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Incentives Matter… On the Margin (2010) – Article by G. Stolyarov II

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Categories: Economics, Philosophy, Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

The New Renaissance Hat
G. Stolyarov II
Originally Published January 10, 2010
as Part of Issue CCXXXI of The Rational Argumentator
Republished July 22, 2014
******************************
Note from the Author: This essay was previously published as part of Issue CCXXXI of The Rational Argumentator on January 10, 2010, using the Yahoo! Voices publishing platform. Because of the imminent closure of Yahoo! Voices, the essay is now being made directly available on The Rational Argumentator.
***
~ G. Stolyarov II, July 22, 2014
***

One of the favorite expressions of economists is “Incentives matter.” There is much truth to this idea, but it is instructive to examine how it works a bit more closely.

An incentive is a set of conditions that favors one course of action and/or disfavors its opposite. A positive incentive increases the reward or decreases the cost associated with a decision, while a negative incentive increases the cost or decreases the reward associated with it. An incentive can be a condition of the natural environment, a conscious human choice, or an emergent outcome – a characteristic of what Friedrich Hayek called a “spontaneous order.”

But it is not the case that all human beings are moved by the same incentives to a particular course of action or inaction. For instance, an increase in the cost of gasoline might lead some people to drive less – but a wealthy car enthusiast might just take the hit and pay the higher price; for him, a negative incentive was not a sufficient deterrent to his behavior of choice. On the other hand, ample information and culture available virtually for free on the Internet might motivate more people to become computer-literate, but for certain individuals with a strong visceral fear of electronic technology, this might not be enough; the positive incentive has failed to overcome the psychological barriers within them.

We can best see how incentives matter by examining large-scale changes in behavior. Crime statistics in an area might fall, for instance, if people were allowed to carry concealed weapons in public, where a previous law might have prohibited this. But there would still be some individual acts of crime, just as there would still be some people who would never think of committing a crime, no matter how easy it would be to perpetrate one or to get away with it. If the government raised the minimum wage, the unemployment rate would increase over what it would have been otherwise, but it is not the case that all workers – or even all workers previously earning less than the minimum wage – would suffer or lose their jobs. Some low-income workers might even get a pay raise, but likely at the expense of others being laid off or never being hired in the first place. Yet some generous employers might choose to personally absorb the cost increase and refuse to lay off any workers – but this might mean fewer other investments in their businesses or a lower standard of living for these business owners.

We can summarize this insight by stating that incentives matter on the margin. If a person’s other characteristics – including ideas held, material position, and skills – strongly favor one course of action over another, then an incentive to the contrary is unlikely to change that person’s behavior. On the other hand, if a person is barely inclined one way or another, then an incentive might result in a shift of behavior.

Once made explicit, all of this might appear self-evident to someone who paid attention in a basic economics course. Why is it important, and why does it bear emphasizing? There are several reasons.

Recognizing the marginal importance of incentives prevents individuals from looking for panaceas or overnight revolutions, of which our world yields extremely few, if any. On the other hand, it also inculcates one against despair. Any sufficiently strong incentive will result in a desirable or undesirable statistical shift, but it is unlikely to completely solve a problem. On the other hand, it is also unlikely to completely doom the state of affairs, either. Human beings are remarkably resilient and intricately complex. Crimes, disasters, bad laws, and health defects will destroy some and keep down others – but human innovation and creativity will not completely die; it will flourish somewhere, in some way or another, where the negative incentives are not strong enough to thwart the civilizing desires of the best among us. But it is also important to recognize that human existence is a continual struggle against both natural perils and the follies and even the evils committed by our fellow men. We will need more than one incentive to be favorably arranged if we are to keep these enemies of civilization at bay.

The marginal functioning of incentives is also a cause for hope. If a destructive policy were to completely cripple some facet of human life, then there might not be a way to resist it effectively. But because some individuals are sufficiently strong internally so as not to be diverted from their course by the policy, they can amass the will and the resources to resist it. Moreover, people can condition themselves to respond more or less strongly to certain incentives. The more a person can train himself to persevere in the face of significant externally imposed costs, the more likely that person is to succeed despite such obstacles. Such successes are the building blocks upon which all human civilization has been built.

It is instructive to remember that there has never been an even tolerably calm and safe environment for innovators to flourish; at every time and place in history, some force – deliberate or not, more severe or less so, but never particularly mild – stood in the way of the thinkers and creators to whom we owe our progress. Where the carriers of civilization overcame these forces, they created a more favorable environment for us. We must, likewise, strive against the challenges of our time. By overcoming existing negative incentives, we can create positive ones for the future, through the examples we set and the work we bring forth.

Click here to read more articles in Issue CCXXXI of The Rational Argumentator.

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Writers Can Prosper Without Intellectual Property (2010) – Article by G. Stolyarov II

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Categories: Culture, Economics, Music, Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The New Renaissance Hat
G. Stolyarov II
Originally Published January 13, 2010
as Part of Issue CCXXXI of The Rational Argumentator
Republished July 22, 2014
******************************
Note from the Author: This essay was previously published as part of Issue CCXXXI of The Rational Argumentator on January 13, 2010, using the Yahoo! Voices publishing platform. Because of the imminent closure of Yahoo! Voices, the essay is now being made directly available on The Rational Argumentator. The fundamental concepts in this article remain sound, but the specific references to content sites – such as Associated Content, Helium.com, and Today.com – which previously allowed writers to monetize their works, are now obsolete, due to the closures of these sites. This should be a lesson to writers: utilize external sites for revenue generation if you need to, but always keep all of your writings hosted on sites you control as well!
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~ G. Stolyarov II, July 22, 2014
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(This article was originally published by the Ludwig von Mises Institute. A free MP3 audio file of this article, read by the author, is available for download.)
***

It is commonly supposed that, whatever its moral and theoretical standing, intellectual property is necessary for creators of written works to make a living and – even more importantly – to continue to create. Here, I will set aside the theoretical status of copyright, which is amply discussed in Stephan Kinsella’s Against Intellectual Property and Michele Boldrin and David Levine’s Against Intellectual Monopoly. I will focus on existing and emerging possibilities for writers to earn a living in a world where no copyrights exist.

By way of real-world examples and suggestions based on observations of existing and historical practices, I seek to assure writers and other intelligent laymen of all persuasions that writers would not starve, and writing would continue to flourish, if copyrights disappeared off the face of the Earth tomorrow. I hope to foster an appreciation of the breadth of human creativity and the multitude of possibilities for innovative endeavors.

The popular, copyright-inspired model of revenue generation for writers entails contracting with a publishing company for a combination of payments: (1) a modest initial advance on the written work, typically paid at or prior to publication, and (2) a continual stream of royalties, typically paid as a proportion of the written work’s earnings. The royalties comprise the greatest share of revenue for most “traditionally” published writers under the copyright system; most authors and publishers within this system perceive copyright as necessary to ensure that the royalties continue for a prolonged period of time.

Even without copyright, there is a first-mover advantage to simply having released a work to market before anyone else could. Moreover, if the work is reasonably priced and attractively presented, there would be little reason for potential buyers to feel dissatisfied with it in a manner that would render it lucrative for competitors to enter the market.

For competitors, the investment of publishing the book and the considerable risk in competing with an established producer would cause them to think twice before undertaking this venture. Unless the original publisher has failed significantly in packaging, marketing, and pricing the book, its first-mover advantage is likely to last far into the future.

As for digital downloads of the book, considerable evidence exists that these do not cannibalize hard-copy sales. Indeed, book sales have skyrocketed since the emergence of easy copying possibilities on the Internet. Downloads likely also furnish a marginal gain to the author’s reputation in excess of the marginal costs of any revenue foregone directly due to a download – especially if those who download a book today would likely not have purchased it if it were not available for free online.

But suppose that the defenders of copyright are correct in their assumption that the first-mover advantage is ephemeral. Suppose that this advantage could not be relied on as the competition seized on a good work and began to market it at equally advantageous, or more-advantageous terms than the initial publisher. What other recourse could writers have?

1. More Frequent Publication of New Works

If there is a first-mover advantage that lasts several months or years, irrespective of whether intellectual property exists, then a given author who chooses to adhere to the “traditional” publishing system could pursue the strategy of writing and publishing a new work every time the first-mover advantage of the previous work has been exhausted. This would lead to a necessary change in expectations: an author could not expect to live off the royalties from a single work – even a widely popular work – forever but would need to keep creating in order to maintain his revenue stream.

Nonetheless, this is not far off from the current situation; after all, most published books do not sell nearly well enough to assure the authors even a modest stream of lifetime earnings. Moreover, such a system would incentivize creation of further works.

Indeed, prior to the introduction of copyright, European classical composers found it necessary to continually create music, as their older and already-famous pieces were often performed internationally without any compensation given to them. Even so, some of these composers managed to be phenomenally prosperous as well as prolific.

The most famous composer of the early 18th century, and one of the most prosperous, was Georg Philipp Telemann (1681-1767), who is thought by some to be the most prolific composer in human history, with over 3000 works to his name. Telemann’s status is rivaled by Simon Sechter (1788-1867), who wrote over 8000 works, many of them short fugues, and who endeavored to create at least one short composition every day. Neither composer lived under a copyright regime.

Indeed, virtually all of the big names of classical music – Bach, Vivaldi, Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Chopin, Brahms, Berlioz – composed without copyright and were not dismayed when their works were performed without their participation or consent. Composers through the Romantic era would often borrow passages from their peers and predecessors and develop creative orchestrations and variations thereof. This was not considered to be theft but rather the ultimate compliment: a demonstration that a composer had been able to cultivate a musical idea that could now thrive independently of his efforts.

If composers could set still-unmatched records of productivity without copyrights while managing to earn a living, imagine what writers could do in an environment that did not give them the hope of forever subsisting off past accomplishments.

2. Larger Initial Advances

Writers seeking to publish their works via the “traditional” system could come, in an environment of no copyright, to expect larger initial advances from publishers as a tradeoff for smaller, less stable, and generally diminishing royalty streams. There is no reason why this could not be lucrative for publishers. The publisher could pay the writer a larger one-time fee, getting in exchange the first-mover advantage over the competition.

