The American Continent’s Economic Contributions to Europe and the World

This is an old essay I had written for Chicano Studies Class many years ago.  My writing has evolved since then, but it is interesting for me to see the way I saw things in the past.  If I had to write this all over, it would definetly not look the same, but some of the ideas contained therein still resonate with me.  

Oftentimes America as a continent is not given credit for the lifestyle that we have in modern times.  What people fail to realize is that America had a big role to play in the development of the Capitalist system, in the overthrow of monarchies, in the traditional occupations of our modern society, and in the overall Eurocentric culture we have today. Particularly indebted to us is Europe, who had the most to gain by the discovery of America.  America gave Europe its glories in terms of wealth and notoriety.  As a matter of fact, without the help of America, Europe, Capitalism, and our overall way of life would not be what they are.  It is important to look at the history of our continent so that we may better appreciate the contributions we had on the modern world.  Thanks to the discovery of America we have the society we have today; a society that’s globalized and centered on capitalism and is free of monarchies.

The discovery of America led to an increase of the circulation of coins, which developed capitalism and gave way to a new social order that was based on monetary status rather than family ties.  Importing silver to Europe gave way to this new system.  In Peru, there is a mountain called “Cerro Rico”, meaning rich hill, which was exploited by Europeans through Indian labor.  The riches of that mountain were immense.

This mountain… is the richest mountain ever discovered anywhere on earth.  Beginning in 1545, this mountain produced silver for the treasuries of Europe at a rate and in a volume unprecedented in human history… Indian miners say that they have extracted enough ore from this mountain to build a sterling-silver bridge from Potosi to Madrid (4)

The amount of silver excavated and transported to Europe was so immense that there was an inflation of silver.  The common man could get his hands on currency.  This allowed normal people to increase their wealth, to venture in new enterprises, and to take their social class to a higher level.  This got rid of the old aristocracy and gave way to Capitalism, a system where business owners are the ones in charge, and where the importance of birthright is diminished in the light of an entrepreneurial drive for success.

Never before in the history of the world had so much silver money been in the hands of so many people… Now for the first time people had massive amounts of silver and gold.  Quickly and inexorably the traditional old system mutated into a true money economy in which large numbers of people could buy large amounts of goods, and private citizens could start their own hoards of coins.  Production increased, and people began to accumulate capital in quantities undreamed of by prior generations (4)

The importation of gold and silver from the Americans had a direct relationship to the restructuring of the social order.  Today we don’t have kings anymore, nor do we have people who can assume to be better than use just because they belong to a particular family.  Nowadays people regard careers as measures to success and financial stability as a measure of wellbeing.  Today we strive to own businesses, not marry in a higher class.  Historically, this is due to the fact that metals from our continent helped gave rise to the bourgeoisie, which is a class that was before second to nobility, but worked its way to the top through industry and commerce.

 

The bourgeoisie… has put an end to all feudal, patriarchal, idyllic relations.  It has pitilessly torn asunder the motley feudal ties that bound man to his ‘natural superiors’, and has left remaining no other nexus between man and man than naked self-interest, than

callous ‘cash payment’ (2)

 

Here Karl Marx explains that the higher class people were not as important when other people were able to attain wealth.  Though he does not agree with the bourgeoisie rule and monetary based system of social order, he admits that it was because of them that the old order was destroyed and replaced with an order where “cash payment” was more greatly revered than family ties with nobility.

Another thing Marx particularly disliked was the Industrial Revolution.  This was also a concequence of contributions from America as he himself had mentioned,

 

Modern industry has established the world market, for which the discovery of America paved the way.  This market has given an immense development to commerce, to navigation, to communication by land.  This development has, in turn, reacted on the extension of industry (2)

 

And so with the establishment of modern industry, comes the development of factories and machinery.  These would also not have been possible without the contributions of America. It is hard to imagine our modern economy without machinery.  Before the discovery of America, there was little incentive to develop machines.  “Since the number of sheep determined the amount of wool for weaving, peasants lacked incentives to develop machines”(4).  This changed with the influx of cotton from the Americas.  The peasants now had more fiber than they could handle, and so machines had to be developed.  This lead to a revolution of such significance that the only other revolution as significant prior to that one was the Neolithic one.

