Author Topic: Morphine Economics  (Read 996 times)

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Offline ConservativeJoeG

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Morphine Economics
« on: July 14, 2010, 03:19:54 PM »
I own a large collection of antique engravings and maps dating back more than five hundred years. They tell a fascinating story that divines the future if you are perceptive to their wisdom. Clipper ship entrepreneurialism was the strong, steady wind that propelled forth the Age of Discovery. The embassies, merchants and holy men billeted on these magnificent ships faced incredible hardship as they searched for undiscovered trade routes that could potentially change the balance of power while enriching themselves beyond imagination.

Included in my collection is a large engraving that mapped a British Embassy sent to Beijing in 1798 at the height of the Chinese empire to meet with Emperor Qianlong. Emperor Qianlong had no use for foreigners. He derisively addressed the British Ambassador: “We possess all things. I set no value on objects strange or ingenious, and have no use for your country’s manufacturers”.

The British took meticulous notes. They were eager to know the extent and power of the Chinese empire. The Emperor claimed sovereignty over everything from the Asian continental shores of the Pacific Ocean to the Indus River. He held sway over India and Southeast Asia including Burma, Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam. The great steppes of Central Asia extending across Eastern Russia and the Korean peninsula and everything in between were all his.

Low demand for British goods in China and high demand for Chinese goods such as silk and tea in Britain forced British traders to purchase these products with silver and gold, the only currency accepted by the Chinese. The British quickly began accumulating large trade deficits that it could not sustain. They needed to find an economic substitute for the silver and gold that would come with greatly reduced prices. The solution, although illegal, was to begin smuggling opium into China from the plentiful poppy fields of the Indo-Gangetic plain. Despite Emperor Qing’s prohibiting the import of opium into China, it wasn’t long before the Chinese people, including government officials, became addicted to the opium.

Raw opium contains some twenty different alkaloids of which morphine is one. Morphine affects the central nervous system. It also impairs mental and physical performance, relieves fear and anxiety, and produces euphoria. Morphine’s euphoric effect is highly addictive. Tolerance (the need for higher and higher doses to maintain the same effect) and physical and physiological dependence develop quickly. The malevolent outcome of morphine addiction is that it masks any underlying health problems, so although the user may actually be dying, the euphoria deadens the pain until the person succumbs to the disease.

China’s addiction to opium ultimately led to two Opium Wars with the British Empire from 1839 to 1842 and from 1856 to 1860. China was routed and disgraced both times. Britain forced the Treaty of Nanjing and the Treaty of Tianjin on the now feeble China. Together, these are more commonly known to as “The Unequal Treaties”. The British gained extraterritorial rights including its settlement in Shanghai and the cession of Hong Kong Island from which they could freely operate trading activities, including the unrestricted importation of opium.

Several other countries including France, Germany, Russia and Japan demanded and received similar arrangements from China. The humiliation of The Unequal Treaties eventually led to the fall of the Qing Dynasty in 1912 and ultimately the end of dynastic rule. In just forty years China had fallen from one of the greatest empires ever assembled to lying prostrate before hated foreigners. It is one of the most rapid declines of any empire in the history of the world and can be largely attributed to the opium that caused China to sacrifice its dignity and pride.

China’s addiction erased centuries of glory and unleashed a thirty year revolution. It allowed for events such as the Rape of Nanjing, the communist takeover in 1949 and purges of the Cultural Revolution. It created conditions in which China’s citizens lived under foreign sovereignty in their own country.

You could say China’s downfall could be attributed to “Morphine Economics”. If you study China’s sad history throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries you can certainly understand its distrust of the West. China has passed through decades that no great nation should ever have to tolerate.

China’s addiction should have served as a cold, stark warning. Imagine if we ever became addicted to something as devastating as opium. What would America’s fate be if we lay helpless and paralyzed before the world? Would the outcome be any less wicked than The Unequal Treaties?

Although Morphine Economics ended in China, another nation fell under its deadly spell: The United States of America. As its economy eroded, the United States began accumulating mountains of debt. The debt became our morphine. We borrow money to pay debts today, unfazed by the legacy of the debt that we will face down the road. The euphoria of appearing to have the economy under control masks the worthless “vapor paper” currency that is being printed to stave off economic collapse.

There are those among us who believe that out-of-control spending will make us healthy. They will look at any glimmer of improvement and shout out that the trillions we are spending (money we don’t have, by the way) are having a positive impact. Do not be fooled. We are becoming weaker. Any euphoria anyone is feeling is only the work of a sinister drug.

The ultimate irony, of course, is that whereas the United States is being crushed by its runaway debt, this debt is being bought up by China — a nation that innately understands the perils of Morphine Economics.

I think Emperor Qianlong, wherever he rests with his ancestors, gets no satisfaction from seeing a mighty nation make the same mistakes he did. It is up to us to learn the lesson and reverse our dependence on Morphine Economics before it causes irreparable damage to the economic health of our country and that of our future generations.