We see the visual power of the Hulu production at this moment as [‘historian’ Woody] Holton lifts his finger, pointing at the Governor’s Palace, the centerpiece of the Colonial Williamsburg historical park. The camera quickly shifts to the recreated structure as he begins to speak. “Because this building is supposed to symbolize white rule over blacks, and now the guy inhabiting that building,” [Lord] Dunmore, “has turned things upside down and is leading blacks against whites.” [Nikole] Hannah-Jones interjects, “So you have this situation where many Virginians and other southern colonists—they’re not really convinced that they want to side with the patriots. And this turns many of them towards the revolution. Is that right?” Holton answers without a flinch. “If you ask them, it did. The record is absolutely clear.”
The scene is an authoritatively delivered pronouncement set to stunning cinematography, but it’s also false history.
At the time of his decree, the real Dunmore had not set foot in Williamsburg in almost five months. His order, decreeing martial law in the colony and calling on slaves to enlist in a Royalist militia, came not from the governor’s residence but from a position of exile aboard the HMS William, a naval ship anchored off the coast of Norfolk, Virginia.
Dunmore abandoned the Governor’s Palace on June 8, 1775, amid signs that patriot militiamen were converging on Williamsburg to defend the House of Burgesses from a threatened power grab by the crown. The trouble began a few weeks earlier with a botched attempt by Dunmore to seize the colony’s gunpowder stores as a preemptive strike against revolutionary grumblings.
Indeed, when Dunmore fled the capital, he carried away a sizable staff of “servants” from the palace grounds and relocated them to Porto Bello, his sprawling plantation a few miles up the river. Yes, the 1619 Project’s designated agent of “emancipation” for the British crown was an enslaver himself. Dunmore encamped on a succession of warships anchored in the nearby York River, never to return to the building where Holton erroneously situated the decree. He occasionally took a barge over to the plantation house at Porto Bello to enjoy fine dining with his officers, served by his relocated slaves. But that ended as patriot militias gained control of the peninsula on which the property sat, and Dunmore withdrew to Norfolk. By November 7, 1775—the date of the order—he had long lost any semblance of control over the colony. The decree anticipated an unsuccessful campaign to regain a foothold in the colony. In retrospect, it was a desperate move to restore himself to power by inducing a slave revolt amid the already-unfolding revolution, rather than any true attempt to affect “emancipation” at large.
The inescapable progression of the timeline has always worked against Hannah-Jones’ narrative. Leaning heavily on Holton’s academic work, she asserts that Dunmore galvanized the southern colonies against Britain by imperiling their slave plantations and moving them into the revolutionary column. Holton’s commentaries in the docuseries signal his concurrence with this view insofar as it relates to Virginia, even as he stops short of Hannah-Jones’ blurry ascription of this motive to “the colonists” of the future U.S. at large. Yet as a matter of history, it collides with easily documented facts.
As the events around Williamsburg revealed, Dunmore’s order was a reaction to—not a cause of—a revolution already in full swing. The road to American independence began in Massachusetts over a decade earlier with men such as James Otis (incidentally, an early abolitionist) rallying against the crown under the banner of “no taxation without representation.” Virginia expressed solidarity with this cause long before Dunmore’s order.
Advocates of deglobalization assume that the result would be heightened and widened prosperity. The opposite is true. According to the IMF study, the cost to global production from a severe geoeconomic fragmentation could be a loss of 7 percent of global GDP, which, if accompanied by technological decoupling, could be as high as 12 percent in some countries. The size of the global economy has recently surpassed $100 trillion annually. Thus, the loss to global economic output from the severe fragmentation sought by some of the most fervent tribunes of deglobalization could range from $7 trillion to $12 trillion — every year.
But there is a bigger reason that China’s ambitious technology endeavors are failing: Its communist system stifles innovation. In China, all major funding is controlled and distributed by the Communist Party. Top scientists must be in the party system to advance their careers and get funding. The higher they rank within the party, the more funding they can receive. They can also make fortunes steering projects and government funds to companies owned by their associates and earning huge kickbacks. The recent corruption investigations have implicated key Big Fund officials and executives of companies that have received the most funding, raising speculation that the fund’s leaders may have taken kickbacks from these companies.
In 2019 I interviewed a data and AI scientist at Huawei, China’s largest and most powerful telecommunications company, which at the time was poised to take over the global rollout of 5G. He told me that despite Huawei’s achievements, a hunger for quick success pervaded the company. While Ren Zhengfei, the company’s founder and CEO, would publicly encourage new research, he was likely to cut off funding if there were no notable achievements within a project’s first two years. This pattern has led to the most consistent innovation at Huawei taking place only at the application level. The company rewards innovations that can make money immediately, but long-term research that might lead to world-changing innovation isn’t being done.
This isn’t unique to Huawei. It is the norm of Chinese society under communist control. Great innovation comes from free and curious minds. Such minds need nurturing, and, despite all its dazzling skyscrapers and smart cities, China today is incapable of doing so.
China’s test-oriented education discourages creativity and independent thinking.
Also writing insightfully about China is Mike Munger. Two slices:
Capitalism, however, also creates concentrations of economic power because of the ability of successful investors and entrepreneurs to gather large amounts of wealth. Ownership in a capitalist system is both the mechanism for raising liquid capital—by selling shares that are claims against the value of future profits—and a means of controlling substantial resources independent from state direction and control. The private ownership of tools and materials that characterize a market system are on a much smaller scale than the ownership of land and a controlling interest in the shares of joint stock corporations. Nations that do not have the corporate form of private ownership are likely to run up against capital constraints, as it is difficult to generate liquidity on a scale, and in a time frame, that allows the successful exploitation of profit opportunities.
Markets are systems that produce wealth and sharply reduce poverty. Capitalism is a system for raising liquid capital and creating countervailing power centers that constrain totalitarian aspirations of government. As long as the Chinese state is primarily centralized and authoritarian, capitalism will be blocked. But that means that Chinese economic growth will be strangled, as capital becomes more and more constrained.
The Wall Street Journal‘s Editorial Board applauds the U.S. District Court’s injunction against enforcement of California’s Orwellian attempt to silence physicians who disagree with the official narrative on covid. A slice:
Democrats last year passed legislation empowering the state medical board to discipline doctors licensed in the state who “disseminate misinformation or disinformation” that contradicts the “contemporary scientific consensus” or is “contrary to the standard of care.” The law’s goal is to enforce a public-health orthodoxy among doctors and silence dissenters.
But as federal Judge William Shubb explains, the law’s definitions of “misinformation” and “contemporary scientific consensus” are unconstitutionally vague under the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Doctors have no way of knowing how the law will be applied by the board or interpreted by courts, which chills their practice of medicine.
“Who determines whether a consensus exists to begin with? If a consensus does exist, among whom must the consensus exist (for example practicing physicians, or professional organizations, or medical researchers, or public health officials, or perhaps a combination)?” Judge Shubb wrote. He also asked what sources doctors should consult to determine the consensus.
If you ruin your life, with extreme isolation, you might be able delay your Twitter thread “I did everything right and got COVID anyway and it’s your fault” by a month or so, but would it be worth it?