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The Great Plague of London *

It is a sad commentary that the Black Death is such a normal part of life that it hardly rates a mention when thousands of people die, but this is a large outbreak so let's review. London has never been rid of the Plague but the number of deaths per year has varied wildly from a handful to tens of thousands. Over 100 deaths a week is considered an epidemic, but in April it reaches almost 400. By May, a really serious outbreak is in progress. The population of London scatter. All stray dogs and cats are killed on sight. Rubbish and dung are cleaned off the streets. Bonfires are set to "circulate the air". It does no good. By February of next year 70,000 to 100,000 will be dead. The images of horse-drawn wagons following a crier shouting "Bring out your dead", come from these times. It is believed that the plague was brought to London along with Dutch prisoners who were captured during the recent English-Dutch wars... but really... the Black Death never left. [1] [2] [3]

My Take by Alex Shrugged
It is difficult to get exact numbers of the dead since there was no formal reporting system. Generally the system was a local affair and it worked like this...
"Hey! Who is going to go out and count the dead?"
"How about Bob? He's homeless and needs the work."
"OK, Bob. We'll pay you $5 a report. Go out there and find some dead people and tell us how they died."
Bob hasn't a clue. He's not trained to identify diseases, and the family of the dead are charged a fee when Bob comes around to count, so they have no incentive to tell Bob anything. And even though this outbreak is called "The Great Plague of London" this is nothing compared other outbreaks. In 1656, 150,000 people died in Naples. In Seville from 1647 to 1652, 500,000 were killed. One million died in France, and it goes on and on through the 17th century. Yet, in the modern day we worry about a Dallas nurse exposed to Ebola traveling to Akron to buy a wedding dress. That is a reasonable worry, but if we lived in the 17th century we'd all be crying like little babies. [4] [5] [6]

The Government Control of Capitalism

Adam Smith's "Wealth of Nations," will be published in 1776. He will promote laissez-faire (lah-say-FAIR) capitalism, which roughly means ('leave us alone'). The reason "Leave-us-alone" capitalism will become popular in 1776 (and why Adam Smith uses FRENCH to describe it) is because of what is about to happen in France right now. The French Minister of Finance has been spending most of his time spending the wealth of France. After a spectacular multi-year trial, he is sentenced to life in prison. (He deserves it.) As a replacement, the young King Louis the 14th turns to the one man who warned him of the embezzling nobility... Colbert (kohl-BEHR). The new Minster makes the nobles pay the taxes on the books thus balancing the tax burden so that everyone pays something. He sets tariffs to favor local sales of farm goods and improves the local roads to make it easier to sell in town than shipping out of town. The fisheries improve under his direction and when he dies, France will be well on its way to financial independence. You'd think he would be the hero of government regulation of the economy, but you'd be wrong. His special genius is proof positive than any centralized, well-working economic system can eventually be undermined by a gray, mindless bureaucracy willing to use it for its own purposes. [7] [8] [9] [10]

My Take by Alex Shrugged
Alexander Hamilton was another strong central government control freak who loved to tinker with the economy and he had a talent for it. Like Colbert, he was unique, but once he let go of the reigns, the system cycled out of control. In 1811, the charter of the First Bank of the United States was no more. The Second Bank of the United States was established in 1816 during "The Era of Good Feelings". We were all one big happy family again. What could go wrong? By the time Andrew Jackson took the Presidency, he was well aware what could go wrong. Jackson killed the Second Bank of the United States and in the process, our national credit went into the toilet. The term "wild-catting" comes from this time when a bank note often came from an unknown bank "out there amongst the wild cats." You'd think we would have learned, but now we have a Third Bank of the United States called the Federal Reserve. To kill it would hurt more than you can imagine. If we were sensible, we could arrange a soft landing for it, but you can forget that noise. Like the Second Bank of the United States, it won't go down without an ugly, expensive, painful fight. [11] [12] [13] [14]

This Year on Wikipedia

Year 1665, Wikipedia.

