Nixon to Moscow, slavery’s toll on the economy

My latest is up over at RealClearHistory. An excerpt:

Nixon’s anti-Communist credentials were so sound that he could spend political capital making inroads with Communist enemies. His actions were viewed as safe by the American electorate because, for better or worse, the public saw Nixon as somebody who would not betray American values at the negotiating table with the Soviets. Nixon’s hawkishness provided moral cover for America’s withdrawal from Vietnam, and its peaceful overtures to the two most powerful and aggressively anti-capitalist regimes in the world (China and the USSR).

Please, read the whole thing.

Vincent has a great review up on Robert Wright’s new book about slavery, too. It’s at EH.net, a website dedicated to economic history, and here is an excerpt:

All of these amount to the same core point, those who reap the private benefits of slavery are content with their gains even though they come at a larger social cost and they will work to find ways to drive a wider wedge between the two by shifting costs onto other parties. Hence, slavery as pollution.

More here.

Dictators who gave up power?

That’s the topic of my weekend column over at RealClearHistory, thanks to an extended email with Andrei. Here’s an excerpt:

10. King Juan Carlos I. Juan Carlos should be a household name in the West. The monarch of Spain upon dictator Francisco Franco’s death, Juan Carlos was expected to continue Franco’s legacy of authoritarian rule. After all, he received a military education in Spain under the Franco regime and had a clear claim to the throne (although the throne itself was a complicated legal matter). Furthermore, Juan Carlos was an active member of Franco’s staff, even stepping in to fill Franco’s void when the fascist began to fall ill due to old age. When Franco died, Juan Carlos began to dismantle the Franco regime and helped usher a smooth transition to democratic rule.

Please, read the rest.

The Mexican-American War, and another warm welcome

My topic over at RealClearHistory today is the Mexican-American War and slavery, so be sure to show me a little extra love and have a peek. An excerpt:

The British, for their part, played an ingeniously devious role. London convinced Mexico to finally recognize Texas independence in 1845, as long as Texas agreed to avoid annexation by another sovereign polity. This put enormous pressure on factions in Washington, Austin, and Mexico City, so much so that Tyler, by then a lame-duck, urged Congress to put aside its differences and offer statehood to the Republic of Texas (which it did). In Austin, the process was a little trickier. The Congress of the Texan Republic had to vote on whether to be independent or to be annexed, but so did a newly-formed convention of elected delegates, which was one of the requirements imposed on Texas by the United States. (Washington felt that a convention of elected delegates better fit the profile of an incoming state than a Congress that had been independent for 10 years.) Both the Congress and the convention of delegates voted in favor of annexation over independence. The convention of delegates then drew up a state constitution, turned it over to the people of Texas to be ratified, and then sent it to Washington for Congressional acceptance. On Dec. 29, 1845, the U.S. Congress finally ratified statehood for Texas.

Please, read the rest. Annexation is a topic I will continue to explore, albeit from NOL rather than RealClearHistory, so stay tuned. “Entrance” is just as important as “exit” in libertarian theory, even though the latter gets all of the fame and fortune these days.

Speaking of entrances, I’d like to officially, warmly welcome Shree Agnihotri to the consortium and highlight her first thoughts with NOL: “Role of a Citizen in Hegemonic Authoritarianism.” I’m not going to spoil it for you, but it’s about Hannah Arendt, so if you haven’t read it yet, now would be a good time (don’t forget to say ‘hi’ while you’re at it). Here is her bio. Here is more from NOL on Hannah Arendt. I’m stoked to see what she has to say over the years!

“The Dutch Empire”

That’s the subject of my weekend column over at RealClearHistory. An excerpt:

6. The Dutch Empire vied for supremacy with the Portuguese empire, which, beginning in 1580 with the Iberian Union of Spain and Portugal, was a rival Catholic state attempting to establish a global hegemony of its own. The Portuguese were actually the first Europeans to establish trading forts throughout the world, but the aforementioned Iberian Union severely weakened Lisbon’s plans for global hegemony due to the fact that the union made Portugal the junior partner. The Dutch conquered and then established colonial rule at Portuguese colonies on four different continents, and unlike the Portuguese, focused on commercial interests rather than converting the natives to Catholicism and creating a politically connected empire. Because of the commercial nature of the Dutch project, many of the indigenous factions were happy to switch from Portugal to the Netherlands as business partners. And partners they were. Both the Portuguese and the Dutch (as well as the British and French later on) paid rent to local political units on the trading forts they built throughout the world. Such was the nature of power on the world scene before the end of the Napoleonic Wars in the early 19th century.

