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As Congress continues to hammer out the details of immigration reform, many are demanding measures to regain control of the nation’s borders. But a new book argues that politicians suffer from historical amnesia and America’s borders have never been secure. In fact, smuggling and porous borders have played a key role in America’s birth and economic development, according to a book by Peter Andreas, “Smuggler Nation: How Illicit Trade Made America.” Far from being a new danger to the country, the illicit underside of globalization is actually an American tradition.
- Peter Andreas Political science professor at Brown University and author of "Border Games: Policing the U.S.-Mexico Divide."
Read An Excerpt
Excerpted from “Smuggler Nation: How Illicit Trade Made America” by Peter Andreas. Copyright © 2013 by Peter Andreas. Excerpted by permission of Oxford University Press, USA. All rights reserved.
MS. DIANE REHMThanks for joining us. I'm Diane Rehm. Politicians calling to regain control of the nation's borders suffer from a severe case of historical amnesia. So argues Peter Andreas of Brown University, he says, illegal immigration and smuggling played a key role in the birth and development of the United States. His new book is titled "Smuggler Nation: How Illicit Trade Made America." Peter Andreas joins me here in the studio. You are welcome to be part of the program. Give us a call 800-433-8850. Send us your email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow us on Facebook or Twitter. Good morning to you, sir. It's good to have you here.
MR. PETER ANDREASThank you for having me. Good morning to you.
REHMI'm interested in what this story of smuggling tells us about ourselves as a country.
ANDREASNice, broad, open question for me to start off with. Basically what I try to do in this book is to re-narrate the American epic through the lens of smuggling, which is sort of a new take on the centuries long story, and basically gives a new look at some old and familiar stories; the American Revolution, the American Civil War, westward expansion, slavery, the progressive era, into the debates and battles of globalization today and so on.
ANDREASBut if you look at it through the lens of smuggling, these familiar episodes, trends and so on look a bit different. And so even from the very get go you see if you scratch deep enough and look deeply enough, that smuggling, in fact, was essential to the very birth of the nation.
ANDREASWell, if you look back at what was the most important economic activity of the New England colonies and the decades leading up to the American Revolution, the molasses trade from the Caribbean to New England distilleries for rum production produced the colonies' most important export, which was rum, which was used in all sort of ways, but including selling rum in West Africa to purchase slaves, who were then brought to the Caribbean, and then more molasses brought to the colonies.
ANDREASNow, we know how much molasses is needed for those rum distilleries, and yet the legal imports on the books of molasses don't come remotely close to what was needed to keep those distilleries running. And so the gap is made up by smuggled molasses, in violation of very strict British trade laws.
REHMSo from the very outset of the birth of our country you believe smuggling was somehow helping to introduce an economy that was helping the country grow.
ANDREASExactly. I mean, what I just said, frankly, in some ways is provocative and controversial, but no one other than John Adams acknowledged what I just said. In fact, he famously wrote after the revolution, quote, "I know now why we should blush to confess that molasses was an essential ingredient in American independence."
REHMInteresting. You also say that smuggling helped George Washington win the war.
ANDREASAbsolutely. We always talk today about contemporary civil wars and revolutions and so on is somehow sustained by elicit economies of, you know, cocaine or opium or whatnot, but not -- this trend goes back not just years, but centuries, and we need to not look any further back than our own history of rebellion. And George Washington simply could not have taken on the world's leading military power without massive smuggling of gun powder and other goods into the colonies -- rebel colonies. Basically his forces were utterly dependent on Dutch gun powder and from other sources because the colonies had no real domestic production capacity.
ANDREASAnd so how does a ragtag force of rebels really not only take on, but win over a British military super power? The other thing that is part of the story is privateering which was essentially legalized piracy. Though the British considered it piracy -- outright piracy because this was an unlawful rebellion from their perspective. So they basically -- New England merchants and merchants from other colonies were essentially given the right to attack British supply lines and keep part of the proceeds. And so this was a story as much about profit as it was about patriotism.
