Archive for the ‘History’ Tag

American Guilds   Leave a comment

When I did my series on the Medieval period a while back, I ran across some articles that were critical of capitalism and advocated for a return to the guild system that operated during the Middle Ages. I found it interesting because the commentators were from both the right and the left. Under this system, each occupation had its own guild and all employees and employers belonged to that guild. The guild regulated business particulars like prices, wages, hours of operation, and product quality. It prevented shops from underselling one another and encouraged cooperation over competition. The result was occupational stability. Everybody had a niche in a given line of work.

Image result for image of a guildThe guild system seems superficially plausible, so it seems attractive to some minds. But, remember, I’m a fan of Bastiat, so I have taken to running every economic proposal through the “seen and unseen” filter.

Consider how a guild system must work in practice. For a guild to work properly, certain people who wish to enter a particular trade are denied entry. If a particular guild happened to have a relatively liberal policy of admitting new producers to its craft, it would insist on a minimum price for all goods sold under the guild’s auspices and/or it would limit the amount of the good that any given master was permitted to produce. Whichever of these three control options (high barriers to entry, fixed minimum prices or fixed production quotas) are employed, the outcome results in higher prices and less production than if free entry into the profession, a free-price system, and unrestricted production were allowed.

Aspects of the guild system have existed in our economy in the past and some continue today, with clearly destructive consequences. Perhaps the most obvious example was the National Recovery Administration, established by the New Deal’s National Industrial Recovery Act in 1933. President Roosevelt believed that business competition had to be restricted in order to tame the alleged problem of “overproduction” and to spread among as many firms as possible what consumer demand existed.

I won’t attempt to explain FDR’s economic reasoning. Biographer John T. Flynn noted that “it is entirely possible that no one knew less about that subject than Roosevelt.” (The Roosevelt Myth, c. 1948 [1998] page 116). Roosevelt’s belief in economic fallacies had terrible consequences. The President’s faulty grasp of what caused the Depression led him to introduce a system similar in operation to the old guild structure, with the explicit intention of reducing competition. FDR borrowed heavily from a system established by Mussolini, by the way.

Under the NRA, each industry was “invited” to establish a production code. This code would set minimum wages, minimum prices, and a variety of other regulations to be observed by the firms in that industry. Note that the code established minimum prices. All sellers would have to sell their products for at least the prescribed minimum. This dramatically reduced intensity of economic competition, since with an established minimum price in effect it was not really possible to undersell one’s competitors.

The great New York Times editorial writer Henry Hazlitt had no illusions about the NRA:

[T]he American consumer is to become the victim of a series of trades and industries which, in the name of “fair competition,” will be in effect monopolies, consisting of units that agree not to make too serious an effort to undersell each other; restricting production, fixing prices—doing everything, in fact, that monopolies are formed to do. . . . Instead of a relatively flexible system with some power of adjustment to fluid world economic conditions we shall have an inadjustable structure constantly attempting—at the cost of stagnant business and employment—to resist these conditions.2

You hear this a lot on social media these days. “Businesses shouldn’t compete. They should cooperate.” It’s held up as some sort of ideal economic arrangement. The NRA gave the force of law to producers’ collusion with regard to minimum prices and wages, hours of operation, amount of output, and still other factors, thereby eliminating competition among producers in exactly the same way the guild system did.

The NRA was a complete disaster in practice. First, although such a system would indeed raise prices, such an outcome obviously defeated the program’s other aim of increasing wages, since a rise in prices must reduce the real value of wages. Increases in prices reduce what wages can buy, so at best increased wages keep even with increased prices, so really aren’t an increase. Second, the program produced such an outcry among sensible people that the U.S. Senate finally managed to force FDR into appointing a commission to investigate the NRA. Its report, issued in 1934, described the agency as “harmful, monopolistic, oppressive, grotesque, invasive, fictitious, ghastly, anomalous, preposterous, irresponsible, savage, wolfish.”3  The act establishing it was declared unconstitutional the following year.

The NRA has been gone for a long time, but a great deal of the guild mentality remains in the U.S. economy. We can observe it in the behavior of such organizations as the American Medical Association, the American Bar Association, and others. These organizations lobby the government to institute stiff requirements to acquire a license to practice, and then places obstacles in the path of anyone else who might want to provide medical, legal, or other services. Milton Friedman suggests what is often really at work in such agitation:

The justification offered is always the same: to protect the consumer. However, the reason is demonstrated by observing who lobbies at the state legislature for the imposition or strengthening of licensure. The lobbyists are invariably representatives of the occupation in question rather than of the customers. True enough, plumbers presumably know better than anyone else what their customers need to be protected against. However, it is hard to regard altruistic concern for their customers as the primary motive behind their determined efforts to get legal power to decide who may be a plumber. (Milton and Rose Friedman, 1979, “Free to Choose: A Personal Statement”, Page 229)

The American Medical Association serves to reduce the number of people who can practice medicine, and thereby increases the cost of medical treatment beyond what it would be in a competitive market. According to Clark Havighurst, Duke University Professor of Law, “Professional licensure laws have long made the provision of most personal health services the exclusive province of physicians. Obviously, such regulation limits consumers’ options by forcing them to use highly trained, expensive personnel when other types might serve quite well.”6

Consider Friedman’s description of the guild’s operations:

One effect of restricting entry into occupations through licensure is to create new disciplines: in medicine, osteopathy and chiropractic are examples. Each of these, in turn, has resorted to licensure to try to restrict its numbers. The AMA has engaged in extensive litigation charging chiropractors and osteopaths with the unlicensed practice of medicine, in an attempt to restrict them to as narrow an area as possible. Chiropractors and osteopaths in turn charge other practitioners with the unlicensed practice of chiropractic and osteopathy.7

Yes, I’m sure most members of the AMA believe that such requirements work to the consumer’s benefit by protecting us from substandard medical care, but truthfully, this highlights how interest groups subconsciously conflate their own interests with those of society as a whole. Mancur Olson cautions people to “note that the examinations are almost always imposed only on entrants. If the limits [on entry into the field] were mainly motivated by the interest of patients, older physicians would also be required to pass periodic qualifying examinations to demonstrate that they have kept their medical knowledge up to date.”8 The fact is, studies find that non-physician providers of medical care, such as midwives, nurses, and chiropractors, “can perform many health and medical services traditionally performed by physicians—with comparable health outcomes, lower costs, and high patient satisfaction.”9

Government regulations on the chiropractic profession, lay midwifery, and on the freedom of nurse practitioners to offer services within their competence, all of which make perfect sense from the point of view of the medical guild that lobbied for them, often make no sense at all from the point of view of consumer wishes or from economic considerations. For example, studies have shown that lay midwives have a much lower mother-infant death rate and a substantially lower delivery complication rate than doctors or nurse-midwives, but they remain outlawed in many states. In many cases, non-physician medical professionals can provide health services far more cheaply than can licensed physicians, but consumers are prevented from making their own decisions regarding their medical care. We shouldn’t be surprised to find that the AMA has put so much effort into undermining its professional opposition.

