Last week on The Glenn Beck Show on the Fox News Channel, Glenn interviewed Chris Stewart, who co-authored The Miracle of Freedom: 7 Tipping Points That Saved the World with Ted Stewart. The book lists 7 moments in history, from the Assyrians failed attempt to conquer Judah through the Battle of Britain as key points in time where human liberty hung in the balance. Chris Stewart discussed with Glenn Beck how precious and scarce freedom is. Of an estimated 125 billion humans whom have lived on Earth since the dawn of time, barely 5% of the population have known any form of liberty. Currently, only 22 nations that are based on individual liberty have lasted more than 50 years. While Beck was disappointed that the Stewart brothers left out the American Revolution, I am disappointed that they left out one of my favorite periods of history, The 30 Years War.

The Thirty Years War lasted from 1618 until 1648. As a young lad, I purchased a subscription to Strategy & Tactics Magazine published by Simulations Publications, Inc, or SPI. Each bi-monthly issue included a complete war game, which consisted of a paper map, die-cut cardboard counters and a rules book. The very first issue I received was #55, The Battle of Breitenfeld fought in 1631, which pitted the Holy Roman Empire led by the Catholic Emperor, Ferdinand II of the Hapsburg family against the Protestant Swedish king, Gustavus Adolphus, pictured below.

Gustavus Adolphus at the Battle at Breitenfeld

I suppose what initially sparked my fondness for this particular war was how it all started. A group of Calvinists, upset over the election of Ferdinand II by the Bohemian Diet, revolted and tossed two Catholic members of the royal council out a window into a pile of manure some 70 feet below. The infamous Defenestration of Prague even later became a joke on the cartoon series, The Simpsons, as Lisa used it as a clue to unveil the false Bart in their version of The Prince and The Pauper.

All humor aside, The 30 Years War was no laughing matter. It bled Europe white, causing a percentage of casualties more closely resembling the bubonic plague than our concept of war. In some regions, 30% or more of the population was wiped out in the carnage. It was bloodier in terms of percentages than even World Wars One and Two. For you Three Musketeer fans, this was the period where nasty old Cardinal Richelieu was playing his brand of treacherous politics. The war steadily evolved from a family squabble in some backwoods German states, to a full-fledged fight between Catholics and Protestants and finally into the first real war between nation states in Europe.

This was the early age of gunpowder. While cannons had been used for several centuries in the form of giant siege weapons, The Thirty Years War is really the first major conflict involving armies equipped with musket-bearing soldiers and maneuverable field artillery. King Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden introduced a major innovation, having a training manual published with pictures showing each step involved in the loading and firing of a musket. This reduced the training time for ‘men-at-arms’ from years down to months. Most armies still relied heavily on the use of pikemen, armed with 16-foot long can-openers for dealing with armored cavalry. But the era of massive hand-to-hand battles with swords and such had been replaced forever by musketeers.

So why is this a great moment in liberty? The Protestants won in the end. Sweden emerged as a superpower for a short time, dominating northeastern Europe. The Hapsburg family was effectively pushed out of northern central Europe. Spain, which was part of the Hapsburg empire, became physically isolated, losing its territorial holdings east of France. But most importantly, two new nations emerged from the carnage, Switzerland and the Netherlands.

Today, when we think of free-wheeling, free-market peoples in Europe, the Dutch and the Swiss immediately pop into our minds. The Dutch in the 17th Century were the Kings of Capitalism. Adam Smith may never have written his tomes on economics had it not been for the fact that the English invited a Dutch prince to be their king after England was flat broke. Part of the deal was adopting many Dutch economic innovations, including their banking system, futures, stock and bond markets, and insurance companies, all designed for investors to take risks and get rich. As for the Swiss, what more really needs to be said? Until very recently, Switzerland was THE place to bank your cash in if you wanted the maximum in privacy. Your name, gender, background and politics do not matter, only your account number!

So, thanks to The 30 Years War, the economic freedom known as Capitalism was born as the conflict led to the independence of two new nations, Switzerland and The Netherlands. The bloodiest war in Europe′s history helped advance the cause of individual liberty. Had things gone the other way, we might still today be locked into a system of aristocrats and monarchs, loaded with religious oppression. Not unlike that which still exists in many Islamic nations.