When the competition catches up and resorts to publishing a book that has been well received by the public, the original publisher has at least the potential of competing on even terms with regard to expenses; the competitors would not need to pay a substantial fraction of their earnings to the author, and neither would the original publisher.

The tremendous proliferation of British novels in the United States during the 19th century can give us a glimpse of what such a world might be like. British authors had copyright on their works in Britain since the enactment of the Statute of Anne in 1710, and American authors had copyright on their works in the United States since the passage of the Copyright Act of 1790.

However, as the era of international copyright had yet to be inaugurated (via the Berne Convention of 1886), British authors did not have copyright on their works in the United States; instead, they typically sold the rights to a first printing of their work in the United States. Thereafter, the original US publishers of these authors would not owe them royalties and would therefore not be obligated to pay this additional expense, putting them on par with potential later publishers of the same works. The British authors made more money selling their works in the US in this manner than they did under the copyright and royalty system in Britain. Moreover, their works became significantly more popular in the United States than those of their American contemporaries.

3. Patronage 2.0

Some of the greatest works in history have been created by writers and artists working under the patronage system, in which wealthy and influential individuals supported creators in exchange for a consistent and high-quality output, often used to advance the patrons’ interests and public image. The historical patronage system also exhibited numerous genuine flaws, including significant restrictions on the creativity of artists by overbearing patrons. Yet the flaws of the system were due not to the institution of patronage per se, but to the structure of preliberal, preindustrial Western societies.

Patrons were extremely scarce, and most of them had financial resources not due to personal merits or economic achievements, but due to political power. For writing in particular, this was a hindrance, as writing for a patron typically meant avoiding the expression of ideas that would upset the established political order, on which the patron built his wealth and power. On the other hand, if one’s patron was subversive of the established order, like the Earl of Shaftesbury (1621-1683), the patron and sole patient of John Locke, some radically provocative work could result.

Some creators were fortunate to find reasonable and enlightened patrons, but even these had idiosyncrasies that needed to be catered to. This bred extensive resentment of the patronage system and inspired a reaction and shift to its polar opposite: mass marketing to as broad a consumer base as possible. Yet this approach, too, has numerous evident shortcomings.

In our time, the fundamental flaws of the historical patronage system need no longer persist, because the distribution of potential patrons is so much greater. Indeed, most people who are established in “white-collar” occupations can afford to become patrons of the arts today. In addition, because of computers and the Internet, writing and publication cost very little except for the time and effort spent actually putting the words and ideas together. Not only has the capacity of most people to fund writers increased dramatically, but the exertions and materials required for writing have diminished considerably as well.

Any patronage system would necessitate some manner of creator compliance with the patron’s wishes; that is what the patron is paying for. However, with a large number of potential patrons on the market, a given writer does not need to feel dependent on financial arrangements with a particularly disagreeable patron; he is free to find another patron – or even to work for a multitude of patrons simultaneously.

Patronage can be expressed monetarily, but it need not be. In-kind patronage – such as that performed by numerous online magazines that publish essays by contributing authors – is another mechanism by which writers can find resources to support their endeavors.

4. Self-Patronage

“Self-patronage” is a concise way of expressing the concept of writing during one’s leisure time while pursuing another occupation as a primary income generator. If another person with an above-average income can serve as a patron for a writer, then it is just as easy for the writer himself to earn an above-average income in a profession of his choice and then use it to subsidize his writing.

This is a promising option for many writers today, myself included, and it should not be dismissed as a viable long-term model for the creation of quality output. Self-patronage is tremendously efficient; it frees the writer from having to get clearance from any external entity to write or publish what he pleases. Moreover, it frees the writer from needing to satisfy a mass audience; he can make his works as sophisticated, specialized, or controversial as he pleases. If they gain notice and admiration, this can result in some added bonuses for the writer; if they fail to catch on, he is not endangered in his livelihood and can always try again.

With the ability to publish for free on the Internet, writers no longer require access to large institutions or wealthy individuals in order to spread their ideas to a large audience. They do, of course, need to compete with a much larger pool of creators than has ever existed – and this may result in difficulties for quality work in getting notice commensurate with its merits. However, because self-patronage eliminates the costs of getting external clearance, a writer can be as productive as he is motivated to be. By releasing vast quantities of works, he greatly enhances the probability that one of these will be noticed and will motivate some readers to explore his other works.

5. Online-Content Sites

A remarkable development on the Internet in recent years has enabled hundreds of thousands of writers to earn modest income streams from advertisements that appear on the pages where their work is published. (In reading this section, some might wonder about the frequent mentions of my activity on the various sites to which I refer. This is done in part to comply with the Federal Trade Commission’s recent guidelines on the disclosure of writers’ institutional affiliations. Thank you, FTC, for requiring me to boast of my work more than I otherwise would have.) Large commercial websites typically contract with numerous advertisers and establish an infrastructure for writers to conveniently publish a variety of works. Associated Content, where I have been publishing my writings for over three years [2007-2010], [formerly paid] contributors both initial small advances for articles that pass editorial review and performance payments on the basis of how many page views contributors’ content receives. The performance payment is not enough to earn a living – $2.00 per 1000 page views – but several hundred articles can provide a decent supplement to one’s monthly income.

Helium.com, another site where I have published, [formerly invited] authors to write competing articles under a given title and then to rank other authors’ contributions. The authors who regularly participate [formerly received] a bonus based on the page views their articles receive. Yet another site, Today.com, the [former] host of my blog, The Progress of Liberty, [formerly paid] some bloggers a dollar for one post on any given day and supplements this with a performance payment based on visitation. Other commercial enterprises with a variety of compensation mechanisms have evolved over the last several years to enable layman writers to earn small revenues from their work without needing to have expertise in marketing or salesmanship.

The above methods of income generation, too, have their shortcomings in terms of which kinds of writing are most rewarded. But they are still in their infancy, and six years ago they did not exist at all. Within several decades at most, it will surely be possible for large numbers of authors to earn a living by writing and publishing their works on the Internet without being members of any syndicate or media organization’s staff – unless, that is, established interests successfully lobby governments for restrictions on creative Internet activities.

6. The Best Option

The best option for promoting a writer’s creativity while assuring him a stable and adequate income is a combination of the approaches above. Each approach, like most techniques in life, has its strengths and its shortcomings. For instance, patronage might result in the need to meet idiosyncratic tastes, while online-content sites that pay on the basis of unique visitors might incentivize writers to focus on breadth of appeal rather than depth. Self-patronage, on the other hand, is limited by the writer’s existing resources and technical training in other fields.

In a relatively advanced, quasi-market economy with widely available, remarkable publishing technologies, it is possible to viably combine these approaches for an overall strategy that keeps one both fed and writing. Moreover, as the marketplace continues to evolve, and technological possibilities combine with human creativity to render new options available, writers should be willing to experiment with yet more ways of delivering their content to audiences and receiving corresponding compensation.

As is typical with markets, it is virtually impossible to exactly predict the way in which patterns of behavior will emerge, especially as one looks out into the long-term future. But this should not discourage writers; indeed, it should highlight to them the importance of being open to new possibilities. They should not simply expect that existing business models – such as the copyright-based, royalty-heavy compensation system of “traditionally” published authors – will continue in perpetuity as a matter of right for the parties involved.

It is never necessary to cling to a single legal mechanism or institution as the sole path for any given peaceful and productive human activity. Human beings are much more inventive and resilient than the defenders of copyright would suggest.

Click here to read more articles in Issue CCXXXI of The Rational Argumentator.

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The Victory of Truth is Never Assured! (2009) – Article by G. Stolyarov II

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Categories: Philosophy, Transhumanism, Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

The New Renaissance Hat
G. Stolyarov II
Originally Published February 4, 2009
as Part of Issue CLXXXVI of The Rational Argumentator
Republished July 22, 2014
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Note from the Author: This essay was originally published as part of Issue CLXXXVI of The Rational Argumentator on February 4, 2009, using the Yahoo! Voices publishing platform. Because of the imminent closure of Yahoo! Voices, the essay is now being made directly available on The Rational Argumentator.
~ G. Stolyarov II, July 22, 2014
***

Many advocates of free markets, reason, and liberty are content to just sit back and let things take their course, thinking that the right ideas will win out, by virtue of being true and therefore in accord with the objective reality. Sooner or later, these people think, the contradictions entailed in false ideas – contradictions obvious to the free-market advocates – will become obvious to everybody. Moreover, false ideas will result in bad consequences that people will rebel against and begin to apply true ideas. While this view is tempting – and I wish it reflected reality – I am afraid that it misrepresents the course that policies and intellectual trends take, as well as the motivations of most human beings.

Why does the truth not always – indeed, virtually never, up until the very recent past – win out in human societies among the majority of people? Indeed, why can one confidently say that most people are wrong about most intellectual matters and matters of policy most of the time? A few reasons will be explored here.

First, the vast majority of people are short-sighted and unaware of secondary effects of their actions. For instance, they see the direct effects of government redistribution of wealth – especially if they are on the receiving end – as positive. They get nice stuff, after all. But the indirect secondary effects – the reduced incentives of the expropriated to produce additional wealth – are not nearly so evident. They require active contemplation, which most people are too busy to engage in at that sophisticated a level.

The second reason why truth rarely wins in human societies – at least in the short-to-intermediate term – is that people’s lifespans are (thus far in our history) finite. While many people do learn from their experiences and from abstract theory and recognize more of the truth as they get older, those people also tend to die at alarming rates and be replaced by newer generations that more often than not make the same mistakes and commit the same fallacies. The prevalence of age-old superstitions – including beliefs in ghosts, faith healing, and socialism – can be explained by the fact that the same tempting fallacies tend to afflict most unprepared minds, and it takes a great deal of time and intellectual training for most people to extricate themselves from them – unless they happened to have particularly enlightened and devoted parents. If all people lived forever, one could expect them to learn from their mistakes and fallacies eventually and for the prevalence of those errors to asymptotically approach zero over time.

The third reason for the difficulty true ideas have in winning is the information problem. No one person has access to all or even a remote fraction of the truth, and certainly no one person can claim to be in possession of all the true ideas required to prevent or even optimally minimize all human folly, aggression, and self-destruction. Moreover, just because a true idea exists somewhere and someone knows it does not mean that many people will be actively seeking it out. Improving information dispersal through such technologies as the Internet certainly helps inform many more people than would have been informed otherwise, but this still requires a fundamental willingness to seek out truth on the part of people. Some have this willingness; others could not care less.