But if the government doesn’t do it, who will keep us safe from unqualified people practicing medicine? Economist George Reisman explains:

[T]he members of the various state medical licensing boards around the country could constitute themselves into private certification agencies and give or withhold their seal of approval to individual medical practitioners on any basis they wished. They would simply lack the power to make the absence of their particular seal of approval the basis of fining or imprisoning anyone who chose to practice medicine without it. The consumers of medical care, who presently retain the right to judge the qualifications of the state governors and legislators who are responsible for the appointment of the members of the medical licensing boards, would decide for themselves the value of certification by this or that organization. . . . Indeed, if ordinary men and women are to be allowed to vote in elections in which their votes ultimately determine the most complex matters of foreign and domestic policy, and thus where their decisions affect not only their own lives and those of their immediate families but also the lives of everyone else in the country, then surely they are entitled to the responsibility of determining matters pertaining exclusively to their own well-being.10

Reisman further observes that if government regulations allowed only automobiles less than five years old on the roads, there would certainly be an overall increase in the quality of automobiles on the roads. But a great many perfectly serviceable automobiles would thereby become unavailable for use at all. The main victims of such a policy would be the poor.11

The legal profession in the United States is also akin to a guild (or could be called a cartel).  Everyone knows that legal services are expensive, but few realize that the barriers to entry erected by what is in effect a lawyers’ guild bear much of the responsibility for that expense. Thanks to the lobbying of bar associations, the only people who may enter the legal profession are those who possess a license from the state, which is available only to those able to afford the extraordinarily costly path of law school and the bar exam. The outcome is the desired one: fewer lawyers, and therefore higher fees.

As with the medical profession, where costs could be dramatically reduced by allowing medical personnel below the rank of physician to perform routine work, paralegals are more than capable of performing a variety of legal tasks that the guild currently reserves for lawyers only. That means people wind up paying a lot more for basic legal services. In 1987, the chairman of the Legal Services Corporation, W. Clark Durant, made an extraordinary address to the American Bar Association in which he suggested that his agency be abolished and that all barriers to competition in the market be removed. One day later, the president of the ABA was calling for Durant’s resignation.

One paralegal in Portland, Oregon, decided that enough was enough. Robin Smith, who worked for several years in a large law office, had grown tired of lawyers charging exorbitant fees that their clients could barely afford, all for work that she herself had done. She opened her own business, People’s Paralegal, Inc., where she and her colleagues offered basic legal services, such as the drafting of common legal documents, at lower prices. Not surprisingly, the guild went into action. People’s Paralegal found itself on the receiving end of a lawsuit by the Oregon State Bar, accusing the firm of violating Oregon’s prohibition on the “unauthorized practice of law.” People’s Paralegal was shut down, and ordered to pay the legal fees incurred by the Oregon State Bar when litigating them out of business!

The guild mentality results in a privileged few reaping abnormally high salaries while the vast majority are made poorer by higher fees. Should anyone attempt to give consumers an alternative to this kind of exploitation, the guild springs into action to quash the challenge. An entire society organized along these lines is scarcely conceivable, but that is what the guild system amounts to.

Lesser examples abound. During the 1990s, 15-year-old Monique Landers of Kansas opened her own African hair-braiding business. Upon returning from a visit to New York, where she was honored as one of five outstanding high school entrepreneurs, she was informed that the state licensing board of Kansas was shutting her down. No customers had complained, but the guild mentality of already existing establishments didn’t like her competing with them. She was told that she could stay in business if she spent a year at a licensed cosmetology school, but few of them teach the particular skill she already possessed, and none of them would admit her prior to her seventeenth birthday. “The Board won’t let me earn my own money, and won’t let kids like me learn to take care of ourselves,” she said. “I think owning your own business is a way of being free.”15

In The State Against Blacks, Walter Williams provides a lengthy catalog of occupational licensure laws and other barriers whose effect is to place overwhelming obstacles in front of those who wish to enter an industry.

For example, to operate a taxi in New York City, a potential driver needs a medallion from the city, which costs hundreds of thousands of dollars. It is impossible to measure how many jobs are destroyed by this kind of behavior, but we can get a sense of how much higher taxi fares are now that Uber is competing with taxis in some markets.

Agriculture provides perhaps the most disgraceful example of what the guild mentality wrought in reality. The federal government’s assistance to farmers has often amounted to encouraging them to destroy (or not plant in the first place) huge stocks of crops, in order to increase their selling prices. This is what a guild would do, though the guild would more likely keep supplies down and prices up by allowing fewer people entry into the guild in the first place, and/or requiring existing guild members to adhere to a production quota. Government is a substantially less far-sighted than guides were.

The costs and consequences of such an antisocial policy are staggering, and are all the more insidious because the beneficiaries of these policies are clear and visible, while the victims are dispersed and largely unaware that an organized cabal is taking advantage of them. Right, that sounds like Henry Hazlitt’s “Economics in One Lesson”, where he stressed the need to assess the outcome of a given policy — to be aware of the long-term consequences for all groups rather than the short-term gains of one group. How many Americans realize that the price they have to pay for sugar and all foods containing sugar as an ingredient is much higher than necessary as a result of a government program?

For most of the 20th century, the price of sugar to Americans was 500% higher than the world price, thanks to government price supports.17  Sugar producers receive an average of $235,000 a year from the policy, but it costs consumers well over $3 billion per year, and it puts all American industries that use sugar at a competitive disadvantage to foreign producers who are not forced to pay such an inflated price for sugar.18  This latter point is always overlooked by opponents of free trade, who in their zeal to protect jobs in Industry X from foreign competition neglect altogether the destructive effects that their preferential policy for Industry X has for Industries A, B, and C that use X as an input in the production of their own products. Job losses in those industries will rarely be attributed to the tariff or other privileges shown to Industry X. Meanwhile, the government can point with pride to the jobs it has “saved.”

What is seen and what is not seen.

Since 1937, as much as 40% of all oranges grown annually in the U.S. have, by law, been destroyed, fed to livestock, or exported in order to raise domestic prices. Think about that the next time you wince at the price of oranges at the grocery store.

Quotas on peanuts effectively double the price of peanuts and peanut butter.

Every dairy cow in America is subsidized to the tune of $700 per year.

All this inefficiency and destruction of wealth impoverishes society as a whole, and hurts  the poor the most. We will never know the full cost of these policies, since many of their costs include jobs never created and businesses never started.

Still, is this really how we’d like our entire economy to be run?

All of these examples of genuine exploitation amount to one of many reasons that free-market economists hold the beliefs that they do. The greater the scope of state activity, the greater the potential for each pressure group to use the state apparatus for its own enrichment, at the expense of the rest of society. Since the benefits that accrue to such pressure groups from their political agitation are sizable and concentrated, while their costs are dispersed and hidden, the tendency over time is for more and more of this kind of activity to go on at the expense of the ordinary person.

Since guilds operate to restrict competition and price cutting, we must expect that the monopoly power of the guilds will have consequences analogous to those of the government favoritism we have just examined. Through a variety of methods, the federal government has granted special privileges to certain industries. In one way or another, these privileges dramatically limit competition, just as the guild system did and would.

Posted June 24, 2017 by aurorawatcherak in economics, Uncategorized

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Trump Gets It Half Right   Leave a comment

Yeah, Donald Trump is no history scholar. In fact, he probably isn’t much of a history buff. We actually read history books.

In an interview that aired Monday May 1 with Salena Zito, he wondered aloud if better leadership could have prevented the Civil War.

Trump thought that Andrew Jackson would have prevailed in a showdown between the North and the South. After all, he did it before in the 1830s. Trump then said this:

He [Jackson] was really angry that he saw what was happening with regard to the Civil War, he said, ‘There’s no reason for this.’

