The Economic History of the American Empire

 

Every time I used to play a strategy video game, my mind was firstly on money. Creating an income stream as well as buildings and units to magnify that income stream was the primary priority of my gameplay. Only then could I exercise my will and wrath on the codes of computer programming that were my enemies. I think recent history has shown us this is a powerful stratagem, especially on this side of the Atlantic.

As colony became country, America would dedicate itself to capitalism. In 1790, the US was a paltry nation with a population of 3.9 million spread across a vast and wild land. Only 7 cities had a population of over 5000 while 12 tipped over 2500; the rest found home in the wilderness. The inheritor of the great city of Rome was essentially one huge countryside. Yet by 1885, the US was nearing 60 million people and accounted for the production of 28.9% of global manufactured goods. Fast forward to today, and we have become an economic superpower never before seen. Only recently has the Middle Kingdom of the East challenged the writ of Washington, and it is still some ways away from being able to engage in a full on confrontation.

To understand American might, you must understand American economics. To understand American economics, you must understand American history.

Let’s turn back the pages.

Continue reading The Economic History of the American Empire

The Ambition of the Emirates

 

For a large part of history, the inhabitants of the Arabian peninsula were on the fringe in the rise and fall of empires. They alternated raiding and trading as this wheel of fire rolled on across the dunes. But eventually, the Arabian caravan would be equipped with both sword and word to make haste across the Old World in a relentless raid that would change both history and humanity.

Yet just as quickly as the prized Arabian horses would gallop into newly conquered lands, the Arabs would soon scatter leaving their language, faith, and the prestige of their roots behind in strange lands. Tribalism trumped their newfound unity and the Arabs would once again retreat into their wildernesses and pilgrimages.

That is until wealth erupted from its wastelands. The old elites of the Middle East would now return from their desert exile to begin another round of a game of thrones.

Continue reading The Ambition of the Emirates

Browncast – Cliff Smith and Sam Westrop: The Origins of South Asian Islamism

Another BP Podcast is up. You can listen on LibsynAppleSpotify,  and Stitcher (and a variety of other platforms). Probably the easiest way to keep up the podcast since we don’t have a regular schedule is to subscribe to one of the links above!

You can also support the podcast as a patron. The primary benefit now is that you get the podcasts considerably earlier than everyone else. This website isn’t about shaking the cup, but I have noticed that the number of patrons plateaued a long time ago.

This episode features Akshar and Mukunda talking to Cliff Smith and Sam Westrop of the Middle East Forum. We get into topics surrounding the relevance of the Deobandi movement, how Islamism percolates between South Asia and the West, and the political ramifications of Islamism in the US and the UK.

Why Turks ruled India for so long

After finishing Escape from Rome: The Failure of Empire and the Road to Prosperity I continue to believe that geography and economics explain the basic reason for the very long ascendance of Turkic people in the Indian subcontinent, and, their eventual eclipse.

The context for this is the fact that many Indian and Indian American friends have posited cultural rationales for the Turkic hegemony. That is, there was a passivity and disunity in Hindu society which made it vulnerable to the Turks, who were also adherents to a separatist hegenomic ideology in the form of Musim. All this may very well be true, but I have always held that the key factor was that Turks and Muslims more general had ready and easy access to warhorses.

Between 500 A.D. and 1500 A.D. was the heyday of the nomadic pastoralist as a geopolitical force in Eurasia for various reasons. Even in the centuries after 1500 A.D. horses remained critical for mobility. The problem is that in much of agricultural Eurasia there is not sufficient pasturage to raise large numbers of horses.

Pretty much every Eurasian society within reach of the steppe (so basically every society except for those in Western Europe, Japan, and Southeast Asia) had to deal with the menace of armed nomads. Sometimes they paid them off. Sometimes they mobilized enormous armies which incurring crushing costs. And sometime they were conquered.

Between 1700 and 1900 this spectre faded. Improvements in military technology, transport, and mass national mobilization, leveled the gap between the steppe and the settled peoples, to the point where by 1900 the steppe was a marginal factor.

Note: the author of Escape from Rome attributes the rise and fall of Vijayanagara explicitly as a function of its access to horses.

Why there will never be an “India Lobby”

Back in the 2000s on the Sepia Mutiny blog I would get frustrated with commenters who would talk about India as if it was analogous to Cuba or Israel, in that a group of American nationals with family ties could influence the shape of American policy. This was always a crazy proposition.

