OK. Chapter 7 of Book 4 of #WealthOfNations is tough going. It's long. It's serious. It's all about colonies.

We can take comfort, though, in knowing that the chapter #AdamSmith says is about colonies is, in fact, about colonies. (IV.vii) #WealthOfTweets #SmithTweets
Colonies were a vexed subject when #AdamSmith was writing, and they’re even more complicated now. So, before we even get to the tweeting, here’s a link to that thread on Smith and “savage nations.” (IV.vii) #WealthOfTweets #SmithTweets

The reason for the ancient Greeks and Romans to settle colonies was straightforward: they didn’t have enough space for their growing populations. Their colonies were treated as “emancipated children”—connected but independent. (IV.vii.a.2) #WealthOfTweets #SmithTweets
(Both these things are in contrast to the European colonies, as we'll see.) (IV.vii.a.2) #WealthOfTweets #SmithTweets
Ancient Greeks and Romans needed more space because the land was owned by an increasingly small number of citizens and farming and nearly all trades and arts were performed by slaves. It was hard for a poor freeman to improve his life. (IV.vii.a.3) #WealthOfTweets #SmithTweets
Colonies, for Rome, relieved the pressure on land and population, allowed freemen to do better than at home and served as “a sort of garrison” in newly conquered provinces. They were (say Smith and the Romans) necessary and useful (IV.vii.a.3) #WealthOfTweets #SmithTweets
European colonies in America and the West Indies were not necessary. Even their usefulness wasn't so obvious. They turned out to be advantageous, but not for the reasons they were colonized. (IV.vii.a.4) #WealthOfTweets #SmithTweets
And now: a history of European colonization, including some #SmithSnark about Columbus misnaming the Indies. (IV.vii.a.5–10) #WealthOfTweets #SmithTweets
Smith calls out Columbus: Columbus not only misidentified the places he landed. He also reported that they are much wealthier than they are.

This caused a LOT of trouble for the people who live there. (IV.vii.a.7–10) #WealthOfTweets #SmithTweets
(And yes, Smith uses appalling terminology for the Indigenous populations he discusses. The vocabulary we use to talk about people who are different from us will probably be similarly appalling to people who read our tweets in 250 years.) (IV.vii.a.8) #WealthOfTweets #SmithTweets
Columbus did not find plants or animals that would make him rich. (Iguanas? Useless!)
So he turned his attention to mineral wealth. IOW, gold and silver. He pumped up rumors about how much there was. (IV.vii.a.11–14) #WealthOfTweets #SmithTweets
Spain got uppity at the idea of so much gold and set out to conquer these places that were basically helpless to resist.

Smith does not buy for one second the claim that conquest was about spreading Christianity. Spain wanted gold. (IV.vii.a.15) #WealthOfTweets #SmithTweets
Remember: Smith is under *no illusions* about the goals of colonizers nor about the ill effects for the colonized. (IV.vii.a.15) #WealthOfTweets #SmithTweets
Via a tax, half (!) the plundered gold from this conquest went to the King of Spain. But it turns out once they had to start mining gold instead of just stealing it from Indigenous people, that tax seemed excessive. (IV.vii.a.16) #WealthOfTweets #SmithTweets
The “thirst of gold” that drove colonization is “perfectly ruinous.”
Worst. Lottery. Ever: It costs you your fortune to play, and you ain't gonna win. Smith is NOT A FAN. (IV.vii.a.18) #WealthOfTweets #SmithTweets
People are so absurdly confident in their good luck! They keep believing that they can find and get rich from gold mines. It’s a destructive dream.

"Argh!" - Adam Smith (probably) (IV.vii.a.19) #WealthOfTweets #SmithTweets
(You can tell that it must drive Smith absolutely crazy that Spain got lucky by finding gold in Mexico and Peru.) (IV.vii.a.21) #WealthOfTweets #SmithTweets
Commerce was Columbus’s goal, but bragging and greed turned it into conquest for gold and silver.
Most of the colonies produced no precious metals. (IV.vii.a.21) #WealthOfTweets #SmithTweets
It took more than 100 years of European settlement in Brazil to find precious metals. None had, by Smith’s time, been found in any English, French, Dutch, or Danish colonies, in spite of the fact that it was all done in hopes of gold. (IV.vii.a.22) #WealthOfTweets #SmithTweets
We, the SmithTweeters, sometimes get a little frustrated by Smith's relentless reminders that gold isn't wealth. But this chapter drives home that the history of the Western hemisphere was shaped by that mistaken belief. It wasn't academic. (IV.vii.a) #WealthOfTweets #SmithTweets
So, if colonies don’t get rich and make others rich by being El Dorado, how *do* they work?
More on colonies tomorrow! (IV.vii.a) #WealthOfTweets #SmithTweets