Over the course of human history, there has been only one other group of changes as significant as the Industrial Revolution. This is what anthropologists call the Neolithic Revolution, which took place in the later part of the Stone Age (5)

Today we have a lifestyle that is Eurocentric.  We do not live like Native Americans anymore.  This is due to the fact that there was a great exchange of European manufactured goods in the Americas.  If it had not been for the demand the colonies had on such goods, Europe would have probably not have developed its culture beyond its borders and things that we regard as pertinent to a European lifestyle would not be dominant in the world, such as the use of European furniture, tea and other things.  According to Adam Smith, who is regarded as the father of modern economics, the discovery of America “opened up new and inexhaustible market to all the commodities of Europe” (3).  The key word here is “inexhaustible”.  The reason this new market was inexhaustible was because people in the Americas had a great demand for European manufactured goods.  Since people in the America’s were mostly concerned with agriculture when the colonies were first settled, since land was cheap and abundant, they didn’t manufacture.  So they found it more convenient to purchase things from Europe.  And so Europeans had many people to sell their manufactured goods to.  This also gave way to the professions that people see as traditional.  The raw agricultural products were sent to Europe, where the bread makers and butchers use the material to make their products, and so European small businesses are, according to Smith, “greatly extended by means of trade with America”.  All the while Europe was importing its culture into the Americas, Smith considered the discovery of the continent the most important event recorded in the history of mankind (3).

America and its wealth gave way to a higher standard of living, which lead to immigration.  This immigration happened because of economic reasons.  America continued to be the aid to Europeans, who had suffered under famine, plague, oppression, underdevelopment of medicine and many other things.  The society we have today can trace their ancestors back to very much any part of the world.  And they came mostly for the economic blessings that America had given, among its exploitations and massacres, to the rest of the world.

Millions of Americans can trace their roots back to an ancestor who came to the new world with a hunger.  Metaphorically speaking, it was a desire for freedom.  But more often than not, this noble goal was directly tied to a powerful physical need for a good, hot meal (1)

The buying and selling that was made possible by instituting capitalism made the circulation of goods a global one.  Exchange of goods and services entails the exchange of people.  This is due to Globalization, which is also a result of American influence.  The discovery of America gave way to globalization.  As Smith claims,

In consequence to these discoveries, the commercial towns of Europe, instead of being the manufacturers for but a very small part of the world… have now become the manufactures for… almost all the different nations (3)

And as I had mentioned before, the discovery of America gave way to more wealth in the hands of Europeans because of the influx of silver and gold.  This also had a direct impact in globalizing the European system of economics, Capitalism.

the new wealth in the hands of Europeans… allowed Europe to expand into an international market system (3)

And so in conclusion, we have seen that America had a huge role to play into the development of our modern world.  Indebted to us is Europe in particular, for it had benefited the most out of these events.  Capitalism was helped by the discovery of America, much the same way that an athlete’s performance is enhanced by steroids.  Hopefully we can all have a greater appreciation of our continent’s role in the development of the world.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Works Cited

1)      AdCounicl. “Freedom Foundation.” NOW AND THEN Curren Issues in Historical Context. By Judith

Stanford. New York: McGraw Hill, 2007. 76. Rpt. in We Have Nothing to Eat. N.p.: n.p., n.d.

 

2)      Marx, Karl, and Frederick Engels. The Communist Manifesto, A Modern Edition. London: Verso, 1998.

3)      MSN Encarta. "The Industrial Revolution." Encarta Ecyclopedia Online. Microsoft. 13 May 2008
     <http://encarta.msn.com/encyclopedia_761577952/Industrial_Revolution.html>.

 

 

4)      Smith, Adam. The Wealth of Nations. 1776. New York : Bantam , 2003.

