Are these people really this ignorant?

The American Revolution itself was not merely a reaction against certain types of control—such as the British East India Company’s monopoly on commerce.

Sure, John Company got to sell tea from the Far East. But monopoly upon commerce in the Americas? Or even the Atlantic?

18 thoughts on “Are these people really this ignorant?”

  1. The country thrived when its leaders broke up monopoly power.

    Except . . . the only monopoly power they broke up were either monopolies that only existed *because of the protection granted by government power* – or, like in the case of Standard Oil, monopolies that existed because they were exceedingly more efficient than their competitors.

  2. I’ve been reading Dominic Frisby’s book “Daylight Robbery: How Tax Shaped Our Past and Will Change Our Future” and he says that it was tax that caused the American Revolution.

  3. “it was tax that caused the American Revolution”: possibly. The most lightly taxed civilisation in history wanted to dodge tax. Not a mad proposition.

    On the other hand what really caused the American Revolution was what caused all others: a group of conspirators thought “why can’t we exercise power rather than that other bunch who have power at the moment?” Then they needed a slogan/argument that would have wide appeal. Tax provided the excuse. It was rather like WMDs providing the excuse for the Iraq attack.

  4. Somewhat agree, dearieme. Taxes were a trigger, but the overall problem was that Americans – British citizens in the colonies – felt it stupid to be controlled by a government 3 months away.

  5. Brilliant by SadButMadLad
    Taxes may have been a few %, but if your followers’ margin of income over basic survival is just a few % also, then that small tax can feel like a log being smashed at your face. The remoteness of the tax collector and the lack of accountability will have also hurt.

  6. Dunno if it is true, (I really don’t!) but I have heard that the Boston Tea Party occurred, not because of the imposition of tax, but because of its removal, which destroyed the smugglers profit margins….

    Anyonw know for sure?

  7. Bloke in North Dorset

    Whilst I agree with dearieme that taxes were the eventual excuse and not the reason they were a bloody good reason and it had been going on for some time.

    Starting with the Stamp Act to pay for the French and Indian War. It was the method of tax as much as the tax and reason for it that pissed people off. To add insult to injury violators were tried in the vice-admiralty courts not civil court. This led to the formation of the Sons of Liberty and the no tax without representation protests.

    That was followed by the Townshend Acts which were duties on imports, including tea, and these were also to be used to pay the salaries of colonial governors and other government officials to ensure loyalty to the crown. This really pissed of people to the extent they boycotted British goods and smuggling increased, especially tea, with the Dutch taking great delight in stirring up trouble as it was their tea that being smuggled.

    This in turn led to Tea Act which allowed the British East India Company, who were being crippled financially by the boycott and smuggling, to sell tea to the colonies duty-free, cheaper than anyone else. This was all the Sons of Liberty needed to stir up protests and eventually the Boston Massacre.

    It has been speculated that as some of the leaders of the Sons of Liberty, such as John Hancock and Samuel Adams, were also making a very nice living as tea smugglers they had more than a philosophical reason for stirring up the protestors to block the British East India Company because it was their profits being undermined by the removal of the tea tax.

    This is all covered in quite some detail on the web but also in episodes 2.2, 2.3 & 2.4 of the Revolutions Podcast.

  8. Isn’t taxation without representation what we were getting with the EU? Sure there is an EU parliament but it is just an very expensive talking shop with few if any actual powers. It appears to be there only to give the illusion of democracy.

  9. ‘The nativist idea of a rebellion is to dress up like Indians and dump tea in the ocean, the 18th-century version of frat boys pranking the archrival football team.’

    The redneck idea of a rebellion is to lie in wait with a shotgun for the guy who’s trying to tax your whiskey.’ – Joe Bob Briggs, “Short History of the Redneck”

    Contrast with the Star of the West Incident. Citadel Cadets on the Battery noticed the Star of the West attempting to deliver supplies to Fort Sumter. January 1861. They opened fire, and chased it off. 3 months before the official start of the War Between the States.

  10. @Stony

    And if the EU parliament had substantial powers, as many of its members would like (hello Guy!) then it would only mark out the EU as the kind of federalist project that most Brits wouldn’t want to be part of.

    To be fair to the EU though, and much as it pains me to do so, EU spending was around one percent of the EU’s GDP while Britain was a member (there seems to be some agreement for this to go up maybe as high as 2% in the near future, but nowhere near enough to get the kind of fiscal transfers that macroeconomists reckon are needed to make the Eurozone work properly as a single currency) and aside from the MEPs we did get:
    – a seat for the PM at the European Council,
    – to appoint one Commissioner (in principle they are loyal to the Commission not their home state but they in practice bring some of their national perspective and concerns with them),
    – to provide a proportion of the Eurocracy’s civil servants (though disproportionately few compared to other countries, apparently due to the lack of language proficiency among British civil servants that’s a requirement to work in Brussels – my informed guess is that the ones we did send over with relatively pro-European or even Eurofederalist compared to your typical Brit).

    The pre-Revolutionary American colonists had it way, way worse than this in the representation per unit taxation stakes.

    Arguing about the tax’n’spend was probably one of the least intellectually convincing reasons for leaving, though it did look good on the side of a bus. The argument that felt almost intellectually unassailable to me was the geostrategic gulf between what the typical Brit wanted Europe to be like in 20+ years versus what other EU members (especially the “core” Eurozone states) did – though perhaps it was too highfalutin to feature prominently in the campaign.

  11. @MBE
    Good post, I’d only quibble with:
    the geostrategic gulf between what the typical Brit wanted Europe to be like in 20+ years versus what other EU members (especially the “core” Eurozone states) did
    I don’t believe most French or Spanish or Polish or even Danish folk are eager to be ruled from Brussels (not sure about the Germans, who may think they’ll be the ones doing the ruling). The only people driving the ratchet toward a superstate are inside the Berlaymont.

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