spain between 2008-2011, well below the EU average of 426 for the same period.
There are no rails to derail from in the air. And no concrete walls to crash into. Air travel requires no infrastructure between terminal points. High-speed rail travel requires a very expensive, a very precise and a highly maintained infrastructure between terminal points. As well as precise controls to keep the train from exceeding safe speeds. Planes do, too. But when you have thousands of feet of nothingness all around you there is time to make adjustments before something catastrophic happens. Like derailing when speeding through a curve too fast.
Air travel is safer than high-speed rail travel. Which is why when a plane crashes it’s big news. Because it happens so rarely these days. Thanks to good aircraft designs. Good pilots. And having thousands of feet of nothingness all around you when flying at speeds close to 950 kph (570 mph). Unlike having a concrete wall just a few feet away from a train traveling at high speeds.
High-speed rail may work in France and Japan. The only two rail lines to pay for themselves are in these countries. But every other passenger rail line in the world needs a government subsidy. Because the costs of a rail infrastructure are just so great. Making high-speed rail more of a source of union jobs than an efficient means of transportation. Which is why they are a fixture in countries with liberal governments. Who subsidize the high cost of these union jobs with taxpayer money. In exchange for votes in the next election.
Tags: air travel, aircraft, airplane, derail, high-speed rail, high-speed rail travel, kinetic energy, plane crashes, rail infrastructure, rail safety, rail travel, railway deaths, Spain, Spanish train, train, velocity
With the Fall of Constantinople to the Ottomans in 1453 Islam spread Unchecked into Christian Lands
Constantine the Great moved the capital of the Roman Empire to a place on the Bosporus. Where the ancient city of Byzantium once sat. Where Asia met Europe. Where the Mediterranean Sea met the Black Sea. And the great rivers beyond. The Danube. Dnieper. And the Don. Constantine named his new city Constantinople. And made it a jewel. With great Christian churches. To celebrate his new conversion to Christianity. Which started following the Battle of the Milvian Bridge. Where on the eve of battle Constantine and his soldiers had a vision of the Christian God. Promising them victory if they placed His symbol on their shields. Which they did. And they won.
Constantine spared no expense in his new city. Which was easy to do because it was a very wealthy city. For the greatest trade routes went through the Bosporus. Which is why when the western half of the Roman Empire fell the eastern half, or the Byzantine Empire, carried on for another thousand years. Give or take. As it thrived on that trade pouring through it. Especially from the Far East. Along the Silk Road. Which peaked during the Byzantine Empire. Bringing the exotic goods of the Far East west. From silk to porcelain to spices. Which flowed unhindered to Christian Europe while the Christians still controlled the Byzantine Empire.
But all good things must come to an end. Thanks to the Seljuk Turks. And the rise of the Ottoman Empire. Islam had united the Arab people. And with the fall of Constantinople to the Ottomans in 1453 Islam spread unchecked into Christian lands. Up through the Balkans into southern Europe. Lands they would contest for time and again. Making for some bitter Christian-Muslim animosity that continues into modern times. But more crucially at the time was the loss of control over that trade from the Far East. Making those goods not as reasonably priced as they once were. Which proved to be quite the problem. As the European Christians had grown quite fond of them. Luckily for them, they could do something about that. Thanks to all of those wars they fought with the Muslims. The Crusades. Which brought back a lot of Greek books of science that were collecting dust in some of the old great Greek cities all around the Mediterranean. Founded during the Hellenistic period. Which came before the Roman Empire. Thanks to a fellow by the name of Alexander the Great. Who spread Greek learning throughout the known world after he conquered it.
Christopher Columbus sailed West to establish Far East Trade without going through Muslim-Controlled Constantinople
From those books the Europeans were able to become better sailors. On ships that could catch the wind and navigate their way great distances. Portugal and Spain led the way. Prince Henry (1394-1460), the Navigator, trained navigators in Portugal. His students pushed further and further down the African coast until Bartholomeu Dias rounded the Cape of Good Hope (1486). Vasco de Gama would round the Cape of Good Hope and sail up the eastern coast of Africa all the way to India (1498). Pedro Álvares Cabral was heading south to round the Cape of Good Hope in (1500). Swung out too far west. And ran into Brazil in South America.
Spain then financed the voyages of Christopher Columbus. Who had read that the earth was round. And wanted to prove it. As well as spread Christianity. Columbus wanted to find a way west to the Far East. Sure it was just beyond the horizon of the Atlantic Ocean. After a voyage longer than his near mutinous crew expected they finally landed on San Salvador Island in the Bahamas (1492). Thinking he found an ocean passage to the Far East. Around the Muslim controlled land route. He would later understand that he had found the New World. Which we would be calling Columbia. Had his dispatches beat a Florentine passenger’s on a Portuguese ship who wrote about what he saw. Amerigo Vespucci. Which is why there is not a North Columbia, a Central Columbia and a South Columbia. Instead, there is a North America, a Central America and a South America.
