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20141130 Forgotten History: Rapture

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CHAPTER ONE: The 5tt President: James Monroe

JAMES MONROE: Monroe was the only president after Washington who actually fought in revolution from 1775 when he was 18. 1817 was the year when the new generation came to power. It was not only in Monroe in White House, but also Calhoun and Clay who become Speaker even earlier in 1812.

The main events and people of Monroe’s era included:

TRANSPORTATION REVOLUTION: The transportation revolution came with expansion of road building and most important with steamboats. There is an interesting story about initial Fulton’s monopoly granted by government for 30 years that slowed down development of steamboats until in 1817 it was legally broken and Vanderbilt created cheap and effective transportation network. Author stresses that technology was not enough and only free market opened way for new technology.

European Wars; John Quincy Adams; Henry Clay; John Calhoun; Andrew Jackson; Taking Florida: Here author reviews 4 other important players of the period and history of Florida acquisition mainly due to decisive actions of Andrew Jackson and despite Monroe undecidedness and Henry Clay’s attack in Congress and accusations in monarchical tendencies.

NATIONAL BANKING and THE PANIC OF 1819: Just before Monroe become president there was an explosion in number of banks from 117 in 1812 to about 250 in 1815. It was result of suspension of demand for exchange notes for species in 1814 to finance war. This suspension was lifted in 1817 causing move back to gold. It improved economy and provided for next bout of banks number explosion supported by the Second Bank of US. As usual it caused boom/busts cycle of 1819.

JOHN MARSHALL: McCulloch v. Maryland: This is review of a few cases establishing precedents under Marshall promoting Hamiltonian vision. Especially important was McCulloch in which Marshall established dominance of Federal government by rejecting Maryland’s attempt to tax local branch of the Second Bank of US. It was done by appealing to the power of people who established federal government as superior to power of states. It was initial successful attempt to deny relevancy of 10th amendment.

THE MISSOURI COMPROMISE: Unexpected Crisis and Compromise; Second Crisis, Second Compromise: The crisis started with Missouri petitioning for statehood as slave state. Since it would change balance of power, Maine was admitted as Free State to compensate. The compromise eventually included line to the Pacific dividing future territory into free north and slave owning south. At this point no civil war was conceivable because everybody accepted state’s cessation as constitutional right.

TOO DANGEROUS FOR WORDS: Tariff of 1816; Tariff of 1824: More contentions than slavery was issue of tariffs. In 1816 new tariffs were supported by Middle States, opposed by South and had mixed approach from New England where merchants wanted low tariffs and manufacturers high. By 1824 the tariffs champion Clay managed to raise them to 35% and start pushing “American system” of government support for infrastructure.

FOREIGN POLICY: Monsters to Destroy; the Monroe Doctrine: Foreign policy generally was not a big issue, but it still played role mainly in form of Monroe doctrine that demonstrated sufficient power of US to warn European powers to stay away from Latin America that at the time was in process of revolutions. Author also stresses the second part of doctrine, which is now completely forgotten: American would stay away from any conflicts in Europe.



Adam’s presidency started with Henry Clay using Congress to give Adams presidency even if Jackson won the election. This “corrupt bargain” doomed Adams’ presidency. Adams big government pushed for “improvements”, which inevitably led to corruption and waist. The main program of improvements at the time was construction of canals. Internationally there was Panama congress initiated by Bolivar in attempt to create Pan American space for free trade and cooperation. The idea did not work out due to resistance to any alliances.

Martin Van Buren: The Tariff of Abominations; Election of 1828:

Author dedicated quite a bit of space to Van Buren whom he considers an outstanding Jeffersonian with preference to small and effective government. The top issue was a tariff increase that was demanded by Northern manufacturers, accepted by West, and opposed by South with its export-oriented economy. Van Buren managed to convince all sides that Jackson is with them. Campaign was dirty as usual with all kind of sexual and religious accusations and ended with Jackson’s clear victory.

CHAPTER THREE: The 7th President: Andrew Jackson

THE PEOPLE’S PRESIDENT; The Petticoat War; This is a story of small semi-political war between loyalty and society opinion, Jackson’s loyalty to his men and society’s attack against wife of one of his men. Result was an initial trouble for Jackson’s presidency.

REFORM, RETRENCHMENT, and ECONOMY: The Maysville Road; TRAIL OF TEARS: The first attack against big government was to rain in corruption that was done by cutting out quite a few bureaucrats. Jackson’s mantra was: Constitution should be obeyed, States rights assured, Union preserved, debt paid, and direct taxes avoided. At the same time as repugnant as it was for Jackson he compromised on a number of government financed infrastructure improvements such as the Maysville road. Jackson also pushed through Indian removal. As cruel as it was it is hard to imagine how else it would be possible to prevent genocide that was continuously occurring in clashes between Indians and settlers.

KNELL OF THE UNION: Nat Turner and the Slavery Debate in the South; David Walker and William Lloyd Garrison: The slavery issue was getting worse day by day with loud abolitionist movement getting more and more power and Southern tranquility disturbed by Nat Turner insurrection. There is reference to internal southern debate about abolition of slavery. It demonstrated understanding that slavery will inevitably lead to restriction of freedom for people who are not slaves and it was obviously coming.

KING ANDREW THE FIRST: Cabinet Massacre; Power of the Presidency; NULLIFICATION and THE TARIFF OF 1832: The South Carolina Exposition; Calhoun Resigns; Webster-Hayne Debates; Aversion to Manufacture; Compromise Tariff and the Force Bill: The tariffs war continue divide country and achieved such level of intensity that South Carolina moved to nullification of federal laws. Jackson used combination of threats of force and compromise to resolve this crisis successfully, but issue did not go away.

THE BANK WAR: Suffolk Bank; Mandate; Pet Banks: The final and most important struggle of Jackson presidency was fight with the Bank and victory over it. A very interesting narrative about successful Suffolk bank that fulfilled clearing functions without federal government intervention supports an idea that government control over money supply is not such a necessity.

ONWARD CHRISTIAN SOLDIERS: A New Jerusalem: The Jackson presidency was also a time of Great Awakening leading to religious resurgence in America, creation of new denominations and expansion of religious activism.

LEGACY: Author compares Jackson with Cornelius Sulla who destroyed Rome in order to save it. Jackson defended republic by using non-republican methods and therefore created precedent that was later used for destruction of original American republic.

 CHAPTER FOUR: The 8th President: Martin Van Buren; ELECTION OF 1836; Jackson’s Third Term? Beyond Those Limits I Shall Never Pass: Author praises Van Buren as one of the most libertarian presidents. As the closest ally of Jackson he practically inherited popular presidency, however author does not agree with the view that it was Jackson’s third term. The point is made that it was Van Buren who to the great extent was behind Jackson policies and he maybe even prevented Jackson going to war with France over unpaid reparations. The huge merit of Van Buren was a strict adherence to constitution that author interprets as neutrality in foreign affairs.