ANDREASAnd one of the messages from the book early on is the line between patriotism and profiteering is actually a blurry one. Today there's a debate over whether rebels are motivated by greed or grievance. And, frankly -- and our own story tell us that, frankly, both matter a great deal. We've had a lot of grievance and we've also had enormous amount of greed. And what interesting thing I found out in the early history was this goes -- it's a very familiar, intimate story.
ANDREASI teach at Brown University. It turns out that John Brown, one of the founders of the university, emerged from the American Revolution as one of the richest men in Rhode Island partly from profiteering, from the American Revolution. He did these what was called powder runs, going for smuggling in gun powder and then charging George Washington exorbitant prices because George Washington had no choice but to accept that under the dire circumstances.
REHMPeter Andreas, he's professor of political science at Brown University. His new book is titled "Smuggler Nation." Do join us 800-433-8850. What in the world got you started on this search regarding smuggling?
ANDREASWell, it's an old story. I hate to admit that I'm getting up there in age at this point. But it really started right after college. Liberal arts education doesn't really prepare you for much in life, other than to be prepared for sort of anything. So I took a four month trip to South America, rather a bit of an adventure, specifically Peru, Colombia and Bolivia. And while I was crossing the border by bus from Peru into Bolivia, a nice elderly lady -- I was one of the only gringos on the bus. She handed me this huge package of toilet paper and pleaded with me to please put it under my seat.
REHMToilet paper. Okay.
ANDREASToilet paper, seems a pretty benign product, right?
ANDREASWhich I treated as such. So I was trying to be nice and I agreed with her. I put it under my seat. And the border guards came on at the crossing and proceeded to confiscate toilet paper from most everyone else on the bus, except my stash because I didn't fit the profile I guess of the toilet paper smuggler. She was very grateful. Well, I found out later that Bolivia was experiencing a severe shortage of toilet paper. Partly, not entirely, but partly because it was used as a filter, as a drying mechanism for coca pace production, which was part of the -- part of cocaine processing. And so in my own small way...
ANDREAS...as a 22-year-old recent graduate, I contributed to the global cocaine trade.
REHMBut you really don't know if this sweet, little, old lady needed the toilet paper for its usual function or for cocaine.
ANDREASThat's true. And, frankly, maybe she didn't know herself, right?
ANDREASShe's just one of -- an ant in the supply chain, if you will. On the same trip I actually caught a cargo boat on the Amazon traveling from Iquitos, Peru to Leticia, Colombia. And late at night they not only brought on people like me trying to hitch a ride, but also barrels of chemicals in the cargo hold. And they disposed of these chemical containers shortly before arriving in Leticia. And again...
REHMHow did they dispose of them?
ANDREASWell, they basically was on the Amazon...
ANDREASNo, they didn't dump them, but they -- basically people came up to the boat and put them -- ferried them to shore, if you will. And this is a region which, at the time and still today, is a cocaine processing area. And, frankly, although United States and other countries were obsessively focusing on stopping the cocaine coming north, mostly for U.S. consumers at the time, there's very little focus on the desperate need for chemicals from north to south to feed the cocaine processing plants.
ANDREASIn other words, we almost had a free trade in the chemicals going south, but a very prohibitious policy obviously in the drugs coming north. And so I was -- it was an eye opening experience, so I ended up coming back to Washington. I was living here at the time and worked at various think tanks and on the hill. And I just -- I wrote it up. I looked into it a little more. And a short piece in The New Republic came out, one of my first published articles. I think it was called "Cocaine Chemistry: How We Help the Cartels Cook Their Coke," was the title that I didn't come up with. They have better title wordsmiths at The New Republic than I am.
ANDREASBut then basically I got a call from the hill, they were -- the congressional testimony on chemical diversion and trafficking. And so at the young age of 23 or 24 I was testifying alongside the DEA's main person on chemical diversion, a guy named Gene Haislip, but I think he's probably retired by now, on this issue. And chemical industry representatives sitting nervously in the audience because they were not looking forward to more regulations imposed on U.S. chemical exports to Colombia. At the time Colombia was importing many, many, many times more chemicals that its legal industry could possibly absorb. So we knew that some of it had to be diverted to cocaine.
