Politics has Changed?

The British are traditionally avid followers of politics which is not necessarily the same as political participants. As a child it was normal to adopt the politics of ones parents….politics was still in the blood in those days.

I’ve always been proud to accept that my family has working class roots. My ancestors came from different parts of England, Scotland and Ireland and all descended on Northampton in the last quarter of the 19th century which was the latest industrial boom town. At the close of the industrial revolution famous already as the boot and shoe place it was a magnet for people wanting to better themselves because the factories were new and mechanised, the work clean, but more importantly there were jobs a plenty for both husband and wife and overtime in the good times. So take home pay could be more than double that on offer in other places.

Of course they had to really put in the hours, at one time all four of my grandparents were working for the shoe factories, my father had no real family life as a child due to the demands on his parents from the long working week and he was bought up by his auntie along with the other kids. But despite the ups and downs of the 20th century those who worked hard could get to see some improvement in their life. One grandfather, although for all his fifty working years a pressman stamping out pieces of shoe from leather hides, through sheer graft and ambition was able to afford to buy his own house. It was highly unusual at the time for an unskilled factory worker to buy a house so of course they were justly very proud.

But it wasn’t all mindless conformance to the system just for the pay packet; another uncle from that generation was a founder member of the British Communist Party in the town which in the 1920s, did a lot of the ground work to improve working conditions and pay grades before the unions even existed. In those early days membership had some cache among the intelligentsia and was seen mainly as a route to self betterment through learning rather than a means of the militant objectives later adopted by the unions. Whatever the motive, in those days political participation of any sort must have been quite adventurous and have taken real personal commitment especially when compared to today’s keyboard campaigning.

Our politicians have traditionally come from those with the time and financial backing to enable a political career, this ensured that many were able to offer industry experience in addition to a purely academic career. In recent years entry to politics has become much more easy to attain and given that there is apparently no specific qualification for industry experience, almost none of our present day politicians have the obvious benefit of practical industry or business experience in order that they can better apply their purely academic qualification. As a result, the level of knowledge, business acumen and general capability to manage has deteriorated and it has become clear that many of those in senior government roles have clearly garnered their experience only from within the government and political establishment. This is a significant change and a major contributor to the obvious estrangement between politicians and their electors. More importantly it affects the long term development of governance and leads to stagnation because politics is now being learned from a closed academic, historical and empirical perspective rather than being organically learned in a more practical, open and dynamic environment.

For my own part, there was never any obligation to follow in the footsteps of my forefathers either politically or socially, priorities growing up in 1970s UK were more hedonistic, like cars, bikes, girls and having a nice time. If parents don’t approve, I must be doing something right. Anyway politics was something viewed from a distance. Entering the jobs market in the volatile early 1980s, was not as scary as in retrospect it should have been. Economic trauma, three day weeks, stagflation, a general strike almost. And then Mrs Thatcher; the iron fist, a lot of division and hatred but ultimately the unions defeated. No one can say that lady did not have a big impact. At some point I realised that long term investment and commitment was the way to get where I wanted to go and eventually, as much by luck as endeavour I ended up as a business owner.

That’s a conservative ideal right there but I’ve never really classified myself as such politically. I’ve never wanted to pigeon hole my views on the same spectrum as everyone else basically. Although I’ve voted for both parties at different times, I never had much confidence in either big party, never had the urge, or time or patience to become involved in politics. Although I find politics always interesting and entertaining any hilarity stems from ridicule rather than celebration.

Theres an inherent problem affecting UK and many other places, too many people, and have to include myself in the group, are happy just to complain about government rather than to take direct action, by getting involved in politics to do it themselves. The irony is that the complainers are usually infinitely more capable than the career politicians.

Politics has changed? No, politics is just the same, it’s the people that have changed.

Its a poor attempt at plausibility

Back on 1 July 2020 I posted this in fb together with an article from Canada Free Press…..

CDC admits that it’s figures are made up…
Cause of death may not be Covid….
When this is considered together with the massive number of false positive tests the death stats can only be hugely inflated….
It’s no worse than the seasonal flu…

I promptly got advised that this was incorrect and the post was blanked accordingly….

But now everyone has accepted that Covid deaths include ‘died with Covid’ and are not only ‘died of Covid’ (as to whether there are any of the latter is not my point here)

My point is the agenda has moved….as one lie was exposed, another took it’s place. In this case, believe it or not the Covid scare has ceased to depend on deaths at all but has been continued purely on the back of the numbers of positive test cases…..seems perfectly acceptable to many by all accounts.