The fourth reason why the truth rarely wins out is that the proponents of false ideas are often persistent, clever, and well organized. They promote their ideas – which they may well believe to be the truth – just as assiduously, if not more so, than the proponents of truth promote their ideas. In fact, how true an idea is might matter when it comes to the long-term viability of the culture and society whose participants adopt it; but it matters little with regard to how persuasive people find the idea. After all, if truth were all that persuaded people, then bizarre beer ads that imply that by drinking beer one will have fancy cars and lots of beautiful women would not persuade anyone. The persistence of advertising that focuses on anything but the actual merits and qualities of the goods and services advertised shows that truth and persuasiveness are two entirely different qualities.

The fifth reason why the truth has a difficult time winning over public opinion is rather unfortunate and may be remedied in time. But many people are, to be polite, intellectually not prepared to understand it. Free-market economics and politics are not easy subjects for everybody to grasp. If a significant fraction of the population in economically advanced countries has trouble remembering basic historical facts or doing basic algebra, how hard must economic and political theory be for such people! I do not believe that any person is incapable of learning these ideas, or any ideas at all. But to teach them takes time that they personally are often unwilling to devote to the task. As economic and technological growth renders more leisure time available to more people, this might change, but for the time being the un-intellectual state of the majority of people is a tremendous obstacle to the spread of true ideas.

It is bad enough that many people are un-intellectual and thus unable to grasp true ideas without a great deal of effort they do not wish to expend. That problem can be remedied with enough material and cultural progress. The greater problem, and the sixth reason why the truth has difficulty taking hold, is that a sizable fraction of the population is also anti-intellectual. They not only cannot or try not to think and learn; they actively despise those who do. Anti-intellectualism is a product of pure envy and malice, much like bullying in the public schools. It led to the genocides of Nazi Germany, the Soviet Union under Stalin, Communist China under Mao, and Communist Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge. In Western schools today, it leads to many of the best and brightest students – who know more of the truth than virtually anyone else – being relentlessly teased, mocked, suppressed, ostracized, and even physically attacked by their jealous and lazy peers as well as by some egalitarian-minded teachers.

But enough about why most people are unreceptive to true ideas. Even those who are receptive have substantial problems that need to be overcome – and most often are not overcome – in order for the truth to win. The seventh reason why the truth rarely wins is that most of the people who do understand it are content to merely contemplate it instead of actively promoting it. They might think that they are powerless to affect the actual course of affairs, and their sole recourse is simply the satisfaction of knowing that they are right while the world keeps senselessly punishing itself – or the satisfaction that at least they are not an active or enthusiastic part of “the system” that leads to bad outcomes. This, I regret to say, is not enough. Knowing that one is right without doing anything about it leads to the field of ideas and actions being wholly open to and dominated by the people who are wrong and whose ideas have dangerous consequences.

Everyone who knows even a shred of the truth wants to be a theorist and expound grand systems about what is or is not right. I know that I certainly do. I also know that theoretical work and continual refinement of theories are essential to any thriving movement for cultural and intellectual change. But while theory is necessary, it is not sufficient. Someone needs to do the often monotonous, often frustrating, often exhausting grunt work of implementing the theories in whatever manner his or her abilities and societal position allow. The free-market movement needs government officials who are willing to engage in pro-liberty reforms. But it also needs ordinary citizens who are willing to write, speak, and attempt to reach out to other people in innovative ways that might just be effective at persuading someone. To promote the truth effectively, a tremendously high premium needs to put on the people who actually apply the true ideas, as opposed to simply contemplating them.

Read other articles in The Rational Argumentator’s Issue CLXXXVI.

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A Short History of German Colonialism in Africa (2003) – Essay by G. Stolyarov II

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Categories: Culture, History, Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

The New Renaissance Hat
G. Stolyarov II
July 22, 2014

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Note from the Author: This essay was originally written in 2003 and published in two parts on Associated Content (subsequently, Yahoo! Voices) in 2007.  The essay earned over 11,000 page views on Associated Content/Yahoo! Voices, and I seek to preserve it as a valuable resource for readers, subsequent to the imminent closure of Yahoo! Voices. Therefore, this essay is being published directly on The Rational Argumentator for the first time.  ***
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~ G. Stolyarov II, July 22, 2014
***

Four major regions of Sub-Saharan Africa had been colonized by Germany. They are today’s Tanzania, Namibia, Togo, and Cameroon.

Tanzania was acquired via the efforts of Dr. Carl Peters of the German Colonization Society from 1884 to 1885. Promising protectorate status to the various tribes inhabiting its territory, Peters rapidly accomplished the subordination of the realm to Kaiser Wilhelm I.

Namibia was purchased by Germany shortly after the 1884 Berlin Conference. Its de facto occupation began in 1889, when 25 German troops in tourist garb, under the leadership of Major Curt of Francois, crossed through British territory near the port of Walvis Bay and occupied the colonial capital of Winterhoek (Windhoek).

The first German involvement in Togo occurred in 1884, when Dr. Gustav Nachtigal, a representative of Chancellor Bismarck, signed a protection contract (similar to those undertaken by Peters in Tanzania) with King Mlapa of Togo City. In 1888 Curt of Francois conducted an exploratory journey into the interior, and a permanent research station was founded at Bismarck Castle by Dr. Wolf. In 1891, Germany assumed direct control over Togo.

Cameroon was acquired by Dr. Nachtigal in 1884 via protection contracts with coastal peoples. The remainder of Cameroon was gradually assimilated via expeditions into the southern reaches by Captain Kund in 1887 and Captain Morgen in 1890. In 1898, rich rubber deposits were discovered in southeast Cameroon, and the area became an economic powerhouse.

Major conflicts with natives flared up in Tanzania from 1891 to 1898, when Chief Mkwawa of the Hehe systematically raided German settlements, protectorates, as well as columns of German troops. In 1898, realizing the futility of his struggle, Mkwawa shot himself over a fire.

The Maji Maji Rebellion in 1907 was sparked by natives believing that drinking a sacred water rendered them immune to bullets. They suffered devastating losses at the hands of German artillery.

In Namibia, German forces were considerably crueler to the Herero natives. In 1904, enraged by almost haphazard killing of their people at the hands of settlers, the Hereros erupted in war. They were defeated by the forces of General Lothar von Trotha at the Battle of Hamakari on August 11, 1904, and were pursued through stretches of barren desert until all but 6000 of a population of 50000 perished of starvation or skirmishes. This is widely considered to be the first twentieth-century genocide.

All German possessions in Africa were confiscated by a superior Allied military presence from 1914 to 1918.

German Language and Architecture in the Former German Colonies of Sub-Saharan Africa

***

Although Germany lost possession of its African colonies in 1918, traces of the German language and architecture remain there to this day. A visit to Namibia, Togo, and Tanzania especially will reveal numerous aspects of German culture, legacies of the colonial era.

German is widely spoken in Namibia, although it is not an official language. Namibia also maintains one of the only German-language newspapers in Africa.

All Germans were expelled from Tanzania in 1918 by a decree of the League of Nations. In 1925, many were allowed to return and rebuild their livelihoods. Today, under 2% of Tanzanians are Europeans (many of them Germans) who largely inhabit the urban centers

The Church of Christ in Windhoek, the capital of Namibia, was designed by the architect Gottlieb Redecker and constructed in 1907. Its Neo-Romanesque design is almost unique on the entire continent, and within it is contained a valuable replica of Reuben’s’ “Resurrection of the Lazarus.” The original painting had been destroyed in Berlin in 1945.

Other German monuments remain in the former African colonies today. The “Old Fort” in Windhoek is the oldest building in the entire city. It was constructed in 1890 by Curt of Francois and the 32 men under his command and for some time served as a barracks the headquarters of the German occupation in Namibia. Today it is the country’s National Museum.

The Windhoek Railway Station was built in 1912 and is still in use. It is ideal in representing German colonial architecture, and displays in front a locomotive, the Illing, which had traversed a total of 271,000 miles between Swakopmund and Otavi from 1904 to 1939.

Heinitzburg Castle in Windhoek was formerly a lavish private residence constructed for the Count of Schwerin in 1914 by the architect W. Sander. Today it is a prestigious private restaurant.

Of course, no visit to Namibia is complete without visiting the statue of the man who almost single-handedly colonized the country, Major Curt of Francois.

Lome, the capital of Togo, contains a governor’s palace, which was completed in 1898, displaying an adaptation of German aesthetic tastes to the extremes of tropical climate. This building displays many of the simple angular features of indigenous African architecture.

Although the German colonial presence in Africa has been non-existent for the past 89 years, the language and architecture of Germany that remains in Namibia, Togo, and Tanzania serve as reminders of these countries’ past.

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Putting Randomness in Its Place (2010) – Article by G. Stolyarov II

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Categories: Economics, Mathematics, Philosophy, Science, Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

The New Renaissance Hat
G. Stolyarov II
Originally Published February 11, 2010
as Part of Issue CCXXXV of The Rational Argumentator
Republished July 22, 2014
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Note from the Author: This essay was originally published as part of Issue CCXXXV of The Rational Argumentator on February 11, 2010, using the Yahoo! Voices publishing platform. Because of the imminent closure of Yahoo! Voices, the essay is now being made directly available on The Rational Argumentator.
~ G. Stolyarov II, July 22, 2014
***

A widespread misunderstanding of the meaning of the term “randomness” often results in false generalizations made regarding reality. In particular, the view of randomness as metaphysical, rather than epistemological, is responsible for numerous commonplace fallacies.

To see randomness as metaphysical is to see it as an inherent aspect of reality as such – as embedded inextricably in “the way things are.” Typically, people holding this view will take it in one of two directions. Some of them will see randomness pejoratively – thinking that there is no way reality could be like that: chaotic, undefined, unpredictable. Such individuals will typically posit that, because reality cannot be random, it must therefore be centrally planned by a super-intelligent entity, such as a deity.