RECESSION: The Panics of 1837 and 1839; Suffolk Bank and New England; THE INDEPENDENT TREASURY: The recession started soon after recession in 1837 when bank stopped redeeming paper with species, but after brief downturn come miniboom in 1838 followed by more serious downturn in 1839. Author credit recession to states excessive borrowing for various project especially Erie Canal. Van Buren rejected idea of federal assumption of state’s debt causing economic pain, but instilling some discipline in states. The bright spot was New England where Suffolk bank successfully controlled money supply preventing boom bust cycles in this area. The main economic efforts of Van Buren were directed to establishment of independent treasury and overall separation of economy from the state. Van Buren succeeded in creating Independent treasury that lasted until civil war and one thing dramatically different in narrative of this author from usual history is that he claims recession being relatively mild with overall losses of bank notes holders not exceeding levels equal to 2% inflation. The whole nearly 30 years period afterword author claims to be economically successful, while typical history claims to be period of chaos. Actual economic statistics seems to be supportive of this position: GDP growth was 3.9 from 1814 to 1840 and 4.9 from 1840 to 1860.

THE SLAVERY DEBATE: Petitions; Gag; Amistad: Issue of slavery keep getting more difficult with abolitionist movement expanding and the South responding by limiting free speech and expelling them, while North by physical attacks against blacks and abolitionists by the mobs. However both parties avoided raising the issue because both were active in North and in South so divide about the issue was within parties.

INDIAN REMOVAL: Second Seminole War; Trail of Tears: Van Buren continued Jackson’s policy of removing Indians out of way of American settlements expansion. There was Seminole war from 1836 to 1842 with nearly complete extermination of this tribe and at least 1500 loses by regular army.

SAM HOUSTON; TEXAS; President Houston: This period also included beginning of Texas problems with declaration of Texas independence in 1835. Both Jackson and then Van Buran rejected acceptance of Texas on constitutional grounds and to avoid war with Mexico.

MAY ALL HER PATHS BE PEACE: The Caroline Affair; Aroostook War: There were still issues with Canada related to clashes on the border from time to time and the borderline definition. Van Buren successfully avoided outgrowing of these issues into a war.

LEGACY: Author sees Van Buren as defender of Jeffersonian revolution promoter of limited state and individual freedom.

 CHAPTER FIVE: The 9th President: William Henry Harrison

Harrison was big government Wig and Hamiltonian. He won election by thoroughly avoiding declaring his principles and blaming Van Buren for recession. It also helped that bank supporting and wealth-seeking democrats moved away from Van Buren. However since he died one month after inauguration, the return to Hamiltonian big government policies had to wait.

CHAPTER SIX: The 10th President: John Tyler: THE BANK AGAIN; TARIFFS and DISTRIBUTION; TEXAS and A THIRD PARTY: An English Monkey Wrench; John Calhoun; LEGACY

Tyler inherited presidency from Harrison and at the time it was unclear if he is president or just a placeholder until next election. He managed to assert himself as full pledged president setting up a precedent that was later confirmed by 25th Amendment in 1967. The main issues were the same: bank, tariffs, and Texas. Tyler believed Bank was unconstitutional, but being a Whig was inclined to compromise. Clay, on other hand was not and pushed to full restoration of bank. As result Tyler vetoed bank restoration, but agreed to raise tariffs. An interesting dynamic developed with Texas. There was a problem admitting it in Union as slave state, but there was also a problem of leaving it independent. That was because Britain started moving close to Texas as its protector causing planters’ fear of future push of British abolitionists. This situation resulted in Southern champion Calhoun moving ahead with annexation. Overall Tyler turned out to be protector of Van Buren legacy of mainly Jeffersonian Union.

 CHAPTER SEVEN: The 11th President: James Polk: INAUGURAL; CABINET

MARK OF GREATNESS: Tariffs; Independent Treasury; Great Contradiction; Oregon; California;

Born after revolution in 1795 Polk was mainly political looser, but luckily for him stronger candidates Clay and Van Buren both declared against annexation of Texas going against strong popular will and by doing so removing themselves from competition. Polk was unusual president because he managed to make real everything he promised to do: lower tariffs, reestablish independent treasury, and annex territories from Mexico. Polk also was a clear supporter of slavery and author sees it as contradiction that Southern Jeffersonian freedom lovers were also supporters of slavery. Polk moved aggressively against Britain in question of Oregon getting to the brink of war, but then settling at 49 parallel.

THE MEXICAN-AMERICAN WAR: First Shot; Match-ups; Matamoros; New Mexico, California, and Northern Mexico; Quagmire; Secession; Wilmot Proviso;

All Mexico; On To Mexico City; Legacy of the War; Henry David Thoreau and Karl Marx; The Way Not Taken: Lysander Spooner; JAMES POLK’S LEGACY

It was different with Mexico where events developed in regular war. Author ‘s interpretation of this war is that despite it being wrong ideologically for republic, America with its democracy, relatively low level of corruption proved to be much more effective military than corrupted Mexican government and army despite Mexico’s numeric and moral superiority of defending their land. The new territories brought in by successful war proved to be a challenge to existing North-South compromise. The struggle exploded around Wilmont’s proviso that would forbid slavery on newly acquired territories. The proviso did not pass, but it did opened new fight between South and North. Eventually it destroyed old Whigs and opened way for creation of Republican Party.

Author also goes into philosophy bringing in Marx and Henry Thoreau: one proponent of nonviolence and another ideologically based violence mainly because both happen to publish their manifestos in 1848. Another writer he brings in is Lysander Spooner who wrote “The Unconstitutionality of Slavery” and argued that slavery could be removed without any amendment to Constitution. Obviously it was non starter with Southern elite since slaves where their main economic assets.


Author views American 30 years of American history before civil war as solidification of Jeffersonian vision of America. These years saw tremendous economic and technological development, but it occurred mainly at the North. Taylor came from planter background, but spent most of his life in military fighting Indians. As a military man he new and did not like war, consequently stopping potential expansion into Cuba. He defended status quo on slavery even if he believed that slavery is wrong. Author contrast behavior of human slave-owners such as Taylor and Jefferson Davis with racial hate of many abolitionists who often proclaimed this hate and saw abolition as a way to protect white lower classes against black labor. Taylor died in the middle of his term in 1850 just when statehood crisis started with Western states applying for entry as free states breaking down Missouri compromise and Southerners responding to this with cessation movement.