With Columbus’ success Spain financed others. Vasco Núñez Balboa. Who crossed the Isthmus of Panama and reached the Pacific Ocean (1513). Ferdinand Magellan. Who sailed around South America through the Straits of Magellan and into the Pacific Ocean. Sailing on to the Far East. And back home. Being the first to circumnavigate the globe (1519-1522). Hernán Cortés. Who conquered the brutal Aztec regime in Mexico (1521). Eventually the Spanish would bring great riches of gold and silver back to the Old World. Meanwhile France financed Jacques Cartier in his attempt to find a Northwest Passage to the Pacific. Who sailed up the St. Lawrence River to Montreal (1534). Then Samuel de Champlain founded Quebec (1608). Where they established a lucrative fur trade with the native Indians.
Cultivating Tobacco took Large Tracts of Farmland which required more Laborers that they had in the Colonies
Queen Elizabeth of England financed Walter Raleigh. Who explored the coast of North America (1584). Looking for a place to settle a colony. On a subsequent voyage he brought 100 settlers with him. And settled a colony at Roanoke, North Carolina (1585). Which became the Lost Colony of Roanoke (1591). The Virginia Company of London, a joint-stock company, would have better luck. They raised financing by selling stock shares to investors who would share in any profits of the colony. Christopher Newport led a voyage that established the first permanent English settlement in the New World. At Jamestown (1607).
Though the Americas were not the Far East it was a vast landmass with inexhaustible resources. And endless tracts of fertile soil. The possibilities were endless. The marriage of John Rolfe to Pocahontas (1614) provided an uneasy peace between the settlers and their Indian neighbors. Then Rolfe figured out how to cure tobacco (1612). Something the English began smoking after Columbus observed the Cubans sticking burning rolls of tobacco in a nostril. The English refined smoking with a pipe. And they really enjoyed it. Importing vast quantities from the Spanish colonies in America. Thanks to Rolfe, though, the English could produce their own tobacco. Once they worked out a few problems.
Cultivating tobacco took large tracts of farmland. But to put large tracts of farmland into production you needed laborers. And in 1612 Virginia there just weren’t a lot of colonists living there yet. The demand for labor far outstripped the supply. So they tried to satisfy that demand with indentured servants. Preferably from Europe. Even criminals from English jails. As well as from Africa. Who worked in bondage during their indentures. Then went free. Until around the 1660s. When things changed. Starting in the southern colonies. Where slavery became hereditary. For Africans, at least. Like it was in the Old World. Where peasants and serfs were bonded to the land. Once a slave. Always a slave. And if your parent was a slave so were you. Like it was in ancient Athens. At the end of the Western Roman Empire. And in the Muslim world.
Muslim didn’t only enslave Christians. They also established slave markets with African slave traders. Who opened their markets to the Portuguese, the Spanish, the French and the English. To help them meet that soaring demand for labor during the early days of the New World colonies. When there were so few colonists. Who found their way to the New World in the first place because of the Muslim conquest of Constantinople. Which sent the Europeans to the seas to find a western way to the Far East. And when they did they discovered the New World. Creating the largest market ever for African slaves. And the greatest convulsions in the New World as they struggled to end slavery in the Americas.
Tags: African slaves, America, Bosporus, Byzantine Empire, Cape of Good Hope, Christian, Christianity, Christopher Columbus, colonies, colonists, Columbia, Columbus, Constantine, Constantinople, England, Far East, France, Islam, Mediterranean, Muslim, New World, North America, Old World, Ottoman, Ottoman Empire, Portugal, Roanoke, Rolfe, Roman Empire, slave, slavery, South America, Spain, tobacco, trade, Virginia
Money that is not Scarce is a Poor Temporary Storage of Wealth
They say money doesn’t grow on trees. And it’s a good thing it doesn’t. For money is a temporary storage of wealth. It temporarily stores value. And one if its attributes is that it has to be scarce. For example, let’s say you are a highly skilled tomato grower. And you work in your garden 12 hours each day weeding, fertilizing, watering, tying, pruning, etc., your many fields of tomato plants. Producing beautiful tomatoes that everyone just loves. You love your tomatoes so much that you actually gave up your day job to grow them full time. And support your family with the proceeds from selling your tomatoes. Which you will exchange with others for money. Provided that money is scarce. And will hold the value of your tomatoes. Until you can exchange that money for something you want.
Now let’s assume money grows on trees. Anyone can plant one in their backyard. And it grows like a weed. That is, you don’t have to fertilize it or water it or do anything else for it. And anytime you want something you just walk to your money tree and pick the bills you need. We would never have to work again if we all had money trees in our backyard. Wouldn’t that be great? Or would it? What would happen if everyone quit working because they, too, had a money tree in their backyard? If no one worked then there would be nothing to buy with the money from your money tree.
But there is another problem. If everyone had a money tree there would be such much money in circulation that it would no longer be scarce. And if it’s not scarce it isn’t money. It isn’t a temporary storage of wealth. It won’t temporarily store value. Because someone that has something of value, say delicious tomatoes, won’t want to trade them for something that he or she can just pick off of his own money tree. Instead, he or she would rather trade those tomatoes for something that does have value. Like, say, mozzarella cheese. So a skilled cheese-maker and the skilled tomato-grower can meet to trade things of value with each other. Tomatoes and mozzarella cheese. And then each can make a delicious Caprese salad. Which also has value. Unlike money that grows on trees that anybody can pick whenever they want to. Filling the world with people with lots of money but nothing to buy. Because no one works to grow or make anything.
