The dominant orthodoxy concludes that the American Revolutionary War could have been fought better without the Articles of Confederation’s voluntary payments system. However a noteworthy contribution that partly qualifies this conclusion is Keith Dougherty’s Collective Action under the Articles of Confederation. Dougherty finds that since states returned 41% of the money requisitions requested for the federal treasury between 1782 and 1789 and 53% of the men levied for the Continental army from 1777 to 1783, there was superficially a free rider problem (elsewhere, he cites historical research from Carp and Rische indicates that the continental military lacked supplies and numbers to buttress the finding that there was underprovision of defence).
Dougherty qualifies his finding, however, by noting that even though 100% of the requisitions requested were not fulfilled, the amounts contributed are still more than the pure theory of free riding would predict should have been contributed given the circumstances. The level of contributions can be explained with reference to a mixture of private and public interests; essentially, states contributed to the federal government when they felt that local interests would be benefited in doing so rather than primarily out of a sense of patriotism or civic duty to the confederation: ‘The system of requisitions did not give the states incentive to contribute to the confederation and the states contributed for other reasons’.
An alternative perspective is put forward by Russell Sobel, who disputes Dougherty’s implication that the Articles were an inferior method of financing. Sobel claims, firstly, that a low rate of collection from the states does not prove that the Articles had serious problems because the low rate reflects differing collection methods during the 1700s. Both during colonial times and under the Articles, liberty was given higher priority, and taxes were paid mostly by conscientious and patriotic citizens rather than exacted through force. For this reason the states themselves collected less than 50% of the taxes they levied on their own citizens, and consequently their failure to pass on large requisitions to the federal government is understandable in light of the fact that the efficiency of taxation was not as well developed as in the twenty first century. Second, due to the foregoing reason it is unlikely that even if a system of centralised direct taxation had been in place during the Revolutionary War that it would have raised vastly improved quantities of revenue. It was only during the 1860s that the Commission of Internal Revenue was established to administer the collection of taxation. Sobel points to the experience with direct taxation in 1798, which raised only half of the total amount due, as proof that no system could have raised large amounts of revenue during that period of history.
 Jack Rakove, ‘The Collapse of the Articles of Confederation’ in Jackson, Leonard and Masugi, The American Founding: Essays on the Formation of the Constitution (Greenwood Press, 1988) 225-45; Calvin Jillson and Rick Wilson, Congressional Dynamics: Structure, Coordination and Choice in the First American Congress, 1774-1789 (Stanford University Press, 1994) 239.
 W.E. Carp, To starve the army at pleasure (University of North Carolina Press, 1984); E. Risch, Supplying Washington’s army (Center of Military History, 1981).
 Keith Dougherty, ‘Defending the Articles of Confederation: a response to Sobel’ (2001) 109 Public Choice 141, 146.
 Russell Sobel, ‘In defence of the Articles of Contribution and the contribution mechanism as a means of government finance: A general comment on the literature’ (1999) 99 Public Choice 347-56.
Kogan.com.au (I once received a damaged product in the mail from them)
Logie Law (firm defending the insurance company that refused to accept liability and forced us to sue them despite the prima facie evidence being against them. Ultimately we won after much hassle)
Doogue & O'Brien Criminal Lawyers
Paul Horvath Solicitor
GYM AND FITNESS
Fitness First (stay away from their personal trainers. If you must use a trainer, insist on paying cash for each session, don't sign up to an automatic direct debit as they'll try to overcharge you)
McDonalds Australia (their Monopoly competition wasn't run honestly)
Jian Yao (Box Hill South; you may not get your bond back)
The Second Continental Congress selected George Washington as commander-in-chief of the Continental Army in June 1773, largely based on his past reputation from the French and Indian war. There are two schools of thought on Washington’s strategy. Early scholarship portrays Washington as a hero and awards high marks ‘likening his strategy to that of the renowned ancient Roman general Fabius, who defeated the invading Carthaginians, under Hannibal, by refusing battle and eventually wearing them down’.
From the 1900s however, an increasing number described Washington as making amateurish mistakes and owing his success to blunders by the British and luck. David Palmer describes the mainstream of historical literature in the latter half of the twentieth century as holding the view that American strategy in the Revolutionary War was essentially ‘one-dimensional – defensive’. Palmer cites John Alden (‘The Americans had only to keep the field until Britain should tire of the struggle’), Douglas Freeman (‘Washington’s strategy had to be patiently defensive’) and North Callahan (Americans ‘did not really win the war but Britain lost it mainly to circumstances rather than the American enemy’), among others, as evidence of mainstream opinion.
Assessments of Washington’s strategic prowess in the twenty first century have tended to praise him for holding the army together in spite of a lack of resources but have concluded that he was not a gifted general. He understood geographic factors and was careful never to let his troops become trapped without prospect of retreat. A popular strategy was to direct ‘hit and run’ attacks against British outposts and supply depots. In later years of the war for independence, Washington kept his forces mobile as he believed this would make them less vulnerable than stationing in one location.
Overall, the strategies utilised by Americans were those appropriate to a weaker power facing a formidable British foe with a powerful navy. The Americans could not match the British in terms of tactics or discipline, lacking battle experience and numerous professional soldiers. So they avoided meeting equal size British armies on the battlefield and simply tried to target smaller contingents and wear out British political will.
The question is whether the Americans could have won the war without assistance from the French, while simultaneously employing a decentralised financing system under the Articles. Of this there is some doubt in the literature, with Russel Weigley believing that only an active minority of the population supported the revolutionary cause and that the Continental Army was not equipped for a prolonged conflict without foreign aid. Nevertheless there are some who believe that given majority political support among the population a smaller, weaker force could defeat a superior power through waging war unconventionally via guerilla tactics and making it economically unviable for the superior power to continue fighting. There is no settled answer in the studies to date on this question.
 Dave Palmer, George Washington’s Military Genius (Regnery Publishing, 2012) xii.
 Ibid xiii.
 See, e.g., David McCullough, 1776 (Simon & Schuster, 2005) 293 (acknowledges Washington held the Continental army together ‘in the most desperate of times’ but says he ‘was not a brilliant strategist or tactician’).
 Russell Weigley, The American Way of War: A History of United States Military Strategy and Policy (Indiana University Press, 1973) 5.
 Jörg Guido Hülsmann in Hans-Hermann Hoppe (ed), The Myth of National Defense (Ludwig von Mises Institute, 2003) 411: ‘Thus, it might be that the Southern United States lost the War of Secession because it relied on conventional warfare, whereas it would have been better advised to choose a guerilla strategy’.