Wednesday, November 28, 2007


Starting this assignment, I had a general idea of where I wanted to go with my research, but not a clear-cut expectation of what I would find. I had initially intended to make IR my cross-research, but had a rough time finding enough articles that could really relate to the assignment, consequently I changed to history. I only knew that business would be a relevant topic (being my major) and I always had an interest in history, thus it would be interesting to pursue something I would prefer writing about. The one thing that I had to consciously monitor was not making my paper into a "story," which history can easily become. Instead, I pulled globalization and modern politics into my argument a bit, which I think helped me to dig deeper in my research. They also helped me to draw conclusions on the evolution of American business, and analyze why capitalism is the way it is today.

To get a starting point for my research, I began with pure narratives of American economic history. This gave me an overall understanding of the concepts I would be exploring further. Once I started looking into secondary research (modern-day capitalism, its relation to politics, etc.) it became really interesting. Looking at certain modern practices, I was able to draw my own conclusions on how they evolved, through what I had found about the history of U.S. commerce. It was also fascinating to delve into politics a bit; modern-day big business has become so connected to IR, it would have left a hole in my research to ignore foreign diplomacy. It was a natural progression of the analysis, seeing how capitalism evolved to globalization, which then drew politics into the economy.

Overall, the assignment helped me to better understand how business has evolved over the course of American history, and why so much of it functions the way it does. It provided a great foundation and deeper awareness of my major, things not taught in any of the Marshall classes.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Real Implications of Business vs. Politics

As globalization becomes more ingrained in our society, we see a growing collaboration between big business and politics. As corporations move overseas, foreign relations become more and more relevant, while a nation's authority is no longer dictated by militaristic strength as much as economic influence. Consequently, business and government have come to rely on each other as their common interests become more connected.

A recent example of economic interests’ influence on foreign relations came from the House of Representative’s declaration of the Armenian Genocide last month. Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the House planned to pass a resolution that named the death of over a million Armenians during World War I at the hands of the Ottoman Empire a genocide. Yet to this day, modern-day Turkey stoutly sticks to its argument that the killings were a natural side effect of the war and not an "organized campaign," as many Muslims died as well as the Christians believed to have been persecuted ( As the resolution was expected to come to a vote in Congress, Turkey threatened to sever all logistical ties with the United States if it went any further, claiming bonds with America would be forever damaged. Currently, Incirlik air base in Turkey is a crucial location for U.S. supplies coming in and out of Iraq, over 70%. The loss of this military stronghold would be devastating for the United States military, and the Pentagon was quick to warn Congress against pushing the document any further.

Here, although the resolution would in theory be nice for recognizing the struggles of a generation of Armenians, it would have no direct impact on any facet of American society. While on the other hand, its passing would have catastrophic implications on the economical aspects of the Iraq War. Consequently, it is understandable how business plays a big role in current politics, and often influences decisions made in regards to foreign diplomacy.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Slavery's Influence on American Business

When researching the history of American business, I found it interesting that most articles completely glossed over slavery in their analysis of the American economic model. The absence of one of the most controversial, albeit influential businesses of the 18th and 19th centuries, stood out in my mind and made me realize I needed further research on the topic.

Harold D. Woodman, in his "Profitability of Slavery," writes that slavery was primarily analyzed from a system perspective, rather than a business. Its cruelty and inhumane treatment was much more relevant than whether the plantation owners profited. Regardless, at a time when the South was much more economically backwards and impoverished than the North, many believed slavery to be the one industry that held the promise of wealth for the region. Yet Woodman found that there was a large amount of people who saw slavery as economically crippling to the South: it degraded labor to the point where whites refused to do it, it decreased the value of work so that wages were kept to a minimum, and blocked advances in technology and business when whites were idle and slaves kept ignorant.

Reading both sides of the argument, I believe it can be argued that slavery was detrimental to the Southern economy. The argument can be strengthened through comparison to the North in the same era, which was in the thick of industrialization. We have seen how capitalism has largely contributed to the economic power of the United States, as a free market provides increased opportunity for competition and revenue. Slavery caused the South to be stuck in an agricultural society that provided neither the necessary wages for its citizens to prosper, nor the motivation to change. Consequently, it was the Northern states that encouraged the economy to prosper into modern capitalism.

Monday, November 12, 2007

The Relationship of Capitalism and America

While capitalism was by no means invented by the United States, it has come to be a symbol of American values, like baseball and apple pie. A free market economy is now expected with a democracy, although the two in actuality have nothing to do with the other. It is interesting to note that these two have become interchangeable with the other, merely as a result of how the American ideal has permeated the majority of the rest of the world.