Trump followed up by violating all that is sacred in American religion – he questioned if the Civil war was necessary. The horror!

Image result for image of abe lincoln as a warmongerThe leftist media immediately pounced, openly mocking Trump for believing that Andrew Jackson was alive in 1861. He died about 15 years before. Social media trolls ran post after post criticizing Trump’s “revisionist” history, lambasting him for not knowing when Jackson was alive, or that he dared to buck modern historical interpretation.

Leftist reporter for The Atlantic David Graham published a piece titled “Trump’s Peculiar Understanding of the Civil War” in which he made a number of kind of peculiar claims himself. Graham suggested:

  1. “nullification” is unconstitutional because the federal courts say so.
  2. “The Civil War was fought over slavery, and the insistence of Southern states that they be allowed to keep it.”
  3. The Civil War wasn’t tragic because Ta-Nehisi Coates said so in 2011.
  4. War was inevitable because of the “Confederate states’ commitment to slavery.”
  5. If Trump had read great history like Doris Kearns Goodwin’s Lincoln biography Team of Rivals, he would have a different position on the War—which is really pretty hysterical.

Graham also Graham insisted that Trump can’t be blamed for being such a historical ignoramus because even though he attended great schools, “many Americans are still taught, incorrectly, that the war was essentially a conflict over state’s rights, with abolition as a byproduct of the war. This revisionist view flourished after the war, and though gradually being displaced, is common across the country.”

I found that sort of interesting, that a modern day revisionist would call traditional history revisionism.

The Atlantic followed up with Yoni Applebaum’s “Why There Was a Civil War,” which berated Trump for suggesting the Civil War might have been avoided. To Applebaum, the question of the War begins and ends with slavery and nothing but slavery. He provided one quote from Lincoln to prove his point and, as most shallow Lincoln apologists do today, several quotes from the Southern States’ declaration of causes that seem to prove unequivocally that slavery and only slavery led to the War.

He applied a theory of moral causation to the War that the vast majority of Americans missed when the question of war or peace was still on the table in 1860 and 1861.

“There are some conflicts,” he wrote, “that a leader cannot suppress, no matter how strong he may be; some deals that should not be struck, no matter how alluring they may seem. This was the great moral truth on which the Republican Party was founded.”

I encountered this theory once back in college, but evidence to the contrary persuaded me to give the whole era a different look.

Trump’s reverence for Jackson is concerning, not the least because it offends my Indian DNA. I don’t go so far as to refuse to spend $20 bills because his image is on it … that’s just weird and inconvenient, my tribal brethren … but I don’t exactly love Jackson either. Yes, he supported Henry Clay’s death with South Carolina in 1832, which allowed South Carolina to nullify the Force Bill. That’s something we often ignore. Nullification worked in 1832 and, contrary to Graham’s ill-informed suggestion, the federal court system has never had the final say on the constitutionality of nullification. That was always the point, actually. States don’t ask permission from the federal courts to nullify unconstitutional legislation. Every proponent of the Constitution, including staunch unionists Alexander Hamilton and James Wilson, swore in 1787 and 1788 that laws contrary to the Constitution could be voided by the States.

My main issue is with the idea that the Civil War was inevitable because of the moral conflict of slavery. The entire history of America up to the Civil War was built on compromise, and there were ongoing discussions of Constitutional amendments in Congress. Moreover, there was no irrepressible moral conflict until the North  fabricated one.

 

The South was willing to compromise in 1860 and 1861, as it had been for the 80 years prior. Jefferson Davis insisted that any compromise placed before the special Committee of 13 established to handle the crisis needed the support of both Republican and Democratic members. He could get the Democrats to support several, but the Republicans, led by president-elect Lincoln, voted down every single one.

Lincoln, while not yet sworn in, refused compromise, which led six other Southern States out of the Union in early 1861. Lincoln could still have saved the Union through compromise at this juncture, but chose not to do so. The Union still existed even with seven States missing. The government, banking houses, and infrastructure remained. It seems that the “Confederate States insistence on slavery” had nothing to do with War. War and secession are separate issues. Secession didn’t mean war was inevitable. Most Americans hoped otherwise, even in the South where President Davis insisted that the South simply wanted to be left alone. The South was acting very much like the American colonies had acted in 1776 and the North was playing the role of the British crown.

There were also still six other slave States in the Union as late as April 186. Over a month after Lincoln took office, six slave States that had already rejected secession. There’s no evidence Lincoln was worried about slavery at this point. He supported a proposed 13th amendment which would have protected slavery indefinitely in the States where it already existed. He promised never to interfere with the institution in the South. Lincoln’s objective in March 1861 was to “preserve the Union” at all costs, and by “preserving the Union” Lincoln meant preserving the Republican Party and his fledgling administration. He had received less than 40% of the popular vote in 1860. Letting the South go would have certainly made him a one-term president, which might well have killed the newly-minted Republican Party.

Yes, letting the South go would have ensured the existence of slavery within the Union for the near future, but its days were numbered. Every other power abolished slavery by 1880. Still this was not a moral question for most Americans. Lincoln received thunderous applause across the North in 1860 when he made campaign promises to leave the institution alone. Racism was an American institution and Lincoln never challenged the prevailing attitudes on blacks. He agreed with them. The Republican Party’s objective was always political. Bottle the South up, ensure that the Whig economic agenda could be ascendant, and control the spoils. They never dabbled in moral issues.

The tragedy of the Civil War was that more than a million men died for a conflict that was unnecessary. The elimination of slavery was merely an afterthought to Lincoln. He wanted war. He had the chance to save the Union without war before he took office. He refused it. He had the chance to save the Union without war in March 1861. He rejected attempts by the South to peacefully purchase Fort Sumter and began polling his cabinet about provisioning Sumter less than a week after taking office, knowing full well it would cause war. As he later told a political ally, his decision to provision Fort Sumter had the desired outcome, meaning armed conflict. Nothing can sugarcoat Lincoln’s head-long rush into the bloodiest war in American history.

So, though he is certainly no historian, Trump may have been on to something here. Better leadership could have avoided the carnage. Ooo, I just committed American sacrilege.

But who cares. No one really reads The Atlantic anymore, anyway.

Posted June 20, 2017 by aurorawatcherak in History, Uncategorized

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Endless Atrocities   2 comments

By Robert Barsocchini
Washington’s Blog

Paul Atwood, a Senior Lecturer in American Studies at the University of Massachusetts Boston, provides a concise summary of the history that informs North Korea’s “relations with the United States” and “drives its determination never to submit to any American diktat”.

Image result for image of north koreaExcerpts from Atwood’s summary are here used as a framework, with other sources where indicated.

Atwood notes it is an American “myth” that the “North Korean Army suddenly attacked without warning, overwhelming surprised ROK defenders.”  In fact, the North/South border “had been progressively militarized and there had been numerous cross border incursions by both sides going back to 1949.”

Part of what made the US’s ultimate destruction of Korea (which involved essentially a colossal version of one of the cross-border incursions) “inevitable” was the goal of US planners to access or control “global… resources, markets and cheaper labor power”.

