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When Whiskey Was the Backbone of the US Economy

October 7, 2019 in History

By Patrick J. Kiger

A surplus of U.S. corn crops led to a boom in whiskey sales—and consumption—following the Revolutionary War.

Whiskey—a liquor whose origins in medieval Scotland or Ireland, at a time when the nation lacked clean drinking water, whiskey provided a sanitary substitute.

“Whiskey was drunk on a daily basis, as a means to start the day or complete a deal, or even as prescribed medicine,” she writes. In the west it even was used as an alternative currency, in places where actual dollars and cents were difficult to come by.

In 1802, President Thomas Jefferson eliminated the unpopular tax on whiskey, which gave the whiskey industry a renewed boost. Whiskey became an integral part of daily American life, with many drinking it at meals as well as starting and ending each day with a swallow or two. James Madison was said to have drunk a pint of whiskey daily. “By the 1820s, whiskey sold for twenty-five cents a gallon, making it cheaper than beer, wine, coffee, tea, or milk,” Rorabaugh writes.

Whiskey Profits Dip With Rise of Industrial Revolution

Whiskey flasks from the 1800s.

Even so, whiskey’s economic importance eventually subsided, as the nation evolved. “After 1830 the U.S. economy became more industrial in the modern sense with mass production of textiles, shoes, books and other goods, as well as a transportation revolution that started with canals and steamboats and quickly turned to railroads,” Rorabaugh says. “These new giant industries were highly capitalized in a way that whiskey was not.”

Another factor that made whiskey less lucrative was the rise of the American temperance movement, which was strongly aligned with the nascent crusade for women’s rights. To early feminists, alcohol abuse by men, who sometimes drank up their pay at the tavern and left their families struggling, had the effect of oppressing women.

In an increasingly industrialized, rapidly growing America, whiskey also got in the way of factory profits. Factory work required Americans to stay awake and alert for long periods during the Industrial Revolution. That’s when another strong drink became popular across the country—coffee.

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Source: HISTORY

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Full U.S.-Cuba embargo is announced

October 7, 2019 in History

By History.com Editors

On February 7, 1962, President John F. Kennedy issues an executive order broadening the United States’ restrictions on trade with Cuba. The ensuing embargo, which effectively restricts all trade between Cuba and the United States, has had profoundly negative effects on the island nation’s economy and shaped the recent history of the Western Hemisphere.

The embargo was the result of a rapid decline in U.S.-Cuban relations. Though Fidel Castro’s revolutionaries had deposed a government backed by the U.S. in 1959, the new Cuban regime initially sought a friendly relationship with its most powerful neighbor. Castro undertook a goodwill tour of the States and spoke excitedly of greater regional cooperation, but the Americans remained skeptical, fearing that he was a communist. The following year, President Dwight D. Eisenhower barred American companies from selling oil to Cuba, prompting Castro to nationalize all three American oil refineries on the island. After the Bay of Pigs Invasion, a botched attempt at counter-revolution staged by the CIA in 1961, Castro abandoned all hope of a friendly relationship with the U.S., declaring Cuba to be Marxist. The diplomatic situation grew icier and icier, leading Kennedy to broaden the embargo.

The embargo has lapsed several times, notably under Presidents Jimmy Carter and Barack Obama. As a result, it has become easier for Americans to legally enter Cuba, although travel is still restricted, and some American agribusinesses are allowed to sell to Cuba. Nonetheless, the embargo has had a devastating effect. Though the U.S. economy is actually estimated to lose substantially more per year—nearly $5 billion—due to the embargo, the much smaller economy of Cuba is estimated to lose roughly $685 million per year. Losses from potential American tourists, who flock to virtually every other island in the Caribbean, account for much of that.

The embargo has never achieved the main objective of most embargoes—isolating the target nation and forcing it to acquiesce to its opponent’s demands—but did force Cuba to become highly dependent on the Soviet Union. When the USSR dissolved in 1991, the Cuban economy was devastated. Cuba continues to trade with the rest of the world, but the embargo on the movement of people and goods between the island and the region’s wealthiest, most powerful nation has dealt its economy a blow that has hampered the its development for nearly all of its history as an independent nation.