REHMPeter Andreas, he's professor of political science at Brown University, author of a new book titled "Smuggler Nation." Your calls, your emails after a short break.
REHMAnd welcome back. Peter Andreas is with me. He's professor of political science at Brown University. He's written a fascinating book titled, "Smuggler Nation." All about how illicit trade made America. And indeed goes very far back in our own country's history, showing how we, as early Americans, were participating in that very activity. Talk about Alexander Hamilton's support of smuggling.
ANDREASSure. Well the story there is about an adolescent new nation trying to catch up to England and other powers. And this included economically. And Alexander Hamilton was an outspoken advocate of acquiring British technologies by any means necessary. And so much so that if we, you know, apply this to today's debate on intellectual property theft, there's a lot of finger pointing to other countries, especially China.
ANDREASBut I would say the message of this book is the message from the U.S. to other countries today is do as I say but not as I did. And by that I mean the United States engaged massively in this sort of intellectual property theft that it now tells other countries not to do. This applies to patents, but also to copyrights. In the realm of patents, you know, British industrialists would, you know, patent their product in England but then the technologies would somehow appear in the United States.
ANDREASSmuggled in various means and forms. And they would not have those protections here in the United States. And importantly, not only did the U.S. economy need these technologies to jumpstart its industrial revolution, but it also needed the machinists, the artisans with the skills. And so the smuggling story not only applies to the equipment, but actually to enticing and wooing and encouraging British artisans with the skills to come to the United States illegally.
ANDREASThese are in strict violation of British emigration laws. You cannot leave the British Isles if you possess certain skills like this. And yet the United States encouraged massive violation of these laws. And the most famous violator was, of course, Samuel Slater. If you look him up, he's credited as the Father of the American Industrial Revolution. He came to New York. And then Moses Brown, the other Brown brother discussed in the book. Again, founder of Brown University.
ANDREASHired him to come up to Pawtucket, RI and set up the first textile mill there. Sam Slater basically smuggled himself to the United States, tried to work on the equipment that had been smuggled to Rhode Island, but mostly ended up cannibalizing it for its parts. And the rest is a history. It's basically an illicit industrialization story, much celebrated in American high school textbooks but not often described as also a story of theft and illicit acquisition.
REHMSo, you take a look, for example, at what China is doing today and what you're arguing is that that is kind of a mirror image of what the United States was doing in its early growth and development. And you apply that to other countries around the world.
ANDREASThat's right. I mean, it's not history exactly repeating itself, but there are some very familiar echoes from the past. I think it was Mark Twain who basically said history does not repeat but it rhymes. And Mark Twain, interestingly enough, is a part of a story of intellectual property protection because Charles Dickens came to the United States in the 19th centuries outraged to find that his books had been widely copied without his authorization.
ANDREASHe was getting no royalties from it whatsoever, never been asked permission to do...
REHMIt's really been all over the place.
ANDREASExactly. The United States was a hotbed of intellectual piracy in the 19th century. And so, understandably, American film producers and other artists today are outraged when their product makes it to the black market in China and elsewhere almost immediately upon release. But again, echoes of history, it was Charles Dickens then, now it's, you know, Steven Spielberg.
ANDREASAnd Mark Twain, the reason I mentioned him is it was only after the United States started producing its own intellectual property that it generated a self-interest in becoming an advocate for protection. So Mark Twain ended up being on the same page, literally, as Dickens. They both wanted protections. And so the United States went from being the most extreme violator of intellectual property to being the world's champion of intellectual property protections conveniently forgetting its own past.
REHMSo now in China, instead of literature or chemicals, you have Louis Vuitton bags, you've got Rolex watches.