Others, however, will use the metaphysical perception of randomness to deny evident and ubiquitously observable truths about our world: the facts that all entities obey certain natural laws, that these laws are accessible to human beings, and that they can inform our decision-making and actions. These individuals typically espouse metaphysical subjectivism – the idea that the nature of reality depends on the person observing it, or that all of existence is in such a chaotic flux that we cannot ever possibly make sense of it, so we might as well “construct” our own personal or cultural “reality.”

But it is the very metaphysical perception of randomness that is in error. Randomness is, rather, epistemological – a description of our state of knowledge of external reality, and not of external reality itself. To say that a phenomenon is random simply means that we do not (yet) have adequate knowledge to be able to explain it causally. Based on past observational experience or some knowledge of aspects inherent to that phenomenon, we might be able to assign probabilities – estimates of the likelihood that a particular event will occur, in the absence of more detailed knowledge about the specifics of the circumstances that might give rise to that event. In some areas of life, this is presently as far as humans can venture. Indeed, probabilistic thinking can be conceptually quite powerful – although imprecise – in analyzing large classes of phenomena which, individually, exhibit too many specific details for any single mind to grasp. Entire industries, such as insurance and investment, are founded on this premise. But we must not mistake a conceptual tool for an external fact; the probabilities are not “out there.” They are, rather, an attempt by human beings to interpret and anticipate external phenomena.

The recognition of randomness as epistemological can be of great aid both to those who believe in biological evolution and to advocates of the free market. Neither the laws of evolution, nor the laws of economics, of course, would fit any definition of “randomness.” Rather, they are impersonal, abstract principles that definitively describe the general outcomes of particular highly complex sets of interactions. They are unable to account for every fact of those interactions, however, and they are also not always able to predict precisely how or when the general outcome they anticipate will ensue. For instance, biological evolution cannot precisely predict which complex life forms will evolve and at what times, or which animals in a current ecosystem will ultimately proliferate, although traits that might enhance an animal’s survival and reproduction and traits that might hinder them can be identified. Likewise, economics – despite the protestations of some economists to the contrary – cannot predict the movements of stock prices or prices in general, although particular directional effects on prices from known technological breakthroughs or policy decisions can be anticipated.

Evolution is often accused of being incapable of producing intelligent life and speciation because of its “randomness.” For many advocates of “intelligent design,” it does not appear feasible that the complexity of life today could have arisen as a result of “chance” occurrences – such as genetic mutations – that nobody planned and for whose outcomes nobody vouched. However, each of these mutations – and the natural selection pressures to which they were subject – can only be described as random to the extent that we cannot precisely describe the circumstances under which they occurred. The more knowledge we have of the circumstances surrounding a particular mutation, the more it becomes perfectly sensible to us, and explicable as a product of causal, natural laws, not “sheer chance.” Such natural laws work both at the microscopic, molecular level where the proximate cause of the mutation occurred, and at the macroscopic, species-wide level, where organisms with the mutation interact with other organisms and with the inanimate environment to bring about a certain episode in the history of life.

So it is with economics; the interactions of the free market seem chaotic and unpredictable to many – who therefore disparage them as “random” and agitate for centralized power over all aspects of human life. But, in fact, the free market consists of millions of human actors in billions of situations, and each actor has definite purposes and motivations, as well as definite constraints against which he or she must make decisions. The “randomness” of behaviors on the market is only perceived because of the observer’s limited knowledge of the billions of circumstances that generate such behaviors. We can fathom our own lives and immediate environments, and it may become easier to understand the general principles behind complex economies when we recognize that each individual life has its own purposes and orders, although they may be orders which we find mistaken or purposes of which we disapprove. But the interaction of these individual microcosms is the free market; the more we understand about it, the more sensible it becomes to us, and the more valid conclusions we can draw regarding it.

The reason why evolution and economies cannot be predicted at a concrete level, although they can be understood, is the sheer complexity of the events and interactions involved – with each event or interaction possibly being of immense significance. Qualitative generalizations, analyses of attributes, and probabilistic thinking can answer some questions pertaining to these complex systems and can enable us to navigate them with some success. But these comprise our arsenal of tools for interpreting reality; they do not even begin to approach being the reality itself.

When we come to see randomness as a product of our limited knowledge, rather than of reality per se, we can begin to appreciate how much there is about reality that can be understood – rather than dismissed as impossible or inherently chaotic – and can broaden our knowledge and mastery of phenomena we might otherwise have seen as beyond our grasp.

Click here to read more articles in Issue CCXXXV of The Rational Argumentator.

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Progress: Creation and Maintenance (2010) – Article by G. Stolyarov II

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Categories: Philosophy, Technology, Transhumanism, Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The New Renaissance Hat
G. Stolyarov II
Originally Published March 8, 2010
as Part of Issue CCXXXVIII of The Rational Argumentator
Republished July 22, 2014
******************************
Note from the Author: This essay was originally published as part of Issue CCXXXVIII of The Rational Argumentator on March 8, 2010, using the Yahoo! Voices publishing platform. Because of the imminent closure of Yahoo! Voices, the essay is now being made directly available on The Rational Argumentator.
~ G. Stolyarov II, July 22, 2014
***

The audio version of this essay is read by Wendy Stolyarov. You can also download this audio essay as an MP3 file here. 

One frequently encounters the identification of human creativity and inventiveness as driving forces for progress in technology and society. In part, this identification is correct: it is through the human creative faculty – the ability to bring forth new combinations of matter and new ideas – that improvements to the human condition arise. But while creation is a necessary component to progress, it is not a sufficient component.

Consider that the human creative faculty has existed since the emergence of our species; even cave dwellers exhibited it, to the extent that they could take even a little leisure time in their highly dangerous, subsistence-based lives. Cave paintings and tools from several tens of thousands of years ago show clearly that our remote ancestors had the ability, and the desire, to reshape the world in an attempt to improve their condition. And yet, for the vast majority of human history – up until the 18th-century Enlightenment and the subsequent Industrial Revolution – real progress has been so slow and minuscule as to be virtually imperceptible within an ordinary person’s lifetime. This was the case despite the fact that every generation had its share of great thinkers, artists, and even mechanical tinkerers.

The other necessary component of progress is maintenance of what has already been created. While creation is an ever-present ability within human beings, there are also destructive forces that counteract and diminish its fruits. Nature itself is the source of many such forces: disease, decay, and death are omnipresent unless counteracted by arduous and continual human effort. Just as billions of lives have been lost in complete oblivion to the ravages of “natural causes” – from catastrophic disasters to senescence – so have innumerable works of art, architecture, literature, and technology been lost to these perils. Consider that even the extant works of great known philosophers such as Aristotle or composers such as Georg Philipp Telemann are a fraction of what these great men of the past are known to have created, but which was buried by the sands of time. Imagine, also, what the pitifully short lifespans throughout most human history did to diminish the output of creative geniuses, who, in better times, might have continued to innovate for decades more.

Maintenance is the ability to preserve and transmit existing knowledge, techniques, and objects. It can be performed through sheer effort of will – but only to a point. A European monk or an Arabic scholar in the Middle Ages could spend a lifetime meticulously copying by hand a single book from centuries before his time, only to have it vandalized by one of his successors some generations hence. Even the work of Archimedes was subjected to such savage mistreatment.

Since the Industrial Revolution, and especially since the Information Revolution, the techniques for the preservation of physical goods and knowledge have become tremendously more reliable than was possible in premodern societies. The ability to make multiple copies of an object and potentially inexhaustible copies of an idea – and to maintain detailed visual, textual, and auditory records of particular times, places, and activities, with little effort by historical standards, has preserved many of the accomplishments of prior and current thinkers for the creative faculties of humans to expand upon.

It is doubtful that we, in our time, are inherently more creative than our ancestors. But we do have a much more diverse and advanced subject matter to which to apply our creativity. Where we are free to do so, we may arrange these building blocks of innovation in much the same way that our ancestors arranged sticks and stones – except that the consequences of our actions are much more powerful, life-enhancing, and durable. Our infrastructure and our methods for maintaining and transmitting knowledge separate us from our ancestors to the extent that, to them, we would be as gods.

And yet, none of the wonders that enable progress in our time are ever guaranteed to continue, though not due to inanimate nature and lower life forms alone; those have always been in a steady retreat wherever human reason and productivity were unleashed at anywhere near their fullest extent. But the folly, ignorance, sloth, and envy of other men can all too easily slow the growth of progress-nourishing infrastructure to a crawl, or even reverse it and usher in a new Dark Ages. Coercive policies, economic misconduct and capital consumption, massive wars, widespread prohibitions on peaceful and productive activities, superstitions and irrational taboos, pervasive and disproportionate fears – as embodied in the environmentalists’ progress-killing “precautionary principle” – and a desire for “security” over liberty, for “tradition” over growth, and for stasis over innovation, are all forces that counteract and threaten the maintenance of our civilization. In most times and places, only a handful of people have been immune to deleterious anti-progressive beliefs and their consequences, but there is no reason why we cannot all rise above such anti-life thinking. We all have the creative faculty in us, and we can all think.

The importance of maintenance to human progress can be carried into the life of the individual with profound consequences that can produce massive personal growth and productivity via a change of habits. A mere creation of reproducible records of one’s past achievements – and their publication on the Internet, where possible – can create a formidable store of knowledge to which the creator and others can refer and which they can build upon. The concepts of open-source software and distributed computing, for instance, are built on this elementary principle, but it can be applied to so many more areas of life. The creative faculty is with us every day, and every day it produces original ideas and methods for improving our lives. But, without adequate maintenance – including the establishment of a concrete form for these innovations – these gifts from within our minds will fade away into insignificance, much like the ruins of antiquity. Developing an improved infrastructure for the products of one’s own mind may be the first step toward revitalizing the infrastructure of civilization itself.

Click here to read more articles in Issue CCXXXVIII of The Rational Argumentator.

