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 Bootleg Empire: America the Smuggler Nation

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PostSubject: Bootleg Empire: America the Smuggler Nation   Thu Mar 07, 2013 2:58 pm



The United States of America is the world’s most feared policeman against the smuggling of drugs, immigrants, intellectual property, and other illicitly trafficked items. This is an interesting and relatively recent development.

In the 18th and 19th centuries, American companies commonly stole intellectual property from countries such as Britain, and this helped fuel the stateside industrial revolution. In defiance of British law, British artisans smuggled themselves into the U.S. to operate machinery that had been designed in England. American publishers boldly disregarded copyright laws and reprinted the works of popular British novelists, including Charles Dickens.

This is the hypocrisy examined at the heart of Smuggler Nation: How Illicit Trade Made America. The book’s author, Peter Andreas, notes that as a young and newly industrialized nation, America “aggressively engaged in the kind of intellectual property theft it now insists other countries prohibit and crack down on.” Today America’s policy is that China should do as we say, not as we did. The Chinese making money off bootlegged versions of Lincoln is most definitely not acceptable.

Shifting geopolitical balance of power and societal mores dictates what goods get policed and to what extremes and who will make a profit off the prices set by existing markets. Cocaine was once less expensive and less potent. Heck, it was once legal. But the war on drugs drove up the cost of doing business, and the profit margin for smugglers and the yield corrupt officials could hope to earn also rose. Cocaine, alcohol, and human labor are just a few of the “goods” that have a storied history of being smuggled into and out of the U.S. in huge quantities.

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