ANDREASExactly. And funny you mentioned those two in particular. Crucial, important change from past versus present is the importance of brand names. So Rolex, Louis Vuitton bags and so on , that brand recognition is a distinctly contemporary modern economy phenomena. It was more, we could call it in the past more industrial espionage, stealing secrets and so on, which still happens today.
ANDREASBut the knock-off, you know, Levi's and so on is a more contemporary phenomenon.
REHMLet's go back to people and immigration, illegal and otherwise, because here's an email from Mike who says, yes, America was settled by immigrants but those days are over. What happened in the past cannot justify the continued illegal expansion of our population. So the other aspect you get into in this book is people coming across our borders illegally.
ANDREASYes. Much of the book focuses on the illicit movement of goods, but there's also substantial focus on the movement of people. And I would not want listeners or readers of the book to get the impression, which is a false impression, that somehow this is -- it's saying everything's fine. The past, since it's so much familiar today in the past that it's okay to do today what we did. I mean, if you take that kind of argument to its grotesque extreme, we would start saying slavery is fine today because, well, it used to be fine then.
ANDREASAnd we were trafficking slaves and so what's the problem with doing it today? That is obviously not the message of the book. But the book does say, look, there's nothing totally unique about the contemporary period which would make us had to kind to hyperbolic alarmist sense of having to do something dramatic today.
REHMBecause, you argue, that the U.S.-Mexican border has never been secured.
ANDREASWell, if you look back far enough, you realize that today, without a doubt, that border is more secure, more policed, more patrolled, more monitored and so on than any other time in the country's history. Is it still leaky border? Absolutely. But the whole history of that border is a leaky border. In fact, history of the U.S.-Canada border, which we often forget about because all the attention is focused south, is a history of a leaky border.
ANDREASSo much so that one could argue that U.S.-Canadian trade relations, which is so celebrated today was founded on smuggling. U.S.-Mexico economic relations, so much of it was actually founded on smuggling. And actually unauthorized movement of people story, which you want to focus on now is somewhat of a late comer to this story. But we should not forget that, you know, and I don't want to put too fine a point on it.
ANDREASBut basically the U.S.-Mexico War mid-19th century was partly provoked by unauthorized U.S. migration to Mexico into Mexican territory. Mexico's response, one could argue, is a failed militarized response to American westward migration. And it backfired obviously. Mexico certainly not forgotten about it. The other interesting story in the book is that the first unauthorized migrants from Mexico that really concerned U.S. authorities were not in fact Mexican.
ANDREASThey were Chinese. After the Chinese Exclusion Act in the 1880s, the front door for Chinese laborers to get in the country through San Francisco and elsewhere was shut or largely shut. What did these laborers do? They didn't stop coming. They were dispersed to other entry points, illicit entry points. So first, trying to enter through Canada, and then increasingly through Mexico.
ANDREASAnd this is where the real migrant smuggling story begins. And ironically back then, there were so little concern about the back and forth movement of Mexicans that U.S. border officials paid no attention to them. In fact, ironically, one of the methods the Chinese used to try to sneak into the U.S. at official border points of entry was to pretend to be Mexican.
ANDREASHard to believe today, right?
REHMHard to believe.
REHMAll right. Let's open the phones, hear some of our callers questions, 800-433-8850. First to Detroit, MI. Good morning, Crawford, you're on the air.
CRAWFORDGood morning, Diane. Good to talk to you again.
CRAWFORDIt's been a couple of years.
REHMGood to have you.
CRAWFORDMy comment and question for Peter is, I can't think of the gentleman's name but he's part of the original Jamestown movement. And one of the things he smuggled in were tobacco seeds, which at the time I believe was controlled by the Spanish and very, very illegal. And the fact that it was him and a lot of the founding members of that Jamestown colony were able to cultivate tobacco and sell it at a huge premium to the British laid down a very good financial foundation for them. And thus, know the country.
CRAWFORDBut I think that whether you're talking about them or Al Capone and the many people they employ or just the whole underground economy, for lack of a better term, that's persistent in America since its inception has, you know, has played a very, very big role in the development of overall economy. I mean, you were talking about cocaine trade. Before it was illegal to deposit vast amounts of cash in the banks.