The reason that focused American ethnic lobbies could shape Cuba and Israel policy is that these are small nations which to be frank don’t matter that much.

There’s no Germany lobby. There’s no Russia lobby. There’s no China lobby. These nations are too important to get caught up in pure interest group politics. Similarly, there will never be an “India lobby.” Even personal relationships and affinities between leaders are irrelevant when realpolitik is too important. Think of the fact that Trump clearly has an affinity for Putin, but the American government continues to impose various sanctions on Russia.

Note: Because of its embeddedness in the Great Power jockeying between the USA, China, and India, there will also never be a “Pakistan lobby.”

Browncast Episode 108: Harsh Gupta on the India-China Conflict and Going Long India

Another BP Podcast is up. You can listen on LibsynAppleSpotify,  and Stitcher (and a variety of other platforms). Probably the easiest way to keep up the podcast since we don’t have a regular schedule is to subscribe to one of the links above!

You can also support the podcast as a patron. The primary benefit now is that you get the podcasts considerably earlier than everyone else. This website isn’t about shaking the cup, but I have noticed that the number of patrons plateaued a long time ago.

I would though appreciate more positive reviews! Alton Brown’s “Browncast” has 30 reviews on Stitcher alone! Help make us the biggest browncast! At least at some point.

Harsh Gupta | The Indian Express

This episode features Omar, Mukunda, and Akshar talking to Harsh Gupta, an investor and author. We discuss the big picture geopolitics of the Galwan clash in Ladakh, Indian civilization, and why Harsh is going long on India. Some positive vibes in a trying time for many!

 

The Shadow Sultanate: Qatar

Influence is an art. It is a dance of subtlety and force. A moving of the mind and a journey of the heart. It is difficult enough to master at an individual level; so how can one possibly master it at a geopolitical level?

Yet, influence is the invisible hand in geopolitics. Hard to quantify and in constant flux, some countries wield it with brute might, while other countries seduce their counterparts into submission.

Qatar may be the per square mile most influential nation in the world. This little, lavish country has mastered the painting of perceptions through the art of influence. And more than that, Qatar has turned its art into action.

Continue reading The Shadow Sultanate: Qatar

Browncast Episode 93: Camilo Gomez, Peruvian Left-libertarian

Another BP Podcast is up. You can listen on LibsynAppleSpotify,  and Stitcher (and a variety of other platforms). Probably the easiest way to keep up the podcast since we don’t have a regular schedule is to subscribe to one of the links above!

You can also support the podcast as a patron. The primary benefit now is that you get the podcasts considerably earlier than everyone else. This website isn’t about shaking the cup, but I have noticed that the number of patrons plateaued a long time ago.

I would though appreciate more positive reviews! Alton Brown’s “Browncast” has 30 reviews on Stitcher alone! Help make us the biggest browncast! At least at some point.

Readers might want to know that last month was our biggest month in terms of traffic in the last year and a half of the Brown Pundits Browncast. This is probably due to the copious number of podcasts.

If you skip a week, make sure to check the backlog, because some weeks we post three podcasts!

This episode is a discussion with Camilo Gomez, a Left-libertarian intellectual and activist based out of Lima. We discussed:

– Covid-19 in Ecuador
– Racial dynamics in Peru
– The influence of Chinese in Peru
– What’s going on with Bolsonaro in Brazil?
– The long-term prospects of libertarianism in Latin America

Browncast Episode 91: Jacob Shapiro on the EU, China, and the Geopolitical Impacts of Coronavirus

Another BP Podcast is up. You can listen on LibsynAppleSpotify,  and Stitcher (and a variety of other platforms). Probably the easiest way to keep up the podcast since we don’t have a regular schedule is to subscribe to one of the links above!

You can also support the podcast as a patron. The primary benefit now is that you get the podcasts considerably earlier than everyone else. This website isn’t about shaking the cup, but I have noticed that the number of patrons plateaued a long time ago.

I would though appreciate more positive reviews! Alton Brown’s “Browncast” has 30 reviews on Stitcher alone! Help make us the biggest browncast! At least at some point.

This episode features Omar, Mukunda, and Akshar talking to Jacob Shapiro, a very knowledgable geopolitical analyst, where we have a free ranging and free flowing conversation about various topics like the state (or lack of) the EU, Chinese diplomacy, Turkish ambitions, and the question of American dominance amongst other issues. You can find him on his Twitter where he’s always giving great, nuanced perspectives on complicated geopolitics with particularly great takes from his newsletter.