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Source: HISTORY

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Fidel Castro arrives in Havana after deposing Batista's regime

October 7, 2019 in History

By History.com Editors

On January 8, 1959, a triumphant Fidel Castro enters Havana, having deposed the American-backed regime of General Fulgencio Batista. Castro’s arrival in the Cuban capital marked a definitive victory for his 26th of July Movement and the beginning of Castro’s decades-long rule over the island nation.

The revolution had gone through several stages, beginning with a failed assault on a barracks and Castro’s subsequent imprisonment in 1953. After his release and exile in Mexico, he and 81 other revolutionaries arrived back in Cuba on a small yacht, the Granma, in 1956. Over the course of the next two years, Castro’s forces and other rebels fought what was primarily a guerrilla campaign, frustrating the significantly larger forces of Batista. After a failed offensive by Batista’s army, Castro’s guerrillas descended from their hideouts in the southern mountains and began to make their way northwest, toward Havana. Outnumbered but supported by most of the civilians they encountered along the way, Generals Ernesto “Che” Guevara and Camilo Cienfuegos captured the city of Santa Clara on December 31, 1958, prompting Batista to flee the country. When he heard the news, Castro began what was essentially a victory parade, arriving in Havana a week later.

Castro became Prime Minister of Cuba the following month and played a leading role in the construction of a new state. Contrary to commonly held beliefs, he did not immediately institute a communist regime. Rather, he quickly set out on a goodwill tour of the United States, where President Dwight D. Eisenhower refused to meet with him, and traveled the Americas gathering support for his proposal that the U.S. do for its own hemisphere what it had done for Europe with the Marshall Plan.

Despite these overtures, Castro’s government would inevitably become aligned with the other side of the Cold War divide. Castro’s reforms included the redistribution of wealth and land and other socialist priorities that were unfriendly to foreign businesses, leading to a feud with the United States and a close alliance with the Soviet Union. This rivalry—which nearly led to a nuclear war between the superpowers just three years later—has shaped the recent history of the region. Castro would rule until the early 2000s, when he was replaced by his brother. During that time, an American embargo of Cuba stymied Castro’s dreams of a socialist republic, and hundreds of thousands fled his …read more

Source: HISTORY

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Supreme Court rules in Hernandez v. Texas, broadening civil rights laws

October 7, 2019 in History

By History.com Editors

The Supreme Court issues a momentous ruling that clarified the way that the American legal system handled charges of discrimination. In Hernandez v. Texas, the Supreme Court unanimously ruled that the Fourteenth Amendment applied to all racial and ethnic groups facing discrimination, effectively broadening civil rights laws to include Hispanics and all other non-whites.

The defendant, Peter Hernandez, was a Mexican American agricultural laborer, part of the influx of such workers that had come to Texas during and after World War II. Hernandez was convicted of killing a man in cold blood in Jackson County, Texas, but his legal team, which was drawn mostly from one of the oldest Latino civil rights groups in the nation, the League of United Latin American Citizens, appealed. They pored through the records of jury selections in Jackson County, an area with a substantial Hispanic population, and found that not one of the roughly 6,000 jurors selected over the previous 25 years had a Hispanic last name. Citing the Fourteenth Amendment, which had been passed in 1868 and guaranteed equal protection under the law to all African Americans, Hernandez’s lawyers claimed he had been deprived of equal protection because discrimination prevented him from being tried by a jury of his peers.

A Texas appeals court upheld Hernandez’s conviction, but the case went to the Supreme Court. Lawyers for the State of Texas did not deny the charge of discrimination. Instead, they argued that such discrimination was not prohibited by the Fourteenth Amendment, stating that it applied only to African Americans. Writing on behalf of himself and the other eight justices, Chief Justice Earl Warren dismissed this notion, saying, “The Fourteenth Amendment is not directed solely against discrimination due to a ‘two-class theory’—that is, based upon differences between ‘white’ and Negro.”

The decision that the Fourteenth Amendment applied to all racial minorities, not just the one its authors had had in mind, has had immense consequences for the Hispanic community and every other minority group that has sought equal protection in the face of racial discrimination. As the Civil Rights Movement progressed, Hernandez v. Texas ensured that every moment of legal progress for one minority was a victory for all.