 CHAPTER NINE: The 13th President: Millard Fillmore: PLUMES AND SABERS;

THE CROSS; MILLARD FILLMORE; THE COMPROMISE OF 1850; Fugitive Slave Act of 1850; Slave and Freeman, North and South; Jury Nullification


Fillmore did not want and did not expect to be president, but that’s what happened. He, however, was a pretty good administrator so he managed country with minimal disturbance: no wars, no economic changes. He was not able to avoid issue of slavery and it start unraveling on his watch with the Fugitive slave act of 1850. The problem was that without North returning run away slaves Southern planters could not keep their thinking and walking property from running away. On other hand the act clearly violated rights of Northerners to speak and publish what they want, associate with whomever they want and so on. In short Southern slave owners had to invade Northern lives to save slavery in South.


Stephen Douglas and the Kansas-Nebraska Act; Jefferson Davis and the Gadsden Purchase; Abraham Lincoln Returns to Politics; Whigs Implode; Reborn As Republicans; DRED SCOTT and ROGER TANEY: Dred Scott; The Decision; ELECTION OF 1856

Pierce was a democrat politician with no special distinction. The main reason he won election was that he was Northerner and vague about slavery issue while his opponent was clearly anti-slavery. In foreign affairs Pierce wanted empire starting with annexation of Hawaii and Cuba. This was clearly stated in Ostend Manifesto of American diplomats on diplomatic conference in Belgium.

But of course the most important issue remained slavery. Author sees it more as a symptom than the cause of the coming clash. In his view it was clash of two cultures Cavaliers culture of the South with Puritans culture of the North. Both sides were fighting for freedom: North for free labor and the South for free trade. North wanted high tariffs to protect its business elite and internal improvements to provide business with public investment in infrastructure, while the South wanted low tariffs because it would lead to trade war in which their source of wealth – cotton trade would suffer. The fuel to this clash was added by dispute over which way to build transcontinental railroad and Kansas-Nebraska act that eliminated Missouri compromise. All these issues become red hot during Pierce presidency and he had no way to manage it.

 CHAPTER ELEVEN: The 15th President: James Buchanan: PANIC OF 1857

THE FORGOTTEN SECESSION; BLEEDING KANSAS; LINCOLN RISES: THE ELECTION OF 1860; WAR OR PEACE: The Riddle of Calhoun; Secession; War of Tariffs: The next president another Democrat – James Buchanan also was not capable to put Jeannie of sectional economic and political divide back into the bottle. He actually had another cessation to deal with: Mormons, but it was successfully dealt with using compromise since Mormons did not really posed threat to any of main fractions of American public. They just wanted to have their way of life and they were let alone delaying the resolution of most contention issue of polygamy until 1890.

A lot worse was situation with bleeding Kansas and dramatic polarization of the country that ended in election of Lincoln – the candidate absolutely not acceptable to the South. Author believes that in reality slavery issue was just a bogus and Northern business elite was ready to let the South to separate as long as it would agree to maintain high tariffs. The free trade on other hand was not acceptable. That’s why election of Lincoln who by no means was an abolitionist, but was a corporate lawyer absolutely adamant about high tariffs, made war inevitable.

 CHAPTER TWELVE-A: The 1st President: Jefferson Davis

CONFEDERATE STATES OF AMERICA: Constitution; Second Wave: It is highly unusual to include CSA as part of American history, but it makes a lot of sense. After all confederates were also Americans and they fought to defend their country that is the states they lived in. Author divides cessation into two separate waves. The first one was 6 Deep South states that decided to leave union because of slavery and tariffs. They model their constitution on US with only one significant difference: clear support for institution of slavery. However states of northern part of South joined only after Lincoln started war by refusing to accept separation and evacuate Fort Sumter. The following events that lead to war were considered by these states as Northern aggression.

GOVERNING THE CONFEDERACY: Cotton Communism; Conscription; Class Conflict within the Confederacy; FIGHTING THE WAR: Black Soldiers; Tears Spoiled Their Aim: What is interesting is practical rejection of American traditions in CSA when nearly all industries were nationalized, central planning implemented, military conscription implemented in much more severe form than it was on the North, individual freedoms also were suppressed much more severely. In short the civil war clearly demonstrated that seeds of future socialist shift were planted in American culture on both sides of divide.

 CHAPTER TWELVE-B: The 16th President: Abraham Lincoln

INAUGURAL ADDRESS: TARIFFS OR ANGELS? THE QUESTION OF WAR: Fort Sumter; Blockade; Militia Call-up and Second Secession; Stemming the Tide

Author makes quite convincing case that Lincoln’s objectives were not that much related to slavery as to assure high tariffs protecting wealth of Northern businesses that believed that they couldn’t compete against cheap foreign goods. These interests clearly override for him constitutionality of secession, protection of individual rights, separation of powers, as well as just about everything else in Constitution. In short author’s position is that the causes of war inalienably linked to sources of income and prosperity for ruling classes: slavery and free trade for southern planters and government protection of their businesses against competition for northern manufacturers.

THREE NEEDS OF OFFENSIVE WAR: THE FIRST NEED: MONEY: Control of the Money Supply; Income tax; THE SECOND NEED: SUPPRESSION OF RIGHTS: John Merryman and Roger Taney; Clement Vallandigham; THE THIRD NEED: CONSCRIPTION: Economic Elites and America’s First Drafts; THE WAR: Death and Destruction; Mid-Term Elections; Pope Doctrine: Collective Responsibility; another Pope Doctrine; Utter Extermination; THE WAR SHIFTS TO A HIGHER PLANE: Emancipation Proclamation; Gettysburg Address: Poetry, not logic; Second Inaugural Address: The history of civil war in this libertarian presentation narrates not that much about battles, offensives, and defensives as about violation of American constitution by Lincoln’s administration in all conceivable areas: nationalization of money supply, separation of powers, and individual rights. It also narrates about people who stand up to these violations and suffered imprisonments, financial ruin, and sometimes death. The point author makes is that if any of these two sides were really defending itself against aggression it would be no need for conscription and suppression

LEGACY: Author sees the main Lincoln’s legacy not in what actually happened, but in what he prevented from happening. He believes that if Lincoln allowed 6 Southern states to leave union, it would lead to free trade of South forcing the same on North and resulting in faster and better economic development. At the same time absence of fugitive slave laws would make slavery at the South unsustainable so reunion with slavery eliminated would be the most probable outcome.

20141123 Forgotten History: Foundations

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The main idea of this series of books is to review American history from different angle than it is usually done. Author wrote this book from libertarian point of view in contrast to leftist narrative of “A People’s History of the United States” by Howard Zinn and to conservative narrative of “A history of the American people” by Paul Johnson. The key idea of this book is the idea that American history is continuing struggle between Hamiltonian idea of mercantilist state and Jeffersonian idea of libertarian state. The first one is generally idea of big and powerful government that controls everything, interfere everywhere, and assure general wellbeing. The second one is the idea of small government limited to a few specific functions and weak enough not to interfere with Americans’ pursuit of happiness with free market providing for general wellbeing.


