Whiskey Rebellion: A Rebellion against Taxes?

What caused the Whiskey Rebellion?

What caused the Whiskey Rebellion?
Description: “Famous whiskey insurrection in Pennsylvania”
Attribution: Our first century: being a popular descriptive portraiture of the one hundred great and memorable events of perpetual interest in the history of our country by R. M. Devens (1882).
Source: Wikimedia Commons

The history of the Whiskey Rebellion is shrouded in myth. Many scholars consider it a victory for the young U.S. government. But was it really a win for the anti-tax patriots?

What caused the Whiskey Rebellion?

The Whiskey Rebellion was the second major internal uprising in U.S. history (preceded only by Shays’ Rebellion). It was a response to an excise tax created by Alexander Hamilton, who served as Secretary of the Treasury under George Washington.

The U.S. government racked up $79 million in debt during the Articles of Confederation period. The Federal government owed $54 million of that amount. The individual states owed $25 million. Alexander Hamilton saw this as an opportunity to centralize government. He proposed to consolidate the debt. In order to pay it back, he would create a tax on domestic spirits. This was seen as a relatively safe luxury tax. In addition, he had support from those who viewed alcohol as a sinful indulgence. Thus, the Whiskey Act was passed into law in 1791.

What happened during the Whiskey Rebellion?

The Whiskey Tax was extremely unpopular, especially on the frontier (back then, the frontier consisted of Kentucky as well as parts of Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia). Many people in these areas just refused to pay the tax. But in western Pennsylvania, protestors fought back.

In July 1794, more than 500 people attacked the tax inspector’s home. George Washington sent a massive militia, 13,000 people strong, to quell the rebellion. By the time the militia arrived, the rebellion had dispersed. Some 20 people were arrested, but no one was ever convicted of a crime.

Guerrilla Explorer’s Analysis

Many scholars consider this a victory for the federal government. In his book, Character: Profiles in Presidential Courage, Chris Wallace provides a fairly typical pro-state treatment:

By acting decisively to quell the threat, Washington had proven that the federal government would stand behind the law. Many continued to fear that the government would destroy their dearly purchased freedoms. But as President Washington noted in his farewell address, a strong government, not a weak one, was the “main pillar…of your tranquility at home; your peace abroad; of your safety; of your prosperity; of that very Liberty which you so highly prize.”

However, the true story of the Whiskey Rebellion lies elsewhere, namely in the frontier. The U.S. government was never able to collect the Whiskey Tax on the frontier. In fact, it hardly tried. In fact, the Whiskey Rebellion, by and large, was mostly a non-violent tax protest. People just refused to pay it. Eventually, Hamilton and his fellow Federalists lost power and all excise taxes were repealed.

Here’s more on the Whiskey Rebellion from Murray Rothbard at LewRockwell.com:

The Whiskey Rebellion has long been known to historians, but recent studies have shown that its true nature and importance have been distorted by friend and foe alike. The Official View of the Whiskey Rebellion is that four counties of western Pennsylvania refused to pay an excise tax on whiskey that had been levied by proposal of the Secretary of Treasury Alexander Hamilton in the Spring of 1791, as part of his excise tax proposal for federal assumption of the public debts of the several states.

Western Pennsylvanians failed to pay the tax, this view says, until protests, demonstrations, and some roughing up of tax collectors in western Pennsylvania caused President Washington to call up a 13,000-man army in the summer and fall of 1794 to suppress the insurrection. A localized but dramatic challenge to federal tax-levying authority had been met and defeated. The forces of federal law and order were safe.

This Official View turns out to be dead wrong…

(See the rest at LewRockwell.com)

The Lost Apollo 11 Engines?

Apollo 11 Launch

“At 9:32 a.m. EDT, the swing arms move away and a plume of flame signals the liftoff of the Apollo 11 Saturn V space vehicle and astronauts Neil A. Armstrong, Michael Collins and Edwin E. Aldrin, Jr. from Kennedy Space Center Launch Complex 39A.”
Source: NASA

On July 16, 1969, Apollo 11 launched from Kennedy Space Center, sending Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin on a date with destiny. In the process, two massive F-1 engines were jettisoned into the ocean, seemingly lost for all time. Now, after a year-long expedition, billionaire Jeff Bezos has salvaged this history-making technology.

Salvaging the Apollo 11 Engines?

