Sunday, September 27, 2015

History: The Year is 1654

I've uploaded year 1654 to the TSP Wiki...

Here are some one liners...

The Best Way to Stop Smuggling -- to to make it less costly to obey the law than it does to thwart it.

The First Jews Arrive in New Amsterdam -- The Governor wants to give them the boot, but his boss says no. I talk about the difficult interactions between Jews and Christians and between Jews themselves. (I'm Jewish, BTW.)

A Forest in Flames and That's a Good Thing -- I've covered this topic before but this fellow has written the first history of New England, so that is important. He comments on how good it is that the Indians set fire to the forests.

The Best Way to Stop Smuggling

Everyone knows that not all of the silver destined for Spain from the New World actually makes it to Spain. In 1602 the King of Spain was given an estimate of how much silver was loaded onto ships. Since the King knew how much arrived in Spain he could do the math... only one-eighth of the silver was making it to Spain. Very few people know exactly how much is being diverted now, but an Admiral once remarked that "The king of China could build a palace with the silver". The San Francisco Javier is one of these semi-legitimate smuggling ships. This year the ship will sink near Manila Bay. It's manifest is a matter of record. It says that the ship was carrying 418,323 pesos. When the ship is finally found centuries later, the divers will pull up 1,180,865 pesos. Apparently someone lied on the manifest... a whole lot. [1] [2] [3] [4]
My Take by Alex Shrugged
The Chinese were starving for silver and they had a lot of goods that the Spanish could buy cheap and sell in Europe for a lot more. The money was entirely too good for even the best of captains. Despite laws passed and good intentions of government officials, smugglers found ways to circumvent the port authorities. Why? Because buyers and sellers didn't agree with an attempt to manipulate market forces. It boils down to the fact that money and goods go where they can do the most good for the buyers and the sellers. Buyers and sellers will pay the taxes and follow the regulations as long it is not too painful but once breaking the law seems like the much easier path, the law goes out the window. Sometimes the best way to stop smuggling is to make it cheaper to obey the law than it costs to break it.

The First Jews Arrive in New Amsterdam

The Jews have fared better in the Netherlands than anywhere else in Europe, but "better" does not necessary translate as "good". Several hundred Jews immigrated to Dutch Brazil, but when the Dutch lose their colonies there, the colonists scatter to other Dutch holdings including New Amsterdam (which will someday be called New York). By the time they arrive, they are destitute, being reduced to asking for the charity of New Amsterdam. Unfortunately a government welfare program is non-existent and the Governor wants to expel these vagabonds. He checks with his bosses in the Dutch West India Company. Apparently, the Company can't stand the Jews either, but the Company is financed in part by Jewish money so the message is... Don't mess with the Jews, please. It's going to goof up our financing around here. [5]
My Take by Alex Shrugged
In those days the best way to survive as a Jew was to make one's self indispensable in certain jobs. Since Jews were banned from farming, they took jobs that few people wanted such as bill collecting and sales or jobs that few people understood such as banking and medicine. They were also advisers to the nobility. Thus they became valuable in critical jobs in society even though some Jews were clearly a burden such as the immigrants to New Amsterdam (New York). Jews didn't start coming to the New World in numbers until the mid-1800s. By law, the European Jews had been sequestered in ghettos. To be cast out of a ghetto was a virtual death sentence so the social pressure to conform was tremendous. When Europe freed the Jews in the mid-1800s, they ran to the main ports of the United States which were were Charleston, South Carolina and Houston, Texas. Only much later did Jewish immigration switch to New York City. [6] [7] [8]

A Forest in Flames and That's a Good Thing

Edward Johnson (who I assume is the same fellow who founded Woburn, Massachusetts) remarks that the reason that the plains beyond the Mississippi are so well kept is because the Indians set fire to the forests on a regular basis. Indeed, the Indians do set fires regularly to clear out the dead brush and undergrowth that makes travel through a forest area so time consuming and difficult. The colonists see these forest fires as a virtue. One wonders how Edward Johnson knew what was happening beyond the Mississippi, but he did write the first history of New England which is published this year. [9] [10]
My Take by Alex Shrugged
The Indians continued to do a lot of things like thinning out the brush, thinning out the herds and generally managing things. They did it for their own purposes but it helped the forest and general nature as well. The idea that "things should just happen naturally" is a bit of a cruel joke. What a person means by that is that if we just left well enough alone it would look like a park. Well... it won't look like a park. If you leave well enough alone, then herds of elk will starve to death "naturally" during winter. Before those starving elk die they will "naturally" strip the bark off of all the trees in an attempt to feed themselves and then the trees will "naturally" die. Those other animals that "naturally" live in a forest won't have a forest any more so they will "naturally" move on or die too. So, while I agree that human beings can be too intrusive at times, what comes naturally is often not very desirable for human beings, plants or animals.

This Year on Wikipedia

Year 1654, Wikipedia. 

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