Series Preface: America’s Forgotten History Preface to Part One: Foundations

Part I covers period from earliest colonies through the presidency of James Madison in 1816. It goes through discussion of people who started future United States, culture and traditions they brought in from Europe, and legal arrangements they created after wining the revolutionary war. It also covers first four presidencies until 1816.

CHAPTER ONE: Prelude To America


The revolutions usually fail, but American Revolution was different. It came not from people striving for power they do not have, but from American colonists – people with lots of personal power who were feeling they are loosing this power to the king’s encroachment. In essence it was a conservative revolution to defend status quo.

JAMESTOWN and PLYMOUTH: Two original colonies represented two different strains of Americans. One- started by Virginia Company was formed by profit seeking aristocratic investors and individuals attracted by opportunities in the new land regardless of initial wealth or nobility; another one started by puritans seeking religious salvation in the new land and believing in theocracy and government enforcement of right behavior. Both colonies tried communal arrangements of production and both failed in it miserably moving to private ownership of the land.

PURITANS and CAVALIERS: Newly founded colonies also had huge difference in culture of individuals populated them. The difference came from the British civil wars. In Jamestown it was cavaliers who brought in prevailing cultural attitude and they quickly started develop aristocratic utopian society with slaves at the bottom providing manpower for production. In Plymouth however, it was puritans’ culture and attitudes that prevailed causing development in direction of bourgeois utopian City on the Hill.

ENGLISH ROOTS; ENGLISH CIVIL WAR; THE GLORIOUS REVOLUTION; The Dark Side: Central Banking, Collusion, and War: This is a very short retelling of English history preceding transfer of these people to America.


These are:

  1. Puritans 1630s from urban East Anglia to Massachusetts,
  2. Cavaliers 1640s from rural western Sussex and Wessex to Virginia,
  3. Quakers 1675 from Wales, Holland, Ireland, and Germany to Pennsylvania,
  4. Scotch-Irish and other borders in 1715 to Carolinas and later Appalachian.
  5. American Indians who actually got there first, long before anybody else and constituted important part of the mix.

Both Cavaliers of South and Puritans of North conducted involuntary migration of African slaves. The final or actually

THREE EMPIRES BATTLE FOR A CONTINENT: The Tiny Spark; Monongahela, The Northern War; William Pitt; The Tide Turns; Pontiac’s War: This is quite detailed narrative of 7 years war as it was conducted in America. The most important thing: Anglo-Americans had significant numeric superiority over Franco-Canadians resulted from French being mainly trade oriented while British were land oriented. Obviously agricultural settlements in moderate climate produce much more people and resources then trade posts in areas with cold climate. Side effect was that British-American agriculturists pushed American Indians out of their areas while French did not consequently causing Pontiac’s war that temporarily pushed frontier back east.

TOWARDS REVOLUTION: From libertarian point of view the causes of all revolutions are similar: government plundering going beyond of what people agree to accept. In case of Colonial America it was the key issues were:

  1. Fiat Money: America experienced growth and there were shortages of money, but British Tories were not about to promote inflation while Congress would happily do just that. The fiat money issue remained in the center of American political struggle ever since then with Hamiltonians supporting fiat and Jeffersonians objecting.
  2. Order, Mercantilism, and Taxes: In addition to money other issues start boiling over between colonists and Britain such as: political scramble between royal governors and colonial assemblies, unresolvable contradiction between colonial’s wish for unlimited land grabbing and British wish to accommodate Indians by limiting westward expansion that would require constant military expenses to defend colonials, and unwillingness of colonials to be on receiving side of British mercantilism, that restricted business development in America to promote British manufacturing.
  3. Taxation Without Representation: Eventually all these tensions exploded under philosophical ideas of ineligibility of taxation without representation. It was definitely a funny reason, but it worked. 

CHAPTER TWO: What Kind of Government?

This chapter is about formation of American constitutional order and government that was based on key concept of natural rights. It briefly goes through revolutionary war, key points of constitution and modern views on it. Here are key points: of the narrative:

MYTHS OF MILITIA: Both sides were driven by ideals: Americans by idea of natural rights of British and Hessians by honor. Militia was generally not ineffective, but it was dependent on circumstance of fight: good defending home, not very good away from home. In both cases good military training is precondition for effectiveness anywhere.

REVOLUTION: The Baffle For New York, Turning Point, Saratoga and Alliance With France, The Southern Strategy: A very short restatement of history of revolutionary war with no points made that would be different from traditional narrative.

AMERICA’S FIRST CONSTITUTION: Perpetual Union, Life Under the Articles, Annapolis Convention and Shays Rebellion: This part is somewhat unusual in attention paid to Articles of Confederation that was the first American Constitution approved by Continental Congress in 1778. It become law in 1781 and lasted until 1789. It was based on assumption that only small states can be democratic, therefore the Union should have little central power to avoid despotism. Significant attention assigned to discussion about perpetuity of the union. The point is made that at the time perpetuity of union was a hope not imperative and Civil War to keep the Union would be inconceivable for contemporaries. There is also discussion about Annapolis convention of 1786 that cleared way for Philadelphia Constitutional Convention next year and Shays rebellion that prompted wide believe that new constitution is a necessity.

GATHERING IN PHILADELPHIA: James Madison; Alexander Hamilton; States Rights vs. the Philosophy of Large Systems; Checks and Balances; Slavery;

Religion; Defense; The Executive; The Law of Nations; Commerce; The Bill of Rights: This is review of personalities who played major role in convention and where pushing in two directions: confederation of local democracies with minimal central power vs. benevolent central power embracing local democracies in firm grip. The downgrading of local democracies to provinces was not feasible at the time. An interesting discussion on checks and balances is related to this. It pertains to checks and balances not only vertically between branches of power, but also horizontally when power of federal government was balanced by power of the states as separate and competitive centers of all-important solutions. No important solution should be initiated at the federal level. Everything was supposed to be tested at the state level and then move up to the center when enough states joined the solution. Other parts of constitutional discussion concentrate on how far away practice mode from original ideas in every area discussed.


The Cynical View: The Constitution is document created by bunch of slave-owners to protect and defend their position in society.

Freedom or Democracy: Constitution was designed to elevate friction between freedom and democracy, which is by definition suppression of freedom for minority. Contemporary development went way too far in promoting democracy while giving too much power to the central state that automatically means decrease in individual freedom.

A Living Constitution: This intellectual idea basically degrades meaning of the Constitution to text open to infinite modification by just interpreting its worlds to whatever meaning an interpreter is looking for. For example modern interpretation of “general welfare” makes enumeration of federal government powers absolutely meaningless because it gives power to do whatever president and Congress want to do without any limitations.


The first president presented here as mainly pragmatically inclined man who did not bother himself with politics and ideas too much. Generally his presidency was on the side of Hamiltonians creating Bank of USA, siding with speculators in revolutionary debt issue, and generally supporting active and powerful federal government.


