III: Melon

How Jean-François Melon predicted the Cold War

tridi, the 3rd of Thermidor, Year CCXXXI
The much maligned honeydew melon. Photo by Moonstone Designs / Unsplash

Good morning. Today is tridi, the 3rd of Thermidor, Year CCXXXI. We celebrate le melon, a sweet and juicy gourd.

We meet the more traditional sweet orange melon later this year, so let's take a moment to appreciate the sheer variety of the muskmelon, to which both honeydew and cantaloupe belong. There are long, bent yellow melons called, you guessed it, banana melons; red-and-green striped melons like a beach ball called kajari; rare cucumber-looking melons that get pickled and served in soups in Korea called wolgwa; melons with a rose-pink flesh called galia; and a Turkish melon with orange, yellow, and black striped called tiger melons.

Jean-François Melon was an economist who pushed forward the frontiers of capitalist thought in a way that echoes today but also teed up the great debate about economic liberty that eventually created the French revolution. His stance, in short, was that luxuries are a necessary component of a strong nation, and that free trade in staple commodities would help an economy achieve more luxuries. While this theory has underpinned the dominant economic policies of the United States for the duration of its existence, it had a particularly warped view when proposed at the start of the 18th century, when a luxury-obsessed monarchy dominated France and England fought with tremendous military might against any notion of free trade. One generation's situational political positions became an unquestioned economic philosophy for a powerful nation state centuries later.