Friday, January 19, 2007

Adams was right this time. Jefferson was wrong.

Tom Sampley wrote some pro-war stuff here about Thomas Jefferson.
Adams argued in favor of paying tribute as the cheapest way to get American commerce in the Mediterranean moving again. Jefferson was opposed. He believed there would be no end to the demands for tribute and wanted matters settled "through the medium of war." He proposed a league of trading nations to force an end to Muslim piracy.

I love Jefferson as much as the next man, but here Jefferson made a mistake. Why should the government be responsible for protecting private citizens abroad? The merchants can take responsiblity for their own risk in foreign waters instead of using their political influence to get government assistance. Why should they be allowed to externalize their risk and expect our poor Marines to bail them out when they get in trouble. Americans assume they can go anywhere in this dangerous world and be rescued by the government when something bad happens to them. This is one of the main reasons wars happen. Governments forcing one group of citizens (tax payers and soldiers) to protect another group that is taking risk for a chance of gain. Nothing wrong with taking risk for gain, but you should be responsible for your own actions. This still happens today when the government sends troops all over the world, often on secret missions, to protect national "interests". These interests are the interests of some private parties and of the politicians in bed with them. By this act, Jefferson joined the side of the Europeans in the centuries old drama between Europe and the Muslim world and set a precedent for us today. I wish he would have acted according to his other (later) sentiments: "We have a perfect horror at everything like connecting ourselves with the politics of Europe." Maybe Jefferson learned a different lesson from the Barbary Wars than Mr. Sampley wants us to believe.

This article (and Mr. Sampley's website) is heavily biased against Muslims. The Muslims had an amazing civilization based on trade when the Europe kings were still living like savages. It isn't their purpose in life to go around killing non-believers. From there point of view, Europeans have been invading their territory for thousands of years. Jefferson joined in late in the game. The key point in the article is where it states that Jefferson et al. learned that the Muslims were killing and capturing because the Kuran said to do so. This reason suits the American/European war mongers. I believe the reason was totally different. It was probably more in line with the reason Europeans and Americans captured slaves in Africa. Money. It was all driven by economics. Pirates don't go plunder because they are building up treasures in heaven. They want to sell their slaves for money or exact a tax from the merchants (like, ahem, goverments). And what problem did Jefferson solve with the "medium of war"? Is piracy gone? Is the world a safe place now? The article is just trying to justify offensive war and call it "defense". I think if Jefferson hadn't done anything and let natural market forces play out, then Americans either wouldn't have traded in the Mediterranean or would have charge higher prices to do so. The absence of trade would have been painful for the Americans, but it would have been painful for the trading partners just as much AND the pirates would have had to find something else to do. The terms for trade could have then been negotiated and piracy could have been dealt with using market forces.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

The Effect of War on Human Behavior

In The History of the Peloponnesian War, Thucydides describes for us the situation in the city of Corcyra. Some in Corcyra favored Athenian democracy and others favored the oligarchy of Lacedaemonia. A civil war broke out and allies of the opposing parties were called in. The Athenian ships that arrived intimidated the the Spartans and inspired the democrats in Corcyra.
Thucydides writes, "Civil war brought many hardships to the cities... In peace and prosperity, cities and private individuals alike are better minded because they are not plunged into the necessity of doing anything against their will; but WAR IS A VIOLENT TEACHER; it gives most people impules that are as bad as their situation when it takes away the easy supply of what they need for daily life."

When individuals control their own property and have the liberty to trade goods and services with eachother they can, through their hard work, create an "easy supply of what they need for daily life." As law-makers encroach upon our natural, God-given rights the bad side of human nature will show itself more and more.

Thucydides continues, ""Civil war ran through the cities; those it struck later heard what the first cities had done and far exceede them in inventing artful means for attack and bizarre forms of revenge. And they reversed the usual way of using words to evaluate activies. Ill-considered boldnes was counted as loyal manliness; prudent hesitation was held to be cowardice in disguise, and moderation merely the cloak of an unmanly nature. A mind that could grasp the good of the whole was considered wholly lazy. Sudden fury was accepted as part of manly valor... A man who started a quarrel was always to be trusted, while one who opposed him was under suspicion. A man who made a plot was intelligent if it happened to succeed, while one who could smell out a plot was deemed even more clever. Anyone who took precautions, however, so as not to need to do either one, had been frightened by the other side (they would say) into subverting his own political party. In brief, a man was praised if he could commit some evil action before anyone else did, or if he could cheer on another person who had never meant to do such a thing.
"Family ties were not so close as those of the political parties, because their members would readily dare to do anything on the slightest pretext. These parties, you see, were not formed under existing laws for the good, but for avarice in violation of established law. And the oaths they swore to each other had their authority not so much by divine law, as by their being partners in breaking the law. And if their opponents gave a good speech, if they were the stronger party, they did not receive it in a generous spirit, but with an eye to prevent its taking effect."

Many aspects of human nature during war that Thucydides describes can be seen today among us. The world is at war and liberty is under attack, hence, individuals can be expected to act more and more selfish, avaricious, and evil.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

The Real American Dollar

From Plan for Establishing Uniformity in the Coinage, Weights, and Measures of the United States COMMUNICATED TO THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES, JULY 13, 1790

"Let the money unit, or dollar, contain eleventh-twelfths of an ounce of pure silver. This will be 376 troy grains, (or more exactly, 375.989343 troy grains,) ....This, with the twelfth of alloy already established, will make the dollar or unit, of the weight of an ounce, or of a cubic inch of rain water, exactly."

The dollar was clearly a fixed amount of silver. Since this is no longer the case, saving and planning for the average American is difficult (and for some, undesirable). With each new Federal Reserve Note that is issued,the value of each existing note is decreased. In this manner the power holders take wealth from those that earned it and funnel it somewhere where it can serve their purpose.

Monday, June 27, 2005

Thomas Jefferson on government in his first inaugural address

Still one thing more, fellow-citizens. A wise and frugal Government, which shall restrain men from injuring one another, shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned. This is the sum of good government, and this is necessary to close the circle of our felicities.