Thursday, September 15, 2016

History: The Year is 1870

Vatican One and Papal Infallibility

The plans for the reforming the Catholic Church have been in the works for centuries, and Pope Pius the 9th is a reform pope, but several problems have cropped up. Remember that the Pope is the head of the Catholic Church and he is currently the head of the Papal States... like a king. A few years ago, a Catholic French aristocrat had expressed the liberal idea that the Church should adopt democratic principles because the old religious-aristocratic system is dead. The Pope sent a reasonable correction to the aristocrat, and included a list of errors that all people should correct in their religious observance. If a king had issued such a list, it would be called a royal decree. The French are currently reacting badly to anything that appears to disdain their democratic zeal. (France has opened its first parliament recently.) So they burn the Pope's decree in the street. The Pope then calls for the largest convocation of Bishops ever assembled which will be called the First Vatican Council or "Vatican 1" in modern times. They must work out the religious policies for the Church going forward. Far down on the agenda is Papal infallibility.... answering the question: "When is a Pope's decision final and not subject to a vote of the bishops?" The debate is going well: atheism is a bad idea, pantheism is not allowed, etc, but as the bishops turn toward the Pope's role in making religious decrees, it gets strange. They agree that the Pope is infallible only in those decisions that deal with his Pastoral duties to the Church in regard to Faith and Morals. That is, whenever he speaks ex cathedra. In July, the majority vote in favor of this proposition. Two vote against. A VERY large number of bishops abstain. Two days later, French troops withdraw from the Papal States to go to war with Prussia. On the 20th of September 1870, the Army of Italy moves in and the Papal States are no more. Italy is unified and Rome is its capital. Pope Pius the 9th is now king of 110 acres of real estate. [1] [2] [3] [4] [5]
My Take by Alex Shrugged
Even by his critics, Pope Pius the 9th was considered a charming man and well-liked by those who met him. By virtue of my personal promise to remain objective, I admit that I do not like Pope Pius the 9th. I am Jewish and he was bad for the Jews in many respects. However, objectively speaking, I understand the political pressure he was under. He was making reforms and those reforms went south. He tried to wrest control of the Church back and a lot of people got caught in the cross fire. Whenever one's goal is to reform an organization, even with a carefully planned reform, at some point one must stop. That exact point is not always easy to define. If one goes too far, the organization becomes something else entirely, and one's core mission is lost. For a religious organization that can be disastrous. I am a Modern Orthodox Jew and I am aware of that tension between the need to modernize without throwing away one's core religious principles. I am often stepping between two worlds and two ways of thinking. When I walk into a synagogue it is the 11th day of Elul (eh-LOOL) in the year 5776 since the Creation. When I step out, its September 14th, 2016. I am part of a pre-Enlightenment religion immersed in the world of Enlightenment. In this I share many feelings with Catholics because they are the other pre-Enlightenment religion trying to live in this Brave New World. We are the remnant. [6] [7]

Standard Oil of Ohio

John D. Rockefeller is not yet the richest man in history, but he is working on it. Oil drilling in Ohio is ongoing, but John is not an oil man per se. He was a clerk in a produce company, but he formed a partnership with his brother William and another fellow to refine oil rather than drill for it. John's expertise is in cutting costs, especially transportation costs. By 1868, he and his brother have built the largest refinery capacity in the world. This year the old partnership is dissolved and reestablished as Standard Oil. Profits soar. There is a glut of kerosene on the market, so the profit margins are thin. This works in favor of Standard Oil. Rockefeller makes a deal with the railroad companies. For a substantial discount on freight cost, Standard Oil will guarantee to ship a certain amount of oil. They will also load and unload it themselves. With lower transportation costs, kerosene prices drop by half. Smaller companies cannot get the big discounts that Standard Oil can so they fold. Standard Oil buys them out, keeping some going and shutting down others. In 2 years they will call it "The Cleveland Massacre" as 22 of its 24 competitors go down to destruction. You will hear a lot of hollering, and one of the loudest will be John Archbold who will head to Oklahoma to make his fortune, but he will return to become Rockefeller's assistant and later run Standard Oil while Rockefeller engages in charitable work. [8] [9] [10] [11] [12]
My Take by Alex Shrugged
Well... that all sounds reasonable. A businessman does a better job, more efficiently and is rewarded for it. That's fine. But in those days there were few regulations on businesses and in my general reading, my sense is that success bred a type of robber baron mentality that led to collusion between companies and unfair business practices. I'm all for a fair playing field and discounts for volume users. Crushing competition and stifling innovation through collusion is generally bad. It was like when the riverboat companies tried to stop the railroads from building bridges across rivers. The underlying (and underhanded) argument was over the right for a river freight company to strangle the growing railroad freight company in its crib. We like the idea of cheap freight costs, but it is a precarious balance when government tries to help a new business grow, and the same government being used to protect the businesses that are "too big to fail." Standard Oil was eventually broken up because of its anti-competitive practices. That is why we have Chevron, BP, Exxon-Mobile, and others. After the break-up, Mr. Rockefeller became even richer than before. Once freed of central control, the companies were more efficient and responsive to local market forces and made Rockefeller even richer than before. AT&T went through a similar process. There is no company "too big to fail."

In Other News

  • The fireman's pole is invented in Chicago. The spiral staircase keeps the horses from coming upstairs, but it has become a bottleneck. [13]
  • Stevens Institute of Technology opens in Hoboken. Future graduates will include the founder of Texas Instruments, the developer of the Gantt chart, and the co-inventor of Bubble Wrap. [14]
  • New Years Day, Independence Day, Thanksgiving and Christmas become paid holidays for US Federal employees. Note that neither the Congress nor the President has asserted the authority to declare Federal holidays for anyone except Federal employees or within the District of Columbia. [15]

This Year on Wikipedia

Year 1870, Wikipedia.

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