This gives FB a real problem which I can’t resist dwelling on…it’s fact checkers are furiously nailing flags to masts only to learn that the agenda has changed and said nails cannot be removed…facts being facts and all that….

But the real point is, how can anyone believe in anything if firstly it’s doesn’t stand up to scrutiny, and secondly it keeps changing?

I continue to be disappointed by the numbers of people who have either not noticed this, or have noticed but don’t say anything or don’t even see it as a problem.

Is it only me who objects to being asked to eat bullshit? …..Continuously? …..For ever more?

Because it’s getting very clear that the hoax agenda has nothing to with Covid and everything to do with, control, freedom of movement, population control, freedom generally. Oh and profits for for a few lucky corporations. Its just that the spineless manipulators of the truth don’t want to discuss any of it they just want to deceive.


Censorship Comes in Degrees

Its like the famous logic riddle…..

A traveller is lost, gets to a fork in road where two brothers live, only one of whom is famous for being a compulsive liar.
So what is the one question the traveller should ask the brother to ensure he can determine the correct road?

The answer is…..if you were your brother which road would you advise me to take?

The moral is…. if you know something about the quality of information you are given you are able to deal with it.

Censorship has its uses, for example TV and movie content vi sa vi public decency laws etc. ie in plain sight and for good reason.

On the other hand if you are given to understand for example that Twitter is a simple peer to peer platform or that FB is simply a bulletin board, but it later transpires that actually they are not performing these roles, then users have effectively been deceived and mislead. In that case, especially if the removal and blockage of content has a political dimension, such censorship takes on different dimensions entirely.

Firstly because it is covert and because it is politically motivated, it is subverting democracy and contrary to fundamental free speech.

Another field day for the American legal profession…..at least they have plenty of good evidence!

A Bit Like FB is doing?

……was involved with “coordinated inauthentic behavior” targeting users in countries in sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America and Southeast Asia…..

“The people behind this network used groups of fake accounts to run pages, disseminate content and to act to artificially increase engagement and make the content more popular than it was,” he added.

Can FB any longer claim to ‘authentic?



OK, its worse than the 2018 Flu Season….but are the combative measures justified?


Mortality numbers are of a similar order of magnitude…

This is the first time ever that we have a global response to an epidemic….

Lock downs all over the place with the result that the world economy has slowed significantly. There are already massive bankruptcies of individual businesses and even sovereign economies.

There was a vaccine made available during the 2018 flu season….very quickly even if with hindsight it was deemed not very effective. So what will be the difference this time?? Maybe several vaccines will come available none of which we can expect be 100% effective and all of which will be available too late for many! ie no difference.

Origin of the Term ‘Chinese Wall’

A ‘Chinese Wall’ is a commercial term that means a virtual barrier that is applied within a company or organisation to maintain confidentiality between the two parts.

But is this term a comparison to the Great Wall of China? if so on what basis, and how did it originate?

In order to get to the bottom of this one it is first necessary to understand something of the history of the ‘Great Wall of China’ or more accurately the history of Chinese ‘Walls’

There is no doubt that China is famous for ‘The Great Wall’ but the first point to understand is that the picture postcard image of the wall that we usually associate with it is a relatively recent structure built during the Ming Dynasty and that wall building in China has a much longer tradition stretching back more than two thousand years before the construction of this most recent phase.

Many of the Chinese dynasties built or rebuilt walls for various reasons, the earlier ones to fortify smaller kingdoms that are now just regional boundaries in current day China. Later building was to lengthen, join up separate sections and to improve, and building on such a grandiose scale served to glorify and strengthen the dynasty as much as to provide physical defence.

The scale of the walls is without doubt impressive; at over 5000km total length and at many different separate locations they are still not all comprehensively mapped and surveyed, geographically let alone historically. Further sites are still being discovered and unearthed even today, the wall is monumental in years as well as in kilometers.

It is very likely that reports of Chinese walls got back to Europe from as early as the 13th century by way of the overland merchants and travellers using what we now call the Silk Road trading route. The Venetian Marco Polo is the most famous of these people however any mention of a ‘Great Wall’ is conspicuous by its absence from the chronicles he published and to which he owes his fame.