CRAWFORDThat whole part of South Florida was officially developed on the overabundance of cash that was in the banks that they were then able to write loans against able to develop South Florida. So I think that it's really impossible to separate, you know, all the good money from the bad. But any country or any business that's been able to develop itself or build itself in a short manner of time has been able to do it by being able to get a huge margin or a high margin or neither its own commercial products or something that they essentially are getting for free via the economies or et cetera.
REHMAll right, sir, thanks for your call. You're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." Peter.
ANDREASThanks for your comment. What's interesting, I found in the book is that the illicit drug story, which you mentioned various times is really a late chapter in this 300-year history. But if you think of drugs not just in terms of cocaine, marijuana and heroin. And, for example, the South Florida story, which you mentioned, the heyday, you know, late '70s, early '80s, especially as you mentioned the influx of cash into Miami banks.
ANDREASIf you think of tobacco and alcohol, also is drugs which we should obviously, then the drug story is with us from the very get-go. And your story at the beginning of the comment about the smuggling of the tobacco seeds is right on target. You know, much of the smuggling story I tell focuses on the northeast. But the tobacco boom in the U.S. can very much be traced back to the theft of those seeds and smuggling them into the colonies.
REHMAll right, to Waldorf, MD. Good morning, Mike. You're on the air.
MIKEYes. Professor Andreas, when you were introduced, one of the things that Diane talked about was that we have lost sight of the fact that we've had very porous borders, that the politicians that want to close the borders are agnostic to what's been going on. First, a comment. Number one, the Texicans that went in to Texas and eventually took it away from Mexico were invited by the Mexican government to be there and to settle that area.
MIKEBut the point I want to make is that when the people that were being brought into this country earlier in our history, they were brought for a purpose. They were brought because they had a talent that we required. What we're dealing with now are people that don't even want to become citizens of the United States, they just want to take the jobs, send the money back home. And then when the working season's over, they go back home. So we're dealing with a different type of immigration.
ANDREASThat's certainly a provocative comment. First of all, I should clarify the historical record. You said the Mexicans invited the Americans in. And the fact is they did it first. But then they tried to shut the door with the Mexican decree, I think it was 1830 or 1832 where they literally said there shall be no more American immigration. And guess what? They kept coming. That sounds familiar, right? We used to invite the Mexicans, then we tried to shut the door.
ANDREASWe first invited the Chinese. They were welcomed in large numbers to help build the railroads. Then we said, oh, guess what, we don't want you anymore but they kept coming. So that's a very familiar story. And so, it's actually -- would be misleading to say, well, the Mexicans invite us in because at one point they actually very much wanted to keep us out. Your story about, you know, somehow unauthorized migrants today are fundamentally different in the past.
ANDREASI, you know, frankly, just have to disagree with that. There's something strikingly similar. And if you say they don't want citizenship, you're dead wrong. There wouldn't be such a battle in Congress right now. I can assure you that last time there was an amnesty offered, millions of migrants signed up to become citizens. And that will happen again. And it's for all sorts of reasons. But frankly, you can also get better jobs once you're a citizen.
REHMDo you believe that somehow we're doing the wrong thing in regard to immigration considering our past history?
ANDREASWell, one thing we're doing is, you know, repeating some mistakes of the past. In this case, relatively recent past. The call in Congress right now is we must regain control of the border, to secure the border as a prerequisite to doing everything else. And it's amazing the history of the last 20 years is a history of unprecedented massive border policing escalation. In the 1990s, the size of the border patrol was doubled. It was doubled again in the last decade. The amount of money put into that is extraordinary.
REHMPeter Andreas, his new book is titled, "Smuggler Nation." When we come back, more of your calls.