 

5)      Weatherford, Jack. Indian Givers. Toronto, Canada: Ballantine Books, 1988

Non-Profit Community Urban Agriculture

Many of us already have edible plants in our front yards. We may have trees that bear guava, persimmon, or lime. Most of the times the tree bears too many fruits, and much of the fruit ends up rotting and being thrown away. There would be no need for this if people could find a space to share their fruits, herbs, and vegetables. A publicly acceptable date, place, and time to exchange and give away produce is something that doesn’t cost any money and provides many benefits. An idea would be to have a place for the neighborhood to meet, perhaps a Church, or a Community Center, and a day, perhaps the last Sunday of every month, wherein people could exchange and give away what they grow. This would be non-profit, in other words, free, and it would provide a place for people to interact and get to know each other. Let’s call it, for example, “Harvest Weekend.” This would build a stronger and healthier community.

 

Beside the front yard, what are the options when it comes to growing edible plants for people with appartnment buildings or for the city at large? There’s already examples out there of people successfully growing food in an urban community. Some people like to grow plants in pots in apartment buildings, others like to grow a garden in the roof of their house, and still others organize massively to create a greenhouse in the otherwise unused roof of a parking structure.  Not to mention already existing Community Gardens. These are just a few examples of how people in the city make the most of their available space to create a garden that will help create community, increase health, and help the environment.

 

Feel free to share this idea with leaders in your area, and, like Bruce Lee said, take what is useful, leave what is not, and add what is distinctly your own.

How to lose weight.

In this website I also write blogs, so I would like to express my opinion on how to maintain an attractive and healthy body-size. I’m a skinny person, so with that authority, and with my humble opinion, I will advice the following.

Stop drinking soda and eating chips. Just because society and our culture says it’s normal, it’s not truly natural. The level of sugar in soda is so high that it easily leads to diabetes. The monosodium glutumate of chips makes it tempting to “eat more than one”, but all that starch will do little to give nutrients and would instead help to add some weight. Leave chips and soda alone.

Focus on nature. Eat more raw, organic fruits, vegetables, and herbs. Remember Adam and Eve, they were the prototype of humanity. So wouldn’t you want an ideal figure?  Eat more natural. The closer to nature your food is, the better.

I recommend Green Tea. It helps with focus, prevents cancer, increases body heat, and helps people lose weight. Drink up.

The IMF and the WF are not needed anymore

The IFM and the World Bank spawned from Bretton Woods, wherein the underlying idea was “the economic restructuring of Europe after WWII and the prevention of another global crisis on the order of the Great Depression of the 1930’s” (4 TWOE).  One would think that when a tool is used and its necessity fulfilled it would be placed back in the toolbox and locked away.  But these two institutions, which were indeed a significant tool in the immediate post-war world and functioned as screws for the building of a global economic model, have implemented Neoliberal restructuring of Third World economies and created gargantuan debt, in which case the word “screw” can be used to describe such a phenomenon as a verve instead of a noun.  If the presidents of the World Bank, or of the IMF, don’t tire of stating that their heart’s deepest wish is to reduce poverty within needy nations, then their next statement should be that they have not only failed but exacerbated the situation by destroying local industries with Neoliberal policies and by placing upon the metaphorical shoulders of humble nations the yoke of exponentially increasing debt.  Furthermore, it is worthwhile to note that the ideology of the spawns of Bretton Woods has changed throughout the years, not in an insignificant way but rather a sort of one hundred and eighty degree turn.  At first the idea was that there needed to be more governmental control over an imperfect market system, but over time the opposite theory, Neoliberalism, was adopted, which views the market system as benign and self-correcting if left alone by government.  One could argue that the shift in policy may have followed the switch of focus from rich countries to poor countries, wherein the unwritten emphasis shifted from economic development to exploitation of cheap labor and natural resources, though in both cases the truly assisted ones are those of the lighter skin color . However, one thing is undeniable, namely, that the IMF and the World Bank are not fulfilling their original functions. As such, I would argue that it is necessary to have those institutions abolished. 