We first reported on this story in March 2012, calling it one of the most incredible salvage efforts of all time, ranking up there with Robert E. Peary’s search for “The Tent.” The cost of the recovery and restoration remains unknown but according to NASA, the engines will be displayed at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Air and Space Museum as well as Seattle’s Museum of Flight, respectively.

Who owns the Apollo 11 Engines?

The exact ownership of the engines remains unclear to me. I’m sure the U.S. government claims ownership. However, this would appear to fall under the Homesteading Principle. In essence, governments cannot legitimately own private property, since everything they have (including tax dollars) has been, in effect, taken with force. Even if you disagree with that assessment, NASA abandoned the engines, making no plans to ever recover them. Thus, I would argue no one owned the engines prior to discovery. Bezos Expeditions, on the other hand, is the rightful owner of its own labor. By salvaging the engines, it added its labor to the engines and thus, became the rightful owner.

Here’s more on the discovery of the lost Apollo 11 engines from Jeff Bezos at Bezos Expeditions:

What an incredible adventure. We are right now onboard the Seabed Worker headed back to Cape Canaveral after finishing three weeks at sea, working almost 3 miles below the surface. We found so much. We’ve seen an underwater wonderland – an incredible sculpture garden of twisted F-1 engines that tells the story of a fiery and violent end, one that serves testament to the Apollo program. We photographed many beautiful objects in situ and have now recovered many prime pieces. Each piece we bring on deck conjures for me the thousands of engineers who worked together back then to do what for all time had been thought surely impossible.

Many of the original serial numbers are missing or partially missing, which is going to make mission identification difficult. We might see more during restoration. The objects themselves are gorgeous…

(See the rest at Bezos Expeditions)

Did the U.S. Government kill Big Bands?

Did the U.S. Government kill off Big Bands?

Did the U.S. Government kill off Big Bands?
Description: Paul Whiteman and his orchestra, predecessors to the Big Band era (1921)
Source: Wikimedia Commons

In 1935, Benny Goodman launched the Big Band era with a famous performance in Los Angeles. By 1946, the Big Band era was dead. Despite high popularity, it was replaced by the far less dance-friendly (and far less popular) BeBop era. What happened to the Big Band era?

The U.S. government holds a substantial part of the blame. In 1944, the U.S. government imposed the so-called “Cabaret Tax,” partly to raise funds for World War II. Essentially, it placed a 30% tax rate on all establishments that “contained dance floors, served alcohol and other refreshments, and/or provided musical entertainment.” The tax, like so many others, was supposed to be temporary. But when it was reinstated, dance halls closed across the nation. Thanks to the extra cost of doing business, few places could afford to hire big bands. Thus, many big bands were forced to break apart. Musicians formed smaller bands and started playing non-danceable music. Thus, the era of Bebop began. Here’s more on the government’s war on Big Bands by Eric Felten at The Wall Street Journal (paywall protected):

These are strange days, when we are told both that tax incentives can transform technologies yet higher taxes will not drag down the economy. So which is it? Do taxes change behavior or not? Of course they do, but often in ways that policy hands never anticipate, let alone intend. Consider, for example, how federal taxes hobbled Swing music and gave birth to bebop.

With millions of young men coming home from World War II—eager to trade their combat boots for dancing shoes—the postwar years should have been a boom time for the big bands that had been so wildly popular since the 1930s. Yet by 1946 many of the top orchestras—including those of Benny Goodman, Harry James and Tommy Dorsey—had disbanded. Some big names found ways to get going again, but the journeyman bands weren’t so lucky. By 1949, the hotel dine-and-dance-room trade was a third of what it had been three years earlier. The Swing Era was over.

Dramatic shifts in popular culture are usually assumed to result from naturally occurring forces such as changing tastes (did people get sick of hearing “In the Mood”?) or demographics (were all those new parents of the postwar baby boom at home with junior instead of out on a dance floor?). But the big bands didn’t just stumble and fall behind the times. They were pushed…

(See the rest at The Wall Street Journal)

Stanley Steamer: Fastest Steam Car in History?

The demolished Stanley Steamer Steam Car

The demolished Stanley Steamer Steam Car
Attribution: Richard H. LeSesne (1907)
Source: Wikimedia Commons

In 1906, an automobile traveling 50 mph was considered extremely fast. Then Fred Marriott and the Stanley Steamer came along. The Stanley Steamer was a steam car, created by the Stanley Motor Carriage Company. In 1906, an early race car driver by the name of Fred Marriott used it to become the fastest driver in the world, topping out at 127.659 mph. He attempted to break the record in 1907 used an improved version of the steam car. Unfortunately, he hit a rut while traveling 140-150 mph. The steam car gained flight and when it hit ground, broke in half (see picture). Fred Marriott survived the crash but chose not to pursue another record.