This is description of Adams personality, presidency and its most noticeable events:

THE XYZ AFFAIR: The story of French demanding bribes just for opening door for negotiations about attacks of French navy on American shipping. Instead of bribes Adams start building ships and armed merchants.

THE ALIEN AND SEDITION ACTS: These were 4 laws intended to limit immigration and naturalization especially for French and Irish who were bringing in ideas of French revolution. It also imposed restrictions on freedom of speech in order to prop up government power. Several dozens of authors and publishers were imprisoned.

Jury Nullification: Here authors goes into details of Jury notification he considers very important right that was slowly suppressed. The meaning is that jury makes judgment not only on guilt or innocence, but also on legality of law itself. While it still formally exists as check on judicial power in reality it was neutralized by judge’s instructions.

The Trial of Matthew Lyon: Lyon was a congressman accused for publishing seditious letters. While being in prison he was reelected and used the privilege to continue write letters against power.

Return To Monarchy? This is story of Hamiltonians attempt to move to neo-monarchy by changing constitution to make president serve for life. The secret Rose Bill was intended to do this and also create a standing army. It also included provision for Congress to appoint 13-man commission to review validity of votes giving party in power control over election results. The attempt failed due to exposes published from underground.

State Nullification: Kentucky, and Virginia Resolutions: The first years of republic demonstrated that vertical checks and balances are not working and states start quickly loose power to federal government. In response Kentucky and Virginia asserted states’ nullification rights in resolutions.

PEACE: Adams decided to make peace with France despite opposition from about everybody.

THE ELECTION OF 1800: It was the most difficult, dangerous, and important election ever. It proved to be the test of America’s ability to survive as constitutional republic with regular and peaceful change of powers.

JOHN MARSHALL: He was creator of powerful Supreme Court. According to constitution the power of court was limited to the expression of legal opinion. Marshal managed to convert it into power to overwrite any legislative or executive action by declaring it unconstitutional. Eventually it made Supreme Court into unelected final arbiter of decisions capable to put break on any actions ideologically repugnant to majority of its members.

CHAPTER FIVE: The 3rd President: Thomas Jefferson

THE SUM OF GOOD GOVERNMENT: The main point was reconciliation: need to accept both republican principles and federal government. No need for standing army since people defend their power, no sedition acts: freedom of speech includes freedom of error, government should restrain people from injuring one another, but leave them alone otherwise,

THE BARBARY PIRATES: A Presidential War; Preble’s Boys; To the Shores of Tripoli; What America Accomplished: This narrative of story of this mini war against Barbary pirates is somewhat different then usual. It is not triumphal expedition, but rather story of half-hearted action with extensive use of adventurers and locals who were later betrayed and damped. There was also no victory that would stop attacks and/or payment to barbarians. In 1807 pirates started again attack ship and USA quietly resumed paying tribute to prevent attacks. It lasted until end of Napoleonic war in 1815.

The Louisiana Purchase; The Black Napoleon; Constitutional Concerns: Louisiana was a very nice accomplishment, even if unconstitutional. An interesting event stressed here, which usually not mentioned that much, is revolution on Haiti and its success in repulsion of Napoleon’s army there. This event convinced Napoleon that he does not have enough resources and it better to get money in exchange for formality. It is quite possible that if Napoleonic war ended differently, the Louisiana purchase would be considered a blunder of providing help to aggressor who got stronger as result and then come to take back what he “sold”.

FIRST TERM ACCOMPLISHMENTS: Practically elimination of internal taxes, decrease in size and power of government, enforcement of free speech and rejection of sedition laws.

THE GODS OF FORTUNE: All above gave boost to prosperity, plus Jefferson managed to somewhat successfully avoid entanglement in Europe’s Napoleonic wars.

DESCENT INTO TYRANNY: Threat, Confusion, and Anguish; Embargo; Improving the Nation; SECESSION and NULLIFICATION: However he was not able to stay completely out. The reason was British huge Navy expansion for which they needed sailors and Americans’ impression was a good source. On other hand, widely trading American merchant fleet also needed sailors and guys who escaped British Navy also were a good source. Eventually tensions with Britain grew to the point when British stop respecting neutrality on the sees and Jefferson responded with embargo, which pretty much caused more harm to America and led to a slight push for nullification and even secession in Northern states. It failed, causing practical disappearance of Federalist’s party.

THE ELECTION OF 1808: Jefferson selected Madison to inherit his as a president and election was quite easy

HISTORY OF HISTORIES: At the end author reviews historians’ attitude to Jefferson and concludes that Jefferson usually got negative rap from historians mainly because ideologically they typically are lovers of big centralized government, while Jefferson moved country to decentralized government structure, some would even say he moved it in libertarian direction.

CHAPTER SIX: The 4th President: James Madison

THE FIRMIST BULWARK OF REPUBLICS: Madison came up with 16 core believes for his administration that allowed him to establish goals in all main areas:

  • Internationally: no intervention into others’ business and rejection of intervention into ours;
  • Relationship with states strictly within constitution with use of enumerated powers, but everything else left to states;
  • Strict adherence to individual rights especially first amendment;
  • Fiscal responsibility: low taxes and no government debt;
  • Military: limited army and preference for militia for defense;
  • General wellbeing, roads, science and such: promote within limited powers;
  • Indians: help them to move to civilization.

THE NEW CABINET: Except for Gallatin and Monroe, Madison allowed congress to define cabinet leading to internal squabbles.

WEST FLORIDA: In between Napoleon and Spain Florida become ungoverned and declared independence that quickly followed by request to join USA, which Madison obliged without any constitutional authority, same way as it was with Louisiana.

BUILD-UP TO WAR: Taking A Friendly Nap; Assassination; Tecumseh; The New Generation: The tensions with Britain over sailors increased. An interesting fact was that 1/3 of all American sailors actually were British so it is quite understandable that British raided American ship to capture sailors. At this point author stresses his disagreement with traditional interpretation of prewar period. He believes that Madison and Jefferson embargo worked as intended and British merchants put pressure on government to such extent that it explains assassination of prime minister. Also somewhat unusual is attention allocated to Tecumseh war. It presented not as insurrection, but rather as an attempt to create massive coalition of Indian tribes to fight European Americans invasion of their homelands. Eventually it failed due to technological and population advantages of Americans. Another interesting interpretation of events is that America moved to preparation for the war 1812 as aggressor in search of conquest of Canada. Obviously as aggressors American leadership was not that qualified since there were no significant investment into military preparation.