In its full invasion of the North, the US acted under the banner of the United Nations.  However, the UN at that time was “largely under the control of the United States”, and as Professor Carl Boggs (PhD political science, UC Berkeley) puts it, essentially was the United States. (28)   While it is still today the world’s most powerful military empire, the US was then at the peak of its global dominance – the most concentrated power-center in world history.  Almost all allies and enemies had been destroyed in World War II while the US experienced just over 400,000 overall war-related deaths after declarations and/or acts of war by Japan and Germany, whereas Russia, for example, lost tens of millions fending off the Nazi invasion.  Boggs further notes that as the UN gradually democratized, US capacity to dictate UN policy waned, with the US soon becoming the world leader in UN vetoes. (154)

In South Korea, “tens of thousands” of “guerrillas who had originated in peoples’ committees” in the South “fought the Americans and the ROK” (Republic of Korea), the Southern dictatorship set up by the US.  Before hot war broke out, the ROK military “over mere weeks” summarily executed some 100,000 to 1 million (74) (S. Brian Wilson puts the figure at 800,000) guerillas and peasant civilians, many of whom the dictatorship lured into camps with the promise of food.  This was done with US knowledge and sometimes under direct US supervision, according to historian Kim Dong-choon and others (see Wilson above for more sources).  The orders for the executions “undoubtedly came from the top”, which was dictator Syngman Rhee, the “US-installed” puppet, and the US itself, which “controlled South Korea’s military.”  After the war, the US helped try to cover up these executions, an effort that largely succeeded until the 1990s.

At a point in the war when the US was on the verge of defeat, General Douglas MacArthur “announced that he saw unique opportunities for the deployment of atomic weapons. This call was taken up by many in Congress.”  Truman rejected this idea and instead “authorized MacArthur to conduct the famous landings at Inchon in September 1950”, which “threw North Korean troops into disarray and MacArthur began pushing them back across the 38th Parallel”, the line the US had “arbitrarily” drawn to artificially divide Korea, where there was “overwhelming support for unification” among the country’s population as a whole.  The US then violated its own artificial border and pushed into the North.

China warned the US it would not sit by while the its neighbor was invaded (China itself also feared being invaded), but MacArthur shrugged this off, saying if the Chinese “tried to get down to Pyongyang” he would “slaughter” them, adding, “we are the best.”  MacArthur “then ordered airstrikes to lay waste thousands of square miles of northern Korea bordering China and ordered infantry divisions ever closer to its border.”

It was the terrible devastation of this bombing campaign, worse than anything seen during World War II short of Hiroshima and Nagasaki that to this day dominates North Korea’s relations with the United States and drives its determination never to submit to any American diktat.

General Curtis Lemay directed this onslaught. It was he who had firebombed Tokyo in March 1945 saying it was “about time we stopped swatting at flies and gone after the manure pile.” It was he who later said that the US “ought to bomb North Vietnam back into the stone age.” Remarking about his desire to lay waste to North Korea he said “We burned down every town in North Korea and South Korea too.” Lemay was by no means exaggerating.

Lemay estimated the US “killed off” some “20% of the [North Korean] population.”  (For comparison, the highest percentage of population lost in World War II was in Poland, which lost approximately 16.93 to 17.22% of its people overall.)  Dean Rusk, who later became a Secretary of State, said the US targeted and attempted to execute every person “that moved” in North Korea, and tried to knock over “every brick standing on top of another.”

Boggs gives many examples of mass atrocities, one taking place in 1950 when the US rounded up “nearly 1,000 civilians” who were then “beaten, tortured, and shot to death by US troops”, another in Pyongyang when the US summarily executed 3,000 people, “mostly women and children”, and another when the US executed some 6,000 civilians, many with machine guns, many by beheading them with sabres.  He notes this list, just of the major atrocities, “goes on endlessly.” (75)

US/UN forces in Korea in tanks painted to look like tigers.

When Chinese forces followed through on their threat and entered North Korea, successfully pushing back US troops, Truman then threatened China with nuclear weapons, saying they were under “active consideration.” For his part, “MacArthur demanded the bombs… As he put it in his memoirs:

I would have dropped between thirty and fifty atomic bombs…strung across the neck of Manchuria…and spread behind us – from the Sea of Japan to the Yellow Sea- a belt of radioactive cobalt. It has an active life of between 60 and 120 years.

Cobalt it should be noted is at least 100 times more radioactive than uranium.

He also expressed a desire for chemicals and gas.

In 1951 the U.S. initiated “Operation Strangle”, which officials estimated killed at least 3 million people on both sides of the 38th parallel, but the figure is probably closer to 4 million [“mostly civilians” and “mostly resulting from US aerial bombardments” in which civilians “were deliberately targeted” (54, 67-8), as were “schools, hospitals, and churches” (65).  Estimates for the death toll also go “much higher” than 4 million (74)].

Boggs notes US propaganda during this time period (the US was a world leader in eugenics scholarship and race-based “legal” discrimination) dehumanized Asians and facilitated targeting and mass executions of “inferior” civilians: the “US decision to target civilians … was planned and systematic, going to the top of the power structure. …no one was ever charged…”  Some in the US forces, such as General Matthew Ridgeway, claimed the war was a Christian jihad in defense of “God”.  (54-5)  Analysts at George Washington University, looking at US contingency plans from this era to wipe out much of the world’s population with nuclear weapons, determined a likely rationale for the US’s doctrine of targeting of civilians is to “reduce the morale of the enemy civilian population through fear” – the definition of terrorism.

Atwood continues:

The question of whether the U.S. carried out germ warfare has been raised but has never been fully proved or disproved. The North accused the U.S. of dropping bombs laden with cholera, anthrax, plague, and encephalitis and hemorrhagic fever, all of which turned up among soldiers and civilians in the north. Some American prisoners of war confessed to such war crimes but these were dismissed as evidence of torture by North Korea on Americans. However, none of the U.S. POWs who did confess and were later repatriated were allowed to meet the press. A number of investigations were carried out by scientists from friendly western countries. One of the most prominent concluded the charges were true.

At this time the US was engaged in top secret germ-warfare research [including non-consensual human experimentation] with captured Nazi and Japanese germ warfare experts, and also [conducting non-consensual human experimentation on tens of thousands of people, including in gas chambers and aerial bombardments, with mustard gas and other chemical weapons,] experimenting with Sarin[, later including non-consensual human experimentation], despite its ban by the Geneva Convention.

Boggs notes the US “had substantial stocks of biological weapons” and US leaders thought they might be able to keep their use “secret enough to make a plausible denial”.  They also thought that if their use was uncovered, the US could simply remind its accusers that it had never signed the 1925 Geneva Protocol on biological warfare. (135-6)

A 1952 US government film made to instruct the US armed forces on the US’s “offensive biological and chemical warfare program” says the US can “deliver a biological or chemical attack … hundreds of miles inland from any coastline” to “attack a large portion of an enemy’s population.”  The film shows US soldiers filling bio/chemical dispersal containers for “contamination” of enemy areas, and then a cartoon depiction of US bio/chem weapons agents being delivered from US ships, passing over Korea, and covering huge swathes of China.

Boggs notes “the US apparently hoped the rapid spread of deadly diseases would instill panic in Koreans and Chinese, resulting in a collapse of combat morale”. (136)

Atwood adds that as in the case of the Rhee/US mass executions of South Koreans, Washington blamed the evident use of germ warfare on “the communists”.

The US also used napalm, a fiery gel that sticks to and burns through targets, extensively, completely and utterly destroying the northern capital of Pyongyang. By 1953 American pilots were returning to carriers and bases claiming there were no longer any significant targets in all of North Korea to bomb. In fact a very large percentage of the northern population was by then living in tunnels dug by hand underground. A British journalist wrote that the northern population was living “a troglodyte existence.” In the Spring of 1953 US warplanes hit five of the largest dams along the Yalu river completely inundating and killing Pyongyang’s harvest of rice. Air Force documents reveal calculated premeditation saying that “Attacks in May will be most effective psychologically because it was the end of the rice-transplanting season before the roots could become completely embedded.” Flash floods scooped out hundreds of square miles of vital food producing valleys and killed untold numbers of farmers.