This absence can be explained in several ways, but the essential point is that at the time of his visit eight hundred years ago, the Ming Dynasty wall in the Beijing region which we are all now familiar with, had yet to be built. The term ‘the Great Wall’ is purely a western invention and was certainly not established in Marco Polo’s day.

Also his hosts, the Kublai Khan and the Han Dynasty were not wall builders at all but had effectively breached the wall built by earlier dynasties when they invaded from Mongolia in the north in order to gain power over the Chinese in the south. The walls would therefore not have been considered by his hosts as their own creation and may even have been viewed with some contempt. It is also likely that having ceased to serve any purpose almost one hundred years before, in many areas the walls were in a poor state of repair at the time of his travels in the 13th century.

During the Han Dynasty the walls took on new purposes and no longer performed purely as defensive structures. In some regions the walls became an important feature to exert control over the conquered Chinese, initially providing defence to the Chinese in the south against further attack from the uncivilised Mongols of the north in return for which taxes could be collected. Later the walls prevented travel and migration in both directions with the advantage that the dynasty could capitalise on the resultant trade. The walls provided a useful focus and means of communication for the governing organisation of the day.

With the benefit of this limited history it is now easier to see how the ‘Chinese Wall’ term has arisen:

If a company chooses to operate a Chinese wall, the workers and more junior management can be likened to people on opposite sides at the bottom of the wall. Each is able to manage its own part of the company in isolation but with complete privacy from the other part of the company on the other side of the opaque ‘wall’. The executive level of the company on the other hand, can be seen as stationed on top of the wall and because of this position, have complete vision and control over both company divisions below. They can if desired, facilitate limited communication between the two sides such that confidentiality is maintained but more importantly can exercise high level management to maintain the integrity of the Company.

This arrangement closely resembles the modern day features of a Chinese Wall arrangement and although whilst admittedly short of conclusive evidence provides a neat answer to the riddle.

It only remains to say that it is common knowledge in business that a Chinese wall, whilst often theoretically providing a solution, in practice is usually less successful and in some instances may be considered not appropriate. For example where legal confidentiality is required to avoid conflict of interest there is often a problem.

In its more general sense, the management structure of many modern day Asian companies and conglomerates feature a very deep, multi layered and firmly established hierarchy with a high degree of opacity laterally which can be said to feature the Chinese wall principle. This model is considered to provide managerial benefit even though it is not widely promoted under western style management principles.

Delusions of Growth

Growth is the word that gets used more often than any other in economics reporting and in some respects we have lost sight of the fundamentals behind it.

It refers to GDP (Gross Domestic Product). This is the value of ‘the’ economy. Or could be compared to the turnover of a company. Growth is the annualised increase in GDP usually expressed as a %.

Although it’s a figure that is calculated and should therefore simply be a factual result of the millions of activities that make up the economy, it has taken on a much bigger meaning. Even though what happens in the past should not necessarily be a guide to what happens in the future, growth and its forecast is nevertheless considered to be THE fundamental indicator for future financial planners both individual and government as well as for assessing the general health of the economy and supporting the currency.

If we are growing, our living standard is improving or at least not declining, we can relax, maybe even invest in the future. Growth has become our comfort blanket, our security for the future, an assurance.

Western economies have apparently enjoyed almost uninterrupted economic growth certainly for living memory and even recessionary interruptions have not broken the relentless upward trend. This underlying expectation of growth remains the base assumption of economists, and most other commentators, but is it all true?

If we start to examine the fundamentals, the cracks start to appear.

Compounding theory shows that indefinite growth is not possible and that long term growth should not be expected.

If an economy has a 10% annual growth rate, after 10 years the increase in GDP would be more than one and a half times (1.59) the size of the original GDP. For a developing economy where workers are moving from agriculture to industrial production such an increase is possible but for a developed industrialised economy, most unlikely.

If that 10% year on year growth continues for 50 years, the increase in GDP would be more than one hundred and sixteen times (116.39) the size of the original GDP which if prices are consistent is clearly impossible. Most of that increase is the result of compounding and not growth. If the amount of the initial 10% is maintained, the increase after 50 years would be only five times the size of the original GDP which equates to a year on year increase of only 3.5%.

Therefore for a consistent yearly increase in GDP the growth % declines year on year according to the compounding principle. This factor rarely gets a mention by economists and statisticians who seem to assume that past growth should be the baseline for the future.

In practice the annual increment is unlikely to be consistent and an initial high growth % would naturally significantly reduce to less than 5% after industrialisation very much as we have witnessed with China over the past 20 years.

