The paddle wheel reversed this: the machinery turned the wheel to push the water and thus move the boat. But there was one big problem. Early paddle wheels were placed low in the boat so that the bottom half of the wheel was immersed in the water. But most of the energy entered the water more or less horizontally and pushed the water down rather backward. The opposite was true at the end of the stroke, when the paddle pushed the water upward. Only at the bottom of the stroke was useful work being done. It was a Scotsman, William Symington, who found the answer by putting the wheel high, so that only the tips of the paddles entered water, at a point where they could push the water efficiently. [pg. 134]
And the concept that invention isn't what's important, it's expoitation of the invention:
Oliver Evans did not build a steamboat, but he did build the first steam-powered vehicle in the United States - and arguably the world�s first automobile thereby. Commissioned to build a steam dredge for the port of Philadelphia, he produced a vessel thirty feet long and twelve feet wide, which weighed seventeen tons. He mounted a new engine in it, smaller, lighter, and even more efficient than his first model. At his shop about a mile up Market Street from the Schuykill River. He then put the whole thing on wheels and attached the engine to one axle with a chain drive. Giving the contraption the improbable name of Orukter Amphiboles, he set off down Market Street for the river 'with a gentle motion.'
... When Evans reached central Square, he circled around the waterworks several times, literally as well as figuratively running rings around Watt�s low-pressure engine design, before continuing on to the Schuykill, where he dropped the wheels, and the Orukter Amphibolos departed from history to take up its duties as a dredge. [pg. 140-141]
We are governed at all levels by America's luckiest children, sons and daughters of the abundance, and they call themselves optimists but they're not optimists—they're unimaginative. … They are stupid and they are callous, and they don't mind it when people become disheartened. They don't even notice.
For my part, I’ve been thinking this since I started thinking 30 years or so ago.
It seems to me that we’re governed by the kids from student government. Except they’re all grown up now.
Further, while the Democrats have been this way for a long time, I think the big problem that the Republicans have currently – and the country too – is that this is how the Republicans in Congress have turned out over the last 10 years as well.
John Adams, for one, wrote the "Every dollar of a bank bill that is issued beyond the quantity of gold and silver in the vaults represents nothing and therefore is a cheat upon somebody." [pg. 114]
The problem is the importance of perceptions:
As the great British political scientist of the nineteenth century, Walter Bagehot, explained, "Every banker knows that if he has to prove that he is worthy of credit, however good may be his arguments, in fact his credit is gone." [pg. 115]
Very rarely do I come across a college student who is versed in the history of the first two U.S. central banks - this will help:
It was due to expire on March 4, 1811, and the Madison administration submitted a bill to renew it for twenty years on January 24. Unfortunately Madison, while richly deserving of his place in the American pantheon as the father of the Constitution, was a largely ineffective president. He did not push hard enough to get the bill through or even to keep members of his own administration in line. When his vice president, George Clinton of New York, broke a tie vote in the Senate against the bank bill, the measure died. It was the most significant independent political act (nearly the only one) in the history of the vice presidency, and it would have disastrous consequences. (pp. 116-17]
Proponents of fixed exchange, or the gold standard, never seem to realize that there are always fixed exchange rates within a country, and that a lot of regional problems are exacerbated by that:
The areas of the country represented by Calhoun and Clay were suffering from a chronic lack of specie. The reason was that New England, its manufactures growing rapidly as was its foreign trade, thanks to its ownership of much of the nation�s merchant marine, was running a large trade surplus with the rest of the country, causing specie to drain away from the West and South and toward the Northeast. [pg. 121]
This was a problem for the politicians of the day;
To Andrew Jackson, real money was specie - gold and silver coins. Paper money and what was coming in his day to be called commercial paper - bills of exchange, promissory notes, bank checks, and such - were to Jackson, just as they had been to John Adams a generation earlier; a form of fraud. [pg. 124]
A really useful list for Excel users, including a few things I’ve never heard of (like how to put a line break in a cell with ALT-enter, and how to enter a fraction that won’t turn into a date – I could’ve used that one last night).
Indeed, so little was grown that when a bale was exported to England in 1784, the first instance of cotton as an American export, it ran afoul of British navigations laws. These laws required that raw products arrive in British ports either in British ships or in ships of the country of origin. Customs officials simply refused to believe that there was such a thing as American cotton, and the bale was left to rot on the docks of Liverpool. [pg. 83]
Cotton was grown in America, but not in large quantities, and not for export. What changed was the land on which the cotton was grown:
But there was a big problem. Unlike Sea Island cotton, the seeds of the upland cotton are sticky and cling tenaciously to the fibers that surround them. Separating the seeds from the lint, as the cotton fibers are called, was in immensely time-consuming task. While a field had could pick as much as fifty pounds a cotton bolls in a day, it took twenty-five man-days to remove the seeds form that much cotton by hand, a process called ginning. [pg. 83]
With a worker, you pay them incrementally for their productivity. With a slave, you are largely paying in advance for their productivity. Either way, when their productivity goes up, so does the going rate:
Cotton changed all that. After 1793 the price of a slave ratcheted upward. A slave who would have sold for $300 before the cotton gin was selling for $2,000 and more by 1860. The slave holders, possessed of an increasingly valuable asset, were less and less inclined to part with what became, in the early decades of the nineteenth century, an enormous capital investment. [pg. 87]
Many find it offensive to think of people, in the forms of slaves, as capital. But, the key to understanding capital is that it is a productive asset whose depreciation risk is carried by the owner, whereas with labor, the depreciation risk is carried by the worker (as many men in unskilled physical labor jobs find out in middle age).
This prosperity was widely shared among the population. Although in the 1770s the top 20 percent of the population owned about two-thirds of the wealth, while the bottom 20 percent owned only 1 percent, that raw datum gives a distorted picture because it does not take time into account. (Modern statistics do exactly the same thing, now usually for tendentious, political reasons.) one economic historian has calculated that of the colonial population in their forties, only about 8 percent would have been considered poor by the standards of the day, and even fewer in their fifties. [pg. 49]
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