***

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Immigration to the United States from 1870 to 1920 (2004) – Essay by G. Stolyarov II

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Categories: Culture, History, Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The New Renaissance Hat
G. Stolyarov II
July 21, 2014
******************************
Note from the Author: This essay was originally written in 2004 and published in six parts on Associated Content (subsequently, Yahoo! Voices) in 2007.  The essay earned over 109,000 page views on Associated Content/Yahoo! Voices, and I seek to preserve it as a valuable resource for readers, subsequent to the imminent closure of Yahoo! Voices. Therefore, this essay is being published directly on The Rational Argumentator for the first time.  ***
***
~ G. Stolyarov II, July 21, 2014
***

An Overview of Immigration to the United States from 1870 to 1920

***

From 1870 to 1920, immigrants came to America from all over the world and made irreplaceable contributions. Though frequently discriminated against, most immigrants fought through the difficult times and moved forward to build a better life for themselves. It was not an easy task, but immigrants had a drive to start anew and were determined to live the American Dream and complete the work that dream required.
***

Emma Lazarus’s poem, “The New Colossus,” describes with remarkable accuracy some of the actual motives that immigrants had during the time that this poem was written to inaugurate the Statue of Liberty. Such a diverse influx of people had never occurred in US history prior to this time period. Immigrants arrived not only from northern and western European nations, such as Germany, France, and Ireland, but also from Italy, Eastern Europe, Canada, and the Far East. Their motives for seeking a new home were as varied as the places from which they had come.

Numerous immigrants were indeed “struggling to breathe free” as they faced religious and political persecution in their homelands. Jews in Russia were, for example, met with severe government-sanctioned anti-Semitism. The czar’s henchmen would often stage pogroms which destroyed what little property and security Russian Jews were allowed to have. In addition, the draft in Russia was merciless and would often take 25 years of a man’s life away to fight in fruitless wars with outdated weapons and brutal discipline. To many Jews and people in similar situations, America symbolized a place where their freedom of religion and occupation could be exercised to a greater extent than anywhere else in the world.

A large portion of immigrants originated from the rural areas of their home countries, and were especially hard-hit by agricultural troubles. Events all over the world much like potato blight in Ireland that triggered an earlier Irish mass migration led people to move away from densely populated and famine-wrecked countries to a more spacious and plentiful America. Many small farmers and craftsmen were unable to find jobs in their homelands, since their original occupations had been rendered obsolete by large-scale mechanized production while the skilled labor market was already too full for them in Europe.

In general, either the difficulties at home or the prospects in the U.S. were so immense as to compel immigrants to leave many belongings behind and expose themselves to an entirely different language and culture in the U.S. A large number did not intend for the change to be permanent; about three-tenths merely came to earn a large enough amount of money to return home in greater financial security. Yet, whatever their intent, the immigrants profoundly shaped America’s history, economy, and culture.

The Journey to America and Immigrant Processing Upon Arrival

***

Many immigrants experienced journeys to the United States that were similar in numerous aspects. Conditions during the voyage and upon arrival had improved from prior eras, but were still uncomfortable and lacking in many respects.

The development of passenger vessels made the journey easier, cheaper, and faster for many immigrants. By the 1870s, steam powered ships replaced sailing ships. They were bigger, faster and safer. Immigrants in the early 1800s had to endure voyages averaging 40 days, depending on weather; by the 1900′s, the average voyage was only one week long.

In order to account for and regulate immigration, the US government established immigrant processing centers on both the East and West Coasts. 70% of the European immigrants beginning in 1855 would be dropped off at Castle Garden on Manhattan Island and pass a series of examinations. In 1892, a new immigrant center at Ellis Island was built to replace Castle Garden. On the West Coast, immigrants, mostly Chinese or Japanese, arrived through Seattle or Angel Island in San Francisco.

The increased convenience of immigration did not, however, imply a level of comfort for the immigrants anywhere near modern standards. Poor sanitation and food, as well as diseases such as cholera and typhus, were still common on the trans-Atlantic liners.

Immigrants who could only afford the minimal third-class fees of about $30 were referred to as “steerage passengers.” The name came from the part of the ship, the steerage, where they were kept and which provided the cheapest possible accommodations. It was crowded below deck, and steerage passengers were seldom allowed to go up for fresh air. The trans-Atlantic shipping companies had not yet learned to provide efficient basic services, such as food, and often fed passengers nothing but soup or stew, and sometimes bread, biscuits, or potatoes.

Many immigrants had to wash themselves with salt water while drinking stagnant water that was stored in dirty casks. At the root of these problems was a mindset on the part of many of the companies that considered the immigrants “human cargo.” These same companies would often ship American-made goods to Europe on the return trip, and could not yet see the essential distinction between transporting products and people. They would learn with time.

Even after the tough voyage, immigrants were not guaranteed entry to America. About 250,000 people (2% of all immigrants) were sent back home. 1st and 2nd class passengers were inspected on the ship, but 3rd class passengers had to go to Ellis or Angel Island for screening, waiting about three to five hours in line and undergoing inspections of both a medical and legal nature.

Officials at Ellis Island also did something that is not commonly done today. When they could not pronounce an immigrant’s name, the immigration inspectors thought that this gave them the prerogative to change the name to something less difficult. Names like “Andrjuljawierjus” might be simplified to “Andrews” or something similar.

How Immigrants Lived Upon Arriving in the United States

***

From 1870 to 1920, most immigrants arriving in the United States found themselves facing current material poverty, but immense prospects for opportunity and enrichment. But how did they live in the meantime, as they endeavored to achieve the American Dream?

After arrival, immigrants spread themselves throughout the country. Most of them settled in cities, as it was easiest to find jobs there as well as locate persons of similar background or ideology to oneself and cooperate with them economically. Cities that served as the gateways to immigration also came to house many immigrants. In New York City in 1910, for example, three-fourths of the population consisted either of immigrants or children of immigrants.

For lack of abundant funds, many immigrants in large cities settled in mass tenement and apartment complexes that were affordable but often exhibited uncomfortable living conditions. Many rooms did not have windows, and were ten feet wide at most. Filth, dampness, and foul odors were common inconveniences. Yet for many immigrants, this was only a transitional stage in their lives, but still something unpleasant that left a mark on their experiences.

Many immigrants were able to persevere through initial hard times because of support and guidance from relatives. Immigrant families often served as the basic economic unit; they provided assistance to their members and pooled resources together.

The location of immigrants’ relatives would also often affect their destination. If an immigrant had an uncle or cousin in a particular neighborhood, he would be more likely to settle there himself and maintain close ties. Cooperative arrangements, such as boarding with relatives or native middle and working-class families were common transitional stages for many young immigrants.

But these useful ties did not in any way bog immigrants down in one place or one mode of life for a long time. Mobility was high: the families who inhabited a certain neighborhood were unlikely to still be there in 5 or 10 years. Though ethnic districts existed, most white immigrants lived in ethnically mixed neighborhoods, testifying to the fact that families served to spur on economic opportunity and change, rather than counteract it.

Due to productivity and prudence in saving a large portion of the money they earned, many of the new immigrants were able to quickly rise to middle-class status, and some even made vast fortunes during their lifetimes. While they endured initially unpleasant conditions, these immigrants ultimately saw such circumstances as stepping stones toward a better life than they could get anywhere else in the world.

Immigrant Contributions to American Life and Culture

***

Immigration from 1870 to 1920 brought to the United States a vast quantity of both ordinary and extraordinary people: individuals who, through their search for greater opportunity and prosperity, dramatically altered and improved American life and culture.

Samuel Gompers, an immigrant from England, was head of the American Federation of Labor beginning in 1886. He advocated moderate labor reforms but was a staunch opponent of socialism and coercive action on the part of unions. His memoirs give an account of his own life and experiences as an immigrant.

Ironically, however, Gompers himself came to oppose the mass wave of immigration, which he perceived to threaten the workers of his union. Many of the nativist arguments that advocated restricting foreign immigration had come from him and his associates, despite the obvious double standard that this implied.

On the opposite side of the immigration debate was an immigrant from Germany, political cartoonist Thomas Nast. His cartoons in the magazine Harper’s Weekly ridiculed nativist sentiments and advocated fair treatment and equal rights for new arrivals to the country.

Some of the most famous and lasting contributions to American culture have been made by brilliant immigrants like the composer Irving Berlin from Russia. Two of his most famous hits were “God Bless America” and “White Christmas.”

During the first decade of the twentieth century, Frank Capra came to America from Italy as a little boy. He would grow up to be a six-time Oscar-winning director who would produce some of the best-known films of the 1930s, including “It’s a Wonderful Life” and “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.”

It is important to keep in mind that, were it not for these individual immigrant innovators, American culture would not have attained some of its distinct elements. Rather than “invading” the American way of life, immigrants, in all spheres of activity, brought about great progress.

Though some immigrants were great creators and innovators, over half identified themselves as unskilled laborers or domestic workers upon arrival. They still had a role to play in the US economy.

Jobs were plentiful, and, especially in a society where living standards rose across the board, there were many jobs for which most natives were overqualified. Those jobs could be taken by immigrant workers, saving businesses money on wages while still giving those workers five or ten times what they would have received in their home countries.

Work in dry-cleaning stores, newsstands, grocery stores, and machine shops, attracted many new arrivals and served as a first step on their upward economic journey. So great was the need for people to operate these jobs, that many of the sparsely populated states actively worked to promote immigration by offering newcomers guaranteed jobs and land grants.

Immigrant Contributions to American Prosperity and Unjust Persecution of Immigrants by Nativists

***

Immigrants from 1870 to 1920 made possible America’s economic growth and rise to prominence as a global power. Yet these newcomers also faced unjust persecution from nativists who sought the aid of government to stifle further immigration.

During the past two centuries, small businesses comprised over three-fourths of America’s economy. Small businesses were a sector most crucial and unique to America, as, with scant initial capital, any intelligent man with a profitable idea could quickly rise to financial security.

The small-business field was, without exaggeration, dominated by immigrants. In every U.S. census from 1880 onward, immigrants accounted for a greater percentage of small business owners than natives. These businesses greatly expanded the country’s productivity and job openings, creating jobs for immigrants and natives alike.

Moreover, immigration fueled industrialization. In 1910, foreign-born persons comprised about 53% of the national industrial labor force. So not only did immigrants carry the small business field; they played an indispensable role in large industries as well. One can say with certainty that America would not have reached the status of a global economic power in those days were it not for the contributions of immigrants.

Despite these overt contributions to American prosperity, immigrants encountered a great deal of political regulation and outright opposition from nativist groups allied with the legislature.

Not all legislation discouraged immigration; earlier bills, such as the Homestead Act of 1862 helped attract newcomers by promising anyone who would develop a plot of land in the West for five years ownership of that land. Many Europeans took advantage of this opportunity.