THE WAR OF 1812: Conquering Canada; Michigan and Tecumseh; Redemption at Sea; The War For the Lakes; Andrew Jackson and the Creek War; The Empire Strikes Back; The Battle of New Orleans; The Hartford Convention; The War’s First Lesson: The description of war of 1812 is also not exactly conventional. First of all the credit for saving Canada from American invasion goes to Tecumseh. The naval victories on the lakes presented as key to the following successful defense of American North against British and Indian counter invasion. Especially stressed is disarray and incompetence of American generals. The success came when incompetents were weeded out and substituted by middle level officers. On the South war theater Andrew Jackson successfully destroyed Creek Indians and fortified Mobil and Pensacola making British movement against New Orleans quite complicated. The British success in taking and burning Washington is presents as of little military but huge political and moral consequence. It inflamed American fears of going into prolonged fight against British Empire and even loosing independence therefore greatly increasing willingness to fight. At the same time with not enough forces to take fort Henry and move into Baltimore and farther inland it caused no serious danger. Quite a bit of attention given to the fact that American started to fight for real only when they felt they are under attack from aggressor. From this point of view the American anthem, born then and there, is reflecting American creed of military defense as fight of free militiamen (not conscripts) to protect their land and way of life. The battle of New Orleans presented as important factor making peace treatment to stick and stopping New England noises of secession produced at Hartford Convention. Author challenges traditional interpretation of the war as demonstration of ineffectiveness of American believes in defense by small professional army augmented by militia and need in big standing army. He claims that militia did good when it was well trained and used in defensive situation. Its ineffectiveness in many engagements was caused either aggressive character of war in initial actions against Canada or just poor equipment and training.

FINAL DAYS: The Bank of the United States; Internal Improvements:

The end of Madison presidency presented move away from Jeffersonian ideas with authorization of The Second Bank of United States and significant move of resources into government controlled “improvements” of roads, communications, and canals. This was the last presidency of revolutionary generation leaders: Washington. John Adams, Jefferson, and Madison. The next was generation of children of revolution Jeffersonians: Monroe, Jackson, and Calhoun; and Hamiltonians: John Quincy Adams, Webster, and Clay.

20141114 Kidding Ourselves

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The main idea of this book is nicely expressed in introduction: It is about power of deception and/or self-deception, placebos, and similar things. The most important inference from this collection of cases and experiments is that power deception is not just inherent part of human nature, but that it is often has a positive character helping to handle complexity of life on a “good enough” basis by maintaining illusion that we are in control even if we are really not.


PART I. THE POWER OF NOTHING: Placebos, Mass Hysteria, and Fatal Delusions

The Medicine of Imagination

The chapter starts with history of Mesmer who mesmerized audiences providing treatments from everything until special commission with participation of Ben Franklin. As usual this paragon of American common sense easily disproved power of mesmerism with experiment, but nevertheless the case clearly demonstrated power of believe. This reference to history follows by report on contemporary experiments with placebo that demonstrated high power of believes. Another interesting observation is impact of psychological condition of person on perception of pain. It presented using example of soldiers who were severely wounded, but were nearly painless from excitement and happiness because the wound meant a ticket home and end of war for them. In 1956 Dr. Beecher published research, which demonstrated that pain has meaning and its severity depends on psychological condition.

The Human Stampede

This chapter discusses human herd behavior when people feel and see thing not because they exists, but because other people do the same. It starts with the case of town of Mattoon Illinois where in 1944 epidemics of smelling strange smell occurred. Then it goes to discussion of monkeying behavior such as contiguous yawing and higher level of susceptibility to such things among females. At the end chapter demonstrates that herd behavior could extend even to the level of copycat suicides as it did happened after death of Marilyn Monroe.

Fatal Instincts

This chapter presents a number of cases when people dying for psychological reasons only. It includes broken heart when something happens that makes life meaningless for the person such as death of long-term partner, curse by some magician that person believes in: like “boning”, brainwashing, and learned helplessness observed in experiments with animals and in humans in real life. Martin Seligman extensively researched it.

 PART II. THE EYE OFTHE BEHOLDER: Perception, Expectation, and the Lure of Superstition

Dial E for Expectation

This is about selective perception and change in performance based on expectations. In short people see what they expect / want and do not see what they do not expect and do not want. The cases provided are from literature, but more interesting cases are from test result which varied depending on priming. Students primed as “gifted” produced better test results. For selective perception cases from sport competition, experiment with gorilla on the field, and medical diagnosis is provided. The very interesting case of career made on false analysis and political correctness provided using Steven Gould and his famous career making book “The Mismeasure of man” in which he rejected skull measurement results of Samuel Morton in regard to size of skulls depending on race. Original finding was that size is different with interpretation of this as evidence of superiority / inferiority of races. Gould’s build career on falsely rejecting measurement results using statistical methods in order to prove that races are equal. The repeated measurement 30 years later proved that Morton was right and skulls are different. It is a great example of politicized pseudo science. The superiority / inferiority idea was proved wrong by 100 years of human history which produced outstanding individuals of all races, while use of skull size as proxy for intelligence is incredibly naïve, but at least in XIX century they did not falsify measurement to fit ideological doctrines.

True Believers

This is more detailed look at works of mind of true believer, how it processes information, and how it manipulate facts to fit into preset system of believes. Examples are from medical treatment by bleeding that probably killed more people than any other method of medical help, logically similar economic stimulus of Keynesian economists (take money from productive people to give in to unproductive government works very similar to letting out blood from striving organism). It also includes case of people believing that taxes are too high despite marginal rate going down (author obviously has hard time understanding that 40% income tax that one forced to pay is a lot higher then 91% nominal tax with lots of loopholes that nobody really pays). Another case of author’s political views interfering with analysis is statement that people do not see benefits they get from government and claim self-dependency while getting social security or Medicare. Author seems to have problem to understand that if these people worked long enough they were forced prepay for all government benefits and in such way they would not necessary agree with. On other hand all this is a good confirmation of blindness due to believes.

Control Freaks

This chapter is discussion of very good observation that normally people want to be in control, even if it is seldom possible. The cases he provides are non-working buttons to close doors in elevators (actually they usually work), money spent on supplements, vitamins, diets, and financial advisors (these usually do not work). Also an experiment with young students visiting old people in nursing house provided interesting results. The conditions of old people visibly improved when they were in control of these visits. This follows by other results confirming that being in control of situation makes people to be healthier and live better and longer. Obviously it could not be without mentioning the famous study of British civil workers whose wellbeing strongly correlated with their place in hierarchy: the higher one in hierarchy, the healthier he/she is.

Lucky Charms

This chapter is about different ways to obtain control over situations that are not really controllable such as religions and superstitions. As far as it is known, nobody excluded from attempts to control live with lucky charms and things like that. I guess everybody who ever had difficult exam or was involved in military fight, or had any other experience in important and difficult situation with unknown outcome can confirm that signs, lucky charms, and things like that are used extensively regardless of people religious believes or lack thereof.


