Back in the 1500s, there was an Italian courtier named Niccolò Machiavelli, who became famous for his advice to princes on how to maintain power, no matter what the cost. Whether his association with evil deeds is warranted or not, in his seminal work, The Prince, he offers advice to would-be conquerors. The easiest way to conquer a country, he said, is to colonize it. To paraphrase, he says to send in the poor and disadvantaged. Then, when the foreign government moves to push them back out with force, you can wait for an atrocity and then avenge it, largely with the approval of the immigrants, the local citizens and world opinion.
It’s dicey, though. You need to play your hand just right. For example, the Soccer War, fought between El Salvador and Honduras in 1969. Although the conflict flashed over a soccer game, Salvadorans had been migrating into Honduras for over 50 years. By the time hostilities broke out, Salvadorans made up 20 percent of the population of Honduras. By ’69, political interests in Honduras pushed for land reform, which pushed out migrants and squatters, and had a predictable effect on immigrants married to Hondurans and their kids.
Finally, the Salvadoran government had enough and launched its advanced fleet of bombers – passenger planes commandeered and having bombs strapped to their sides, attacked, catching the Hondurans on siesta. Concurrently, the Salvadoran army launched major offensives along the two main roads connecting the countries and invaded Honduras. If you’re interested, it’s worth a read.
Congresswoman-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez puts me in mind of why Americans should read a bit of history. The news last week reported that, spotlighted by a reporter’s question, she could not name the three branches of the U.S. government, those being the executive, legislative and judicial. This is an important thing to know if you are a congresswoman-elect. Without training, it is possible she would have shown up for work next January at the White House or Supreme Court.
Ocasio-Cortez is a magnificent example for the electorate and why one should vote for people that have accomplished something. Last week’s news had conflicting stories of her claims that she cannot afford DC rents until the congressional checks start rolling in, and her claims that she has plenty of money and $5,000 in the bank. No matter what, she clearly has a good start on being a Washington insider. We need to change our use of the word “political” back to being that which is for the people, not the Machiavellian inverse: the few being for themselves. I expect she will have quite enough money shortly.
Immigrants are great. I am one, my grandparents were immigrants and my son-in-law is an immigrant. However, in each of our cultures and history, immigration has played both positive and negative roles. My Danish ancestors, for example, had migrant caravans coming at them all the time. Did then, and do now. Danish women were famously desirable for Turkish raiders, and many of the raiders that failed at catching a girl to sell ended up staying in Denmark and farming to earn money and get back home. If Danish women in the days of the Barbary Pirates were anything like my grandmother, the raiders got an earful for their behavior every day before sunrise. Danes are famously “nice,” but only up to a point. After that, they are only “good.”
Of course, the Danes were migrants in their own right, and they really irked the Brits, leading to the Danish Genocide, for which I have received no reparations.
Moving on, I also see in the news that some of the hardwood, softwood and engineered wood purveyors are bitching about tariffs and are citing the losses to “the industry” caused by trade negotiations. And their citations always seem to include the economic value of such other wood sectors as kitchen cabinets, architectural millwork, wood furniture, tools, toys, and so on.
The bitching purveyors, as you well know, are known as the “primary” side of the “wood industry,” while the people that make stuff out of wood down the line are known as “secondary.” We are all secondary, except a few primary-side people keep their eyes on us to make sure we behave and don’t start migrating. After all, we buy whatever they don’t sell to Asia.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m all about making money. My Danish forebears in WWI were successful in convincing BOTH England and Germany that it was best for Denmark to remain neutral so Denmark could sell them both canned stew for the war. Then, Germany and England convinced King Christian X that the best way to stay “free” was to put the Danes on ¼ rations so there would be more stew for the Germans and Brits. This led to massive profits for Danish canners and financiers and earned them the moniker Goulash Barons. Of course, by the time WWII rolled around, the Germans had figured out that well-fed Brits are a problem, so they made an immigrant caravan into Denmark on the morning of April 9, 1940, handily skirting the undefended, unsecured border.
Initially facing some quality and materials obstacles in Asia, international primary-side wood suppliers soon found allies in Asia, where Homag, SCM, Biesse and others set up shop to ensure that, since China has virtually no forests of its own, North American wood resources could be converted quickly, accurately and in large volumes into kitchen cabinets, architectural millwork, wood furniture, tools, toys, and so on, and then sold back to North America. At the same time they can claim the dwindling manufacturing output in the States as the reason there should be no tariffs. This is a tough concept to explain, but it has to do with goulash.
All that said, it is interesting we rarely actually look at primary versus secondary in an economic sense, which we should. For example, virtually all primary-side production is rural, whereas almost all of our secondary manufacturing is in or near cities. This means their labour pool is rural, local and physical, while the manufacturers deal with an urban, mobile and more-or-less trained.
Another interesting fact is that virtually all of the primary-side production is held in relatively few – maybe eight – very large, corporate hands, while the manufacturing units in the States number around 40,000, depending on how you count them. This means that lobbying money and political pull are concentrated, while the manufacturers can’t agree on anything, not VOC abatement, combustible dust, labor issues, safety or anything. We just rely on other-sector manufacturers or the government and suppliers to tell us whether we are going on ¼, ½ or other rations while the tide of the export and import wars ebbs and flows.
I could go on for pages, but we are nearing the normal endpoint of a column, so let me say this. I really love and enjoy the Hondurans, Mexicans, Costa Ricans and other Americanos Centros. I have been to Honduras a couple of times, and have done profiles and editorials about them, their lumber and their needs before.
If we rely on the primary side and the government to provide us access to the wealth of Central American renewable resources, we will be asleep at the wheel as the economic immigration to Asia proceeds. That leaves us deprived.
From the other perspective, if we were more focused on trading with Honduras and the rest, it is much less likely we would see them taken hostage by international economic interests and paraded around like big-eyed little girls from the European ghettos needing food.
I am told we cannot trade with Honduras because of environmental, language and cultural reasons. But we can trade with China. Why? Because German, Italian, government and primary-side interests tell us so.