Skip to comments.The fall of Spain, the first global superpower, and the fall of the US
Posted on 02/09/2010 8:47:02 AM PST by GeorgeSaden
It may be hard for most people to imagine, but Spain was the first global Superpower. It gained this status as the defender of Europe against Muslim armies and by leading the Wests exploration of America. In 1492, the same year that Spanish-financed Christopher Columbus discovered the New World, the last Muslim stronghold of Granada was ceded to Ferdinand and Isabella to complete the Catholic Reconquest of the Iberian peninsula... It controlled rich parts of Italy through Naples and Milan, and Central Europe from the Netherlands through the Holy Roman Empire to Austria. In the 16th century it added the far distant Philippine islands to its empire. The Hapsburgs held off the Ottoman Turks, whose resurgent wave of Islamic conquest in the 16th century swept across the Balkans and nearly captured Vienna.
Yet, Spanish leaders were deluded by a sense of false prosperity. This is testified by the statement of a prominent official, Alfonso Nunez de Castro in 1675: Let London manufacture those fine fabrics of hers to her heart's content; let Holland her chambrays; Florence her cloth; the Indies their beaver and vicuna; Milan her brocade, Italy and Flanders their linens...so long as our capital can enjoy them; the only thing it proves is that all nations train their journeymen for Madrid, and that Madrid is the queen of Parliaments, for all the world serves her and she serves nobody. A few years later, the Madrid government was bankrupt. The Spanish nobleman had foolishly elevated consumption, a use for wealth, above production, the creation of wealth.
(Excerpt) Read more at americaneconomicalert.org ...
This is testified by the statement of a prominent official, Alfonso Nunez de Castro in 1675: Let London manufacture those fine fabrics of hers to her heart’s content; let Holland her chambrays; Florence her cloth; the Indies their beaver and vicuna; Milan her brocade, Italy and Flanders their linens...so long as our capital can enjoy them; the only thing it proves is that all nations train their journeymen for Madrid, and that Madrid is the queen of Parliaments, for all the world serves her and she serves nobody.
Frighteningly similar to the free trade “who cares” attitude towards foreign manufacturing.
By the time of the Spanish-American war - the Spanish Army and Navy were a joke.
I have been listening to Empires of the Sea. I thought some of Spain’s issues sounded familiar.
At least we still pay our soldiers on time...
Too bad we didn't learn in time...
Like the Romans before them,the Spanish made conquest and plunder - not industry, production, trade, and commerce - their economic goal
That's your take-home message from this?
America is in trouble because it can't compete. Its industry is weighed down with taxation, over-regulation, unionization and an increasingly poorly educated or tax-demotivated workforce.
Forcing Americans to buy their stuff from feather-bedded internal suppliers would solve these problems how?
The only reason you guys have any standard of living at all is because other people make stuff well and cheaply.
Don't like it? Try reducing your internal barriers to wealth-production. Don't whine about the competition.
Rome lasted 1,000 years. Spain’s time at the top was less than 200 years. Rome did have a thriving merchant class, as the US does today (a.k.a. the middle class). Spain never did. They remained feudal with two classes, the really really rich, and the really really poor. As this article points out, they shunned industrial development.
Their economy was smoke and mirrors, propped up by an inflow of gold and silver from somewhere else. The US has a bit more going on than that.
Isabella was a Hapsburg herself so it could be argued just as easily that the Germans held that empire (it later fell into the hands of Charles V who was king of a lot of places and Holy Roam Emperor).
That said, there are striking similarities in the governing of Obama and Philip II of Spain, who squandered any power Spain had left in the Elizabethian Age.
Not a fan of Spain or the Hapsburg empire due to their involvement in removing the templars, inquisitions against so-called heretics, jews, and moors. The dictatorship that destroyed Catalonia, Grenada, and Navarre introduced intolerance and a form of centralized economy into relatively free lands and free economies. Ancient Catalonia of Spain and France was the envy of Europe. Spain killed tolerance, killed freedom, killed free markets, and killed the brain trust that existed.
As far as I’m concerned, Spain is a glaring example of how not to form a government, a tolerant society of freedom, or a highly evolved capitalist economy that the framers of the US Constitution took note, and avoided installing. You’ll notice any lands controlled by Spain have had trouble with allowing freedom and their economies are systemically deeply troubled.
Bang! That comment hit the 10 ring! Well said!
You are British from the flag on your profile. Your nation was an economic leader as well once under a regime of promoting internal trade and discouraging imports from outside of the empire. In the USA it is sometimes refered to as a Hamiltonian trade policy. I’m afraid you’ve lost sight of the reality around you — when the US and the UK were successful they were more protectionist.
Lol, Rome had industry, production, trade and commerce in spades and the Roman Republic/Empire lasted almost 2,000 years 400 B.C.-1400 A.D. Or a 1,000 years if you just count the Western Empire.
Everything old is new again. Thanks for the post.
It’s nice that someone occasionally reminds the protectionists here what the real problems are. I would add that the reduction of our productive capacity has been a goal long pursued by the left.
Ah, yes, the Roaring Thirties.
1792 on . . . we didn’t used to have any Federal taxes other than tarriffs and we were a lot more successful economically relative to the rest of the world than we are now. You can be flippant about it but we are seeing the end of an era now. This article points out that we are approaching the 2 to 1 mark, imports to exports.
Actually, the 19th century was a free-market century, more so than the 20th, which has to be considered the big government century.