Under the guise of lending a helping hand to countries that are strapped for cash or have trouble paying debt, the assistance that the IMF provides paradoxically results with exponantially more debt.  Nor only that, but there are also undue restrictions on how a country’s government can run its economy, restrictions that promote Neoliberalism. The countries are not allowed to protect their domestic industries and provide much public services. The argument goes that “protectionism” stifles economic activity and fetters the “invisible hand” that guides the “free market” in its allocation of goods and services to where they are most needed.  However, even if we trust that the IMF is acting out of pure ideology and that it believes that such values, if strictly followed, will lead to “prosperity” for the nation that follows those values, the double-standard that we witness in the fact that the U.S., the nation that has the most power in the IMF and the WB, does indeed protect it domestic industries, such as corn production, by subsidizing it, is intolerable because other IMF participating nations are not allowed to do likewise.  If the IMF and the WB want to base their legitimacy on the premise that they wish to end poverty, they should find a new premise.  It seems to be that “Western banks loaned money, often at variable interest rates, to fund development projects, many of which were ill-conceived… lenders, such as the World Bank, turned from development strategies to debt recovery as the value of their loans rose” (6 TWOE).  If I lend the reader a dollar to buy a bag of peanuts because the reader is starving and on the brink of death, but then demand the return not only of the dollar, but of 50 dollars in interest rates, and a promise that the reader will not use governmental services to aid his or her plight now and in the future, and concluded by saying “I do this for your own good”, would I speak truthfully?  An experienced observer would say that I have done these things merely to profit from other’s misfortune, and the observer would be right.  Likewise, in Mexico, as our book How to Succeed in Globalizaiton: A primer for the Roadside Vendor explains, has paid its debt many times over (195 Fisgón).  People then say that the Mexican economy isn’t doing so well because Mexicans are lazy, yet extremely rarely does one hear about the IMF and the WB’s role in keeping sovereign states in debt slavery.  Instead of trying to solve the problem of national poverty by sending “remesas”, the IMF and the WB should be abolished, as well as their cousin, NAFTA.  

Beside the unreasonable restrictions placed on needy nations, we must all pause and wonder about the legitimacy of the IMF and the World Bank.  Indeed they are entities that are backed by major governments, however, these entities themselves are not subject to direct democracy from the people whose lives they so deeply affect.  These entities are not subject to the Constitution of the United States, or of any other State for that matter.  If therefore, these organizations do not acquire their reason to be from no supreme law, neither artificial nor divine, then what legitimacy and authority does it have to demand Neoliberal openings of protective economies?  I wonder what the penalties are for nations who disobey the IMF and the WB, such as Argentina.  If a country doesn’t like the policies that the IMF and WB have imposed on them, is there an appeals process to an authority higher than the IMF and the WB?  What legitimacy does such an organization, whose officials are not democratically elected, have on deciding the economic fate of millions and millions of people who have no voice in that organization?  Although it indeed has a claim for the money it lends to nations, for those who borrow owe to their creditors, what right does it have to dictate how the governments should run their economies? Our book explains that in exchange for debt reduction, countries are told to cut government programs which for the most part are there to soften the fall from the holes and flaws that are present in Capitalism. It is not right, however, that a bank should support any ideological system at all.  Banks exist to lend and save money, not to be promoters of political theories, especially failed ones like Neoliberalism. Would it be acceptable if the IMF decided to impose Stalinist Communism on the countries that it lended to?  How about Liberation Theology?  Most would disagree that a bank has any business promoting any ideology at all, as it ah as much a right to do so as the cashier at the local supermarket whose job is to handle arithmetic in a just manner and execute a material transaction.  Even as banks the IMF and the WB have failed, which is another reason why they should not exist anymore.  Banks are supposed to jumpstart and protect “prosperity”, not exacerbate devastating poverty.  Therefore, since the purpose of the IMF and the WB in the past WWII reconstruction has expired, and because it has failed to live up to its professed ideology, they must be immediately and unconditionally abolished.