REHMAnd as we return to our conversation with Peter Andreas about his book, "Smuggler Nation" I think you've struck a chord with this book, Peter. From Luke in Caledonia, Mich., "Please talk about the illegal smuggling of Canadian liquor from Windsor to Detroit across the Detroit River during prohibition."
ANDREASCertainly glad you asked that question. We often forget, with all excited, often anxious, attention to the southern border, that the U.S./Canada border at certain points in history was an equally busy hotbed of smuggling. And nowhere is this more illustrated than by the Detroit/Windsor crossing in the 1920s. This is literally a smuggling super highway and not so different than say El Paso-Juarez is today. It was a main conduit of smuggling alcohol from Canada into the United States with great fortunes made in that business with the Canadian government basically turning a blind eye.
ANDREASNot only turning a blind eye, but being complicit in the sense that they would allow the building of warehouses right on the Detroit River to facilitate the trade. They would stamp paperwork that said these little boats were going to places like Cuba and so on to pretend these were legal exports of alcohol even thought it was obvious they were going just a few minutes away across the river. So this was, you know, basically, this was the big border smuggling story of the 1920s, though there were obviously lots of places where alcohol was coming in.
REHMSo, Peter, what is your underlying message here? Is it that the U.S. is no better than any other country and no worse, but that all countries, to a certain extent, and especially developing ones and even after they're developed participate in some form of smuggling?
ANDREASThat's a nice summary of what I'm trying to say in the book. It's not to focus disproportionately on the U.S. as somehow more engaged in this than other countries. But since the U.S. is the world's largest economy, biggest superpower and so on, it plays a disproportionate role. It also plays a disproportionate role, and this we haven't discussed at all, in international anti smuggling campaigns. So here's what's the underlying irony that I point out in the book.
REHMWe're a hypocrisy.
ANDREASHypocrisy is one way to describe it. The country that was born and grew up partly with the help of smuggling is now the world's leading anti smuggling crime crusader.
REHMLet's go to Wichita Falls, Texas, good morning, Kyle.
KYLEGood morning, Diane Rehm, professor. A good segue into hypocrisy. I'm curious since our nation is founded on smuggling and, you know, now we are clamoring for anti smuggling does this bring credibility issues? Why should other countries, or even our people, take efforts, you know, whether it is to ban, you know, or stop smuggling of tobacco, firearms parts, pirated media. Why should we take these, and other countries, take efforts by America seriously because it seems that our credibility, just like, say, it's hard to take China credible on human rights.
ANDREASThat's a good question, a provocative question. I certainly -- I'm glad you asked it because I would not want to give the impression that the message of the book is a, kind of, throw your hands up libertarian response open borders to everything and anything because what we did. Well, we can now not expect other countries to do better. That would be the wrong reading of history. Again, the gross example, extreme example, would be slavery. Say, oh, well, we did slavery, therefore, other countries -- well, we should tolerate slavery.
ANDREASFrankly, one would like to think that the world is, in some ways, evolved in a positive direction. Some things that were tolerated at one point in time in history are not and should not be tolerated today. But it does not mean that, at the same time, that we should have this blind spot to our own complicity and hypocrisy in that. When we finger point to other countries we should also finger point at ourselves.
REHMAnd when we think about women as chattel early on in the history of this country without a vote, without rights, without even parental rights I think we have to look at other countries from our own perspective. Let's go to Baldwin, Mo. good morning, Phil.
PHILGood morning, Diane. My comment is that we're still stealing "intellectual property" of other nations. How are we doing this? We're allowing the best minds in the third world nations to come to America. We give them scholarships, of course, but they end up staying. The majority of them end up staying here. And these minds are what the third world needs to lift it out of poverty and ignorance.
REHMSo called selective immigration.
ANDREASYeah, I mean it's an old debate in immigration literature, immigration policy circles, is the so called brain drain, right. And some countries have actually made it a centerpiece of their immigration policy. Canada, for example, very much goes after migrants who are high skilled, migrants who can invest in the country and so on. The United States because it's got probably the best university education system in the world attracts people from all parts of the world to come and earn degrees, whether at the undergraduate or graduate level.