When Spain brought back New World Gold and Silver it unleashed Inflation in the Old World
For anything to be money it must be scarce. Just think of the laws of supply and demand. If there are droughts all summer long farmers have smaller harvests. Which raises the price of what they bring to market. Because demand is greater than the supply. If there was a great growing season they have bumper crops. Which lowers the price of what they bring to market. Because supply is greater than demand. So the scarcer something is the more valuable it is. And so it is with money.
The main Roman coin was the silver denarius. As the Roman Empire reached its zenith her borders stopped moving out. The Roman legions stopped conquering new lands. And without new conquest there were no spoils to send back to Rome. So the Romans had to raise taxes to pay for the cost of empire. The administration of it. The protection of it. And a growing welfare state to keep the people content. To help with these great expenditures they began to debase the denarius. Mixing more and more lead into the coin. Reducing the silver content. So they could make more coins with the available silver. Thus making these coins less scarce. And less valuable. Unleashing an inflation so bad that it devalued the denarius so much that no amount of them could buy anything. Eventually even the Roman government would refuse to accept it in payment of taxes. Demanding gold instead. Or payment in kind.
When Spain arrived in the New World they found a lot of gold and silver. Which Europeans used as money in the Old World. The Spanish brought so much gold and silver back to the Old World that it greatly expanded the money supply. Making gold and silver less scarce. And less valuable. Requiring more of it to buy the things it once bought. So prices rose. Because of the inflation of the money supply.
The War Reparations the Versailles Treaty imposed on Germany led to their Hyperinflation
During the American Revolution there was little specie (i.e., gold and silver coin) in the colonies. As wars are expensive this made it difficult to finance the war. The Continental Congress asked for contributions from the states. And could only hope the states would give them some money. For they had no taxing powers. But they never were able to raise enough money. So they borrowed what they could. And then started printing paper money. The continental. But they printed so many of them that they were far from scarce. The massive inflation devalued the continental so much that it created the expression “not worth a continental.” Which meant something was absolutely worthless. The people would refuse to accept them as legal tender from the Continental Army because they were worthless pieces of paper. So the army took what they needed from the people. And gave them IOUs that Congress would settle at some later date.
The Germans paid for World War I by borrowing money. The increased debt of the nation during the war devalued the currency. The German mark. It took more and more of them to exchange for stronger currencies. Like the U.S. dollar. The Versailles Treaty that ended the war saddled Germany with the responsibility for the war. And made them pay enormous amounts of war reparations. In gold. Or foreign currency. So the Germans turned up the printing presses. And printed marks like there was no tomorrow. Making them less scarce. And worth less. It took more and more of them to exchange for foreign currency to make their reparation payments. But they didn’t care what the exchange rate was. For whatever amount of devalued marks they needed to exchange they just turned to their printing presses. And printed whatever they needed. This rapid inflation devalued the mark more. Requiring them to print more. Which just fed into the inflation. Eventually bringing on a hyperinflation where it took enormous amounts of marks to buy anything. For example, it was cheaper and easier to burn marks than it was to buy firewood to burn.
Anytime you make money less scarce you make it worth less. The inflation of the money supply devalues the currency. Which raises prices. Because it takes more of the devalued currency to buy what it once did before the inflation. So expanding the money supply leads to price inflation. Good if you’re a rich investor. But if you’re someone just trying to buy firewood to keep from freezing to death during the winter? Not so good. The Romans, the Europeans, the Americans and the Germans all suffered from bad inflation. Some worse than others. If the inflation is so bad, such as in the case of hyperinflation, people may lose all confidence in the currency. And simply stop using it. Going to a barter system instead. Like when a tomato-grower trades his tomatoes for a cheese-maker’s mozzarella cheese.
Tags: American continental, coin, Continental, currency, denarius, devalued, German mark, gold, hyperinflation, inflation, legal tender, Mark, money, money supply, New World, Old World, printing presses, reparation, Roman, Roman denarius, Roman Empire, scarce, silver, Spain, temporarily store value, temporary storage of wealth, value, war reparations
Week in Review
Their Welfare Programs continued to Expand even while their Tax Revenue was Falling
Many of the world’s mature economies are having financial issues. Including chronic deficits, growing debt and skyrocketing spending obligations. The Eurozone has been mired in a sovereign debt crisis for years. The UK is trying to slash billions from their costliest entitlement. The National Health Service. France tried to raise the top marginal tax rate to 75%. Japan is spending twice their GDP and their aging population will require even more spending. And in the United States Democrats and Republicans are getting ready for another round of debt ceiling debates. To raise the debt ceiling once again. To yet another record high.
What causes these problems? A couple of things. A growing welfare state. And falling tax revenue. Not because tax rates are too low. But because they are too high. Creating a business-unfriendly environment. Reducing economic activity. Which reduces tax revenue. They further compound their problems with Keynesian economic policies. Which include massive borrowings to pay for deficit spending. And expanding the money supply. Which devalues the currency. This creates inflation. Further reducing economic activity.
These countries have a spending problem. Their welfare programs continued to expand even while their tax revenue was falling. Often introducing new programs based on the best of economic times with the rosiest projections of continued economic good times. But once a recession hits, and they always do when using Keynesian economic policies, these governments run massive deficits. That said there is a revenue component to their financial problems. Abortion.