Drunk with Power

Being a liberal, author chose to use Gingrich as an example of a person who was dramatically changed by power to the worse. Obviously much more recent and more disgusting example is Obama who went power crazy to the point of stepping all over constitution. Needless to say that any research that was ever conducted confirms a common knowledge that power makes people over confident, neglectful to other people opinions and wellbeing, and prone to illusion of great overestimation of their power and abilities. An interesting find comes from research of use of power priming in negotiations. Individuals primed to feel powerful paid a lot less attention to reputation of other side than people who were primed to feel powerless.

It Can’t Happen to Me

This chapter is about tendency of successful people to overestimate their ability to control events and as result become prone to spectacular failure coming from excess of optimism and underestimation of risk. The chapter includes a charming statement from Amos Tversky: “People study artificial intelligence while behavior economics studies human natural stupidity”. Examples of overconfidence here include: doctors not washing hands, individuals prone to sexually transmitted diseases, funds manager making high risk decisions, and women who fail protect from unwanted pregnancy.

Enduring the Blizzard

The last chapter looks at the issue under a different angle. It states that all these illusions and self-deceptions are quite possibly a very useful tool developed by evolution. Overestimate of possible rewards makes people to work harder, take more risk, and eventually strive to obtain low probability high value results. It comes down to research confirming triviality that moderately unreasonable positive attitude make people healthier, wealthier, and more satisfied with their lives. Big help also is mental rewriting of expectations when results fall below original expectation. Good example of premed woman in 30s who due to depression failed to complete studies and become just a housewife. Asked about disappointment 50 years later she stated that she never wanted to be a doctor so there was no disappointment. The final example in this chapter relates to sexual selection when 100% is looking for above average and 100% find somebody good enough to pair at least for a while.


I think it is quite valuable presentation of various cases of disconnect between human perception of reality and actual reality. It is impossible to deny that all variations from power of placebo to statistics and math denying believes do in fact take place in real life and goad behavior of lots of people. What is interesting however that in vast majority of cases individuals have and apply these believes in areas that are not main areas of their activity or do not impact this activity per se. I guess my point is that in areas of professional involvement people have no choice, but to learn what is reality and how accommodate to it while in areas that are new for them people implement heuristics at the “good enough” principle because they do not have time and opportunity to experiment in order to find out what reality is. In short behavioral economists, economic psychologists and so on overestimate impact of such self-deceiving patterns on real life. The vast majority of people who actually do things from growing food to making steel, to programming computers actually have no such luxury because if farmer gets convinced that he can plant seeds in the winter, steelmaker that steel could be produced at low temperature, and programmer that whatever is output it is what it should be we’ll have no food, no steal, and programs would not work. The triumph of science means that areas of false believes is getting smaller and smaller all the time and necessity to put on these believes the label of science, therefore opening them to demand for falsification statement makes it more and more difficult to promote. Good example of this difficulty is denial of genetics by “Progressive Soviet Science” in 1950s and promotion of catastrophic global warming by “Progressive Western Science” in 2010s. In both cases government financed scientific establishment put lipstick of science on the pig, but could not convince that it is a beauty.

20141107 Carnage and Culture

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This book is about interconnection between culture and military success of the people. Specifically it is trying to explain the fact that over 2000 years numerically smaller western armies won multiple battles and engagements with practically all other competing groups. The main explanation for this fact provided in the book is that culture of perceptually free and independent property owners defending their property and families produces highly organized, disciplined, and technologically superior military, generally undefeatable on the home turf. Moreover, spillover of this quality into mercenary troops produced highly successful conquerors and colonizers who were capable to basically subdue the whole world by the end of XIX century. The army produced by western culture has no serious opponent except for another western army and in this case carnage is extremely high. Correspondingly military produced by other cultures with complete suppression of individual where there is no notion of freedom and personal property produce inferior armies where lack of discipline, organization, and technology have deleterious effect on individual bravery, sacrifices, and even tactical genius of leaders.



This is review of a few specific battles across 2500 year of history that demonstrates qualitative difference of Western way of war and its special lethality.

ONE – Why the West Has Won


It starts with Anabasis – the history of 10000 Greek mercenaries who in 401 BC were hired by Persian king and wind up far away from home without any support when king died. They managed to march back through 1500 miles of hostile territories winning all their battles with little casualties. The point is made that while these Greeks were thugs, their culture provided for democratic method of decision making, conscious understanding by each man his objectives and duties, superior camaraderie and discipline, and superior military technology. The same qualities were demonstrated throughout 2500 by different western armies that consistently won battles against numerically superior armies of non-westerners.


The war in this book is treated as expression of culture that defines what kind of people constitute army fielded by the society, quality of their arms, and most important their behavior during the battle. Author selected a number of battles for review with diversity of place, type, and outcome to analyze specifics of Western way of war.


The first order of analysis is to establish reality of western military preeminence. It is done by looking at cases when western armies lost and confirming that nearly all of them characterized, by numerical superiority of non-westerners, their possession of military technology developed by westerners, motivation superiority when non-westerners often defended their land, while westerns were colonizers with little support from their own population. Author reviews and rejects explanations such as Jared Diamond’s superiority of western geography providing advantage despite inferiority of western people or common explanation by superior technological advantage due to west first achieving industrial revolution. The idea of inherent inferiority / superiority of populations is rejected out of hand, geographical explanation dealt with by pointing at superiority of geographic endowment of Egypt and Mesopotamia, and technological superiority reason by pointing to initial technological superiority of China in ships, guns and just about everything else.


The key to western military superiority is psychology of individual soldier who is culturally conditioned to fully believe that he is voluntary fighting for his own, his family, and his clan’s freedom and prosperity. These abstract ideas may or may not be consistent with reality, but they define soldier’s behavior in the battle.

PART ONE – Creation;

This part is reviewing 3 key components from which western way of fighting grew out. These components are Freedom, Preference for decisive battle, and a special quality of troops as citizen-soldiers.

TWO – Freedom–or “To Live as You Please”

The TWO is about naval battle at Salami in 480BC when Greek fleet destroyed Persians despite huge numerical disparity. The main point here is made that free men make much better fighters the slaves. The reason being that free man has habits of live conductive for initiative, quick change in behavior to accommodate to changing circumstances, and self-reliance in decision making. Author also specify meaning of freedom:

  1. Freedom of speech with two different meanings: to be able to say what one wants and to be able to speak publicly. This freedom leads to better consideration of option and diversity of ideas providing for much better considerations then lack of freedom when only opinion of superior is heard with no opportunity to challenge it if it is erroneous.
  2. Government with consent of citizenry. The free choice of action makes individuals much more prone to stick to it.
  3. Economic freedom and property rights, which provide for high battle morals because the fight is for wellbeing of individual and his family.
  4. Freedom of action that provides for highly diverse trial and error probes leading to finding better tactical solutions in the battle.

The legacy of battle is survival of unusually individualistic western civilization and confirmation of its military superiority over despotic collectivistic civilizations.

