Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Sound Familiar?

I have been reading Barbara Tuchman's A Distant Mirror: The Calamitous 14th Century which I have been enjoying very much. In the chapter on war, where she wrote about the beginning of the Hundred Years War, the author offers the comments that the initial phase of the war was ruinously expensive and Edward III passed the ruin on to others. Since, there was no real infrastructure to support and system of taxation to support it, kings had to raise money for battles with special taxes and in this case with some loans from Florentine bankers, Bardi and Peruzzi. When Edward did not gain as much money from the war and the hoped for monopoly of the wool trade, as he expected, the 'drain on the Italian companies bankrupted them.' The Peruzzi bank failed in 1343, the Bardi in 1344 and the crash brought down a third bank, Acciaivioli. 'Capital vanished, stores and workshops closed, wages and purchases stopped.'
Sound familiar? The banks were betting on Edward crushing the French and making a ton of money off booty, ransoms and wool instead of betting on bad mortgages. Same result.
Voltaire wrote that "History never repeats itself, man always does.".
While I am quoting writers, here is a good quote from Ambrose Bierce, "History: An account, mostly false, of events, mostly unimportant, which are brought about by rules, mostly knaves, and soldiers, mostly fools"
"History teaches us that men and nations behave wisely once they have exhausted all other alternatives" Abba Eban
Our ignorance of history makes us libel our own times. People have always been like this" Gustave Flaubert
Maybe, instead of spending so much time on economics, the captains of industry should have to learn a bit of history. It might not make them behave better, but at least they will know who to point the finger at when things go wrong. (Not that they will)

3 comments:

Tracy said...

Maybe, instead of spending so much time on economics, the captains of industry should have to learn a bit of history. It might not make them behave better, but at least they will know who to point the finger at when things go wrong. (Not that they will)

Very true! And no, I can't see thm admitting mea culpa either.

anachronist said...

Oh I feel like stealing one of your quotes about history...

The Red Witch said...

@Oh I feel like stealing one of your quotes about history..

Feel free. I stole them from someplace else. :-D