An Expanding Welfare State needs an Expanding Population Growth Rate
To increase tax revenue you need to expand the tax base. To get more taxpayers paying taxes. And where do taxpayers come from? Babies. There is no other way to get a taxpayer. Even with immigration. Because those immigrants first have to be born. So the more babies you have the more taxpayers there will be paying taxes. The more abortions you have, though, the fewer taxpayers there will be paying taxes. The following table summarizes population gains and abortions for the years 1970 through 1990 for 12 countries.
Sources: Historic, current and future population of Europe; Abortion statistics and other data;
These dates are important for had these abortions not happened they all would be in the workforce today. Just to get an idea of what that means to tax revenue consider the United States. During these 20 years there were 26.7 million abortions. Assuming a median salary of $50,000 and 33.3% in federal taxes (18% effective federal income tax rate, 12.4% for Social Security taxes and 2.9% for Medicare) that comes to $444 billion in one year. Or $4.44 trillion over ten years. It may not have been enough to pay for the massive new spending of President Obama. But it would have prevented the credit downgrade from S&P. Who were looking for $4 trillion in spending cuts over ten years.
It’s these aborted taxpayers that are pressuring these welfare states. For an expanding welfare state needs an expanding population growth rate. And abortion doesn’t help populations grow. And if the population doesn’t grow then tax revenue doesn’t grow. In fact, if you divide the population gain by the number of abortions you can get a feel of a country’s financial health. And their future health.
A Command Economy cannot Provide for the People like Laissez Faire Capitalism Can
Abortions reduce population gains. So when you divide population gains by the number of abortions the higher the resulting number the better. For higher population gains and fewer abortions mean more tax revenue. The lower the number indicates a high level of abortions that reduces tax revenue.
Spain is one of the countries in trouble in the Eurozone. With a rich Catholic history that frowns on abortion. So it is no surprise to see such a large number when dividing population gains by abortions. But their debt crisis is. For this number indicates a lot of taxpayers. Which Spain has. Yet they have some serious financial problems. Why? Because they also have very high unemployment. Their economic woes began with Keynesian policies keeping interest rates artificially low. Creating a housing bubble. And when it burst it created a very bad recession. So having taxpayers is important. But they also have to have jobs. With some good economic policies (i.e., non-Keynesian policies) Spain should be able to rebound into an economic juggernaut. For if all those taxpayers find employment they can reduce tax rates to very low levels. Which will explode economic activity.
Greece went on a spending binge. Including lavish spending for the 2004 Olympic games. Their problem is a bloated public sector. And a large welfare state. That their private sector can no longer fund. Like Spain Greece may be able to rebound with some sound economic policies (i.e., non-Keynesian policies). A little privatization. And a little weaning from the public teat.
At the other end you have the United Kingdom. Whose abortions exceeded their population gain. Which wasn’t much for 20 years. They are currently going through a baby boom. But it’s this baby dearth from 20-40 years earlier that is depressing tax revenue today. Requiring those spending cuts in the NHS. And higher tax rates on the fewer remaining taxpayers in the workforce. Which, of course, leaves people with less spending money. Further depressing the economy.
China’s economic miracle is not as miraculous as it once was. And their Keynesian policies will catch up to them. As they have with every other country using them. Their authoritarian regime has been able to keep wages down to help their export economy. And they have no social safety net despite a rapidly aging population. Which they will have to take care of. Eventually. Either by expanding the money supply so the government can spend more money. Which will create inflation and hurt economic activity. Or they will have to raise taxes. Which will also hurt economic activity.
China has had 171 million abortions from 1970 to 1990. Which even exceeds the number of deaths in the Great Chinese Famine. Not uncommon in a communist regime. Survival. As their command economy cannot feed or provide for the people like laissez-faire capitalism can. In a command economy those abortions are seen as a good thing. A kind thing. For that’s fewer mouths to feed. Hence China’s one-child policy. While in laissez faire capitalist countries their children have obesity problems. And look at these abortions and see loss tax revenue.
While China is enjoying prosperity in their eastern cities thanks to their export economy fueled by low wages little has changed for the hundreds of millions of peasants in the rural interior spaces. Where famine is still a real concern. Some will cite China as an example of out of control population growth. Like locusts the people will consume all of the available resources. And leave behind a scorched earth. Of course what these people don’t understand is the power of laissez faire capitalism. For across the water from China is Hong Kong. An Island with no natural resources. A barren rock. Yet they were part of the British Empire. They embraced-laissez faire capitalism. And flourished while mainland China suffered under communism. Hong Kong is one of the world’s strongest economies. With some of the greatest population gains. During these 20 years their population grew by 43.67%. The greatest of these 12 countries. While having the lowest number of abortions. Yet despite having this massive population gain and few resources this crowded special administrative region (SAR) of the People’s Republic of China (since 1997) prospers. Suffers no famine. And is one of the best places in the world to live.
Tags: abortion, aging population, babies, command economy, Communist, debt, debt ceiling, deficit, deficit spending, Eurozone, Greece, inflation, Keynesian, Keynesian economic policies, Keynesian policies, population gains, Spain, spending obligations, tax base, tax rates, tax revenue, taxes, taxpayers, welfare state, workforce
The US enjoyed a Booming Economy due to Trade with Great Britain and the Protection of that Trade by Britain’s Royal Navy
In politics there is domestic policy. Where politicians can really make a mess of the nation. And then there’s foreign policy. Where politicians can make an even bigger mess of things. Because nations are not isolated from other nations in the world. And what they say or do can have a great impact on those nations who threatened them. And those nations who peacefully coexist with them. Bad foreign policy can do anything from hurting the economy (by disrupting international trade). To causing war.