Fred Marriott’s milestone was broken in 1910 when a Blitzen Benz, armed with a gasoline engine, reached 141.7 mph. However, he held the steam car land speed record for more than a century, until it was finally eclipsed by Charles Burnett III in 2009 with a mark of 139.843 mph. Here’s more from Daniel Vaughan at ConceptCarz.com.

The Stanley Brothers built their first steam-powered car in Watertown, Massachusetts in 1897. Within a decade, they created the ‘Fastest Car in the World,’ the Stanley Rocket. F.E. Stanley fathered the project, completing the design, build and test work in 1905. The Rocket made its public debut on Ormond Beach in January 1906.

The Stanley’s chose Fred Marriott, a daredevil racer, to pilot their car. The first day on the sand the car won the Dewar Trophy and set a record in the one-mile steam championship. The next day he set a record in a five-mile open race. On January 26th, Marriott set a one-kilometer record at 121.6 mph, the first person to traverse two miles in less than a minute. Two hours later, he upped it to 127.7, a record which lasted until 1910…

(See the rest at ConceptCarz.com)

QWERTY vs. Dvorak: The Fable of the Keys?

Original QWERTY typewriter key layout

Description: Original QWERTY typewriter key layout
Attribution: U.S. Patent No. 207,559, issued August 27, 1878 to Christopher Sholes
Source: Wikimedia Commons

A few weeks ago, someone told me the QWERTY keyboard (named for its first six keys) was a mistake. There was another design that had proven more efficient, easier to use, and less likely to cause injuries like carpal tunnel. It’s called the Dvorak Simplified Keyboard and was created by Dr. August Dvorak and his brother-in-law Dr. William Dealey in 1936. Unfortunately, this miraculous invention never took off because people are resistant to change…or so the story goes.

It turns out the most favorable research for the Dvorak keyboard was conducted by none other than Dr. Dvorak himself. Later studies showed there wasn’t much to gain – if anything at all – from switching over from QWERTY. Advocates claim Dvorak has the edge in terms of ergonomic design but this isn’t clear. If a benefit exists, it appears to be a small one. Here’s more on QWERTY vs. Dvorak from The Independent Institute:

At a conference attended the other day by your reporter, a distinguished academic economist (who had better remain nameless) cited the “QWERTY” layout of the standard typewriter keyboard as a clear example of how markets “can make mistakes”. It may have been the millionth such reference. Many a textbook cites this case as proof of a certain kind of market failure — that associated with the adoption and locking-in of a bad standard. For years, if you cited an example of a “pure public good” (another kind of market failure), it had to be a lighthouse. If you needed a case of “positive externalities” (yet another), you would very likely go for beekeeping. In its field, QWERTY has achieved the same iconic eminence.

Which is only apt, because the tale of QWERTY is a myth — just like those other two cases. More than 25 years ago, Ronald Coase, a Nobel laureate, showed that when lighthouses were first built in Britain they were provided by private enterprise; tolls were collected when ships reached port. So lighthouses are not pure public goods. At about the same time Steven Cheung examined beekeeping and apple-growing in the state of Washington. He found that apple-growers paid beekeepers for their bees’ pollinating endeavours; those services were not, in fact, an unpriced “externality”…

(Read the rest at The Independent Institute)

Why did the Poker Bubble Burst?

Why did the Poker Bubble Burst?

Why did the Poker Bubble Burst?
Description: “A Waterloo” (Dogs playing poker)
Source: Wikimedia Commons

In late 2003, the American poker industry exploded. New players flooded the game. Tournaments flourished. Poker games became a fixture on television. By 2008, the bubble had burst. People left the game in droves. Tournaments got smaller. Television programs ended up on the chopping block. So, why did this happen? What caused the poker industry to boom and bust? Curiously enough, the answer lies in money, or at least the Federal Reserve’s control over it. Here’s more from Peter C. Earle at the Ludwig von Mises Institute:

Nearly a decade ago, poker exploded in popularity. Between television programming, media coverage, and pop culture references to it—in particular, the Texas Hold ‘Em variant—the game became virtually unavoidable. The American Gaming Association estimates that nearly 1 in 5 Americans played poker in 2004, up 50 percent from 2003; also, that nearly 20 percent of those new players had begun to play within the previous two years.

