Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Pushing Back France

In class, we recently adressed what people in power should do when their power is threatened. We specifically talked about the Congress of Vienna after the defeat of Napoleon. This was a meeting of representatives from France, Prussia, Austria, Russia, and Great Britain. The purpose of it was to decide how to distribute land and power and what changes to make from Napoleon's many conquests. Prince Metternich from Austria lead the congress. Metternich and the rest of the representatives had to make some big decisions. We got into groups and predicted what we thought their decisions would be for big questions like how to divide up the land based on their ideals and thoughts about Napoleon.
Prince Klemens von Metternich
The Congress of Vienna set up a balance of power between the countries of Russia, Austria, Prussia, Britain, and France. Each country, except France, would gain their share of land from the area France took over and return France back to its original boundaries before its expansion. This ensured more safety if France ever tried to take over again since it would be one country against the allied countries surrounding it. Along with this, the Kingdom of the Netherlands was created on the border of France as another force against them. These allies saw Napoleon as more of the enemy than the country of France so this settlement was not too harsh on France as whole and just restored it to the way it was without much further punishment.
I think that they did make a good decision with the balance of power. They returned France back to the way it was before and it was fair to have equal shares of power among the countries to help prevent any uprisings. This would ensure peace and not upset anyone because of a lack of power. By having the allied countries surronding France, they were stronger and more secure with less of a threat to their power.There was no war between these five major European powers for a while, but there were many revolutions that started up in that time. One revolution even caused Prince Metternich to lose power and flee Vienna. I think that in certain circumstances, the very powerful should have to give up some of their power if that is what would benefit the people of their country since the country's stability is more important than that of one person who could still get by with a bit less power. In order to prevent revolt, one person cannot gain too much power and control a country just by themself, there has to be fairness.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

The Poetry of "Adam Smith"

In the 19th century, there were three main political ideologies that each had different ideas of how to run countries. A big question we addressed in class was how they influenced socials and political action. Our teacher first had us try to define the three ideologies, liberalism, conservatism, and nationalism, in our own words without talking about them at all. Some of us had a basic idea of them. We all then split into groups to each learn about one of the three and becomes "experts" on them. There were two groups per ideology and we would each create a project to explain it to the rest of the class. To make this more fun, we were having a competition with the other groups with the same topic for a more creative presentation. Whoever won got candy so naturally all of us wanted to beat the other group. I thought this was an effective way to have us learn about liberalism, conservatism, and nationalism because it makes it interesting and the unique projects will stick in our minds and help us remember the information. 
Here's our video:
          My group made a presentation about liberalism. We used an app that makes pictures talk and we used a picture of Adam Smith because he was considered to be one of the forefathers of liberalism with his idea of the "invisible hand". Liberals believed that everybody had natural rights and the government should protect their individual liberty. They thought that there was need for reform and change instead of tradition. They wanted to end aristocracy and bring more rights and power to the middle class with a meritocracy. This is how Adam smith's theory is related to liberalism. His system would allow the people of lower ranking to work their way into the economy and their freedom of choice could help them work their way up to achieve higher ranking. However liberals still did not include poor people and didn't give them the right to vote. Liberals also did not want the church to have as much power. For a creative aspect of our project, we had Adam Smith saying a couple haikus talking about liberalism. In the end, our group won and got our candy reward. 
          The other two ideologies were conservatism and nationalism. Conservatism was basically the opposite of liberalism in that they believed in keeping traditionally ways and giving all the power to the church and nobles. They did not like revolutions because they just caused violence and were threats to the power of the nobles. Conservatives wanted to have an aristocracy. This would bring a country's government back to old ways of running it with traditional monarchy. People of the lower classes wouldn't have much of a say in anything and there would be a system of hierarchy formed because of these differences in power again. Governments like this can cause uprisings and revolts. Nationalism was the idea that people should unite based on common characteristics like languages, beliefs, or traditions to take down a foreign monarch or leader of some sort. This would create a lot of alliances between alike countries or groups and make a strong force to go against powerful rulers. 

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

The Not-So-Little Ruler's Big Impact

Map showing Napoleon's empire at its height in 1812
Source: http://history.howstuffworks.com/
       Napoleon Bonaparte was a prominent military leader and genius in the 18th and 19th centuries.
He worked his way up the rankings and eventually came to rule in France and invaded many other countries including Italy, Spain, and Belgium. While many admired his great skill, he was also a man to be feared due to his strength in military and intelligence. He gained more and more power and in 1804 he even crowned himself emperor. This shows that he became somewhat tyrranical and selfish, wanting all the power of the world to himself. Despite these flaws, Napoleon did help many aspects of France and other European countries under his rule.
          One big impact Napoleon had was the introduction of a meritocracy o France. This is a system in which people are rewarded based on their skills instead of their social classes. This would mean that people in government positions would be qualified and have to work harder to earn more instead of it basically being decided for them. He was also able to establish the Bank of France and balance the budget in France which really helped the poor economy at the time. He created a Napoleonic code for all countries under his rule to follow after. It included going by the system of meritcocracy and also allowed the freedom of religion. One of the officers in Napoleon's army was one of the many people that admired him greatly. His names was Michel Ney and he believed that Napoleon's rule was very beneficial because he gave people a lot of rights and he was the first to do this. He brought on a new age of liberty and better living for citizens without a leader suppressing their rights. He definitely did bring people more rights like the rights to own property and to have an education which was important in the advancement of a country. He also got rid of serfdom and nobility so the very poor people were able to achieve more without being stuck in their social class thus making their lives a lot better. However, much of his impact wasn't necessarily good for the countries he controlled. There were a lot of people that were against Napoleon and wanted to end what they saw as a tyrannical rule. Once he gained more power he did get more controlling and created sort of a monarchy. According to Walter Geer in his book Napoleon the First: An Intimate Biography, he started to feel as if failure was not an option for him and his power could just keep growing. He started to look past the moral values that ruled his countries based upon and thought the only way he could keep is power was to continue to have success and domination. A writer named Madame de Stael was strongly against Napoleon's rule. She believed that he looked past the most important values to rule by and just used force and his own intelligence to control people. To her, he did not have the heart of a leader and just tried to manipulate his citizens and take away their liberties. Napoleon's style of ruling made it impossible for there not to be a lot of different opinions on him even if they seemed to contradict each other. His actions could create a lot of controversy but overall he had a very big impact on most of Europe economically, socially, and politically. 