READ MORE: The Mexican American Family Who Fought School Segregation 8 Years Before Brown v. Board of Ed

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Source: HISTORY

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U.S. and Mexico sign the Mexican Farm Labor Agreement

October 7, 2019 in History

By History.com Editors

On August 4, 1942, the United States and Mexico sign the Mexican Farm Labor Agreement, creating what is known as the “Bracero Program.” The program, which lasted until 1964, was the largest guest-worker program in U.S. history. Throughout its existence, the Bracero Program benefited both farmers and laborers but also gave rise to numerous labor disputes, abuses of workers and other problems that have long characterized the history of farm labor in the Southwestern United States.

The program was born from necessity, as the federal government worried that American entry into World War II would sap the Southwest of much of its farm labor. Manual laborers (braceros in Spanish) from Mexico became an important part of the region’s economy, and the program outlasted the war. The program guaranteed workers a number of basic protections, including a minimum wage, insurance and safe, free housing; however, farm owners frequently failed to live up to these requirements. Housing and food routinely proved to be well below standards, and wages were not only low but also frequently paid late or not at all. Years after the program ended, many braceros were still fighting to receive the money that had been deducted from their salaries and allegedly put into savings accounts. Due to these broken promises, strikes were a common occurrence throughout this period.

Over 4.6 million contracts were issued over the 22 years of the Bracero Program. Though Congress let the program expire in 1964, it set the stage for decades of labor disputes and a dynamic of migrant labor that still exists today. The 60s and 70s saw the rise of the United Farm Workers, a union composed largely of Mexicans and Mexican-Americans, which continued fighting many of the same inequalities that faced the braceros. To this day, migrant labor from Mexico continues to be a vital part of the Southwestern economy as well as a source of political and racial tension.

READ MORE: When Millions of Americans Stopped Eating Grapes in Support of Farm Workers

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Source: HISTORY

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Hong Kong: Withstanding the Attack

October 7, 2019 in Economics

By Tanja Porčnik

Tanja Porčnik

Hong Kong is in turmoil. Protests are ongoing for nearly four months. Another step in the direction of not resolving the city’s most contentious political crisis since Hong Kong returned to the Chinese rule more than two decades ago is the government’s attempt to ban protesters from wearing face masks with colonial-era emergency legislation.

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The mass protests in Hong Kong unfold against a backdrop of territories’ top scores on the freedom indices. One of them, recently-released Fraser Institute Economic Freedom of the World index, again ranks Hong Kong as the freest in the world. Hong Kong is no stranger to economic freedom. In fact, the territory has been maintaining the global economic freedom primacy since 1960, the earliest year for which a measurement of economic freedom is available for Hong Kong. How is this possible?

First, while economic freedom undeniably plays an important role in human well-being, it does not guarantee political rights or personal freedoms. Numerous empirical studies observe a strong relationship between economic freedom and political rights as well as a strong relationship between economic freedom and personal freedom. Their findings make intuitive sense. However, Hong Kong is a noticeable outlier in this regard. Meanwhile, Hong Kong people are no different from those living in other parts of the world; all long to enjoy their freedoms and rights.

Second, personal freedoms are increasingly under threat in Hong Kong. My coauthor, Ian Vásquez, and I use a composite scoring system to measure not only economic freedom but also personal freedom. Our assessment of personal freedom in Hong Kong, published in the Human Freedom Index, reveals that with the invisible hand of China becoming more visible — Hong Kong operates under separate laws within the one country, two systems principle — the rule of law and aspects of personal liberty associated with democracy and political rights, such as freedom of the press as well as freedom of association and freedom of assembly, are under attack. For instance, five Hong Kong booksellers who sold material banned in mainland China disappeared in 2014. In 2016, pro-democracy opposition leaders were thrown out of Hong Kong parliament during the swearing-in ceremony for modifying their oaths of allegiance to China, which was seen as an insult to Beijing. These and other similar events led to Hong Kong’s drop …read more

Source: OP-EDS