At Nuremberg after WWII, Nazi officers who carried out similar attacks on the dikes of Holland, creating a mass famine in 1944, were tried as criminals and some were executed for their crimes.

Atwood concludes it is “the collective memory” of the above “that animates North Korea’s policies toward the US today”.

Under no circumstances could any westerner reasonably expect that the North Korean regime would simply submit to any ultimatums by the US, by far the worst enemy Korea ever had measured by the damage inflicted on the entirety of the Korean peninsula.

Robert J. Barsocchini is an independent researcher and reporter whose interest in propaganda and global force dynamics arose from working as a cross-cultural intermediary for large corporations in the US film and Television industry.  His work has been cited, published, or followed by numerous professors, economists, lawyers, military and intelligence veterans, and journalists.  He begins work on a Master’s Degree in American Studies in the fall.

Source: Endless Atrocities

Posted June 13, 2017 by aurorawatcherak in History, Uncategorized

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Little Known Facts in Education History   Leave a comment

Meme Horace Mann

Horace Mann is considered by many to be the great champion of education. Is that true or is it just something we’ve been taught to believe?

For generations, children learned in their homes, from their parents, and throughout their communities. Children were invaluable contributors to a homestead, becoming involved in household chores and rhythms from very early ages. They learned important, practical skills by observing and imitating their parents and neighbors and engaged in hands-on apprenticeships as teens. They still managed to learn the 3 R’s around the fireside.

The literacy rate in Massachusetts in 1850 (two years prior to the passage of the country’s first compulsory school attendance law) was 97%.

The National Center for Education Statistics tells us that the Massachusetts adult literacy rate in 2003 was only 90%.

In advocating for compulsory schooling statutes, Horace Mann and his 19th century education reform colleagues were deeply fearful of parental authority. You don’t have to believe me. You can go out and read what they wrote. Here’s a snippet.

“Those now pouring in upon us, in masses of thousands upon thousands, are wholly of another kind in morals and intellect.” That’s the Massachusetts state legislature regarding the new Boston Irish (Catholic) immigrants whose diversity challenged existing cultural and religious norms.

In Horace Mann’s Troubling Legacy, University of Vermont professor, Bob Pepperman Taylor, elaborates further on the 19th-century distrust of parents — particularly immigrant parents — and its role in catalyzing compulsory schooling. Pepperman Taylor explains that “the group receiving the greatest scolding from Mann is parents themselves. He questions the competence of a great many parents, but even worse is what he takes to be the perverse moral education provided to children by their corrupt parents.” (Pepperman Taylor, Bob. Horace Mann’s Troubling Legacy: The Education of Democratic Citizens. Lawrence, KS: University Press of Kansas, 2010, p. 33.)

Mann and his colleagues intended that forced schooling correct those “corrupt parents.” He apparently didn’t think morally superior parents like himself needed such help, because Mann continued to homeschool his own three children with no intention of sending them to the common schools he mandated for others. As Mann’s biographer, Jonathan Messerli writes:

“From a hundred platforms, Mann had lectured that the need for better schools was predicated upon the assumption that parents could no longer be entrusted to perform their traditional roles in moral training and that a more systematic approach within the public school was necessary. Now as a father, he fell back on the educational responsibilities of the family, hoping to make the fireside achieve for his own son what he wanted the schools to accomplish for others.” (Messerli, Jonathan. Horace Mann: A Biography. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1972, p. 429.)

As mass schooling expanded over the past 165 years, parental empowerment precipitously declined. Parents have largely been replaced by institutions and the consequences are telling. Children are now swept into the mass schooling system at ever-earlier ages with the expansion of government-funded preschool and early intervention programs. Most young people spend the majority of their days away from their families and in increasingly restrictive, test-driven educational environments. And society is beginning to recognize that these institutional environments damage many of the children it claims to be helping. Boston College psychology professor, Dr. Peter Gray, writes in Salon, of all places:

“School is a place where children are compelled to be and where their freedom is greatly restricted–far more restricted than most adults would tolerate in their workplaces. In recent decades, we have been compelling our children to spend ever more time in this kind of setting, and there is strong evidence (summarized in my recent book [Free To Learn]) that this is causing serious psychological damage to many of them.”

For teenagers, the impact of mass schooling can be even more severe. Largely cut off from the authentic adult world in which they should begin interacting, many adolescents rebel. Some kids engage in anger, substance abuse and suicide, while others become so overwhelmed with the homework that they go from being A students to wanting to drop out. As Dr. Robert Epstein writes in his book, The Case Against Adolescence: Rediscovering the Adult in Every Teen: “Driven by evolutionary imperatives established thousands of years ago, the main need a teenager has is to become productive and independent. After puberty, if we pretend our teens are still children, we will be unable to meet their most fundamental needs, and we will cause some teens great distress.”[5]

It is time to hand the reins of education back to parents and once again prioritize authentic learning over mass schooling. Parents know best. They should be able to choose freely from a wide variety of innovative, agile education options, rather than rely on a one-size-fits-all mass schooling model. By positioning parents to take back control of their children’s education–to reclaim their rightful place as experts on their own children–we can foster more education options and better outcomes for children and society.

But, of course, we can’t do that unless we stop holding up parents for education taxes that exclusively go to the public schools.

What the Founders Thought   Leave a comment

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What the Founders Thought   1 comment

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What If America Stayed out of World War I?   Leave a comment

We all know the story we were taught in school – the United States entered the fray of World War I on the side of Britain and secured peace and democracy for Europe and the world. Then Americans demanded their government withdraw from the world stage, which sabotaged the peace efforts and lead to Hitler coming to power.

Image result for image of woodrow wilsonBut is that really what happened? Was Woodrow Wilson really a brilliant leader who didn’t want to go to war until it became absolutely certain that our intervention was necessary?

World War I was an expensive war fought with new-fangled weapons. Millions died in heavy artillery barrages. By 1916, the British and French were running out of money and could no longer renegotiate their loans. They could not continue to prosecute war against Germany for much longer.

We are told t hat the United States had been neutral up to this point and that U-boat attacks on our merchant fleet is what finally drove us to choose a side. But is that true?

I’m not a professional historian, but I am a fan of history books. I didn’t stop reading them when I got my degrees. It was during that continuing education in my living room that I learned stuff that the public schools definitely don’t bother to teach us.

In January 1917, European leaders were ready for the war to end. Germany had fought England and France to a standstill. From a technical military standpoint, 1916 featured complicated and progressive experimentation with methods of war that would break up the stalemate. Germany might have been slightly closer to winning the war in December 1916, but that would have been splitting hairs.

In December 1916, Field Marshal Haig, Commander of the British forces on the Western Front, sent in an extensive report to his government on the just completed Somme Campaign. Allied lines had advanced in some places, but hadn’t come close to break through, but casualties had been appalling. Yet Haig declared the Somme campaign a victory because it had worn down of the Germans and stabilized the front.