America came into being in part due to the treaties they made with the King of France. Louis XVI. Who helped them overthrow their king’s rule. An interesting thing for a king to do. What with Louis being a king himself. And the last thing he wanted was his subjects to overthrow him. Which they would do a decade or so later. As they were inflamed with the spirit of liberty. Thanks to the American Revolution. The very thing that Louis helped the Americans win. Who did so to improve his position against his perpetual enemy. Great Britain. But in the end he lost his own kingdom.
The Franco-American treaties included a perpetual military alliance. Such that if a hostile nation attacked France the U.S. was obligated to help protect the French West Indies. Under a commercial treaty French privateers could use U.S. ports. Meaning that if they captured an enemy ship, say a British ship, they could bring that prize into a U.S. port. Even refitting the ship into another French privateer to go out and attack more British shipping. All sensible and reasonable considering the U.S. was at war with Great Britain at the time they entered those treaties. But the U.S. did not remain in a perpetual state of way with Great Britain. In fact, the U.S. enjoyed a booming economy in part due to trade with Great Britain. And the protection of that trade by Britain’s Royal Navy. The most powerful navy in the world.
The Port of New Orleans was the Gateway for all American Farm Goods West of the Appalachians
So as war clouds loomed over Europe again with the outbreak of the French Revolution these treaties complicated matters for the young nation. She had no navy. Not much of a standing army. And a lot of debt from the last war. Which was not an enjoyable experience having lasted some 8 years before the Treaty of Paris of 1783 officially ended it. Now the nation was enjoying peace and economic growth. And the last thing they wanted was another war. Which was going to be difficult to avoid. And the animosity between Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson didn’t help. As they both wanted the young nation to remain neutral. But they each wanted that neutrality to lean in opposite ways.
In 1790 war loomed between Great Britain and Spain. The Spanish had allied themselves with France in the American Revolution to settle some old scores with Britain. That war did not end as well as they had hoped. As Gibraltar was still British. So there was that. Among other deeply held…differences. When it looked like they would return to war the British in Canada sent an official to meet with the Washington administration. To get permission for the passage of British troops on American territory to attack Spanish Louisiana. Which is where the Mississippi River flowed through to the Port of New Orleans. The gateway for all American farm goods west of the Appalachians.
This was a complex issue. For the Spanish didn’t really like the Americans. Wanting to keep them as far east of the Mississippi river as possible. So on the one hand getting the Spanish out of North America completely might have been a good thing. But replacing the Spanish with the British not so good. Alexander Hamilton wanted to grant the British this passage. In exchange for a guarantee of navigation rights on the Mississippi River. He also wanted to grant them passage as he feared they would take it with or without the American’s permission. And if they did without that permission the Americans would have no choice but to go to war to preserve American honor and her territorial sovereignty. So supporting the British was the only way to save face in the international community without going to war. In the end, though, the British and the Spanish resolved their differences peacefully.
Genêt refitted the British Brigantine Little Sarah into the Commerce Raider Petit Démocrate, Pushing the Americans Closer to War
The British didn’t go to war with the Spanish. But the French and British did in 1793. Which caused a lot of trouble in America. For the American people still hated the British. Despite a lucrative trade with them. A trade protected by their Royal Navy. But that did little to make them forget all those years of war. Or forget the people who helped them win their independence. The French. So when the French Revolution broke out, and the French and the British went to war again, the American people sided with the French. Despite what was happening in Paris. The Terror. And the execution of the king and queen. As far as they were concerned the only good king was a dead king. But that dead king posed a problem for American foreign policy. Those Franco-American treaties were made with that now dead king. And his court. Which no longer existed. So were the Americans still bound by those treaties?
Which brought up an even bigger question. Should the Americans recognize the French Republic? No other nation had. And after the execution of King Louis and Marie Antoinette, it was unlikely any monarchy would. So should the Americans be first? Hamilton said, “No.” While Jefferson said, “Yes.” As far as the Franco-American treaties Hamilton did not want to honor them as that government no longer existed. Jefferson insisted on honoring them as if they were made with the new French Republic. Jefferson also insisted that Washington receive the new French envoy. Citizen Edmond Genêt. Washington ultimately consented to receiving Citizen Genêt. But he also issued his Proclamation of Neutrality. Telling the British and the French that America would remain friendly but impartial to both. Which did not go over well with the French. Or the American people.
Genêt landed in South Carolina. And travelled overland to Philadelphia. Getting a hero’s welcome along the way. Genêt even said that Washington was jealous of him for how the American people loved him more than the president. These actions and remarks did not endear Genêt to the Washington administration. Washington and Hamilton gave him a cool reception. While Jefferson gave him a very warm reception. Telling him he had a friend in the Secretary of State. Genêt demanded an advance on the money America owed France. Hamilton refused. Knowing what he wanted that money for. To pay for the Armée du Mississippi and the Armée des Florides that George Rogers Clarke was putting together for him on paper. To attack the Spanish in Louisiana and in Florida. When Hamilton refused he complained to Jefferson. Saying he was clearly favoring the British Crown over the Franco-American alliance. And even lied. Saying that if he agreed to use that money to contract with Hamilton’s friends he could have it. Further convincing Jefferson of the corruption at the Treasury Department under Hamilton.
