Enigma is getting to be the veteran of the Slog Commenter Book Reports: today, she tackles The Whiskey Rebels by David Liss, who is the author of several bestselling mysteries. Anything you dislike about this review is to be considered solely a fault of the editor. I am the editor. Take it away Enigma:
As the old saying goes, “The more things change, the more they stay the same.” Our world is in financial upheaval, people are panicking about the future of our country and the world. Old systems are dying before the new ones can take their place. And the year is 1792.
The country has just gone through a divisive war and people are ready to get on with their lives. Alexander Hamilton was charged with the heavy task of establishing this new country with a banking system that will be consistent through the new states and respected around the world. I think Obama mentioned something about this when he was defending Timothy Geithner from the circling sharks.
The Whiskey Rebels is a great book to read at the moment. I mean, it’s really good enough to read at any moment, but David Liss seemed to be quite prescient when he started writing this book (which must have been years ago to conduct all the research required of a great historical fiction like this) to have it released just at the moment that the economy starts going through free-fall.
The Whiskey Rebellion never made much sense to me from the way it had always been explained. The revolution was fought to get rid of the corrupt taxation without representation. But once we won, there was representation, and the government needed to levy some taxes to help pay for the war. So a whiskey tax is introduced and the frontier folk go crazy about the unjust system trying to steal their livelihood. Of course, what I didn’t learn until I read this book was that the government wasn’t taxing the sale of whiskey, but the production. And most of the people making whiskey never sold it. It was hard to get to market with no roads over long distances, so most people traded the drink, so they didn’t have any money when the tax man cometh. And that does seem a little unfair. Thus, the inequality of rich against poor starts a chain reaction which almost brings down the newly established Bank of the United States.
Reading this book actually helped me understand our modern financial system better than any report I’ve heard from the news sources I watch on a regular basis. The ideas of money we’ve been hearing about recently don’t have a lot to do with the tangible aspects of a dollar in your hand. Emotion and intuition govern our financial systems much more than the people at the top would have you believe, and that is the trouble we’re facing. When so much is concentrated in a small group, the whims of that group have vast consequences for millions more. And at a time when large groups of people are losing jobs that pay just enough to live on and millionaires are getting bonuses of millions more, a rebellion doesn’t sound like too bad of an idea.
Many thanks to Enigma for the fine book report. I really want to read this book now.