Haig’s report didn’t make British statesmen optimistic. The Somme advance had been shallow, and that the Germans still held onto nearly as much of France as they had before. Significantly, the Central Powers were killing Allied troops at a faster rate than the Allies were killing the Germans. For every two deaths on the side of the Central Powers, three Allied soldiers were dying.

Meanwhile, Romanian soldiers in Eastern Central Europe were faced with an an Austro-Hungarian, German, and Bulgarian force that had captured Bucharest. Although they might have taken some pressure off the Western front, they’d suffered enormous losses. In Russia, people were hungry and demoralized and the edge of revolution, which would have tipped the balance of power sharply in favor of the Central Powers had the United States not intervened.

Meanwhile, the Great Britain had already adopted conscription in January 1916. On the diplomatic front, the British government began a process that would end by promising overlapping parts of the Ottoman Empire both to the future “king of the Arabs” and to Jews across the world as a future homeland, which has consequences into our own time. At the same time, British propaganda aimed at influencing the United States to enter the war heightened dramatically. Charles Masterman’s War Propaganda Bureau in London worked on the “American question” with articles in the United States newspapers, speaking tours, increased distribution of the famous Bryce Report on German atrocities in Belgium, and in other ways.

One crucial example of non-traditional attempts to break the impasse was the British blockade resulting in the starvation of German civilians. In place since late 1914, the blockade kept even neutrals from delivering food and other essentials to Germany. Before it was lifted in 1919, somewhere between 500,000 and 800,000 German civilians died from starvation and the effects of malnutritional.  See Ralph Raico’s detailed review of the classic book on the subject by C. Paul Vincent.

In order to survive the war, Britain had to control the seas. In order to survive the war, Germany had to eat. At the same time, Germany had to avoid bringing the United States as world’s most powerful economy into the conflict. Unlimited submarine warfare was the most likely way to break the blockade and eat, though German statesmen feared this step would bring the United States into the war.

Ending the war seemed out of the question. Both sides desired any help they could get, but both sides had turned down offers of mediation, truce, and negotiations because they wanted to gain territory and not have to pay financial obligations.

Additionally, the winter of 1916/17 was one of the coldest in memory. The Germans were starving, but the soldiers on all sides found the cold almost unbearable. Misery in the trenches and encampments did not bode well for the future will to fight for either army.

On the other side of the Atlantic, the United States had been expending west (and north into Alaska), but had by now reached its continential limits and had been advancing into the Asian sphere. Colonel Edward Mandell House had played a central role in choosing and grooming Woodrow Wislon to become a presidential candidate. House became an intimate friend of Woodrow Wilson. Wilson’s chief of staff, Joseph Tumulty, testified to this close relationship, as did dozens of others. Ultimately, House would become a special roving emissary of Woodrow Wilson in Europe from 1914 onward. Through a large private network of highly influential friends, House’s influence on American intervention in World War I not exaggerated. So who was this very important American?

House was a Texan. His father was an early immigrant to the state, making a fortune as a blockade-runner during the American Civil War. Edward Mandell House was born in 1858 in Houston and attended elite secondary schools in England and the northeastern United States. Eventually, he ended up at Cornell University. When his father died in 1880, House returned to Texas and took over management of the family fortune of $500,000 (equivalent of $11 million dollars today). That didn’t put him in the same league as the individuals he would soon be associating with. Involved in banking and railroads, House crossed paths with the J.P. Morgan more than once, and many other leading individuals of the day. He left business for politics, but his aim was to work behind the scenes, to influence politics rather than leading as a figurehead. The real power often rests with the man behind the curtain.

In Texas, House backed a gubernatorial candidate in 1890. Surprisingly, for all House’s railroad and oil connections, he chose the “trust-busting” populist Democrat “Big Jim” Hogg. Governor Hogg appointed him an honorary state “Colonel,” a designation which House adopted proudly. The Colonel masterminded the elections of four Texas governors, then headed East just after the turn of the century to seek out a national candidate to groom for President.

House had collected a very large circle of wealthy individuals, including many in the rarefied world of J. P. Morgan. He combined an introverted public view and amazing social skills, including a very sharp sense of humor.

By the time he entered politics, House had begun to embrace Progressivism, a doctrine of “efficiency and wise leadership” which was informed by the Positivist doctrine of French sociologist Auguste Comte. Progressivism became a widespread political movement in American lifeand the world. In America, it emanated from and came to characterize the wealthy and wise men of “efficiency” and “capital,” chiefly from the Northeast. The Colonel wrote a novel in 1912, Philip Dru, Administrator, wherein the protagonist would reshape the government of the United States, freeing it for reform by freeing it from the corrupt and ignorant element of an elected legislative branch, a constitutional element Comte himself saw as roadblock to “Positive” administration.

Woodrow Wilson, an academic Progressive who had been a one-term governor of New Jersey, had served as President of Princeton, but entered New Jersey state politics, after leaving Princeton under heavy criticism for his high-handed reform of the curriculum and direction of the institution. He was condemned by many as a self-righteous, authoritarian leader who hated compromise. Upon a first “delightful visit” in late 1911, House wrote to a confidant, “He is not the biggest man I ever met, but he is one of the pleasantest and I would rather play with him than any prospective candidate I have seen.”

House and Wilson were opposites in many ways. The non-religious Texan admirer of heroic frontier men of violence and the Presbyterian minister’s son whose life was circumscribed by a long line of church ladies. House, who reveled in recounting the practical jokes of his youth designed to belittle and control those around him, and Wilson, whose humor was of the quietest, most conventional kind. House, whose diary and letters universally groan with gourmet meals in the best restaurants with wine flowing, and the abstemious Wilson, who ate and drank little, preferring a quiet family circle.

Yet the two men had much in common. Historians note that both were outsiders in terms of national politics, late-comers to the Progressive political movement, middle-aged Southerners, and admirers of “vigor” and efficiency in individuals and government. Both men admired Great Britain with passion. They were both extremely ambitious to “go down in history.” Both House and Wilson embodied those Comtean, Positivist elements of Progressivism that relied on the certainties of social science as a means of ruling. The great project of the Progressive movement was the efficient organization of the world though the power of the state upon the liberties of the individual. Both House and Wilson consistently put their faith in wise men who would lead rather than merely represent the people.

After House helped get the one-term Governor elected President in 1912, a Washington insider asked the new President about House’s apparent authority to make political commitments about the future. Wilson replied:”Mr. House is my second personality. He is my independent self. His thoughts and mine are one.”

Working behind the scenes, House ramrodded the new administration’s legislation implementing the Federal Reserve and much else. His communications with “the Governor” (as he continued to address his presidential friend) were always flattering, always indirect, always purposeful, and full of sage advice. His role in managing William Jennings Bryan was especially important. He gained Bryan’s endorsement of the election, persuaded Wilson to appoint him Secretary of State, kept the unpredictable but powerful populist off balance, and arranged for him to be isolated from the President’s inner circle.

With Wilson’s agreement, House roamed Europe with the full authority of the President’s intimate and special emissary, meeting with kings, prime ministers, intellectuals, and others, “planting the seeds of peace.” The Colonel was a supreme political operative in the United States, but knew European international politics a little, and the craft of diplomacy not at all. Historian Walter Millis suggested that for all the “seeds” the Colonel planted with European leaders, none of them had the least chance of germinating.

Then war broke out in August 1914. House concentrated on putting Woodrow Wilson in a position to mediate the terrible war raging in Europe. Theodore Roosevelt had brokered the end to the much less extensive Russian-Japanese conflict of 1904-5 and won the Nobel Peace Prize. Both House and Wilson considered Wilson far greater than Roosevelt.