But on the Pacific coast, Chinese immigrants did not fare so well. Bigoted sentiments and laws that began during the Gold Rush era culminated in the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, wherein Chinese immigration was forbidden for ten years. This law would be renewed and rendered permanent in the twentieth century and would last until 1943. In 1890, the Federal Government assumed control of immigration, implying that it would be easier to establish nationwide controls for immigration and enforce any initiative that would restrict the inward flow of people.

A slight gain for immigrants, especially those of Asian descent, was the Supreme Court decision of United States v. Wong Kim Ark, in 1898. The Supreme Court ruled that children born in America of Asian parents must be granted citizenship. Denying this citizenship would violate the 14th Amendment clause that classified all persons born on American soil as citizens and would jeopardize the rights of native-born whites with immigrant parents.

The court realized that discriminating against some immigrants could easily be extrapolated to discrimination against large portions of the American population, and that immigrants and America were inseparably linked.

Yet the nativists who controlled the other two branches of the US government continued to push their exclusionist schemes. The Literacy Act of 1917 required arrivals to be literate in some language, therefore cutting off the flow of many of the unskilled and uneducated workers that would have otherwise taken the jobs that no one else wanted.

The death blow to immigration came in 1924, when the National Origins Act set a quota of 150,000 total immigrants per year, disproportionately distributed to England and Northern Europe, with few slots allotted to southern and Eastern Europe and none for Asians. The act ended mass immigration into the U.S. until its repeal in 1965.

Nativist Xenophobia and Persecution of Immigrants

***

Immigrants to the United States from 1870 to 1920 were not always welcomed. Many faced unjust and even violent persecution from well-connected nativist groups, who often acted out of nothing more than ignorance and prejudice.

No one expressed and condemned the irrationality of the xenophobia exhibited by the nativist groups against immigrants more vividly than Thomas Nast. His cartoon, ironically titled, “Pacific Chivalry: Encouragement to Chinese Immigration,” portrays Nast’s response to some of the most extreme forms of racism and nativism in the country at the time.

Nast_Pacific_Chivalry

You see a California native whipping and pulling the hair of a defenseless Chinese immigrant. In the inscription in the background, you can barely see written some of the things that aid the abuser in his cruelty. The inscription reads: “Courts of justice closed to Chinese; extra taxes to Yellowjack.”

What does this cartoon suggest about the means that Chinese and many other immigrants had to resist invasions of their rights and dignity? They had just about no means whatsoever. Nast recognized that many of these productive and peace-loving individuals were barred from resisting their inferior condition by small, well-organized activist groups connected with the legislature and prepared to use all means necessary, from the law to vigilante violence, to damage the immigrants. The American people were not opposed to immigration, but many powerful and well-connected elites of the time were.

Indeed, the xenophobia against immigrants sometimes reached horrific extremes. There was substantial discrimination against the Chinese in terms of wages and employment conditions in the West, but this passage by historian John Higham refers to some of the more brutal attacks on their freedoms.

“No variety of anti-European sentiment has ever approached the violent extremes to which anti-Chinese agitation went in the 1870s and 1880s. Lynching, boycotts, and mass expulsions…harassed the Chinese.” (Higham 1963)

Of course, in order to make these actions seem more tolerable in their eyes, nativists tried to justify them by conceiving of Asian immigrants as inferior beings. They could back down somewhat and grant some degree of equality to foreign whites, but this would enable them to play a powerful race card which contained some vicious stereotypes. Anti-immigrant stereotypes were spread by many labor unionists, especially Samuel Gompers, who wrote that “both the intelligence and the prosperity of our working people are endangered by the present immigration. Cheap labor… ignorant labor…takes our jobs and cuts our wages.”

There are numerous fallacies in Gompers’s claims. Immigration creates jobs rather than destroying them. Immigrants did not steal jobs, but rather took work that few natives wanted. Half of immigrants were indeed unskilled, but the other half consisted of people just as, if not more than, educated and innovative than the native population. Indeed, without immigrants, American economic prosperity would have been cut by more than half.

It seems, however, that some debates in American history linger on for centuries. The immigration debate is one of them. Currently, as immigration restrictions in the past thirty years have been laxer than previously, we are experiencing a new massive influx of foreigners into this country. The benefits that these immigrants bring are even more obvious today than ever, but the nativists are still around to attempt to impose stricter quotas and border-control measures. They are often still guided by the same fallacious arguments about immigrants stealing jobs or polluting the country’s culture.

Novelist Stephen Vincent Benet offered a powerful response to nativism, relevant both during his time and today: “Remember that when you say, ‘I will have none of this exile and this stranger for his face is not like my face and his speech is strange,’ you have denied America with that word.”

Sources:

http://web.uccs.edu/~history/fall2000websites/hist153/immigrants.htm
http://www.bedfordstmartins.com/historymodules/modules/mod20/main.htm
http://immigrants.harpweek.com/
http://nimbus.mysticseaport.org/voyages/immigration-0.html
http://www.h-net.org/~shgape/bibs/immig.html
http://memory.loc.gov/learn/educators/workshop/european/wimmlink.html
http://dewey.chs.chico.k12.ca.us/bridging.html
http://www.edc.org/CCT/NDL/1998/institute/stan/immlinks.html
http://www.kn.pacbell.com/wired/fil/pages/listimmigratli.html
http://www.bcps.org/offices/lis/models/immigration/resources.html
http://www.pbs.org/newamericans/6.0/html/amimm_pp403.html
http://www.ailf.org/pubed/pe_celeb_historical.asp
http://www.bergen.org/AAST/Projects/Immigration/
http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/ndlpedu/features/timeline/riseind/immgnts/immgrnts.html
http://www.internationalchannel.com/education/ellis/process.html
http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/ndlpedu/features/immig/native_american3.html
http://mi.essortment.com/postcivilwarr_rrid.htm
http://dig.lib.niu.edu/civilwar/settlement.html
http://www.civilwarhome.com/irish.htm
http://www.marist.edu/summerscholars/97/modimm.htm
http://memory.loc.gov/learn/features/timeline/progress/immigrnt/immigrnt.html
http://memory.loc.gov/learn/features/timeline/riseind/immgnts/immgrnts.html
http://internet.ggu.edu/university_library/histimmi.html
http://www.historychannel.com/ellisisland/index2.html
http://www.archives.gov/publications/prologue/fall_2000_us_canada_immigration_records_1.html

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The Human Rational Faculty and the Necessity of Property Rights (2005) – Article by G. Stolyarov II

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Categories: Philosophy, Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

The New Renaissance Hat
G. Stolyarov II
July 20, 2014
******************************
Note from the Author: This essay was originally written in 2005 and published on Associated Content (subsequently, Yahoo! Voices) in 2007.  I seek to preserve it as a valuable resource for readers, subsequent to the imminent closure of Yahoo! Voices. Therefore, this essay is being published directly on The Rational Argumentator for the first time.  
***
~ G. Stolyarov II, July 20, 2014
***
Each individual is, by his fundamental and inextricable identity, a rational being, with a means of accurately identifying and analyzing reality with his mind. The individual’s rational faculty is his sole gateway to knowledge, and the sole means by which he can direct the application of his knowledge to the external world.
***

Nobody else’s activity of any sort can substitute for the individual’s own thinking, just as nobody else’s activity can substitute for an individual’s own digestion. Each individual is also fundamentally a volitional being, and can choose to default on the responsibility of thinking for himself, thereby also choosing to bear the consequences.

However, whatever he chooses, it remains irrefutably true that he still possesses the capacity to be rational. From this capacity it is implied that he ought to be allowed to be rational, i.e., that he has a natural right to use his reason and benefit from the applications thereof.

Nobody should be permitted to intervene with another individual’s use of reason, nor to substitute his reasoning for another’s and force another to agree with or accept the consequences of his reasoning unless the other explicitly consents.

When two individuals come to an agreement, each has used his own reasoning to embrace it. When, however, such a clear, unambiguous agreement is not present, the individual who presumes to place his thoughts in the stead of another’s is committing the initiation of force, which is the opposite of reason.

Since all natural rights are derived from the human capacity to reason, all violations of natural rights are derived from the initiation of force by some individuals against others.

The only manner in which reason can have any concrete, material expression is by means of property, i.e., those material entities which belong to an individual as a consequence of his use of reason. Even the very capacity to reason itself is dependent on property, as the individual mind is a material entity, and, were it not for the concrete biological mechanisms of the brain, there would not be abstract thought.

Thus, to be able to reason, the individual must have a property in his physical mind. In order for his physical mind to function, an individual must also have property in his physical body, since, not only is the mind part of the body but, without the proper functioning of the remainder of the body, the mind would not be able to survive. In summation, the right to the use of one’s reason implies the right to property in oneself and, as a corollary, the right to use one’s reason to determine what shall happen to one’s mind and body.

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History of the 1848-1853 California Gold Rush (2003) – Essay by G. Stolyarov II

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Categories: History, Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The New Renaissance Hat
G. Stolyarov II
July 20, 2014
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Note from the Author: This essay was originally written in 2003 and published in six parts on Associated Content (subsequently, Yahoo! Voices) in 2007.  The essay earned over 43,500 page views on Associated Content/Yahoo! Voices, and I seek to preserve it as a valuable resource for readers, subsequent to the imminent closure of Yahoo! Voices. Therefore, this essay is being published directly on The Rational Argumentator for the first time.  ***
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~ G. Stolyarov II, July 20, 2014
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Background History of the California Gold Rush

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The real story of the California Gold Rush has to be traced back to the Mexican War, which was fought from 1846 to 1848. The war started out as a dispute over Texas. However, under the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, America ended up not only with Texas, but also Nevada, Utah, Arizona and California.

During this time period, the country was expanding and its transportation improving. Once gold was discovered in California, waves of fortune-seekers, also known as 49ers (because they came during 1849), came from all over the world to California, thus drastically impacting both the economy and social life of California, which in turn impacted the rest of the nation. Even though few of the 49ers actually made a fortune from mining gold, many found other ways to earn a living, especially once the gold became scarce and xenophobia emerged. Nonetheless the incredible number and diversity of people who came to California seeking an easy fortune influenced Californian and American life.

