Saturday, August 22, 2015

No surprise here

Making profits and the foibles of human nature don’t seem to have any trouble co-existing, and they have done so for a long time.

I came across this somewhat incidental observation in a book on the history of clocks and timekeeping:

“This maritime struggle was linked to commercial rivalry. For both countries the eighteenth century was a period of rapid growth of trade and competition in what were known as colonial wares: sugar, coffee, tea, tobacco—what I like to call Europe’s ‘big fix.’ “  

The author, David Landes, was referring to the long-running naval policy and tactical conflicts between England and France.

The thing that struck me is: all four of those “colonial wares” are addictive commodities. There wasn’t any difficulty about selling the stuff. The rivalry was all about who would transport it from the colonies to Europe, and who would cash in when it was finally sold to the end users.

Eighteenth century mercantilism had many dimensions, and this was one of them.

David Landes, Revolution in Time: Clocks and the Making of the Modern World (Cambridge, MA: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1983), 159.

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2015 All rights reserved.

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