As bad as all of that was Genêt was also outfitting privateers that were attacking and capturing British shipping. Worse, he was bringing these prizes back to American ports to sell. Which did not look very neutral to Britain. Who demanded their ships back. And that the Americans close these ports to the French. Which Washington did. For the last thing the Americans wanted was another war with Britain. Chaffing under the American restrictions Genêt refitted the British brigantine Little Sarah into the commerce raider Petit Démocrate. Telling Jefferson he did so by the authority of the Franco-American treaties. And when she set out to sea it captured one British ship after another. Pushing the Americans closer to war with the British. Turning the American people against the French. And the Republican Party. Who had so warmly embraced Citizen Genêt. So that was the end of Genêt. And the Franco-American treaties. The Americans would remain neutral. Even if that neutrality favored the British. Which turned out to be a good thing. As the whole world would be at war with France in a few years. With even the American people demanding to go to war with France. Thankfully, America’s second president, John Adams, was able to keep that from happening.
Tags: Alexander Hamilton, American Revolution, Britain, Citizen Genêt, Edmond Genêt, foreign policy, France, Franco-American treaties, French privateer, French Republic, French Revolution, Genêt, Great Britain, Hamilton, Jefferson, Louis XVI, Mississippi River, neutrality, Petit Démocrate, port of New Orleans, privateers, Proclamation of Neutrality, Royal Navy, Spain, Spanish Louisiana, Thomas Jefferson, Washington
The Americans stuck by the Rule of Law while the French descended into Mob Rule
The American Revolutionary War was pretty brutal at times. Especially on the frontier. And in the civil war in the South. Where Patriot and Loyalist could be rather cruel to one time friends and neighbors. But for the most part both the professional soldiers and politicians practiced restraint. And prosecuted the war by international law. And a code of honor. When the Americans defeated Burgoyne’s army at Saratoga the defeated soldiers did not suffer cruel acts of vengeance. Instead they got rather generous terms of surrender.
When the war was over there were a few flare ups such as Shays’ Rebellion and the Whiskey Rebellion. But these were the exception. Not the rule. The newly independent states had problems. Which they addressed through political debate in Philadelphia. And they drafted a new constitution. This unleashed bitter partisan debate. But only bitter partisan debate. The states ratified the Constitution. And the new nation went forth. It wasn’t quite like this in the French Revolution. Where the streets literally ran with blood.
Jean-Paul Marat, Georges-Jacques Danton and Jacobin Maximillien Robespierre were no Benjamin Franklin, George Washington, Alexander Hamilton, Thomas Jefferson or James Madison. The Americans stuck by the rule of law. While the French descended into mob rule. Where competing mobs rallied around different movements. The Jacobins, the Cordeliers and the Girondins. Who all incited the mobs to violence. Against the ancien régime. The monarchy. And the Church. As well as any counterrevolutionaries. And anyone lacking in revolutionary zeal.
In 1793 French Revolutionaries Guillotined King Louis and Marie Antoinette
The mobs became judge, jury and executioner. The Paris Commune (the revolutionary ruling authority in Paris) sanctioned the mobs. Who could act with impunity. While the people even watched. And cheered. Revolutionaries fell on imprisoned political prisoners. Priests. The Swiss Guards who protected the king. As well as the royal servants and clerics. They forced prisoners to run a gauntlet of revolutionaries armed with swords, knives, pikes, axes and other blunt and sharp instruments. And bludgeoned and hacked them to death as they ran screaming back and forth.
And the violence grew. With torture becoming sport. The level of barbarity reached such levels to include the butchering of women. Including the hacking off of a woman’s breasts. Then setting a bonfire beneath her spread legs. While the people cheered. They brutally killed Princess de Lamballe, consort of Marie Antoinette. Bludgeoned with a hammer, stripped naked, mutilated and dragged through the streets of Paris. Then guillotined. But that wasn’t the end of it. They cut out her heart and roasted it over a fire. Then stuck her bloodied head on a pike. Took it to a hair salon to fix her hair. Then returned it to the pike. As they impaled her naked body on another pike. Her crime? She refused to denounce her king and queen.
In 1793 they guillotined King Louis. The executioner held up his severed head and the people cheered. Later that year they guillotined Marie Antoinette. The executioner held up her severed head and the people cheered. And the processions to the guillotine increased. Enemies of the revolution. People falsely accused of being enemies of the revolution. And a lot of Girondins. Who the Jacobins condemned. And guillotined. Then the people condemned the Jacobins. And guillotined them. They even condemned American Patriot Thomas Paine (who was in Paris and even helped write one of the revolutionary constitutions—unfortunately for him it was with the Girondins) to the guillotine. But he would escape the guillotine and return to America. They even imprisoned George Washington’s ‘adopted’ son, the Marquis de La Fayette. Who fought with him throughout the American Revolution. But he, too, survived. Though he would languish in a prison for some 5 years.