Actually, the 19th century was a free-market century, more so than the 20th, which has to be considered the big government century.
Not when it comes to tarriff protection.
Re: Like the Romans before them,the Spanish made conquest and plunder - not industry, production, trade, and commerce - their economic goal
Conquest and plunder precisely describes the history of the USA, not Spain. The American Indian was all but wipred off the face of the the USA.
According to USA standards of “color/race”, all of Central America, and almost all of South America is inhabited by Indians. The proof of “conquest and plunder” is there in the population, for those with eyes to see, to see. Spain was used by God as an instrument for spreading of the true faith to Indians of good will.
[T]ariffs are not the only trade policy used by countries. Countries also implement quotas, import licenses, voluntary export restraints, export taxes, export subsidies, government procurement policies, domestic content rules, and much more. In addition, there are a variety of domestic regulations which, for large economies at least, can and do have an impact on trade flows. None of these regulations, restrictions or impediments to trade, affecting both imports and exports, would be captured using any of the average tariff measures. Nevertheless these non-tariff barriers can have a much greater effect upon trade flows than tariffs themselves.
Just to clarify. Isabella was not a Hapsburg; her family had a lot of English roots in it. The daughter of Ferdinand and Isabella, Juana La Loca, married the Hapsburg scion Phillip the Fair. It was through this marriage and their son Charles V the Spainish Empire became part of the Hapsburg’s domains.
The domestic Spanish economy at the time of their dominance was centered on wool production; the Mesta. This restrictive corporation prevented any other enterprises to rise. The Spanish crown favored this arrangement because of the short term taxes it was able to collect; levying tolls on the annual sheep migrations and selling rights to monopolies. As others mentioned the social stigma against trade was much stronger than in the North Atlantic countries. The analogy to the current situation would be US corporations instead of investing in “building the better mouse trap” using their allied in government to cement their privileged positions. One can add the continued growing hatred of private enterprise on the part of the Democratic elite.
I agree with everything you wrote and your quote from the article as well. Questioning the low tariff regime that we’ve put in place since the 1950’s doesn’t mean that a person supports government regulations or anti-competitive measures beyond straight tariffs. I think that the theory of “free trade” has not been borne out with actual experience. We’ve lost ground relative to our economic competitors, not gained it, since we dropped our tariffs. So did Great Britain.
I think the “disconnect” between theory and reality is that economic theory looks at GDP, GNP, income, utility, all those absolute measures and ignores RELATIVE power. If you have 2 actors (A & B) who are geopolitical competitors and free trade makes everyone richer, but helps B twice as much as A, then if you care about relative power and live in A you would rationally be opposed to completely free trade. You would care if you didn’t trust that B, once they were more powerful than A, would continue to be fair and free. Say using the USA and China for example, once China is stronger militarily than we are, will we truly be better off?
More in line with the standard thinking, a key part of free trade theory is that the money you save on goods from other lands will go to more productive uses than buying inferior domestic goods, so you are better off with free trade. But what happens when you have such a messed up system that capital goes to a speculative bubble instead, or meaningless overconsumption through debt?
I also think that economic theory focuses on dollar measures — money — and when a system crashes it is only things (land, machinery, commodities) and people (skills) that really matter. All the paper chits people have built up through trade don’t matter except to the extent they are backed by real things or rights to real ongoing enterprises. You sell GM to the Chinese for 10 billion dollars and lets say it is a great deal for you, the seller. Then the 10 billion dollars lose all value through hyperinflation or lack of willingness to accept dollars. The Chinese still have the enterprise and you have . . . worthless dollars.
I don’t care who you are, THAT’s funny!
Excellent use of verbal irony/sarcasm.
Happy FReeper Anniversary, btw. :)
If we didn’t open up our market to them, they wouldn’t have had the economic growth they’ve had. We were doing fine without free trade with China. They were not.
And thank you on the anniversary. I had another account before as well!
The Spanish Armada could have crushed England if not for British espionage and a cunning ambush. History would be very different today if Spain had won that war regardless of economic flaws.
Queen Elizabeth was wise in how she handled espionage and how she led her best tacticians. I’m not saying that the ambush with fire ships was her plan, but she put a good team together.
I believe that war had as much to do with the shifting of Spain to England as economics.
We need to remain strong so that China will continue economic pursuits rather than conquest. If China ever attacks some place and wins, the world is in for some serious pain.
Economics is important for a strong US military. We also need brilliant officers to lead them. Further, a strong alliance with Japan will fuel innovation, and India should be a close trading partner.
[Note that Palin already reached out to Japan — they think she’s like a rock star.]
The Spanish nobleman had foolishly elevated consumption, a use for wealth, above production, the creation of wealth.
How true this is.
Perhaps, but the US has been pro-Free China since the days of Chiang Kai-Shek. To the extent trade can encourage more openness and freedom, that’s good for all of us, though trade is certainly no panacea — we’re all aware of China’s expansionist ambitions. But if the US is such an important market for China, then that is as much a consideration/problem for them as it is for us.
I don’t think free trade encourages more political freedom. Germany was a trading powerhouse in the early 1900’s . . . China remains despotic today. Can you think of a connection between free trade and individual rights?
No. The connection is more economic freedom leads to more trade. Political freedom is a choice the people of China (or Germany in the early 1900s) have to make.
You’re gtting warmer!
Come a little closer!
An immediate 10% boost to GDP!
An immediate 20% drop in the cost of US exports!
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