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Climbing up the Chocolate Ladder

          In class we have been learning about Karl Marx's theory of capitalism, socialism, and communism. As an introduction to these different systems, we had an interactive experiment during class in which we used Hershey kisses as money. Everybody started out with 2 except for two people who each had a big handful. To simulate competition within the economy and trying to become wealthier we started playing rock, paper, scissors against each other. If you lost, you would have to give a chocolate to the winner and if you lost all of you chocolate you had to sit down. In the end, most people lost all their chocolate and there were a couple people with a pile of them. This represented Marx's idea of capitalism. It is when there is freedom of competition among different social classes and it resulted in very unequal social classes. Then, the teacher collected all the chocolates and redistributed them evenly. This was to show socialism with the teacher as the government controlling industry and distribution and making sure everyone was equal. Communism had a similar goal to this, which is to have no classes within the people and give everyone an equal pay, however a big difference was that communism would have no government involved. I thought this activity was a fun way to help us understand Marx's theory but it was frustrating at times like when I lost all my chocolate but in the end I got them back. 
          Karl Marx believed he could help the poor with his theories of government systems. He thought that it would start out with capitalism. To have more equality and fairness, the people would eventually move to socialism with no social classes but still a government controlling industry. In order to completely rid society of social classes and bring total economic equality, the majority of people would move to a system where there are still no social classes but also no government. Marx thought this would help the poor gain money without having to work hard and no poor class would exist anymore. Industrial England had very extreme levels of richness and poorness and it was almost impossible to increase your social status if you were poor. Marx's theory would get rid of that problem and there would be no need for competition. A man named Adam Smith later created an alternative system often called the "invisible hand". It is essentially capitalism but this is a different idea of how a country would reach it. The government would basically hand over the economy and freedom to buy and sell to the people and let them control it themselves, getting rid of the government's helping hand. Smith believed that eventually the economy would work itself out since people would want high quality goods for low prices and businesses with them would succeed and others would lower prices to meet the competition. Adam Smith was deeply concerned with how to help the poor class and he thought that with this system, they would eventually be able to afford the high quality products and get back into the market and out of poverty.
          Both of these theories have their flaws. With Marx's system, it eventually forces everybody to be equal to each other and even though this could benefit the poor, this would hurt the more wealthy people that worked hard to earn their money and have to give a lot of it up. Also, this might make people want to work the easiest job possible because they know they'll still be getting the same amount of money and there will be nobody for the important and difficult jobs. While there are countries that have adopted this system like North Korea and Russia, they still have government power and don't totally follow after the ideas of communism. The government controls their rights and interferes apt. With Smith's system, the economy would most likely take a really long time to work out and during that time a lot of people would suffer from the bad state of the economy. I don't think either of these systems would be the best option for a country's government but the invisible hand is definitely better. 

A video explaining Smith's "invisible hand" theory:

Sunday, October 5, 2014

American Mills' One Big Family

Picture of children with severe injuries from the mills in England
From:  http://www.clemson.edu/caah/history/
After industrialization in England and America, both were faced with some different conditions in their factories. In England,  many workers could develop physical deformities from a number of causes. Child workers were especially vulnerable due to the fact that their bones were still developing and were more flexible. They put a lot of pressure on them all day from standing for so long which could cause them to bend and it could also make them develop flat feet over time. The hard work could cause problems later in life like arthritis and misaligned spinal cords. Factory accidents were common and usually happened in the morning when the workers were tired. Almost half of the kids that worked ended up with injuries from something like getting stuck in a machine or even just falling. The loss of limbs was not rare among the children. The quality of the factory food also contributed to the poor healths of the workers. The only food they got was three meals a day and was always potatoes and oat cakes with milk and water. Often pieces of cotton were found in the food and lead to illness. If the workers did not do their job right, they were beaten by their overseers. They were punished for any mistake, even if it wasn't your own and you were just around to see it. There was not an abundant supply of cheap labor in America like in England, but this caused them to try to avoid the bad parts of the factories in England that could make them to lose workers. This was the reason that there were no serious attempts to change the conditions in England for a while, since they could just keep hiring new workers if others protested. America started what was known as the Lowell experiment. They used a 'paternal system' for their mills which had the corporation as the father figure and the boardinghouse keepers as the mother figures for young girls going to work at the mills. For most families, having their daughters going to work at the mills was seen as a great opportunity and they were treated well while also kept to a strict moral code. They made sure to protect the girls and the system used showed that they valued the workers more as human beings rather than cheap labor. Although conditions were not the best they could be, it seemed as though America's factories were in much better shape than those of England.