The creation myth associated with the poker boom credits the improbable victory of a prophetically-named Tennessee accountant, Chris Moneymaker, in the 2003 World Series of Poker (WSOP). Other accounts source James McManus’s 2003 book Positively Fifth Street and the 1998 poker film Rounders. Still other, more mystical explanations refer to the game’s sudden “cultural resonance.”

But fads and surges of popularity come and go; these explanations hardly account for why, in a short amount of time, tens of millions of people suddenly flooded into a familiar—indeed, 150 year old—American card game, frenetically expending tens of billions of dollars on it. Nor do they explain why between 2007 and 2008 poker television programs were suddenly cancelled, tournaments saw a drop in participation, and many poker-related businesses scaled back or failed.

Austrian business cycle theory (ABCT) can, however, explain the origins and outcome of the poker bubble as well as its simultaneity with the housing boom, which, as will be demonstrated, are by no means coincidental…

(Read the rest at the Ludwig von Mises Institute)

Mean Valentines: Telling Someone You Don’t Care?

An example of Vinegar Valentines (aka Mean Valentines)

An example of Vinegar Valentines (aka Mean Valentines)
Source: Wikimedia Commons

Valentine’s Day is over, but there’s still a chance to tell others you DON’T care. Valentine’s Day cards weren’t always about love. Vinegar valentines (aka mean valentines) were popular in the mid 19th century. They seem to have died off around the 1940s to 1950s.

Mean Valentines were sometimes used to reject would-be lovers. Other times they were sent anonymously to annoying people. Don’t like that stuck-up clerk? Send her a card. Don’t care much for the bald guy down the block? Send him a mean Valentine. Think women need to get out of the voting booth? Tell her via anonymous card. The best part was that prior to 1840, the receiver paid postage for mail. So, early recipients of mean Valentines probably paid for someone to insult them. Here’s more on mean valentines from Lisa Hix at Collectors Weekly:

With all the hand-wringing over anonymous commenters and social-media trolls, you’d think the Internet is to blame for all the woes of humanity. After all, what could people do with their ugly, mean thoughts before they had Yelp, Reddit, or Tumblr to help broadcast them? But as far back as the 1840s until the 1940s, they could send them in a Vinegar Valentine. Yes, that’s right. For almost as long as Valentine’s Day has been an insufferably sappy day celebrating romantic love, it’s also been a day for telling everyone else exactly how much you don’t love them—with an anonymous poem sent via post.

At first, it’s easy to demonize the senders as the worst sorts of trolls or bullies. I mean, some of the most horrifying Vinegar Valentines actually suggest the recepient kill him or herself. But then, if you look at the more light-hearted Valentines, some of them start to seem like a good idea. Have you ever had a haughty saleslady scoff at you for being poor? Have you ever had to listen to a pompous windbag carry on when he doesn’t have any idea what he’s talking about? So many people are blithely unaware of their obnoxious behavior. Wouldn’t it feel great to tell them off, consequence-free?

 

(See the rest at Collectors Weekly)

President Lincoln: Hero or Monster?

President Lincoln: Hero or Monster?

President Lincoln: Hero or Monster?
Attribution: Alexander Gardner (November 8, 1863)
Source: Wikimedia Commons

President Lincoln is the centerpiece of American mythology. Public schools teach us to adore him. His brilliance and leadership are hailed by historians and politicians. President Lincoln saved the Union, freed the slaves, and inspired a nation. Check out these glowing words from Roy Klabin at PolicyMic:

Abraham Lincoln is one of America’s most celebrated presidents, having led us though our most troubled times. He was made great not by the circumstances that he found himself in, but the fortitude and honor with which he navigated them. The Civil War that erupted, and the manner in which Lincoln quelled it, showed us that however varied the ideas within our flourishing democracy may become, our strongest virtue comes in sustaining our unity and resolving our differences.

