Friday, December 10, 2021

stop saying America is an empire

For years, I have rejected the "America is an empire" analogy. Rome's and America's respective situations are disparate in deep and fundamental ways. For example, America doesn't demand that tribute be paid by conquered lands, with the money flowing through garrison-outposts to the imperial center. Yes, America has military bases around the world, but those bases aren't centers of tribute. If anything, the locals often protest in front of American bases, and American soldiers do nothing to repress those protests. How is this in any way imperial? I grant that America may have gone through something like an imperial phase earlier in its history, but it left the track of empire long ago. Today's America is not an empire and has not been one for years. And thanks to Dr. V, I now know that thinker and author Michael Anton supports my contention:

In Rome’s case, its government formally made the transition from republic to empire after a long expansion that bloated the treasury, increased the size and power of the military, concentrated wealth in the hands of a few who controlled not just the economy but the government, and impoverished ordinary citizens. While much of that may sound familiar, much is different, making the analogy (like all such historical comparisons) inexact. Rome conquered and directly administered territory throughout the entire Mediterranean basin and over most of the (then-) known world. America’s “empire,” by contrast, is quasi-metaphoric or at the very least indirect; the only external territories of any consequence it controls are Puerto Rico and Guam. Then there are all the differences in religion, philosophy, society, economics, technology, and so on, far too numerous to list. (One might also ask: where’s our bloated treasury?)

America has yet formally to transform (if it ever will) from republic to empire. Yet in all important respects, our country is no longer a republic, much less a democracy, but rather a kind of hybrid corporate-administrative oligarchy. This lack of formal transition causes some to speculate that America is in the “late republican” stage, with the republic (it is alleged, or hoped) soon to fall to a “Caesar.” Those who assert that the transition, however informal its appearance, has already happened are more likely to place America in the “late imperial” stage, i.e., much closer to total collapse and replacement by an entirely new order.

Be sure to read the rest.

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