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More from @adamsmithworks

17 Feb
It's been a whole day since we tweeted Part 2 of this chapter, so let us remind you: #AdamSmith just said that the colonies got nothing that helped them succeed from the mother country. (IV.vii.c) #WealthOfTweets #SmithTweets
So these two opening sentences are pretty heckin’ sarcastic:
Now we've seen the great advantages the colonies got (they got nothing!) (IV.vii.c.1)
So what have been the great advantages to Europe! (IV.vii.c.2)

Seems like there’s a...tone there. #WealthOfTweets #SmithTweets
Europeans buy goods from America, and Americans buy European goods as well. Even countries that don’t trade directly with America have benefited. (IV.vii.c.3–8) #WealthOfTweets #SmithTweets
Read 28 tweets
16 Feb
In yesterday’s discussion of colonies, #AdamSmith was really good on a lot of issues—particularly on condemning murdering Indigenous people, despoiling colonies in search of gold that ain't there, and then pretending you're doing it all for God. #WealthOfTweets #SmithTweets
Today, Smithketeers, will not be such a feel-good day. You will not be heartened. You might want to pour a cup of tea. Or something much stronger. #WealthOfTweets #SmithTweets
Smith starts by noting that the colonies of developed nations where the “natives easily give place to the new settlers” get rich and cultured faster than anywhere else.

That phrase “give place to” cloaks a lot of horrors. (IV.vii.b.1) #WealthOfTweets #SmithTweets
Read 33 tweets
14 Feb
Dear Smithketeers. Over many chapters of #WealthOfNations, we've grown close. We were even going to ask all of you to be our Valentines.
And we have to tell you:

The title of Book IV Chapter 6, "Of Treaties of Commerce", is a lie. (IV .vi) #WealthOfTweets #SmithTweets
More like, "Of the reasons the Author is opposed to Treaties generally and the Treaty with Portugal in particular." (IV .vi) #WealthOfTweets
But FINE. Here we go:

Countries that bind themselves via a treaty to offer special treatment to the merchants and manufacturers of another country are granting them a sort of monopoly over their market. (IV. vi.1) #WealthOfTweets #SmithTweets
Read 22 tweets
13 Feb
#AdamSmith, #WealthOfNations, and #CornLaws!
What more could you possibly want on a Saturday morning? (IV.v.b) #WealthOfTweets #SmithTweets
Yes, it’s the Digression Concerning the Corn Trade and Corn Laws! We can barely contain ourselves long enough to remind you that “corn” doesn’t mean 🌽 It means the principal cereal crop of a nation. (We keep saying so because we keep forgetting.) #WealthOfTweets #SmithTweets
#TLDR on #AdamSmith’s thoughts on the Corn Laws:

They’re bad. (IV.v.b.1) #WealthOfTweets #SmithTweets
Read 29 tweets
12 Feb
We're back with more thoughts of #AdamSmith about the tools of mercantilism. Today: Bounties! (IV.v.) #WealthOfTweets #SmithTweets
Today we'd call bounties subsidies, which makes it much harder to use a Boba Fett gif.

So we're sticking with bounties. (IV.v.a.1) #WealthOfTweets #SmithTweets
Everyone admits, says Smith, that bounties shouldn't be given to industries or endeavors that could happen without them. But that means you're only going to give them to endeavors that can't pay for themselves. (IV.v.a.2) #WealthOfTweets #SmithTweets
Read 20 tweets
11 Feb
#AdamSmith has spent a few days talking about why the mercantile system is not a great idea in general, but today he starts to get into specifics by talking about the policies through which it's implemented. We begin today with...drawbacks! (IV.iv.) #WealthOfTweets #SmithTweets
Merchants and manufacturers are not, of course, content only to have a monopoly over the home market. They also want an advantage in foreign markets.

Also: we're calling them M&Ms now. (IV.iv.1) #WealthOfTweets #SmithTweets
M&Ms don't hold sway over foreign governments, so they've gotta settle for getting their home government to pay them to send goods abroad.
Read 13 tweets

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