Napoleon, Rothschild, and Unintended Consequences

During the conquests of Napoleon Bonaparte, intermittent war raged between France and Britain for over twenty years.  One of the major difficulties faced by Great Britain during those years was the issue of supplying resources to troops spread out in battlefields throughout the continent.  Faraway merchants were reluctant to accept bills of exchange offered by the Duke of Wellington and his troops, and the only answer seemed to be to transport actual gold coins across Europe during a time of war.

This proposition was expensive and extremely risky.  The British government turned to Nathan Rothschild, who had spent a decade in the textile industry, dealing mainly with Britain and Germany.  Napoleon had placed a blockade on trade between England and mainland Europe, which had allowed Rothschild to gain vast experience smuggling gold out of England in order to conduct his business, but also in violation of that blockade.  Rothschild’s knowledge and experience allowed the British to carefully and expertly move vast quantities of gold coins across the continent to their troops in need of sustenance.

Napoleon assumed that the blockade would bring Great Britain to its knees, but it actually led to them being able to access the vitally important experience which was necessary to sustain their troops in battle and continue fighting.  This act of oppression created the very situation which allowed for eventual British victory.

Government actions often tie the hands of the productive and the wealth-producing members of society, whether that is the goal or not.  The ingenuitive, though, will always find a way to continue on.  A friend of ours recently decided to incorporate his international company far from the US or Europe because of the corporate restrictions and smothering tax rates here in the US.

Our new government of hope and change, our Napoleon, can do its best to control the actions of everyone in society through oppressive policies of redistribution and forced equalization, but the end result will be a population where all may be “equal” (to a bureaucrat, anyway) but none will be wealthy and few will be productive.  In fact, it won’t be long before the most productive will go elsewhere to make their money.  I think I’ve seen this all somewhere before, but hey, this time is bound to be different . . .

(Historical information excerpted from Niall Ferguson’s The Ascent of Money, Penguin Books, 2008, pp. 82-84)

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