President Wilson immediately proclaimed American neutrality. Wilson’s Secretary of State, populist Democrat William Jennings Bryan, the Great Commoner, assumed that traditional neutrality would also preclude financial support of one side or the other by American big business and financial interests. Bryan tried to keep the United States on good terms with all countries by promoting treaties of friendship and conciliation.

Truthfully, any mediation by Wilson would come with supplies of money, arms, ammunition, food, and other necessities of war. The Germans seemed tempted to take up Wilson’s mediation offers at several points. Wilson felt he made progress in mediation in the coming months, even after more U-Boat sinkings of armed civilian vessels in designated zones. In the spring of 1916, he pressured the Germans to drop their unlimited submarine warfare program.

In spite of increasing talk of “preparedness” and anti-German sentiment in the United States, Americans weren’t interested in seeing their country intervene directly in the war. The election of 1916 focused on “he kept us out of the war” even as Wilson was meddling in European affairs and funding both sides of the war.

Three months before the Lusitania sinking, House met in London with the British Foreign Secretary, Lord Grey, and made an amazing commitment. The Colonel had vague instructions from Wilson to persuade the British to lift the blockade, but House defied the President and committed his nation, under certain conditions, to enter the conflict on the Allied side.

A vast number of Americans were of German heritage and had no stomach to fight their cousins. The Midwest, especially, seemed unwilling to go to war, and much of the socialist left, anarchists, and populists, as well as many peace-oriented religious and social groups, opposed the war, but most American Progressives and much of Wall Street had ties to Britain,. The Wilson Progressives remained firm in their allegiance to Britain, as did the bankers themselves, many of whom had affiliate banks in London and Paris. From 1914 onward, British agents offered monetary awards to newspapers across the United States in exchange for war news and opinion favorable to the Allies.

Bryan had been appointed by Wilson reluctantly and only as repayment for Bryan’s support in the 1912 election. He had little influence on the President and his populist anti-imperialism had little support from a chief executive who aimed at a new kind of American expansiveness and a revamped, American-led organization of the world.

Hence, Bryan’s denunciation of the British blockade of Germany had little effect, and nobody listened after the sinking of the Cunard liner Lusitania on May 7, 1915. Among the 1198 dead were 128 United States citizens. The torpedoing of the Lusitania reoriented America to war. The German Embassy in Washington had taken out ads in 50 American newspapers warning Americans that the liner would be entering a zone of war, and that any vessel flying the British flag would be “liable to destruction” in those waters. The blockade of Germany constituted a war against civilians. Although the British government denied that the ship was carrying armaments, underwater archeological research and archival evidence has since shown that the Lusitania carried a very large load of armaments, including four million rounds of U.S.-manufactured .303 Remington bullets.

At the State Department, Bryan argued that the United States should use the Lusitania as part of a diplomatic offensive to persuade both British and Germans to cease their brutal warfare against civilians, steering the Germans from their ruthless unlimited submarine war, the British from their unrelenting, starvation blockade, but with House making increasingly specific promises to Allied leaders, and persuading Wilson in the same direction, arguments against the blockade fell on deaf ears.

“Why be so shocked by the drowning of a few people, if there is to be no objection to starving a nation?” Willian Jennings Bryant in his resignation letter of June 1915[

State Department Counsel, Robert Lansing, replaced Bryan as Secretary. Lansing, an international lawyer of wide experience had gotten along with Bryan but had confidentially harbored strong pro-intervention sentiments. Lansing’s nephew was the rising star John Foster Dulles, who at only 27 in 1915, he was a member of the influential international corporate law firm Sullivan & Cromwell which had worked closely with the J. P. Morgan interests since the early 1880s. Lansing immediately recruited his nephew for negotiations to secure Latin American aid in the coming war–a year and half before the United States entered.

Wilson had ridden to power on rhetoric against Wall Street, but the new Secretary’s Wall Street connections are an important part of the decision-making that led to American intervention and his alter ego was closely associated with these same “interests.” How do these dots connect?

Woodrow Wilson was the hub for all those connections. Although he had strong opinions of his own, he could be swayed by “expert” advice. In the Positivist mode outlined by Auguste Comte and Edward House, Wilson saw himself as heroic philosopher king, hopeful of using the war and the peace to reform the world system. From 1914 to 1916, although he thought a lot about intervening directly, Wilson saw his role as that of World Mediator–the lonely leader who would bring peace through the systematic and scientific reorganization of the world through knowledgeable bureaucrats. The flattery of House, Charles R. Crane, and other educated, wealthy men of affairs and intermediaries between Wall Street and the government, he became increasingly willing to accept the indirect suggestions and advice of the financial elite he had thundered against during his early political years. He saw them as experts in their fields. The Morgan financial empire became the conduit of both massive American loans to the Allies in 1915 and of massive Allied purchases of American war matériel thereafter. Separately, the J. P. Morgan Empire and other international financial interests saw the war as an opportunity massively expand the whole pre-war pattern of imperial finance.

The whole issue of “world power” had a clear impact on decisions leading to war. In the weeks before the United States declared war on the Central Powers in April 1917, Wilson would mourn the fact that America’s entry would put financial interests in the saddle again, but Wilson’s Progressive measures had done much to keep high finance intimately involved in foreign policy decisions. After Wilson’s election, the international bankers had refined the jargon of the expansionist “dollar diplomacy” of pre-Wilson years, learning to speak Wilson’s Progressive language. In particular, they learned to justify measures favorable to them in the name of efficiency and bold leadership.

One perfect example of this process was the Federal Reserve System (1913), which the leading bankers of Wall Street constructed, and for which Wilson initiated the supporting legislative measures. Colonel House and others played vital intermediary roles, selling the Federal Reserve to Wilson as a social reform for efficiency of government. Part of the appeal for Wilson the ease with which the Federal Reserve System would produce a fiscal “flexibility” that would ease administration projects. That flexibility would eventually apply to wartime. Wilson paid for the 1916 invasion of Mexico by using the other new 1913 boon for Federal finance, the income tax, both by raising taxes and by pushing through the Revenue Act of 1916. The Act was designed to make sudden tax hikes more palatable for voters by introducing what one historian has called a “highly progressive” element. Yet in 1917, Wilson would see the advantages of money manipulation through the Fed for fighting a much larger and more important war.

On the Wall Street side, during the period from the outbreak of the war in Europe until American entry, the financial and business circles of J. P. Morgan, the Rockefellers, Jacob Schiff, Kuhn, Loeb & Co, and their affiliates saw in the war the opportunity to replace British and French investments and loans throughout the imperial world. These plans represented a sea change in the distribution of funds within the future “developing world,” but they also represented a reliance on close cooperation with the crusading visions of Wilson’s administration.

Hence, high finance was forging closer and closer ties with an activist state driven by the visions of Wilson and House for efficient Progressive world management. The result would be top-down leadership with American organizers of the world, both colonial and non-colonial. Fears that Britain might lose the war in early 1917–discussed in an earlier essay–opened up the vista of supplanting Britain as the world’s banker, but with more efficiency, coordination, and control by the United States.