Growth is not equal to increased living standard and despite the many report to the contrary, there is no link. GDP per capita indicates living standard and of course depends on population size as well as GDP.

If the components of GDP are considered together with the propensity for change in each case, a better indication of the current and future expectations for growth can be derived.

Component Past Change Expected Future Change
Production Has already peaked. Scope for increase is a function of available market which is necessarily limited Continued decline. Scope for increase is a function of available market which is necessarily limited
Population Most western economies have had declining endemic populations for some years and any increase is as a result of immigration only Unchanged trend
Employment Declining employment during the past 10 years due to improved technology, automation, globalisation etc. Unchanged trend
Price Increase of approximately 5% Year on Year Decrease

This raises some interesting points:

Production can only seriously be considered in the context of a globalised world. Demand is finite, production is finite and individual economies are competing within a finite market.

If immigration is taken into account, population should also be considered as finite in a global sense. Forecasts of population change are robust and are very unlikely to be significantly incorrect. Western governments in some cases have allowed populations to increase possibly to boost growth, clearly this strategy cannot be sustained for the long term.

Inflation is a vital element of growth and if prices do not continue to increase it will become impossible to maintain any plausible forecast of growth. This is why all western governments hate deflation so much and are effectively still deny its existence in many cases.

So for the western economies, all things being equal, unless markets and production can be significantly increased there is no reason to expect that growth will occur, in fact based on these ‘normal’ components the prognosis for growth doesn’t look good.

Of course the situation is actually much worse, because for the past 30 years growth has been bought and paid for with debt and would not have occurred otherwise. Successive governments have intentionally induced additional growth by borrowing and spending to promote consumer demand and investment. If that artificial stimulus effect is removed from the equation GDP has remained fairly constant, any increase being one or two % only for some of that period.

This would suggest that for a developed western economy sustained growth should never have been considered as inevitable and at the present time any further growth cannot be assumed.

So to complete the exercise it should remain to consider the ongoing effect on the growth to western economies, given the reduction / cessation of artificial government stimulus and possible negative stimulus due to repayment of debt. Of course negative growth is no longer growth but shrinkage. The extent is unknown and there are no established parameters for prediction but based on the above fundamentals, and with no artificial stimulus, it would appear that GDP’s of western economies will reduce at least for a period of several years and possibly for a period commensurate with the period over which artificial stimulus has been applied.

Therefore based on the above there has been no real growth for the past 30 years and we have been lied to or misinformed by governments and economists alike who may or may not have been deluding themselves as well as us.

It is also inevitable that in the years to come, growth will be viewed increasingly as a crude and irrelevant indicator.

Greenhouse Gas Emission Statistics:

I thought it would be interesting to have a look at who (internationally) were the biggest polluters or to spin it positively, the most environmentally responsible. There has been so much talk and so many failed treaties, but is it possible to remove the rhetoric and see which nations are actually in a position to be able to preach to the others?

To approach this from the perspective of individual responsibility, one of the key issues must be to separate emissions caused by industrial activity from those caused by individuals. I fully accept that this approach will attract some criticism because, of course we are all ultimately responsible for the well-being of the planet be it directly or indirectly. Anyway still worth trying.

Well, some interesting conclusions, but I can say now that I wasn’t really able to get a satisfactory answer.

Comprehensive statistical data on emissions is produced by such organisations as World Bank, UN, IMF, CIA, etc.  So what can we learn from this?

Very difficult to make any conclusions without much more analysis.  Maybe it would help to consider some places I know something about to be able better discern some answers.  So I extracted data for four countries where I have variously lived and worked, UK, UAE, Malaysia and Philippines.

These places have totally different profiles not only in terms of Greenhouse emissions but also, population, industrialisation, exports, etc. etc.   We can also get stats for GDP and service sector GDP together with population.  Still not possible to get a realistic answer but maybe we can an indication if we calculate the emissions per capita based on the non-industrialised part of the economy.  That’s about as close as we can get based on this data.

The Table is here:

Featured image


Several really…..

  1. Its not possible to get a reliable answer from the available data. None of the organisations collecting this data have a core interest that is remotely close to this subject, maybe that starts to explain why the available stats are not at all focused on it.  Surely that has to change if we are to really address the related problems by getting to the real causes and monitoring any progress and if necessary to hold governments / organisations / people accountable.
  2. My statistical analysis skills are severely limited.
  3. What a hugely complex problem this is.
  4. The available stats are a good start but they don’t really cut it…..Responsibility has to start on a personal level but all the stats are directed at government level and therefore anodyne and meaningless to individuals.

