American Money, Part IV: The Cross of Gold – Arsenal For Democracy Ep. 398

The 4th part of our miniseries on money itself during the 2nd Industrial Revolution in the US. Bill and Rachel look at the political battles over silver coinage and the gold standard and why neither position makes sense in hindsight.

Links and noted for Ep. 398 (PDF): http://arsenalfordemocracy.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/10/American-Money-Part-IV_-The-Cross-of-Gold-Arsenal-For-Democracy-Ep-398.pdf

Theme music by Stunt Bird.

American Money, Part III: Store Credit, Installments, and Shadow Lending – Arsenal For Democracy Ep. 397

The 3rd part of our miniseries on money itself during the 2nd Industrial Revolution in the US. Bill, Rachel, and Kelley look at the initial emergence of proto-consumer credit as well as sketchy and predatory small loans in industrial cities.

Links and notes for Ep. 397 (PDF): http://arsenalfordemocracy.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/09/American-Money-Part-III_-Store-Credit-Installments-and-Shadow-Lending-Arsenal-For-Democracy-Ep-397.pdf

Theme music by Stunt Bird.

American Money, Parts I and II: Antebellum Through Reconstruction – Arsenal For Democracy Ep. 396

The first episode of our miniseries on money itself during the Second Industrial Revolution in the United States. Bill and Rachel pose philosophical questions on the nature of money and look at changes in US monetary policy from the Antebellum period through 1876.

Links and notes for Ep. 396 (PDF): http://arsenalfordemocracy.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/09/American-Money-Parts-I-and-II_-Antebellum-Through-Reconstruction-Arsenal-For-Democracy-Ep-396.pdf

Theme music by Stunt Bird.

[Preview] Apr 6, 2021 – General Averell’s Asphalt Empire – Arsenal For Democracy Ep. 363

Full episode on Patreon: Bill and Rachel learn what asphalt is and how failed Civil War General William Woods Averell became an asphalt paving magnate by the end of the 19th century.

150 years later: A major victory or a minor peace?

150 years ago today, after four years of civil war, the United States achieved a momentary peace – with Robert E. Lee’s surrender along with 27,000 Confederate troops, after the Battle of Appomattox Court House, which triggered a general surrender – and thus appeared to end the war over the fate and direction of the United States.

But as the insurrection collapsed, in our haste to celebrate that illusory peace, we failed to finish the bigger job of conquering and re-making the South. The peace was won, but not kept and consolidated. Instead, in a demonstration of the perils of clemency for the rebellious recalcitrance of evil, almost everything was kept the same, and the South hardened into an even more unified, retrograde, aristocracy than before. Slavery was renamed and White Supremacy death squads were formed. The peace ended, but the country just looked the other way, to avoid going back to war and supporting necessary reforms by force.

The Southern bloc, once re-admitted and then re-taken by the Union’s opponents, re-committed itself to blocking every U.S. policy effort that didn’t involve going to war with other countries. Despite the lack of commitment from President Andrew Johnson and other compromisers, the failure to Reconstruct the South wasn’t entirely for lack of trying

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Ukraine: In defense of a “total war” in the east

Ukraine did not oppress or attack its Donbass or Crimean citizens, and yet they took up arms against the government. (A disorderly but civilian-led, non-violent, constitutional change in central government doesn’t qualify as a legitimate cause of secession, particularly when even the former president’s power base in eastern Ukraine overwhelmingly also supported his removal.) Ukraine has held back in Crimea because it was unprepared and secessionist sentiment was much higher there. Ukraine’s government has also held back in the east until now, for the most part, to try to find a political solution and to spare the lives of innocent local civilians wherever possible, particularly since most of them initially opposed the secessions being foisted on them by radicals and Russian infiltrators.

That time has come and gone, and Russian interference continues unabated. Something has to be done to recover rebellious territories that pre-emptively took up arms against their country without warning or cause.

President Poroshenko’s announcement last weekend was that Ukraine is “ready for total war” against the eastern secessionist zones, after much restraint and persistently separatist-sabotaged negotiations.

Total and overwhelming force against armed, insurgent separatists is morally acceptable in the recovery of territory when the government has done nothing to warrant its secession and no peaceful efforts to achieve partition have been attempted. The Ukrainian government is no more “fascist” (as Russian media claims daily) than Abraham Lincoln for trying to end these illegitimate and violent secessions. 

And the specially-elected Poroshenko government and newly elected parliament are legitimate governing authorities elected by free, fair, and popular vote in the non-insurrectionist vast majority of the country. Rebel blockades of the 2014 special Ukrainian elections in their small zones of control are not an impediment to the legitimacy of the elections, in the same way President Lincoln’s 1864 re-election was legitimate despite the non-participation of Union-occupied secessionist states and Confederate-controlled rebel states.

In addition to overwhelming force, Ukraine can also legitimately engage in economic warfare against the insurrectionist areas, as part of the “total war” strategy. Suspension of services, economic blockades, general sanctions, and the like are all regularly deployed tools of warfare. Poroshenko’s cancellation this week of various banking, governmental, and pension services in rebel-held areas is a long-overdue step that most governments would have taken sooner, restraint or no.

People in areas in an active state of insurrection and secession cannot reasonably expect to receive continued government services and pensions, regardless of combatant status. If they have now set their clocks to Moscow time, they can also get Moscow to replace all their abruptly deactivated ATM cards. Hundreds of thousands of people have already fled the combat zones (whether to Russia or to government areas).
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Abolition of Russian serfdom vs Abolition of US Slavery

It seems like the emancipation of 23 million serfs in Russia in 1861 was a lot better organized and planned out than the emancipation/abolition of U.S. slaves during the American Civil War happening at the same time. In part, this difference would likely have stemmed from the fact that the Imperial Russian government could act by fiat and receive compliance. Moreover, the serf-holding landowners in Russia were way more indebted/obligated toward their government (than the already literally rebelling Southern American slaveholders) and thus couldn’t resist such a decision from the central government.

But, more importantly, the committee that planned the Russian emancipation also did a lot of theorizing on how to handle emancipated serfs in a manner that didn’t trap them on old lands and gave them some economic opportunities. Freed serfs didn’t exactly get 40 acres and a mule either — and it was still a pretty bumpy outcome — but it was a lot closer to a comprehensive and effective dismantling of the system in a responsible manner. The U.S. approach seems to have ended up at “you’re free now, problem solved. ok, next thing on the agenda,” which immediately led to slavery-by-another-name practices like abusive sharecropping contracts.

President Lincoln was elected by a pro-abolition party (even though that wasn’t personally his primary or even secondary campaign plank). Many of his generals repeatedly tried to brainstorm and implement measures — such as the aforementioned, abortive 40 acres land grants proposal — to deal with the slaves encountered in the South while suppressing the rebellion (and he objected to all of them). So obviously, in spite of (and because of) the Civil War going on at the time, a lot of people in the United States were thinking about this issue on some level.

I would have hoped somebody in the Republican Party or government or military would have at least had a working group on implementation of abolition. After all, this wasn’t a foreign concept because the northern states already had plenty of experience with dismantling their slave-inclusive economies with relatively minimal disruption. Yes, they consistently had fewer slaves, but they still figured out something that worked. So the information and ideas needed to plan for this eventuality — foreshadowed as early as the Constitutional Convention of 1787 — should absolutely have been there by 1861.

But instead, U.S. abolition was implemented chaotically and indecisively over the 1860s, with little plan for what to do with/for all the freed people, and with little enforcement (especially after the removal of Federal troops at the end of Reconstruction) to prevent abuses.