 

Wall Street dominance relative to the war during the “neutrality” period is fairly straightforward. The stalemate of the Western Front had hardly set in before France and Britain began to realize the need for more funds. The Shell Crisis following the Western Front Battle of Neuve Chapelle (March 1916), during which the British failed to exploit their victory owing to lack of shells, made the issue of armaments shortages public and acrimonious. The French and British immediately applied for loans from the J. P. Morgan banking group. The United States approved, over the objections of Secretary of State Bryan just before he resigned. The loan structure was worked out between spring and fall, and the result was a loan of half a billion dollars (1915 dollars) with two billion more to follow before the war was over.

Moreover, the anti-Wall Street administration of Wilson okayed the appointment of J. P. Morgan, Jr., as Allied purchasing agent. Trade disruptions during the first months of the war were drastic: the British Blockade of Germany cut American exports to Germany from $169 million to just a million. But business with the Allied powers soon replaced these lost orders many times over.

The election of 1916 forms the backdrop to the declaration of war. Woodrow Wilson had won the election of 1912 comfortably, but against two opponents, one of them Theodore Roosevelt. Democratic prognosticators were much less sure of a shoe-in for 1916. For all the hue and cry of “Americanism” and “preparedness” that emerged in late 1915 and in 1916, Wilson led a country which would not have supported intervention except in the case of a direct assault by one side. The President had calmed the Lusitania uproar in his famous “too proud to fight” speech, and the crisis passed when the Germans agreed to put a halt to unrestricted submarine warfare. Running on the slogan, “He Kept Us Out of War,” Wilson carefully advertised himself as a man of peace (people just ignored that the United States invaded Mexico with 10,000 troops in March 1916).

Wilson defeated Charles Evans Hughes by only three percentage points. In the Electoral College, things could have gone either way — the President won some crucial states by tiny margins. In the end, the Electoral College vote would be 277 to 254. If, for example, Hughes had won Kentucky, which Wilson won with 51.9 percent, the election would have gone to Hughes.

Winning the race, Wilson achieved his own political “New Freedom.” He no longer needed to answer to the public’s anti-war sentiment. Britain seemed in disastrous shape. Wall Street was fully integrated into the Allied cause. Many American elites desired and actively promoted intervention, seeing entry into the war as fulfillment of their particular cause or goal. By the time the Germans decided to reinstate unlimited submarine war against secretly armed British civilian ships once more, (February 1, 1917) a whole structure of military expenditures, extensive redefinition of “neutrality,” and an amazing increase in the level of shipments to the Allied powers were in place. In February 1917, the British handed over an intercepted cable from the State Secretary of the German Foreign Office, Arthur Zimmermann, offering an alliance with Mexico against the United States should the US declare war on Germany. The Germans had already announced that they would resume submarine war on ships carrying supplies to the Allies, including neutral carriers, and in the next weeks, five American ships were torpedoed.

On April 2, 1917, Wilson addressed a joint session of Congress, calling for a declaration of war against the German Empire, in order “to make the world safe for democracy.” Wartime Allied propaganda had Americans believing the Germans were solely guilty, and that the conflict was a war for democracy, when the most autocratic country in Europe, Russia, was on the Allied side. Remember, there was no Internet back then to fact-check the propaganda.

It used to be known when my parents were young that the United States had not been “forced” to go to war. American intervention led to higher death tolls and a settlement that unhinged the world. In light of this knowledge, Wilson’s decisions seems misguided and wrong.

In the run-up to World War II and then after, American historians re-interpreted Wilson as the Man of Peace who was forced to war. The forty days before American entry into the war were tempestuous. Once the Germans announced resumption of unrestricted submarine warfare, on February 1, 1917, Wilson became increasingly bellicose, preparing bill after bill that aimed at military expenditures and “preparedness” and carrying measures of war security, even war hysteria, that anticipated wartime repression, spying, and information control.

The news of these measures found a public almost, but not quite, ready for war. The Midwest and West were largely opposed to American entry. Many of the populist remnants, and indeed the agrarian and anarchist socialists rejected participation in the war since it was a war of the kind of “interests” Wilson had long railed against. The war was extremely unpopular among Irish immigrants and their children and among immigrants whose national origin was in the lands of the Central Powers. Then, too, a large number of women’s associations rejected the war for a variety of reasons, as did Christian pacifists. Though many Progressives were in fact much more openly bellicose than Wilson himself, a number of Progressive intellectuals and activists opposed American intervention vehemently, including public intellectual Randolph Bourne and social theorist and activist Jane Addams.

Politically, a small remnant of anti-intervention congressmen fought a desperate battle in the last weeks before intervention. Among them, Senator Robert M. La Follette of Wisconsin, a Progressive himself, was foremost. “Fighting Bob” was the leader of Senate opposition to President Wilson’s nearly complete departure from neutrality after the 1916 election. In particular, La Follette organized a coalition of Senators who opposed Wilson’s Armed Ship Bill, sent to the Senate in late February 1917. The bill proposed arming American ships carrying war goods to Europe, asserting the rights of the neutrals to sail into war zones with full rights of the sea, including the right to engage hostile ships. To La Follette and his colleagues, “The Armed Ship Bill Meant War,” and La Follette used this phrase in a position pamphlet published in late March 1917. La Follette charged that the administration tactic was to flood Congress with very large appropriations bills so close to the end of the session that Congress would never have time to deal with all of them with sufficient attention. As La Follette described it, “In the last hours of the 64th Congress, all of these bills [arrived], including finally the Armed Ship Bill, which reached Congress 63 hours before its recess and claimed sweeping discretionary power involving warlike acts.”

This small band of Senators organized a filibuster that defeated the passage of the Armed Ship Bill in early March 1917. The President, who rarely took opposition well, branded the Senators as a “little group of willful men” who, “representing no opinion but their own, have rendered the great government of the United States helpless and contemptible.” If Wilson was wrong in assessing motive and wisdom, he was right in that they were certainly in the minority. Both parties had now become war parties. Henry Cabot Lodge and other prominent Republicans demanded an immediate declaration.

From London, Ambassador Page informed Wilson that British gold reserves were nearly exhausted: “Perhaps our going to war is the only way in which our present preeminent trade position can be maintained and a panic averted.”

Wilson’s closest advisors had long since advised war. Wilson spoke with Colonel House on March 27 and asked if he should address Congress and ask for a declaration or simply declare a state of war and request “the means to conduct the conflict.” House advised the non-Constitutional route. On March 29, Wilson put the whole proposition of war to the Cabinet, which unanimously supported intervention. Some of the cabinet officers hoped to limit intervention to naval and supply assistance, and some even to financial aid. Wilson called a joint special session of Congress for April 2. The New Jersey governor had originally been chosen by House and others in part because he was a fine orator. In the biggest speech of his life, he pulled out the stops.

America, Wilson said, had been forced to war by the German submarine campaign on civilian ships, whether armed or not. During the course of this, Germans had killed Americans. He did not mention that these American ships were sailing through a designated war zone, or that many of them were carrying supplies and armament for the Allied powers.

Wilson outlined a series of war measures to be taken immediately, including the introduction of conscription to enlarge the army to 500,000, increasing loans and subsidies to the Allies while reorganizing society for war.

No doubt by the time Wilson began his speech, most national representatives had already made up their minds. The Senate voted for the declaration on April 4. Only six voted against: La Follette, Harry Lane, George Norris, William J. Stone, Asle J. Gronna, and James K. Vardaman. Eight senators abstained. The war resolution passed in the House at three in the morning on April 6. The vote was 373 to 50.

The United States was at war … for better or worse.

Posted May 8, 2017 by aurorawatcherak in History, Uncategorized

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