When Genêt arrived in Philadelphia Washington greeted him with Portraits of King Louis and Marie Antoinette conspicuously behind Him
The events in France would reverberate across the Atlantic. And further divide an already divided Washington administration. As the French Revolution escalated the Americans were negotiating the Jay Treaty to resolve some issues left over from the Revolutionary War. The end result was that the British and the new United States of America moved closer together. Which really offended the pro-French elements in the Washington administration. In particular Jefferson and Madison. While inflaming the French. For following the Reign of Terror the French exported their revolution throughout Europe. And soon were at war with the old European monarchies. Including Great Britain. Again.
Interestingly, neither Jefferson nor Madison fought in the Revolution. While Alexander Hamilton and George Washington did. And yet they were for closer ties to Britain and not revolutionary France. Why? America’s future depended on trade. Most of that trade was with Great Britain. And that trade enjoyed the protection of the world’s most powerful navy. The Royal Navy. It was the pragmatic choice. Jefferson, though, thought it showed Hamilton’s true colors. That he was an aristocrat who wanted to turn America into a monarchy like Britain. That he wanted power for himself. Not individual liberty. As exemplified in the American republic. And in the republic the French were fighting for. The French believed so strongly in liberty that they turned to world conquest. Bringing that liberty to oppressed people everywhere. Which Jefferson liked. He saw a republican revolution sweeping the world, leaving a swath of liberty in its wake. Others saw mob rule in France and the execution of a king and queen. Which absolutely appalled Washington.
George Washington issued a Proclamation of Neutrality in these new European wars. Which meant they weren’t going to help their one time ally. France. Which irked Jefferson. Then came the Jay Treaty. Further irking Jefferson. And the American people. For the people were clearly behind the French. And did not like the British at all. Which made President Washington a very unpopular president at the time. Then the French sent over Edmond-Charles Genêt. Citizen Genêt. The new French ambassador to the United States. And he was on a mission. To get American support for their wars against Spain and Great Britain. Something Jefferson was eager to support. He communicated with Genêt. Who assured Genêt that the Franco-American alliance would persevere. Despite any proclamation or treaty. He looked forward to his arrival in Philadelphia. But he didn’t go to Philadelphia to meet President Washington. He went to South Carolina first. Where he recruited American privateers to join the French on their attacks on British shipping. And tried to raise armies to attack Spanish Florida and Louisiana. And eventually the British in North America as well. When word of these activities reached Washington he was furious.
When Genêt finally arrived in Philadelphia Washington greeted him with portraits of King Louis and Marie Antoinette conspicuously behind him. The king that was America’s staunchest ally during the American Revolution. And the king the French had recently executed. Genêt asked Washington to suspend their neutrality. The answer was no. Even Jefferson agreed and told the French ambassador he was out of line. Actually joining Hamilton on this one issue. Soon the Jacobins back in France issued an arrest warrant for Citizen Genêt and asked him to return to France. Knowing that meant a trip to the guillotine he asked Washington for asylum. That Washington granted on the advice of Hamilton. Thus ending the Genêt affair. But the French Revolution still threatened the young American republic. First by an overwhelming public sentiment to stand by France. Then by overwhelming public sentiment to go to war against France. Something that would threaten to tear apart the next presidential administration.
Tags: Alexander Hamilton, American Revolution, British, Citizen Genêt, Constitution, France, French, French Revolution, George Washington, Girondins, Great Britain, guillotine, Hamilton, Jacobins, Jay Treaty, Jefferson, King Louis, liberty, Mob rule, mobs, Paris, Proclamation of Neutrality, Reign of Terror, revolutionaries, Revolutionary War, Spain, Thomas Jefferson
After Winning their Independence from Great Britain the Common Enemy was no more Leaving them Little Reason to Unite
The South lost the American Civil War for a few reasons. Perhaps the greatest was the North’s industrial superiority. Her industry could make whatever they needed to wage war. While the South suffered behind the Union’s blockade. Unable to trade their cotton for the means to wage war. And then there was the fact that the North was united. While the states’ rights issue that they were fighting for prevented the South from being united. The southern states (whose governments were dominated by the planter elite) did not like the federal government in Washington (except when they forced northern states to return southern slaves). And as it turned out the states didn’t like the federal government in Richmond any better. They fought Jefferson Davis from consolidating his power. They put the states’ interests ahead of the national interest. Such as winning a war to secure their states’ rights. And any supplies a state had they wouldn’t share them with another state. Even if they had a warehouse full of surplus shoes while troops from another states fought barefoot.
So the North won the American Civil War because they were united. They had an advanced economy based on free market capitalism and free labor. And they were wealthy. Basically because of the prior two statements. But it wasn’t always like this. The United States of America is a large country. Even before it was a country. When it was only a confederation of sovereign states. With independent republican governments. Still it covered great tracts of land. Allowing the states to keep to themselves. Much like it would be some 75 years later in the South.
After winning their independence from Great Britain the common enemy was no more. And they had little reason to unite. Which they didn’t. For the several states included a lot of disparate people. Who agreed on little with the people beyond their state’s borders. Which was one of the criticisms of republican government (i.e., an elected representative government). And one held by perhaps the greatest influence on the Framers of the Constitution. French philosopher Charles de Montesquieu. Who believed that the larger the geographic size the more dissimilar the people’s interest. And therefore making republican government more difficult. As it was too difficult to arrive at a consensus with such a large electorate. Which James Madison disagreed with, making this a heated topic during the Constitutional Convention and the ratification process. But before that convention it would appear to be incontrovertible. The United States were anything but united.