The Willys M38A1 Jeep

This is the story of my jeep.

In 2009 it transpired that my niece’s family were trying to upgrade transport and wanted to sell their old jeep, was I interested in getting it?  It had been used by them on the farm for ploughing in the rice paddies amongst other things. Here it is in its cleaned up condition ready for sale…..certainly not one careful previous owner!  Oh and there are no papers with it so no one knows much of its history.


At this point (as a Brit) I had absolutely no knowledge of Jeeps at all. Anyway for 80,000 Philippine Pesos it seemed like a worthwhile project.

My relatives kindly drove my new jeep down from Bulacan to Mindoro and it quickly became clear that it was far from road worthy, the brakes and radiator were completely useless and the clutch not much better.  It turned out that it had stayed in second gear for most of the journey to Mindoro with a big tank of spare water on board for fear of being able to stop or boil the engine.  So I knew there would be lots of good business for the local jeep repair guys as a result.

But more interesting for me was what had I bought and what was its history?  It was obviously 40+ years old and from the sticker on the windscreen had been owned by the Philippines Telecommunications Authority in its earlier life.  The big question was whether it is a CJ5 or the militarised version the M38A1? It turns out that there are lots of differences but to a non Jeepee bloke most of them were not immediately obvious.

The identification process was not helped by the fact that the vehicle ID plate has been removed and there have obviously been some serious modifications done to it over an obviously chequered history including possibly the CJ5 badge.   But given that we are in Philippines, I would have been surprised if this were not the case – the mods include:

  • Willys 2.2L petrol engine replaced with 2.5L Mitsubishi 4DR5 2.5L diesel
  • Steering column (1980s Japanese)
  • Battery compartment sealed up
  • Doors, rear hood and steel superstructure
  • One piece windscreen with wipers at the bottom not the top
  • Wheels and tyres
  • Exhaust altered
  • The chassis number is completely different to anything I have seen listed and might have been added locally

My enquiries to the ex-military jeep owners fraternity in the US got me absolutely nowhere as it became clear they were much more interested in trying to stop me (a non Yank) proving that it was a military grade 38A1 than to try to form any objective opinion. But thankfully there are some useful sites that list the differences and there is still much remaining evidence.

The most telling of these is that the electrical system including the regulator, starter motor ignition system etc. etc. is 24V.  It is also a fact that from a driver’s perspective it is quite heavy, more like driving a small truck than something car sized.

The good news is that I have now fixed most of the serious issues and have converted (sorry not restored) as appropriate for its ongoing use to carry people and other materials.




Anyway at this point I still do not know the exact year of manufacture although I have established that it is the M38A1 which were produced from  1952-1957. That makes my car older than me which is the first time that’s happened although I did get close once before with a 1963 MG Midget.

Some minor modifications made by November 1953 after Willys Overland was acquired by Kaiser in 1953 and became Willys Motors so this narrows it down to 1953 – 1957.  Some further details and old pictures of this model as follows:

  • This model is known as the ’round-fender’ Jeep that would eventually become the CJ5.
  • 101,488 units manufactured (80,290 domestic use / 21,198 foreign sales)
  • The M38A1 was modified as a platform for the 106mm recoilless rifle and was quite different that the CJ5, having a stronger chassis and reversed front spring shackles, in addition to the military accoutrements such as standardized GI instruments and a 24 volt electrical system.
  • Ford of Canada built the M38A1 CDN version as did Kaiser-Jeep.
  • Finally, an affiliate of Kaiser in Holland assembled M38A1 jeeps in Rotterdam using US-made parts.
  • The M38A1 military jeep was replaced in the 1960s by the M151 jeep.
  • In the US Military it was known as the quarter Ton Jeep since its inception in 1941 as one of the preparations for the USA’s entry into WW2
  • Quarter Ton was the payload, this model actually weighed 1.2T in its original form with a design payload of about half a Ton.

1952 Willys M38A11955m38a1small1975 Model SWB J26 Mitsubishi Jeep which is based on the CJ3B



The history of the Jeep is another long story in its self, originally commissioned by the US army in 1941 it involves many famous American car brands including Bantam, Willys, Ford, Kaiser, AMC and Chrysler.