ANDREASAnd not surprisingly many stay. And they stay for economic reasons, but often because they are people not just workers. They stay because they got married or developed roots, social ties and so on. It's hard to insist that people simply go back, kick them out because it's not the best thing in the interest of their home country that they stay in the United States. So it's a very complicated issue. And, in fact, in some cases they do, in fact, go back and do quite well.
REHMAll right. To Groton, Conn. good morning Cameron.
CAMERONHey everybody. I had a question regarding -- I live in Groton. We have the oldest rum distillery in New London over here. And I was wondering if sugar smuggling played a big part in -- any part -- in the creation the U.S. and through the triangle -- trade triangle in the Atlantic. And afterwards when the smugglings died down do they go -- do these smugglers go on to smuggle other things or do they try to reincorporate themselves into the economy?
ANDREASGreat question. New London just an hour south of where I live so you're almost in home territory there. And Connecticut is certainly a big player in that early history. When I told the story early on about the molasses trade that's really a sugar story. In fact, they're violating the Sugar Act. And so sugar products in general are what's being, you know, high restrictions, especially, for example, coming from the French West Indies rather than the British West Indies so great competition between the British and the French, obviously, and that included in trade relations.
ANDREASWith the colonies the British wanted to monopolize those trade relations given the situation at the time. The best part of your question, from my perspective, is what do you do with these smugglers who basically grew up and became enriched through smuggling, pre-revolution America, and then suddenly told when the new nation is its own nation and independent and Washington is saying now you shall obey the law. There's a, kind of, resocialization process at work here which is difficult to pull off.
ANDREASAnd, in fact, again -- back to Alexander Hamilton -- he realized that if he put too high a tax on trade that there'd be massive violations because this was the lesson of recent history, especially with these -- the hyper independent American merchants who really didn't want to pay attention to the rules. So there were very modest five percent impose tax on trade coming into the country. And, for the most part, it worked, but to enforce that -- this is an interesting story about American government development which is the federal government's utterly dependent on its own, you know, revenue stream coming from taxing trade.
ANDREASThere was no, you know, federal income tax and so on until the early part of the 20th Century. So the federal government really lived on taxing trade. And so the extent that the American government, sort of, grew early on and could be justified it was to try to stop smuggling and raise a modest amount of revenue so it could just function in even a minimalist fashion. So you got merchants that, basically, you know, grew up through smuggling then told to be law abiding citizens. After the -- it used to patriotic to smuggle. After the American Revolution the only kind of smuggling that remained patriotic probably was the intellectual property theft, the stealing of technology from Britain. Otherwise it was considered a violation of U.S. law obviously.
REHMAnd now it's gotten us in drugs and everything imaginable.
ANDREASYeah, we've built it right up to the present. These are banned products rather than products that are evading taxes. So it's not as if the marijuana coming in from Mexico or cocaine and so on is costing the U.S. in terms of revenue. But it's interesting that one of the main arguments for marijuana decriminalization and legalization is statements about how much revenue the states and the federal government could raise, in fact, if it was legal.
REHMAre using, yeah.
ANDREASSome of those numbers are probably a bit extreme, but it's interesting that those are the type of arguments that were actually used in trying to get alcohol prohibition lifted was look we're broke. It was the Depression. Look how much money we can raise by making alcohol legal again.
REHMThanks for your call, Cameron. To Biloxi, Miss, hi there, John, you're on the air.
JOHNThank you. Calling you from the great smugglers cove of Biloxi, Mississippi. And where one of the mottos is behind every fortune is a crime. And the -- incidents that he's talking about were not unique just to the east coast. The same thing down here, even if -- one of the points I wanted to make is it's not that smuggling has disappeared. Even when I was growing up in the '70s and the '80s, before Miami there was -- the illicit drug trade was heavy here. And you would find the finest people of Biloxi that were engaged in, doctors, lawyers, judges, sheriffs and all that.