John Sutter, on whose lands the gold discovery had occurred, moved to California from Switzerland in 1830 and obtained a property charter from the Mexican government. During this time, he established a fort at New Helvetia, at the junction of the American and Sacramento rivers. He strove to build an agricultural empire, but the gold discovery was the beginning of the downfall of his dream. Along with James Marshall, Sutter located gold at his mill in 1848.

It may seem odd that James Marshall and John Sutter were quite displeased upon testing the gold and confirming its identity. But Sutter was barely interested in profits to be made from the discovery; his original plan was to establish an agricultural powerhouse, and he stuck to it. He was afraid, however, that if news of the discovery leaked, his workers would abandon him and try to make a profit of their own from the gold fields. He also feared the competition over land and resources that would ensue if a massive rush of immigrants came to California to seek gold. Thus, he and Marshall agreed to keep the discovery secret until the mill’s completion, so that Sutter would retain the manpower necessary for the job.

Stories circulated the countryside within weeks. However, they were all too often dismissed as wild rumors, until they caught the ears of a new and ambitious Mormon immigrant, Samuel Brannan. Brannan immediately sensed immense riches in store from the potential gold boom, and keenly bought most of the picks, pans, and shovels in California at extremely low prices. Then, after he established a colossal stockpile, he ran through the streets of San Francisco, holding up gold, and shouting “Gold, gold in the American River!” He provided enough empirical evidence to be believed and trigger a massive inflow of immigrants as the news spread east. In just the next nine weeks, by selling mining equipment at prices far higher than his costs, he made $36,000.

Gold Seekers’ Journey Westward During the 1849 California Gold Rush

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The journey westward during the 1849 California Gold Rush was an arduous ordeal for many. As news of the 1848 discovery at Sutter’s Mill spread, people all over the United States were allured by the prospect of gold, but the pathways from the population centers of the East Coast to California were few and arduous. Two essential choices for forty-niners, the first wave of Gold Rush immigration in 1849 were an overland journey across the 2000 mile stretch of yet unsettled land in between, or a sea route around Cape Horn in South America.

The sea route, preferred by gold seekers from the Eastern states, would often take about six months. It was not a pleasant journey, either. Seasickness and spoilage of food and water were omnipresent.

Some time later, a third route was thought up, though not any less perilous than the other two. Migrants sailed as far south as Panama, disembarked, then made 3-day trip by mule and canoe across land to the Pacific side, where they boarded another ship. Tropical diseases in that part of the world were devastating. Malaria and cholera claimed many lives. Lieutenant Ulysses S. Grant, when journeying to California in 1852, wrote that a third of his regiment was killed or incapacitated by these afflictions. To add to the problems, ships to ferry the immigrants up to San Francisco were rare, and the travelers would often end up being stranded in Panama for months.

Over land, a favorite route of immigrants from the Central states was the Oregon-California Trail, a well-worn path carved out several years earlier by fur trappers. This overland road much shorter than the sea route, but not faster. Its travelers would go for six months by covered wagon through desolate landscapes with scarce supplies of water. The Native Americans along the way, whom many xenophobic settlers initially feared, actually turned out to be helpful, providing supplies, information, and guides. The occasional entrepreneur in the area would also capitalize on the scarcity of water by selling it at prices as high as $100 per drink. Supply and demand worked even in the desert.

Because travelers reached California successfully did not imply that their journey was over. Gold was further inland near Placerville, far from the port of San Francisco where the ships docked. Some travelers were also repulsed upon reaching San Francisco by the sight of numerous bars, gambling places, and saloons, all sites of licentious life that had been taboo in the East. Additionally, many immigrants explored the Sacramento River and its delta for new gold sites to mine.

Key Figures in the California Gold Rush: John Sutter, Richard Barnes Mason, William T. Sherman, and Ulysses S. Grant

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The 1849 California Gold Rush was a magnet for ambitious personalities: individuals who would later rise to extraordinary heights in American politics, military, and economic life. The Gold Rush ruined the great landowner John Sutter but served as a testing ground for Richard Barnes Mason, Ulysses S. Grant, and William T. Sherman.

John Sutter was, as he had predicted, economically destroyed by the inpouring of gold seekers into California. His ambitions for an expansive enterprise were ruined by the desertion of his laborers and by squatters overrunning his lands after the discovery of gold. Sutter never extensively attempted to benefit from the Gold Rush, except for one half-hearted expedition which he abandoned almost upon arriving at the gold fields. His losses were never officially compensated.

Another key person in Gold Rush history was Colonel, later General, Richard Barnes Mason, who served as the fifth military governor of California from 1847 to 1849. Governors were changed with extreme rapidity during that time period, but Mason served on his post the longest. He was an astute observer who toured the gold fields with his assistant, Lieutenant William Tecumseh Sherman, and reported to Washington first-hand observations of the social and economic conditions in the state. His writings are an excellent primary source for understanding the Gold Rush phenomenon.

Sherman, the Sherman who would become an infamous Civil War general, wrote down his observations in his memoirs. Quite unexpectedly, he became a banker for Lucas, Turner & Co. in September of 1853, and oversaw construction of “Sherman’s Bank,” a building so durable and finely engineered that it still stands in California today.

The California Gold Rush seemed to be a magnet for future great generals. Ulysses Grant, upon arriving in California, also wrote detailed notes for his memoirs. His own experiences however, were not to be as glorious as his later life. Grant struck a deal with his troops to start a potato growing business, which failed miserably.

Grant’s financial failure happened because hundreds of other entrepreneurs got the same idea at the same time. So many potatoes were grown that season that everybody had enough for themselves, and no one wanted to buy any. So Grant and his troops ended up eating a lot of what they grew and letting the rest rot away. As for Grant himself, put simply, he had a drinking problem, which would notoriously feature in his later life. In 1853, he was discharged from his regiment and sent home, though he conveniently omits this fact from his accounts.

Economic and Cultural Leaders During the 1849 California Gold Rush

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A number of America’s future economic and cultural leaders began their rise to prominence during the 1849 California Gold Rush. Among them were such individuals as Mark Twain, Sam Brannan, Levi Strauss, Phillip Armour, John Studebaker, Henry Wells, and William Fargo.

The Gold Rush was the proving ground for Samuel Clemens, the future Mark Twain. He came to California as an absolute unknown and took a job at the San Francisco Call, one of the two newspapers in the city at the time. He distinguished himself before the world in a rather unorthodox manner, writing a story about a local frog-jumping contest.

As for Sam Brannan, the great businessman who first spread news of gold’s discovery in California, he became the richest man in California without once mining the gold himself. He outmaneuvered the market many times through his publicity skills and adept purchases, eventually owning much of downtown San Francisco and even printing his own currency. Brannan was also disgusted with some of the racist, nativist miners’ oppression of foreigners and new arrivals in the state. He often broke up ethnic clashes and defended the rights of immigrants against the typically racist-slanted legislature. Why did Brannan care about the plight of working immigrants? The simplest answer is that foreigners were a large portion of his customer base, and the more miners were in the business, the more Brannan would profit. The market, and its most skilled representatives, are blind to irrational prejudices of race and nationality.

Levi Strauss, the future inventor of blue jeans, was known during the Gold Rush as a dry goods salesman and tent maker. In 1853, he made what he called “canvas pants” out of tent fabric especially for miners. These gained widespread popularity and earned Strauss a fortune.

Another great businessman who got started during the Gold Rush was Phillip Armour, who came to Placerville, California and opened a meat market there. Later, he moved back to Indiana with his profits and founded the gargantuan Armour Meat Packing Company.

Moreover, John Studebaker, a wagon manufacturer, established a firm in California to provide transportation to Oregon pioneers. It would expand to become a major car producer during the first half of the twentieth century.

Finally, Henry Wells and William Fargo offered a stable, honest banking, transportation, and mail delivery system to miners, something that the uncertainty-faced miners desperately needed. Their venture would also soon expand to a nationwide level.

California’s Colossal Economic Growth During the 1849 Gold Rush

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The economy of California grew at a phenomenal rate during the days of the 1849 Gold Rush. Much of this growth was made possible by the laissez-faire economic policies of Governor Richard Barnes Mason.

Prices rose dramatically as more people found gold and gold became widely circulated on the market. Seeing that customers would afford it, merchants raised their fees on all sorts of commodities, from real estate to food to transportation. A miner in California may have made about six to ten times as much as his eastern counterpart, but he also had to pay about that many times more for his upkeep.

The following concrete illustration of this trend is useful: a plot of San Francisco real estate that cost $16 in 1847, sold for $45,000 just 18 months later. Imagine investing in real estate during that time period.

The city of San Francisco grew from an isolated village to a thriving city in the five or so years of the Gold Rush. Its population rose from 1000 in 1848 to 35000 in 1850. This contributed dramatically to California’s admission to the Union as a state in 1850. 30 new houses and 2 new murders came about every day. Theaters and newspapers were built and prospered, and eventually only London would have more newspapers than San Francisco. Wages rose with the general standard of living, and great economic expansion and demand for jobs made employment readily available.

The California agricultural boom was another significant economic result of the Gold Rush. Many of the forty-niners and later immigrants contributed to the growing demand for food. Initially, this was satisfied by imports from merchants as far away as Chile or as nearby as Oregon. However, gradually the capacity was developed to grow the food in California itself. Machines were imported into the country to equip an efficient farming industry, and eventually wheat was exported from California to other parts of the U.S.

This phenomenal economic growth was made possible by Governor Richard Barnes Mason’s laissez-faire approach to the economy. Mason recalled of his administration: “I resolved not to interfere, but permit all to work freely, unless broils and crimes should call for interference.”

During the military period, when California’s future within the United States was still uncertain, as it was not yet a state, and governments changed with great frequency, no political factions could emerge to attempt to regulate and restrict the economy. The courts were based on the Anglo-Saxon model, which stressed property rights and the rights of the accused, though occasional acts of “vigilante justice” did occur. The government was highly limited and mainly acted as a second line of defense against crime. People fended for themselves mostly, and did surprisingly well. Unlike the cities, in the mining camps, crime rates were extremely low, lower than even in the relatively peaceful Eastern cities, mainly because almost every miner owned a gun. The principle of “more guns, less crime” was clearly demonstrated there.

