America is a smuggler nation. Our long history of illicit imports has ranged from West Indies molasses and Dutch gunpowder in the 18th century, to British industrial technologies and African slaves in the 19th century, to French condoms and Canadian booze in the early 20th century, to Mexican workers and Colombian cocaine in the modern era. Contraband capitalism, it turns out, has been an integral part of American capitalism.
Providing a sweeping narrative history from colonial times to the present, Smuggler Nation is the first book to retell the story of America--and of its engagement with its neighbors and the rest of the world--as a series of highly contentious battles over clandestine commerce. As Peter Andreas demonstrates in this provocative and fascinating account, smuggling has played a pivotal and too often overlooked role in America's birth, westward expansion, and economic development, while anti-smuggling campaigns have dramatically enhanced the federal government's policing powers. The great irony, Andreas tells us, is that a country that was born and grew up through smuggling is today the world's leading anti-smuggling crusader.
In tracing America's long and often tortuous relationship with the murky underworld of smuggling, Andreas provides a much-needed antidote to today's hyperbolic depictions of out-of-control borders and growing global crime threats. Urgent calls by politicians and pundits to regain control of the nation's borders suffer from a severe case of historical amnesia, nostalgically implying that they were ever actually under control. This is pure mythology, says Andreas. For better and for worse, America's borders have always been highly porous.
Far from being a new and unprecedented danger to America, the illicit underside of globalization is actually an old American tradition. As Andreas shows, it goes back not just decades but centuries. And its impact has been decidedly double-edged, not only subverting U.S. laws but also helping to fuel America's evolution from a remote British colony to the world's pre-eminent superpower.
In this captivating new history, Brown University political science professor Andreas documents smuggling in America from the colonial "golden age of illicit trade" through the Industrial Revolution and on into the current "war on drugs." Over the years, sundry contraband has ranged from ammunition and people to jewelry and drugs, and all have had an enormous impact on the American economy and culture: Dutch gunpowder proved a crucial import during the Revolutionary War; the 19th century saw countless Africans brought over as slaves, and women were kidnapped and sold to brothels; in the early 1900s, wealthy individuals snuck jewels through customs to avoid paying tariffs; today, South American cocaine producers rely on suspiciously large-scale imports of American chemicals to create the valuable narcotic, "most of which... end up in the noses of American consumers." Throughout the riveting text, Andreas also discusses the sociopolitical climates that gave rise to these storms of illicit commerce. Far from romanticizing or condoning illegal trade, Andreas convincingly argues that the flow of illicit goods has defined and shaped the nation, both in terms of who and what goes in and out, and how society reacts with regulatory policies. A valuable and entertaining read for historians and policymakers 43 b&w halftones.