 

(I cite from the book The Wages of Empire)

Designed by Tim Sainburg from Brambling Design

Mexico Mexico Ra Ra Ra

 

En ese video se explica que en Mexico, con tal de que la cultura predominante sea una de corrupcion y desinteres en la educacion, el pais entero, incluyendo el gobierno, sera una refleccion de la cultura predominante.  El “cambio” biene de abajo, en una republica los governantes no pueden ser nuestras nanas cuidandonos y dictando que se considera bueno y que se considera malo.  En el poder del individuo existe la potencial del mejoramiento ahora.  Si no realizamos esto collectiva mente, mexico seguira siendo un pais que exporta migrantes, un pais de peligro y decadencia.  Pero si como individuos nos afferamos a la educacion, aunque sea auto-didacta, seremos un pais en la cual la materia prima es una poblacion de gente preparada para vencer cualquier desafio.  Encuentra tu talento y usalo, esa es la cosa mas patriotica que puedes hacer.

losing weight

The best way to lose weight and look thin is to NOT drink soda and eat chips. INSTEAD people who want to lose weight should consider the vegetarian or vegan diet, eat more uncooked foods, drink lots of tea and lemon-water, and ride their bike every once in a while. 🙂

literature and looting

In this post http://www.guardian.co.uk/discussion/comment-permalink/13016347, I learned that London had a riot where people were stealing I pods and tvs and other things that people don’t need to survive, but need as sedatives to the challenges of life.  But among all this theft and vandalism, one store was untouched “as though it didn’t even exist”, a bookstore.  The writer of the article blamed the educational system for the mass of people who were “illeterate” or needed special education, or who didn’t have the skills to enjoy a work of literature, but in my opinion this is just another example of what I saw in my years in Bell High School, people who know how to read but are too lazy to do it, and would rather spend their time texting and buying new phones even though their old phones work just fine.  People who buy new tennis shoes just because they belong to a brand they like, even though any kind of shoe, as long as it’s comfortable, can do the job just fine, people who spend their time talking about cars, rappers, and other things which I consider nothing but iron bars in a cage that keeps our society from progressing because it distracts us from what made societies of the past progressive and efficient, knowedge and spiritual ethics.  But without further ado, I will post the comment that I completely agree with (it’s not mine)

 

 

Focusing entirely on schools is rather pointless. We are being propelled along the road to a possible post-literate culture by the invasive mass media and advertising industries, whose spectacular visual culture is a permanent infantilising distraction from reading, thinking and participation in forms of creative practical activity. Schools and parents are forced to fight a war against this gargantuan moron-making machine for the souls of their children. Some win with a struggle, the majority lose.

Blaming the state and its institutions is simply a liberal habit. The real villain is the commercialised culture we all depend on to inflate demand in the consumer capitalist economy.

 

Yes, our admiration of consummer goods and services, brands and trends, are all artificial and introduced into our society on purpose by the learders of our market economy.  Kids, who are the future generation of our society, are being raised with movies like The Lorax, and with shows from the Disney Channel, which are elongated commericals for the products of their sponsors, motivating the impressionable to create and live within a culture of vanity, consummerism, and shallowness.

 

With that said, I don’t think it is the school that are to be blammed for the underperformance of students.  Libraries have their doors wide open, with seats available, and with air-conditioning.  The internet if full of relevant facts, and even youtube is a valuable resource with documentaries, lectures, speeches, news;  information that can aid anybody.  The government doesn’t need to throw money at schools so that they work better, like the cliche says, change has to come from the bottom up.  There is no need to blame “the man” for what we do not take the initiative to.

 

If people riot and loot food, I do not blame them, because that is something we all need.  But if people are looting and stealing i pods, televisions, movies, and other things that people don’t need to survive, than that is something that I’m ashamed of.  It makes me feel terrible to learn about things like these.  The looters had no need to steal and vandalize to get that junk, and they could have spent their time more productively at home reading a didactic book.

Of course we can say that they were probably looting to resell the gadgets, and to use the money for things that they needed, so we may look at them with compassion and think that they were in very difficult circumstances.  Whatever the case, if it was possible for them to instead set up a shop, buy those gadgets at wholesale, and start a franchise, that would have been a more ethical approach that would have included less suffering to other human beings, save the workers in China who work in sub-standard conditions to make make the gadgets.

 

I hope we all learn from this, and realize that we have so much power as to how we spend our free time, what kind of food we eat, and how we feel.  It is like the choice of pills from the movie The Matrix, how we spend our free time can make a gigantic effect on our lives and of those around us, for better or for worse, the choice is yours.