Immigration to California During the 1849 Gold Rush

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The Gold Rush resulted in massive foreign immigration to California from virtually every area of Europe, Asia, and the Pacific. At first, immigrants were accepted by almost everyone, as land, gold, and other resources were plentiful. As those resources became less abundant, however, a minority of white racists played on miners’ fears of foreign competition and came to dominate the legislature, setting up barriers to foreign immigrants. While some immigrants left, many others persisted, and set the stage for the vast cultural diversity seen in California today.

During the 1849 Gold Rush, California’s government was tolerant toward all immigrants under the laissez-faire military administration of Richard Barnes Mason. But as soon as the civilian legislature came along in 1850, a minority of racist white miners, who feared competition with foreign immigrants, influenced the government to abandon laissez-faire and institute the Foreign Miners Tax.

This $20 monthly fee from every foreign miner was intended to “protect” American miners from foreign competition. It was a disaster and was repealed a year later, as many foreign miners quit their careers and crowded the cities, jobless and penniless. Some did not give up and spread into other fields of business, having thus defended their individual rights against the bigoted government.

Mexicans had comprised much of California’s population before the Mexican War. The war unseated them from a dominant social position and many came to the mines, seeking to regain lost wealth and status. Tensions between Mexican miners and racist/nativist interests escalated into the 1850s. An example would be the attempt by racist miners, supported by politicians from the East, to drive Mexicans out of the Calaveras and Tuolumne counties where the Mexican miners had claimed land.

The Chinese migrants to California would shape the state extensively. Once again, the Chinese encountered animosity from racist miners and the legislature. Nevertheless, their industry and persistence enabled them to find jobs as cooks, cigar makers, restaurateurs, vegetable farmers, fortune tellers, and merchants, found temples, gambling halls, theaters, and laundries, and become key contributors to the agricultural boom. Many of them planted crops or built levees.

Women and African Americans also found a new home and opportunities in Gold Rush California. In both conventional and unconventional economic roles, they defied constricting Eastern stereotypes and met with great financial success. As for African-Americans, though many came as slaves, they bought freedom with gold and those already free used gold to free families, fight discrimination and start newspapers, schools, and churches. Upon its admission to the Union, so many were free and economically active that slavery was prohibited in the state.

Sources Used

Chevez, Ken. Part Three: State’s Latinos Lost in the Rush. 1/18/98. Sacramento Bee. October 2003 <http://www.calgoldrush.com/part3/03mexicans.html>

Discovery Of Gold By John A. Sutter. 2003. Virtual Museum Of The City Of San Fransisco. October 2003 <http://www.sfmuseum.org/hist2/gold.html>

Discovery Of Gold Report Of Colonell Mason. 2003. Virtual Museum Of The City Of San Fransisco. October 2003 < http://www.sfmuseum.net/hist6/masonrpt.html>

Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman. 2003. Virtual Museum Of The City Of San Fransisco. October 2003 <http://www.sfmuseum.net/bio/sherman.html>

Gold Fever Discovery. 1998. Oakland Museum of California. October 2003
<http://www.museumca.org/goldrush/fever05.html>

Gold Fever Entertainment. 1998. Oakland Museum of California. October 2003
<http://www.museumca.org/goldrush/fever18.html>

Gold Rush And Anti-Chinese Race Hatred. 2003. Virtual Museum Of The City Of San Fransisco. October 2003 <http://www.sfmuseum.net/hist6/chinhate.html>

Gold Rush: Gold Country. 2003. Idaho State University.
October 2003 <http://www.isu.edu/~trinmich/goldcountry.html>

Hoge, Patrick. Part Three: Justice Wasn’t Pretty- But It Was Quick. 1/18/98. Sacramento Bee. October 2003 <http://www.calgoldrush.com/part3/03justice.html>

Lieutenant Ulysses S. Grant And The Gold Rush. 2003. Virtual Museum Of The City Of San Fransisco. October 2003 < http://www.sfmuseum.net/hist6/shermgold.html>

Magagnini, Steven. Part Three: Chinese Transformed
Gold Mountain. 1/18/98. Sacramento Bee. October 2003
<http://www.calgoldrush.com/part3/03asians.html>

Magagnini, Steven. Part Three: Fortune Smiled on Many Black Miners. 1/18/98. Sacramento Bee. October 2003 <http://www.calgoldrush.com/part3/03blacks.html>

Magagnini, Steven. Part Three: Indian’s Misfortune Was Stamped In Gold. 1/18/98. Sacramento Bee. October 2003 <http://www.calgoldrush.com/part3/03native.html>

Perkins, Kathryn Doré. Part Three: ‘Real Women’ Who Defied Stereotype. 1/18/98. Sacramento Bee. October 2003 <http://www.calgoldrush.com/part3/03women.html>

The Gold Rush: Collision Of Cultures. 2003. PBS. October 2003 <http://www.pbs.org/goldrush/collision.html>

The Gold Rush: Journey. 2003. PBS. October 2003 <http://www.pbs.org/goldrush/journey.html>

William T. Sherman And The Gold Rush. 2003. Virtual Museum Of The City Of San Fransisco. October 2003 <http://www.sfmuseum.net/hist6/shermgold.html>

America: Gone West. Cooke, Alistair. BBC/Time-Life Television, 1973.

French Cartoon. 2003. Oakland Museum of California. October 2003 <http://www.museumca.org/goldrush/curriculum/4g/42103011.html>

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LEV: The Game – Play to Win Indefinite Life – Article by G. Stolyarov II

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Categories: Technology, Transhumanism, Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The New Renaissance Hat
G. Stolyarov II
July 20, 2014
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LEV: The Game is a work in progress, whose potential to spread the message of indefinite life extension to the general public encourages me greatly. Developed by a team from Belgium – consisting of Anthony Lamot, Mathieu Hinderyckx, and Maxime Devos – this Android mobile game is currently in its Alpha phase. The creators have initiated an Indiegogo fundraiser to raise 6000 Euros (approximately 8100 US dollars at July 2014 exchange rates) in order to greatly expand the game and add its most complex and engaging elements. You can watch their video introduction to the game and the fundraiser here.

The premise of LEV: The Game is the same as the aim of those of us who wish to extend our lives without end. One’s character is challenged with living for as long as possible and attaining longevity escape velocity by reversing the damage of senescence at a faster rate than it accumulates. Every year in the game, the character receives an allotment of energy points with which to purchase power-ups, such as stem-cell therapies, applications of nano-medicine, cybernetic enhancements, or simple increments of diet and exercise. Each power-up can either increase the remaining expected lifespan, increase the rate at which energy points accumulate (called “productivity” in the game), or reduce the character’s rate of bodily decay. The player needs to achieve a delicate balancing of these power-ups to avoid expiring before he/she accumulates enough energy points to purchase the next life-extending advance.

Becoming an Alpha tester of LEV: The Game is absolutely free, and I was pleased to be able to participate in mid-July 2014. After eight attempts, I succeeded in getting a character to reach the age of 200, which is the game’s current victory condition. If the developers can raise their desired funds, they anticipate extending the gameplay to enable one’s character to reach the age of 1000.

LEV_Maximus_VIII_ScreenshotTo become an Alpha tester, you will need to join the LEV: The Game (Alpha) Google Group, using a Google account that is also linked to a mobile phone or tablet that runs the Android operating system. After you join, you can download the game from the Google Play store here. Remember to click the “Become a Tester” button to enable the download to work. When testing the game in this early stage, make sure you un-pause it first using the speed settings in the top-left-hand portion of the screen, before navigating to any of the other available windows.

Why LEV: The Game is Immensely Important

Our ability to achieve indefinite life extension personally will depend on the amount of resources and support from the general public invested in the overcoming of age-related bodily damage. Most people, unfortunately, continue to either be resigned to the inevitability of death, or to argue against the desirability of indefinite longevity due to extremely basic misconceptions. Even apart from the absurdly false boredom argument, overpopulation argument, and “playing God” argument, there is a more basic fallacy – the Tithonus error, which posits that becoming chronologically older necessarily means becoming biologically more decrepit. Yet the only way indefinite longevity could be achieved would be for people to remain biologically young, so that their susceptibility to deadly diseases does not increase beyond that of people in their twenties today. How could longevity advocates get the general public to understand this? Convincing people through arguments alone may often fail, simply because the Dragon-Tyrant of death is so ubiquitous and so overwhelming that many people will grasp at any straw, no matter how flimsy, to avoid being confronted with the grave injustice of their current predicament.

But a game gives a fresh, different, and engaging way to see and experience what indefinite longevity would truly entail. Anyone playing LEV: The Game would quickly see that becoming increasingly frail is no way to increase life expectancy. Your character will die if he/she experiences sufficient biological decay. You will be able to see a graph of the character’s remaining life expectancy and the rate at which decay is expected to proceed during the years they have left. If you apply the most effective combinations of power-ups, you will also see the life-expectancy curve shift upward – sometimes slightly, at other times by massive jumps. The latter situation reflects what can happen once humans begin to undergo periodic rejuvenation therapies to remove age-related damage, as posited in Dr. Aubrey de Grey’s SENS approach.

Furthermore, LEV: The Game encourages its players to engage in paradigm-shifting thinking about their own future trajectories. Instead of planning for gradual debilitation and eventual death, as most people do today when projecting their careers, retirements, finances, and family lives, a strikingly different mindset can take hold – the quest for perpetual maintenance and a return to youthfulness that may be possible at any chronological age, with sufficient technological advances and vigilance regarding one’s health. I admire the integration in LEV: The Game of biomedical treatments, cybernetic enhancements, and simple prudent habits – such as a healthy diet, regular exercise, cognitive activity, and access to relevant health information (even “Quantified Self” is a power-up that one can purchase). We should all strive to live the most informed and healthy lives possible, given present technology, in order to maximize our chances of surviving to the next wave of breakthroughs on the way to longevity escape velocity.

Not a day passes when I do not think about innovative ways to reach the general public with the message of indefinite life extension. For years, I have advocated the gamification of this literally vital idea as one of the most powerful ways to catalyze cultural change on this issue. I am immensely pleased to now witness such an effort taking off, due to the excellent work of Messrs. Lamot, Hinderyckx, and Devos. I donated to the Indiegogo fundraiser to help propel LEV: The Game to its hopefully world-changing final version. I hope that all readers of this article will be able to do the same.

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