See Also


* The asterisk in the section header indicates that it was read on the podcast.
  1. Plague: The Mysterious Past and Terrifying Future of the World's Most Dangerous Disease. Free Press. ISBN 9780743236850. “The Great Plague of London, in 1665, was the last and severest of a series of Great Plagues: 1603, 1625, 1636, and 1665. There were other, smaller outbreaks; in fact, in the seventeenth century hardly a year went by without a scattering of deaths attributed to plague.” 
  2. Great Plague of London - Wikipedia (2015). Retrieved on 20 October 2015. “By the end of April only four plague deaths had been recorded, two in the parish of St. Giles, but total deaths per week had risen from around 290 to 398.”
  3. Disease and the City: 17th Century: Plague. Gresham College (2015). Retrieved on 20 October 2015. “From the early years of the 17th century until the middle of the 19th the bills were printed, issued each Thursday, eagerly awaited and widely consulted, especially when the number of plague deaths was increasing. William Petty's rule of thumb was that an epidemic had begun when the weekly death toll from plague reached 100, and at that point, if not before, the exodus began.”
  4. Naples Plague - Wikipedia (2015). Retrieved on 20 October 2015. “In 1656, a plague nearly eradicated the population of Naples, Italy. It was prevented by forcible quarantine of the poorer districts, and the efforts of a Martinus Ludheim, a visiting physician from Bavaria, Germany.”
  5. Ebola patient Amber Vinson in Akron to plan wedding, fiance now in quarantine. Cleveland.com (Cleveland Plain Dealer) (October 16, 2014). Retrieved on 20 October 2015. “Ebola patient Amber Joy Vinson was in Tallmadge planning her own wedding this weekend and shopped for bridesmaid dresses at a bridal shop in Akron; now her fiancé of three months is self-monitoring for Ebola symptoms in Dallas.”
  6. Dallas Nurse With Ebola Visited Bridal Shop in Ohio. ABC News (Oct 16, 2014). Retrieved on 20 October 2015. “Coming Attractions Bridal and Formal in Akron is now closed, but owner Anna Younker said Amber Vinson, 29, now in isolation in Atlanta, was at the shop on Saturday so her friends could get measured and look at bridesmaid dresses.”
  7. Words from History (PDF), Books on Words, Houghton Mifflin. “However, government supervision, while useful in the hands of a man like Colbert, becomes deadening under dull bureaucrats. A hundred years after Colbert's time, French industrialists found themselves choked by foolish government regulations. One of them, LeGendre, is supposed to have exclaimed in despair, "Laissez-nous fairel" ("Let us alone!"). The feeling was that business, left to choose what was best for itself, would automatically do what was best for the nation.” 
  8. Jean-Baptiste Colbert - Wikipedia (2015). Retrieved on 21 October 2015. “He achieved a reputation for his work of improving the state of French manufacturing and bringing the economy back from the brink of bankruptcy. Historians note that, despite Colbert's efforts, France actually became increasingly impoverished because of the King's excessive spending on wars.”
  9. Nicolas Fouquet - Wikipedia (2015). Retrieved on 21 October 2015. “He fell out of favor with the young king, probably because of his extravagant displays of wealth, and the king had him imprisoned from 1661 until his death in 1680.”
  10. The National System of Political Economy, Book I,. Library of Economics and Liberty (1841). Retrieved on 21 October 2015. “From all countries he obtained the most skilful workmen, bought up trade secrets, and procured better machinery and tools. By a general and efficient tariff he secured the home markets for native industry. By abolishing, or by limiting as much as possible, the provincial customs collections, by the construction of highways and canals, he promoted internal traffic. These measures benefited agriculture even more than manufacturing industry, because the number of consumers was thereby doubled and trebled, and the producers were brought into easy and cheap communication with the consumers.”
  11. Era of Good Feelings - Wikipedia (2015). Retrieved on 21 October 2015. “The Era of Good Feelings marked a period in the political history of the United States that reflected a sense of national purpose and a desire for unity among Americans in the aftermath of the Napoleonic Wars.”
  12. Second Report on Public Credit - Wikipedia (2015). Retrieved on 21 October 2015. “The Second Report on the Public Credit also referred to as The Report on a National Bank was the second of three influential reports on fiscal and economic policy delivered to Congress by Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton. The Report, submitted on December 14, 1790, called for the establishment of a central bank, its primary purpose to expand the flow of legal tender by monetizing the national debt through the issuance of federal bank notes. Modeled on the Bank of England, this privately held, but publicly funded institution would also serve to process revenue fees and perform fiscal duties for the federal government. Secretary Hamilton regarded the bank as indispensable to producing a stable and flexible financial system.”
  13. (September 11, 2010) The Creature from Jekyll Island: A Second Look at the Federal Reserve: G. Edward Griffin: Griffin: Amazon.com: Books. ISBN 9780912986456. Retrieved on 21 July 2015. 
  14. Federal Reserve Act - Wikipedia (2015). Retrieved on 21 July 2015. “The Federal Reserve Act (ch. 6, 38 Stat. 251, enacted December 23, 1913, 12 U.S.C. ch. 3) is an Act of Congress that created and established the Federal Reserve System, the central banking system of the United States, and granted it the legal authority to issue Federal Reserve Notes (now commonly known as the U.S. Dollar) and Federal Reserve Bank Notes as legal tender. The Act was signed into law by President Woodrow Wilson.”

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