The Americans defeated one Distant Central Power and were none too keen on Answering to a New Central Power
The first American identity appeared in the Continental Army. Where soldiers came from different states and fought together as Americans. General Washington fostered this spirit. Forbidding any anti-Catholic displays. One thing that all the Protestant American colonists enjoyed. No matter which state they came from. But to fight the British Empire they needed a large army drawn from all the states. And to get the French Canadians living in British Canada to join them they needed to embrace religious freedom. Even for Catholics. Which was even more important if they had any chance of getting support from the most likely foreign power. The eternal enemy of Britain. Catholic France. Washington, as well as those who served in the Continental Army, understood the success of their cause required less infighting and more uniting. That it was imperative to set aside their sectional interests. Only then could the new nation join the world of nations. Strong and independent. And avoid the European nations pulling them into their intrigues.
But of course that wasn’t going to happen. After the war no one called themselves American. Except for a few. Like Washington. And some other veterans of the Continental Army. No. The country people belonged to was their state. Thomas Jefferson, the author of the Declaration of Independence, called Virginia his country. As did most if not all of the Patriots of ’76. The war was over. They defeated the distant central power. And they were none too keen on a new central power to answer to. Even if it was on their side of the Atlantic. To these Revolutionary Patriots the Continental Congress was just another foreign legislature trying to infringe on their sovereignty.
The national congress had no power. Delegates didn’t always show up leaving the congress without a quorum. Which didn’t matter much as they couldn’t pass anything when they had a quorum. For any legislation they wanted to pass into law required a unanimous vote of all thirteen states. Which rarely happened. They couldn’t levy taxes. Which meant they couldn’t fund an army or navy to protect their states from foreign aggressors. Or protect their international trade on the high seas. Which was a problem as the British no longer provided these services. And they couldn’t repay any of their debts. Their prewar debt owed to a lot of British creditors (which they had to repay according to the treaty that ended the war and gave them their independence). Or their war debt. States owed other states. And the Congress owed foreign creditors in Europe. Especially their war-time ally. France. Who they owed a fortune to. The states charged duties and tariffs on interstate commerce. They made their own treaties with the Indians. Some states defaulted on the debt they owed to out of state creditors. States even fought each other over land. The Untied States were anything but united. And it showed.
The Delegates of the Continental Congress agreed to meet in Philadelphia in 1787 to revise the Articles of Confederation
Europe watched the Americans with amusement and contempt. The Americans didn’t get much respect from Catherine the Great, tsarina of Russia. The ruler of the world’s largest country viewed the Americans as a bit uppity and not worthy to join the European courts. Besides, she was more interested in expanding her powers into Turkey. And into Poland. Who caught some of that spirit of liberty from the Americans. That Catherine wanted to squelch. Making her less of an America fan. But it wasn’t only Russia. The Barbary pirates were targeting American shipping in the Mediterranean. Selling their crews to the slave markets of North Africa. Western settlers using the Mississippi River to ship their produce were denied passage through the Port of New Orleans by Spain. The British refused to vacate their forts in the Northwest. Even worked with the Indians to cause some mischief in the borderlands. Why did the Europeans do these things? Because they could. For the Americans could not stop them.
To make matters worse the Americans were drifting towards civil war. The northern provinces were talking about leaving the confederation and forming their own. The North feared the South would do the same. Even aligning itself more with Europe than the American states. Meanwhile the economy was tanking. Trade was down. People were out of work. Farmers were unable to pay their debts. Even losing their farms. In western Massachusetts Daniel Shays gathered together disgruntled veterans and rebelled. Again. Only this time it wasn’t against the British. It was against the legal authorities in Massachusetts. Shays Rebellion spread to other states. And grew violent. Massachusetts asked the Continental Congress for help. And the Congress asked the states for $530,000 to raise an army to put down the rebellion. Twelve of the thirteen states said “no.”
With no other choice Massachusetts went to rich people for funding. Used it to raise a militia of some 4,400 men. In time and after some bloody fighting they put down this rebellion. But some of the rebels continued a guerilla war. Making many in the new United States live in fear. Washington, despondent of what was happening to the republic he had fought for so long to secure, pleaded, “Let us look to our national character and to things beyond the present moment.” And so they did. The delegates of the Continental Congress agreed to meet in Philadelphia in 1787. To revise the Articles of Confederation. To reign in the chaos. To get their finances in order. And to gain the respect of the world of nations. But to do that would require s stronger central government. And that is exactly what emerged from Philadelphia. So they did what the Confederates did not do nearly 75 years later. Which is the reason why they lost the American Civil War. Because of an ideal. States’ rights. That was so absolute that it weakened the Confederacy to the point she could not survive. Something the Miracle of Philadelphia prevented in 1787. Which left the states sovereign. And the new federal government only governed that which extended beyond the states’ borders. And it worked well. For some 75 years. When it hit a road bump.
Tags: 1787, American, American Civil War, American identity, Barbary pirates, Britain, British, British Empire, central power, Civil War, Constitutional Convention, Continental Army, Continental Congress, creditors, debt, distant central power, federal government, France, General Washington, Great Britain, interstate commerce, Massachusetts, Miracle of Philadelphia, North, Philadelphia, republican government, Russia, Shays Rebellion, South, Spain, states' rights, Washington
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