Capitalism originated in Europe long before the colonies were settled, with the merchant trades of Holland and England especially. American was founded as a capitalist venture, and the burgeoning nation never looked back. When wars occupied the majority of Europe in the early 1800s, the United States was able to serve as the neutral supplier to the continent, allowing the country to have over 300 corporations at the time, while England and France had only a few dozen each. This jump start allowed America to be at the forefront of industrialization, a movement that created an entire class of “new money” in the late 1800s.

Today, capitalism is largely associated with the United States, even though its origins had begun long before we became a global power. Analyzing this effect seems to be important to understanding American business as a whole. It seems that the free market broke away from a symbol of the Western world as a whole, to just the United States, in the aftermath of World War II, when the country was able to capitalize on its position as the only big nation not hit hard by the war. While other European nations were rebuilding during the 1950s, America was enjoying unprecedented prosperity, and used the free market economy to flaunt its liberties over its only remaining competitor, the Soviet Union. I think it is this precedent, set when the U.S. was the nation to emulate, that established democracy and capitalism as interrelated. Today, developing countries seem to assume these two principles are necessary to discovering the wealth America has achieved, and that one can not succeed with the other.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

The Overlap of Business and Politics

In William Pfaff's article "Why Europe Should Reject U.S. Market Capitalism," he argues that American capitalism has been tainted by large corporations and politics. As the country moves into the twenty-first century, companies are becoming more and more reliant of the financial contributions of politicians, which consequently harms public interest. Big business and politics have become so interdependent, they are now interchangeable as the "big bully," the enemy of the average American Joe that is a threat to the free market economy.

While I can see Pfaff's point of view (stories of corporations joining forces with politicians can be all too common), I think this does not necessarily have to be a problem. This interdependence is a consequence of an increasingly connected world, and globalization creates the need for both business and politics to reflect the interests of the other. Corporations cannot function effectively in their overseas centers (whether that be a Dell call center or a Nike sweatshop) without knowing the culture of the country. Likewise, politics have always been influenced by business, and trying to maintain peace with Turkey for its useful air stations is not that different from British colonization of the Americas for their natural resources.

Although Pfaff may see this intermingling as a capitalistic threat, it does not have to be so. Both sides can learn from the other to improve foreign relations, as well as further their own personal objectives. Businesses with good diplomatic relations will enjoy greater success through positive interactions with their suppliers, while politicians may have better diplomacy if they maintain peace for economic purposes, rather than make decisions from a purely militaristic point of view. While some may see the increased dependence of business and politics as a negative offshoot of globalization, when used wisely it can be turned into one of the twenty-first century's greatest assets.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

The History of American Business

When analyzing America's twentieth century rise to a global power, it is important to determine the origins of its current dominant position in world affairs. Nearly all major events of American history have been fueled by business motives.

The first colonies were established for the economic gain of the European powerhouses (primarily Britain, France, and Holland), and fueled the beginnings of our modern-day capitalism. Subsequently, after the United States earned its independence it became the primary supplier of goods in Europe, whose countries were tied up in multiple wars with each other. This allowed the U.S. to have over 300 modern corporations running by the beginning of the nineteenth century, while England and France had only a few dozen each. As technology continued to evolve, industrialization brought much of rural America into a new era, and is credited with pulling millions of citizens out of poverty.

The twentieth century is considered "America's century," as the nations emergence as a world power is almost exclusively tied to its economic growth. During the post-WWII era, the United States was one of the only influential countries not crippled by the war, consequently its economy boomed during the 1950s, as modern American materialism became the basis for globalization. This gluttonous attitude towards consumerism even spilled over into politics, becoming a symbol of liberty and the "free world" when contrasted against the Soviet Union at the height of the Cold War. Today, globalization is often still tied to the U.S. economy, as most growing nations choose to emulate our business models in the hope of enjoying similar economic success.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

The Growing Influence of Business in Foreign Relations

In an increasingly connected world, the impact of globalization on business has become more and more prominent. Loosely defined as a global economy, it has grown exponentially since the downfall of the Soviet Union, and normally refers to corporations spreading their economic activities throughout the world. From Mattel's toy making in China, to Dell's customer service call centers in India, most major firms today engage in some form of globalization. Yet while an effective way to save on costs, with this recent boom in a global economy comes an increased importance in foreign policy. Good relations with other nations become imperative to the firm's success (and consequently the American economy as a whole), and are now influenced by the economy more than ever. A perfect example is the current conflict with Turkey over the Armenian genocide. Having denied its existence since the killings occurred in 1915, the House of Representatives is currently debating a bill that recognizes the injustices done against the Armenian people. Yet more than half of the supplies flown into Iraq and Afghanistan go through an air base in Turkey, and if the U.S. follows through with its declaration, it will lose its biggest supply base in the Middle East ( What may seem right in a moral sense could have drastic implications on the funding for the current wars. Consequently, it is easy to see how the economy can play a major role in political decisions.