Economics -- North American Country Trends

Figure 1.--We note enormous misconceptions about the the American economy largely the result of the inveasingly socialist outlook among American educators and media comentators. Text books show child laborers as evidence of poverty and exploitation never seeing the need to explain why millions of Europeans flocked to America to be exploited. This image was presented as an example of rural poverty in 1909. While this might be seen as rural povery today. It would not have been so viewed in 1909. The boy is obviously well fed and dressed. In particular notice the shoes. And the background suggests a comfortable home with considerable square footqge. All of this means a live style considerably above that of the European working class,even in thecricher countries (Britain, France, and Germany). The year 1909 is also interesting. One year early Henry Ford unveiled the Model-T Ford which gave the average worker the ability to purchase an automoble, something that did not occur in Europe until well after World war II.

America and Canada dominate North America. Mexico is also located in North America, but for a variety of reasons makes more sence to consider as part of Lain America. This brings us to a a central issue. Why did North america develop so differently than Latin America. Why did Noth America become an industrial powerhouse able to support high living stabdards while Latin America remained largely agricultural and most of the population lsnguishing in poverty. The economies of America and Canada developed somewhat differently, but geographic and cultural issues resulted in many similarities. Britain attempted to restrict industrial development in its colonies. This ended with the Revolution. Canada of course did not join the Revolution, but benefited from the subsequent changes in British colonial policy. And after the Revolution, in the 19th century, British capital played a major role in the economic expansion of the American Republic. In both America and Canada, free market capitalism protected by British law generated rapid economic growth. America of course developed in own legal system, but at its heart was English common law and the sabctity of private property. In addition, limited government and low taxes helped America expand from an agricultural base to surpass the economies of all European countries. As a result, by the late-19th century, America was attracting large numbers of Europeans seeking indivuual rights, economic oportunity, and escaoe from military conscription. Although America was largely rural until the late-19th century, living standards even in the colonial era were above that of Europe. And an excellent public school system allowed Americans of humble backgrounds to achieve, The massive free market industrial economy that emerged in America would play a central role in defeating Imperial Germany, thecFascist powes, and totalitarian Communism. The crisis of the Great Depression, however , caused many Anericans to question free market capitalism.


Early English colonists found that Bermuda was not economically viable. There was an attemot to grow tobacco, but it prived of low quality. The primary economic activity becme seafaring and vessel construction and mintenance. There was salt production on Turks Islands which Bermuda conntrolled for a time. The islands' Bermuda cedar (Juniperus bermudiana) trees proved useful for shipbuilding, but the small size of the islandss coulf mot sustaintain a major shipbuilding industry. Bermuda's intrepid mariners diversified their trade to include whaling and privateering. Britain paid little attention to Bermuda (17th and most of the 18th centuries). Britain's focus was on its profitable North American colonies. The American Revolution changed everything (1776-83). The loss of the 13 colonies left Britain without a naval base between Canada and the Caribbean. Bermuda suddenly became very important to the Royal Navy. The Royal Naval Dockyard, Bermuda officially replaced the Royal Naval Dockyard, Halifax as the British headquarters for the North America and West Indies Station (1818). The Dockyards and other maritime activity became were the major econimic activity. Modern Bermuda is best known for its tourist industry, but it is the service industry tht is the pricipal component of the economy. The major component of the financial industru]y is interntional finsncil srvices. It accounts fpr 85 percent of the GDP. Tourism became important after world war I with the growth of the American economy and improved maritime travel. Booze was an attraction during Ameican prohibition. Even so, tourism generates only 5 percent of the GDP. In terms of employmnt it us much larger. Over 80 percent of the tourists come from the United States. The attractions re beautifil pink sand beaches and duty free shopping. Both financial services and tourism have declined since the 2008-09 recession. Evn so, Brmuda has the highest per capita income in the Americas, largely due to importance of the financial sector. Bermuda imports most of its food and almostall manufactured good.


The Canadian and American economies have many similarities with adjacent gepgraphies, similar ethnic mix, and cultural similarities. The largely English legal and political foundation is important, although differences developed after the Revolution (18th century). And Canafa has an important French-speaking minority in Quebec. Canada has both important agricultural and industrial components and heart of the economy is the extraction of natural resources, both renewble and non-renewable. Canada in the early-20th century began to build an important industrial sector, largely linked to the United States. American automobile opened subsidiaries in Canada. This industrial development allowed Canada to build one of the largest navies (in terms of vessels) which played a key role in defeating the German U-boat menace in the North Atlantic during World War II. Admiral Dönitz planned to fight the British Royal Navy and eventually the U.S. Navy, but did not even think the Canadians had a navy or could build one. Canada after World War II followed the European welfare state model. A range of entitlements and social benefits were financed by massive defecit spending. The defecits reached such levels that they were adversely affecting the economy (1990s). The Canadian dollar fell way below parity into the 70s in exchange rates. Unintended consequences also caused priblems. Generous unemployment benefits were one of the problems. Designed to protect workers from unemployment, they actually raised unemployment rates. Many workers found that they could get by working only a few months out of the year. Conservative goverments implemented arange of reforms which lowered unemployment. lowered business tax rates, and sharply reduced deficit spending and debt. The Canadin dollarnot only recovered bu exceeded parity with the U.S. Navy. A major reason for this was the strength of raw material exports, especilly oil to the United States. The fall in oil prices has severely affected the Canadian economy, especilly because much of the Canadian oil is hight cost production. This has resulted in a precipitous fall of the Canadian dollar since 2014.

United States

The ecomomy of the nodern United States began its development with the European colonization of North America. This included several European countries, but was primarily conducted by the English. At the time the colonization began, neither the British political system or captalism itself had been dully developed. The first two colonies (Jamestown in Massachusetts and Plymouth in Massachusetts) served as prototypes for the two competing economic system that would develop in North and South. Plymouth was founded by religious dissenters influenced by Calvinist theology which had decided views on economic success. The Northern economy developed on the basis of small family farms and handicrafts. British legislation restricted manufacturing. The South developed on the basis of plantation agriculture andc slave labor. Unlike the Spanish Empire, they produced little gold and silver, but in the long run generated far greater wealth. Only a few years after the colonies were established, living conditions for average people weee highrr than in the nother country. And in Britain both the modern English constitution and the capitalist system had evolved by the turn-of-the 18th century. Both were of enormous influence on America. The two differed models of economic developed survived the Revolution and became a dividing line of regional politics in the early years of the Republic. The independent farming and handicraft economy of the north layed the foundation for the industrial revolution. The invention of the cotton gin made possible the expansion of the plantation system in the South. Export earings from cotton helped finance the industrialization of the north. The eventual ecomomic direction of the United States was determined by the Civil War and settled in large measure by the superior capital and industrial resources of the Northern states. After the Civil War, the United States began a rapid period of indusrial expansion which made it the worlds largest industrial power as well as the greatest agricultural producer. The United States developed ever more complex economic and capital institutions to accomodate its industrial expansion. The system was essentially laize faire or ecomonic growth with mimimal taxation and government regulation. The Government did promote economic growth in many ways such as land grants to rail road companies. With the rise of the Progressive Movement in the late-19th century, that involvement has expanded.


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Created: 6:23 AM 3/15/2011
Last updated: 7:58 AM 3/31/2016