Fortitude? Honor? Please. Unfortunately, the truth is far uglier. President Lincoln’s quest to “save the union” cost an estimated 750,000 lives (including my third great grandfather). He wanted to force African-Americans to resettle in Central America. And there is no evidence he helped to pass the 13th Amendment, despite what Steven Spielberg would have you believe. In fact, the only 13th amendment President Lincoln tried to pass was the Corwin Amendment, which sought to prevent interference with slavery. Here’s more on the mythology surrounding President Lincoln and the 13th Amendment from Thomas DiLorenzo at LewRockwell.com:

Steven Spielberg’s new movie, Lincoln, is said to be based on several chapters of the book Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns-Goodwin, who was a consultant to Spielberg. The main theme of the movie is how clever, manipulative, conniving, scheming, lying, and underhanded Lincoln supposedly was in using his “political skills” to get the Thirteenth Amendment that legally ended slavery through the U.S. House of Representatives in the last months of his life. This entire story is what Lerone Bennett, Jr. the longtime executive editor of Ebony magazine and author of Forced into Glory: Abraham Lincoln’s White Dream, calls a “pleasant fiction.” It never happened…

There is no evidence that Lincoln provided any significant assistance in the passage of the Thirteenth Amendment in the House of Representatives in 1865, but there is evidence of his effectiveness in getting an earlier Thirteenth Amendment through the House and the Senate in 1861. This proposed amendment was known as the “Corwin Amendment,” named after Ohio Republican Congressman Thomas Corwin. It had passed both the Republican-controlled House and the Republican-dominated U.S. Senate on March 2, 1861, two days before Lincoln’s inauguration, and was sent to the states for ratification by Lincoln himself. The Corwin Amendment would have prohibited the federal government from ever interfering with Southern slavery…

(See the rest at LewRockwell.com)

The Comics Code: Tyranny Based on Lies?

Cover of "This Magazine is Haunted" (# 5): A typical example of horror comics that led to the War on Comics & the Comics Code

Cover of “This Magazine is Haunted” (# 5): A typical example of horror comics that led to the War on Comics & the Comics Code
Attribution: Cover by Sheldon Moldoff
Source: Wikimedia Commons

New findings shows the research that lauched the War on Comics and the Comics Code was based on omissions, fabrications, and outright lies. That’s right, Dr. Fredric Wertham was the comics equivalent of Mike Bellesiles. We like to think of scientists and academics as impartial experts, who are only concerned with knowledge. Nothing could be further from the truth. Here’s more on the faulty foundations for the Comics Code by Dusty Rhodes at the University of Illinois:

Behavioral problems among teenagers and preteens can be blamed on the violence, sex and gore portrayed in the media marketed to them – that was the topic of televised public hearings held by the U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Juvenile Delinquency in 1954 to address the scourge of comic books. The hearings, which resulted in the decimation of what was an enormous comic book industry, had been inspired in large part by the book “Seduction of the Innocent,” by psychiatrist Fredric Wertham, based on his own case studies.

Wertham’s personal archives, however, show that the doctor revised children’s ages, distorted their quotes, omitted other causal factors and in general “played fast and loose with the data he gathered on comics,” according to an article by Carol Tilley, published in a recent issue of Information and Culture: A Journal of History.

“Lots of people have suspected for years that Wertham fudged his so-called clinical evidence in arguing against comics, but there’s been no proof,” Tilley said. “My research is the first definitive indication that he misrepresented and altered children’s own words about comics.”

(See the rest at the University of Illinois)

What did Nathan Hale Really Say?

"Last Words of Nathan Hale"

“Last Words of Nathan Hale”
Attribution: Engraving by Alexander Hay Ritchie (1858)
Source: Wikimedia Commons

Nathan Hale, the famous American spy from the Revolutionary War, is famous for saying, “I only regret that I have but one life to give for my country.” There’s just one problem. He never said it. So, what did he really say? The answer is below, courtesy of an interview with Becky Akers conducted by American Revolution and Founding Era:

“What lessons can Americans today take from someone like Nathan Hale?”

That liberty is among God’s greatest gifts to us, more precious even than life.

Many folks mistake Nathan’s sacrifice for nationalism – the “my-country,-right-or-wrong” mentality. And while that’s tragic, it’s understandable, given the warped version of his speech on the gallows bequeathed to us. That famous line – “I only regret that I have but one life to give for my country” – actually originated with Capt. (later Gen.) William Hull, one of Nathan’s buddies from college. He heard an account of the execution from an eyewitness, which he included in his memoirs as an old man. And then he paraphrased – inaccurately – the quote from a report on Nathan’s death the Boston Chronicle published just six years after the hanging: “I am so satisfied with the cause in which I have engaged, that my only regret is that I have not more lives than one to offer in its service.” Obviously, Hull’s condensation packs a greater punch, but it also changes “cause [of liberty]” to “country” – an unfortunate and nationalistic rewrite.

(See the rest at American Revolution and Founding Era)