Saturday, March 21, 2015

Commitments of the Confederates to the Confederacy

The Lost Cause advocates like to portray the Confederacy as a heroic effort by people in the South. No doubt some people were heroically committed.

However, it is the Confederate policy on taxation that speaks to the level of commitment of Confederate elites to the war effort.

Whereas the American government raised tariffs and implemented an income tax and also added many other taxes to raise money and prevent inflation and pay for the Civil War the Confederacy decided to print money to pay for expenses.

Wars cost money, lots and lots of it. Even in those days it cost a lot, boat loads of money.

During wars there is a big demand for goods and services by the government and it can be inflationary with the huge amounts of money the government is spending. However, with taxes you can pay for some of the war expenditures and with revenue you can sell bonds since people know you have revenue and taxes and bonds pull in money and this keeps inflation somewhat under control.

However, resorting to the printing presses and talking about glory doesn't work well for paying for a war. Flooding the country with banknotes results in inflation which makes purchasing war bonds a donation to the government and they don't sell sufficiently. It then becomes a race between printing banknotes and rising prices. The story of financing a government solely by printing banknotes is story that has been repeated many times and the consequences are well known.

The Confederates had the example of the bank notes of the French republic during the French Revolution and the bank notes of the American Revolution to show them the consequences of printing money to finance the government.

It might be argued that there wasn't much in terms of precious metal currency (specie) or similar things to support paying taxes, but there could have been payment in goods for taxes. Also, with taxes in Confederate currency goods could be sold for that currency and used to pay for taxes.

Elites in the Confederacy were quick to draft people and send them off to die, but when it came time for them to cough up some money, they weren't willing to do what was necessary. The glory of the Confederacy wasn't worth it to them to give up the glitter of gold.

This shouldn't be surprising. Slave owners are those who engage in the brutality of slavery for gain, it shouldn't be expect that in general they should be willing to sacrifice for a common good.

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