Although probably not related to this particular Jeep the M38A1C was the version equipped with the M40A1 and M40A2 recoilless rifle. These were used extensively by the USMC including in Vietnam, the Dominican Republic and Egypt.  Its design included a parallel mounted M-8C .50 cal. spotting rifle. Rounds provided were HEAT, high explosive plastic-tracer (HEP-T), and antipersonnel-tracer (AP-T) (flechette) rounds.



This is a serious weapon, it is 3.4m long and weighed 209kg and has a range of 6,870m and can pierce 400mm of armour. It is the same weapon as the six that were fitted to the Gavin ONTOS tank.  I was interested to know whether such a big calibre weapon could really be recoilless when mounted on a relatively small Jeep? There are many youtube  of it being used, mainly in testing / marketing demo as it still features in the armoury of many militaries around the world and the answer judging by the videos seems to be yes!


The Manila Galleon

By the time Rey Lopez de Villalobos landed in Leyte and declared the Philippines to be Spanish in 1542, Spain should have known only too well of the immense distance and perilous journey between Sevilla Spain and Philippines and the difficulties that this would present for communication and provisioning of Spanish settlers in the years to come.

More than 20 years before his landing, in 1521 Magellan had landed in Philippines having left Europe in 1519 and sailed via Cape Horn and, although Magellan got killed, what was left of his fleet completed the circumnavigation of the globe arriving back in Spain to report the news almost three years later. Garcia Jofre de Loyasa’s expedition left Spain in 1525 and also took the long sea route via Cape Horn where three ships were lost to storms. Loyasa died before reaching Philippines. Saavedra’s expedition reached Philippines in 1527 having sailed from New Spain (Mexico) and was successful only in as much that it rescued  120 survivors of former expeditions.

No settlement had been established over a twenty year period and it looked fairly certain that the journey between Spain and its new colony would always be problematic. However by 1540s Spain had become well established in Mexico and essentially it was logical for the administration in ‘New Spain’ to handle further journeys to the Philippinas vicariously on behalf of the mother land. Legazpi’s expedition sailed from Navidad New Spain (Mexico) in 1564 and Spaniards arrived at Cebu in numbers where long term plans were made. Later in 1571 his settlers transferred their base to Manila and thus began what has become to be known as the ‘Manila Galleon Trade’ which continued relentlessly for another two hundred and fifty years.

The 15,000 mile journey from Spain consisted of three separate parts. First a two month voyage from Sevilla on the Mediterranean coast via Havana to Veracruz on the eastern seaboard of Mexico. Then a months journey across land by mule train via Mexico city to Acapulco on the western seaboard.

Last and certainly not least there was massive unbroken sea journey across the pacific between New Spain and Manila Philippines this was at least three months on the way out to Manila but approximately six months for the return trip due to sailing against the trade winds.

To put this huge distance in perspective, London to Sydney Australia being the longest direct passenger service is only 11,000 miles and even now in the days of jet travel the flights still takes 23 hours! The Manila Galleon journey has the record as the longest distance trade route in history, it must also rank as the route with the longest journey time and probably the most complex and arduous. Given that it persisted for 250 years it also must be among the longest ongoing term for any unchanged trading route.

The route was necessary not only for provisioning of manufactured goods from Spain to the newly settled Philippinas but also for any communication in between. From Spain to Manila this would take six to eight months  however the return trip could take almost a year due to the direction of the Pacific trade winds.  Logistically this meant that a round trip for example to receive a response to a communication would be more likely to take three years due to mismatch between seasonal departure and arrival times of each leg of the journey. Clearly these time scales are based on successful voyages, but the reality was that significant risks were posed from bad weather, perilous seas, navigational error, piracy by the Portuguese, Dutch or British, mutiny of the crew and any other mis-hap that could beset a galleon.

Over the years many hundreds of these boats were lost to the seas along with passengers, crew and cargo. Most of the Manila Galleons were built in Philippines and crewed by Philippinos. These were huge ships that needed between three and four hundred crew in addition they would carry passengers and three hundred tons of cargo. Compared to modern ships, they were short and tall and the forty foot draft was a real hazard in shallow waters especially the coral reefs around the Philippines. Several galleons almost completed the voyage only to get wrecked just before arriving in Manila in the treacherous rip tides between the islands.