Please, read the rest.

RCH, and a warm welcome

My topic over at RealClearHistory today is the Mexican-American War. I lay out a general background on all the players, hoping that a primer will do readers there some good. An excerpt:

Texas. In 1821, the newly-established Mexican government was having severe trouble with the Comanche in the area and invited Americans to settle the region. This pushed the Comanche west and helped weaken them, but it also laid the groundwork for a Texian secession from Mexico. Texas declared independence from Mexico in 1835, but of course nobody in Mexico City recognized this declaration. Texas and Mexico fought for more than a decade before representatives from the Lone Star Republic finally succeeded in lobbying Washington to annex Texas and incorporate it into the American federation. It’s worth noting here that immigration was not the cause of Texian secession from Mexico, as some nativists are apt to claim today. Texas was, like Yucatán, tired of being governed poorly from Mexico City. The anti-immigration argument would be much stronger if Mexico wasn’t facing revolts and secessions everywhere it turned.

Please, read the rest. I’m going to, as I promise in the piece, delve into slavery and the war next Tuesday, but there’s also other topics to think about. Secession comes to mind for me, as I can’t help but ask what could have been if the Senate had not rejected Yucatán’s bid for annexation. Also, is annexation the missing piece of the puzzle when it comes to not only “exit” in libertarian circles, but entrance as well?

Speaking of entrances, I’d like to officially, warmly welcome Mary Lucia Darst to the consortium and highlight her first thoughts with NOL: “The Sad Retreat.” I’m not going to spoil it for you, so if you haven’t read it yet, now would be a good time (don’t forget to say ‘hi’ while you’re at it). Here is her bio. I am extremely excited to read what she shares here over the next few years.

The deadliest riots in American history

That’s the subject of my weekend column over at RealClearHistory. The riots are all, by far, due to racism and nativism, but for some strange reason labor’s riots in the late 19th century get the lion’s share of the spotlight in history textbooks.

An excerpt:

6. Memphis, May 1-3, 1866. Another post-Civil War riot, the Memphis unrest was more violent and more organized than the brawl in New Orleans. Like N’awlins, Memphis was a Southern city long under Union occupation, but unlike the port city, Memphis had a large immigrant population of Irishmen who were in direct economic, political, and social competition with recently freed blacks. The Irish had such a large population in Memphis that they were able to take control of many levers of local government once Union troops banned native whites from holding office (for being Confederates), and the new group on the block was none too kind to the recently freed black population. Forty-eight people lost their lives, but the burning of homes (often with black families still inside of them) and churches, the raping of black women, and the fact that no prosecutions were carried out meant that Memphis would remain a hotbed of white supremacy for another century. (The riot enraged much of the Union, however, and led to a sweeping victory for Republicans later that year. The GOP quickly passed the First Reconstruction Act in 1867.)

Please, read the whole thing.

I’ve never been to Memphis, but it’s a city with good hip-hop music and good BBQ. Someday I’ll get up there for a long weekend or something.

“The staying power of ‘Citizen Kane'”

That’s the title of my Tuesday column over at RealClearHistory. An excerpt:

The relevant socio political commentary is more interesting, in part because people today still use the film to attack media moguls they don’t like (such as Fox News’ Rupert Murdoch). One narrative about the film’s sociopolitical impact even likens the film to a subtle anti-fascist, and pro-war, production because of the attention it draws to the immense power media moguls wield, and the incentive structures they face (and produce). This argument has at least some bite to it, as one of America’s most powerful media moguls in the 1940s, William Randolph Hearst, refused to give the film any sort of advertisement in any of his many publications. This blackballing on the part of the powerful led, of course, to the Citizen Kane’s relative flop at the box office.

Read the rest, baby!