JOHNBut there's a lot of people going up -- and I'd have to say I'm the same way now -- growing up in the coastal areas smuggling is often looked as a victimless crime. And, you know, now -- you know, for example, now (unintelligible) going down I know people that are engaged in companies and engaged in trying to buy some low grade fuel there that you can burn on the ships and the tanks and you can get it for a dollar a gallon and you can sell it for two or three dollars a gallon and you can get millions of gallons of that.
JOHNAnd if you look at our most innovative companies, Microsoft and Apple, you know, there are books and stories about how a lot of the technology that they were based upon -- they had -- they basically stole from other companies. So I think that smuggling is – and that's kind of maybe part of the American way of life, a part of our dogma or something.
ANDREASSmuggling is part of the American way of life is certainly an undercurrent -- underscored piece of the story in my book. I couldn't agree with you more. There's not a lot about Mississippi in this book.
ANDREASBut there's a lot about Louisiana, New Orleans, in particular and so -- and Florida, of course. And it's interesting that in the case of New Orleans the famous pirates, Lafitte, were actually more smugglers than pirates. And in the War of 1812 General Jackson actually allied with them in defeating the British in their attempted invasion of New Orleans. So I probably don't cover the South as much as I should, but you're absolutely right that this tradition extends to all coasts.
REHMAnd you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." Let's go to Old Forge, N.Y. good morning, Mike.
MIKEHey, Diane it's -- Diane, it's such a pleasure to...
REHMThank you. Good to talk with you.
MIKEOh, you know, a little earlier a caller talked about -- I think he said something like earlier -- earlier people came in because they had talent. I was wondering what -- what talents the slaves had, you know, and, you know, but moving on from that, you know, I've been thinking a lot -- listening to your wonderful guest about the sex trade, you know. And you mentioned chattel and women and, of course, it applies to young children.
MIKEAnd that northern border up there between us and Canada, you know, I had a little job bringing kids to a summer camp. I had to cross that border a couple of times. And over the last couple of years I was stopped at the border and questioned extensively and, you know, we -- I got that job done. But I asked a young woman that was a guard, you know, what was this all about. And she mentioned the sex trade and she said that there are many, many cases, you know -- numbers that are just unbelievable -- crossing that border with children, women.
MIKEAnd I guess I'm going to ask the -- your wonderful guest about, you know, the efforts that we're making to prohibit say Mexican workers to come in and provide economic benefits to the country and of the effort by government to stop that. But, you know, looking at that effort to stop real slavery in this world, you know, what's the difference there?
ANDREASGreat question. And just to clarify I didn't mean to imply that all early immigration was based on talent and high skills. That was specific to the early industrialization story where they were basically British artisans violating British immigration laws. Certainly in the case of slave trafficking, the smuggling of Chinese laborers into the country, this was about bringing in...
ANDREAS...Brawn, labor, hyper -- hyper exploitable labor into the country. And the slave story, which you're right to point to some contemporary comparisons. We do have to distinguish between slave like conditions, slave like trafficking and the institution of slavery where the state actually has a -- you know, it's -- the institution of slavery is legal. We had this peculiar situation in the United States for much of the 19th Century where the institution of slavery was legal in the South, but bringing more slaves in from abroad was prohibited.
ANDREASSo we had a peculiar dynamic where, you know, U.S. merchants and merchants from other countries were involved in trafficking illegally slaves into the United States -- into the South where slavery itself was legal. That is very difficult to crack down on slave trafficking when slavery is legal. And so the only way -- the lesson here -- the only way they would -- ultimately would have curbed that was to prohibit slave -- the institution of slavery itself or the demand side of the question was what ended the slave trade.
REHMAnd, of course, Mike is talking about the continued traffic in young women who've given up their way of life to come here and somehow earn a living for themselves. Peter Andreas, he's professor of political science at Brown University. His new book is titled, "Smuggler Nation." Thank you so much for being here.
ANDREASThank you for having me.
REHMMy pleasure. Thanks for listening all. I'm Diane Rehm.
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