THREE – Decisive Battle

This part is about battle at Gaugamela 331 BC when Alexander won against Persians who had not only superior numbers, but also superior cavalry. The main point here is that Western way of war is to seek decisive battle with annihilation of losing force. The key is not a formality of the battle, but annihilation of the enemy and removal of any options for future resistance in contrast to traditional tribal wars where the objective is to identify a winner with minimal losses and destruction on both sides. The main method of achieving victory is combination of maneuver with ruthlessness. In short the western military approach was to create local superiority both numerically and technologically and annihilate subset of enemy troops, then quickly repeat it in another place with another subset. The net result is that at any given time in any given encounter western army has overwhelming superiority and chip out key pieces of enemy force until it is defeated. In such situations the ability to act independently and decisively achieved due to the quality of troops is a necessary condition. Such quality is achieved through civic militarism of relatively free and independent farmers who take arms consciously to defend their way of life and families. It is difficult if not impossible to achieve with an army of slaves.

FOUR – Citizen Soldiers

This chapter continues discussion of military qualities of army of citizen soldiers using example of western defeat at Cannae 216 BC. Interestingly the point of this chapter is somewhat contradictory, but also complementary to the idea of decisive battle. It is an idea that western way of war is not to accept defeat until it is final. Despite being massacred at Cannae due to poor generalship, Romans raised new legions, analyzed and corrected mistakes and keep coming back at Hannibal until they eventually won. There is also a discussion of the structure and method of fighting of Roman legion that made it such a formidable force. One of the most important features was discipline and well thought through and trained for process of fighting. Every soldier knew what to do in the process of battle: through spear, engage with short sword, move back to form next line, and so forth. Also important was synchronization of action that significantly increased their effectiveness. Very interesting note from Josephus about this: “their training maneuvers were battles without bloodshed and their battles were maneuvers with bloodshed”. Finally, lots of attention is paid to Roman soldier as citizen, which is a person with clearly defined rights and responsibilities, which are not subject of change by leaders.

PART TWO – Continuity.

The second part is reviewing the next layer of western way of war that makes it so lethal: Preference for infantry as the core of the military structure on land. Technological superiority initially based on specific features of western culture: curiosity, constant search for new / better solutions, and easy adaptability of such solution even if they are foreign and contradict to tradition. Finally it reviews impact of industrial revolution as product of western culture that tremendously increased technological capabilities of western armies.

FIVE- Landed Infantry

This chapter based on battle at Poitiers 732 against Islamic army discusses western infantry as one of the core reasons for military advantage. It is linked to the nature of western soldier as a member of propertied middle class wealthy enough to have good infantry equipment, but not wealthy enough for heavy cavalry. This is enmeshed with high requirements for discipline because cavalry is useless against disciplined group of heavy infantrymen, but would easily defeat in unorganized one on one encounter. Once again western way of war presented with stress on technology, group discipline and incentive with lower value put on individual brevity and/or numerical superiority.

SIX – Technology and the Wages of Reason

Battle for Mexico City 1520 was used in this chapter to demonstrate qualitative difference between Aztec and Western military. Aztecs’ military method while very effective in American environment was limited by its ritualistic character, centralization, and lack of both initiative and discipline. Conquistadors’ military method was hugely opportunistic with no qualms about rules, ready to use whatever works however unethical and/or unusual it was. Existing technological advantage provided by scientific superiority of Europe made it all, but inevitable that conquistadors would win any military encounter with reasonable ratio of participants. Obviously inadvertent use of biological weapon of smallpox assured that this ratio would not be completely overwhelming.

SEVEN – The Market–or Capitalism kills

In this chapter the naval battle at Lepanto 1571 where European coalition fleet won over Ottomans is used to discuss financial and capital investment side of war making. As usual reason for victory was superior technology and discipline of Christians despite of inferiority of their numbers. However while Christian fleet had inferior number of ships and people, the number of canons was much higher and quality of ships and weapons by far superior. The point is made that this superiority came from new economic system capitalism that dramatically increased level of innovation placing western military power into position of such technological superiority that no other culture was able get even close to until the raise of Japan in XIX century.

PART THREE – Control.

The last part is dedicated to the quality of individuals that typically constitute western fighting force. These qualities: discipline, individualism, and dissent / self-critic are critical for military success because they dramatically increase flexibility, adaptability, and ability to learn from error that are necessary in unpredictable situations of battle;

EIGHT – Discipline, or Warriors Are Not Always Soldiers

Zulu War; Rorke’s Drift 1879. This is a very interesting episode of Zulu war when within 2 days British troops experienced defeat of relatively big force that followed by victory of much smaller force against the same enemy. In both cases British inflicted disproportionally high damage on opponent, but in the first case they lost due to tactical incompetence of leadership, while in the second case the adequate leadership provided for victory. The chapter reviews Zulu war and overall features of colonial conquest. The stress is on match between individual bravery combined with lack of discipline in Zulus, with high level of discipline of British troops typical for western military tradition.

NINE – Individualism

Midway 1943. This battle is used to demonstrate superiority of western way of war even in conditions when enemy in this case Japanese Navy was technologically as good or even better then American Navy. Author makes case that victory was obtained to significant extent due to the fact that American fighters were much more inclined to act based on individual decisions with little fear for punishment if decision turned out to be wrong. Contrary to this Japanese counterparts were restricted in their action by culture of compliance with rules and norms and fear of making a mistake.

TEN – Dissent and Self-Critique

The final battle reviewed in this book is Tet offensive in Vietnam in 1968. This battle was won by all conceivable military parameters, but lost in the court of public opinion that eventually led to America loosing this war. Somewhat contrary to usual approach author not only criticize media for this loss, but also praises it for exposing the lies and errors of leadership to the American public. The point is made that such critic, even if devastating, is one of the main strengths of western way of fighting because it provides for much better error analysis and improvement opportunities then other cultures in which critic of leadership is severely punished. However author accuses media in one-sided presentation of events and it was mainly the side of communist propaganda.


It is impossible to deny lethality and effectiveness of western way of war. However in my opinion the direct impact of culture on soldiers’ behavior as cause of victory is somewhat exaggerated and technological causes somewhat understated even if author mentions unstoppable Mongols who all but conquered the world, but could not produce anything beyond superior military power and consequently had relatively low staying power. As of now, no military can compete with western forces, but technology provided for such powerful weapons that individual qualities of soldiers and even group coherence are not as important as they used to be so a small group of leaders and soldiers could use WMD to achieve whatever objective they want to achieve as long as they are not limited by humanitarian considerations. This fact creates a dangerous situation for West, which being the cultural source of humanitarian considerations could not be able to use WMD when threaten and would be inclined to surrender rather than devastate the world. However I am optimistic that huge western technological superiority and cultural conquest of potential enemy population will lead to eventual elimination of war as tool of human interactions. However until it happens this tool should be used decisively and effectively to avoid huge human suffering from low intensity conflicts that west allow simmering due to the false humanitarian considerations.