The “trade” was multi purpose and its economics are still poorly understood. Certainly there was a buoyant market for all sorts of Asian goods in Europe and also in New Spain.  Many goods were exported in this way including silks, fabrics and ceramics manufactured in China, local good and spices, together with products from other places in Asia including laquerware from Japan, jewels and cottons from Indochina etc.  Manila and some of the other Philippines islands had been trading with visiting ships from the surrounding places such as Fujian, Mallacca, Thailand and Japan since before the Spanish arrived.  Thus the additional outlet for the goods enhanced trade. Many of the goods would be sold to merchants in a huge fair just outside Acapulco after arriving in New Spain which was keenly attended from all around. On the return leg there were no doubt goods from Europe not obtainable locally, but the key ingredient was cash in the form of silver originating in the mines of Peru and other parts of South America which of course was used to pay for the return cargo. So Manila became something of a trading entre port in 16th and 17th Century South East Asia.

But irrespective of whether the trade was good or bad and there are conflicting opinions on this; Manila never turned into a Hong Kong, or at least there is little evidence now that the trade has added significantly to the long term wealth of Philippines. This seems to be for a variety of reasons including the following:

  • Most of the Spanish posted to Philippines had objectives other than to profit from trading. They were mainly either salaried bureaucrats responsible to government or otherwise missionaries interested in religious teaching and conversion.
  • There were relatively few Spanish settlers in Philippines, probably around 5,000 who remained relatively separate and unintegrated. This limited any growth of a home market for goods from a wealthy middle class.
  • There was no available skills base in Philippines that could be used to manufacture goods for export or to add value to goods being traded although later production of sugar, tobacco and coffee was started.
  • To some extent the trade was one way traffic. In the early years at least there was an insatiable demand for the Asian goods that were landed in New Spain together with a ready supply of silver. However there was no equivalent impetus for the return cargo given that gold or silver or any other means to pay in Philippines was limited to the wealth of individual traders.
  • The trade in silks and some other goods was not always profitable due to competition from elsewhere and volatility in the supply of silver.
  • Expansion of the trade both to New Spain and other parts of the Spanish Empire was limited by the Spanish government probably to protect industry in New Spain and Peru. The number of sailings in a year was limited to one in 1587.
  • Philipinnes never became a separate Viceroyalty under the Spanish Empire but was administered by the Viceroy of New Spain whose interests of course were principally for the betterment of New Spain and this to some extent, conflicted with the interests of both Spain and Philippines.
  • Other trading partners also adopted protectionist and restrictive trade policies especially Japan and China.
  • Many Chinese settled in Manila in order to profit from the trade. Although they were tolerated and well utilised by the Spanish they were not considered to have equal resident status and therefore much of their wealth ended up in China.
  • Many of the merchants from New Spain would travel to Philippines in order to make their trade directly with the foreign merchant, thus the Philippinos were effectively cut out of the trade.
  • Manila as a port began to get a reputation for being overly bureaucratic and risky in terms of piracy, theft and corruption.

That said the Manila Galleon played a crucial role in establishing Spanish dominion in the late 16th and early 17th Century as well as in supporting growth of Philippines by supplying sought after goods from Europe and the outside.

Strangely when in Philippines it is still easy to sense that there is a distance from the outside world. Maybe its due to modern day restrictions on imported goods both legislative and to some extent contrived by the still uncontrolled customs authorities. Or possibly due to the fact that Manila has never become a transportation hub either by air or sea, and remains a destination port.  Most likely its because Philippinos up and down the place are quite content with the way they are and are in no hurry to emulate any other place in the world. Bravo them!

But there are other modern day carry overs from this story….. One is that Philippinos make up a big proportion of officers and crew in the merchant navies and cruise ships all around the world after the sea faring tradition was well and truly embedded all those years ago. Another one could be the fact that as a result of its sea faring exploits, over the years Philippines more than any other country, has been supported by its overseas workers often to the tune of between 10 and 20% of GDP. Also Philippino overseas workers everywhere, to a man (and woman), make a point of sending home to the family a box of goods at least once a year usually for Christmas. The famous Balikbayan Box, legendary throughout Philippines. Is this out of necessity or tradition? Well I’m sure there are plenty of cases of necessity and of course as part of the spirit of Christmas, but although I’m not a Philippino I’m sure its not easy to forget that Philippines throughout its history has been reliant on provisions being put on board for that once yearly voyage and deep down somewhere in that culture there is still a belief that it continues to be necessary.