Various Stages of Empire, Including Collapse
Various Stages of Empire, Including Collapse by Wendy McElroy via ZeroHedge
The Roman Empire never doubted that it was the defender of civilization. Its good intentions were peace, law and order. The Spanish Empire added salvation. The British Empire added the noble myth of the white man’s burden. We have added freedom and democracy.
– Garet Garrett, Rise of Empire
The first step in creating Empire is to morally justify the invasion and occupation of another nation even if it poses no credible or substantial threat. But if that’s the entering strategy, what is the exit one?
One approach to answering is to explore how Empire has arisen through history and whether the process can be reversed. Another is to conclude that no exit is possible; an Empire inevitably self-destructs under the increasing weight of what it is — a nation exercising ultimate authority over an array of satellite states. Empires are vulnerable to overreach, rebellion, war, domestic turmoil, financial exhaustion, and competition for dominance.
In his monograph Rise of Empire, the libertarian journalist Garet Garrett (1878–1954), lays out a blueprint for how Empire could possibly be reversed as well as the reason he believes reversal would not occur. Garrett was in a unique position to comment insightfully on the American empire because he’d had a front-row seat to events that cemented its status: World War II and the Cold War. World War II America already had a history of conquest and occupation, of course, but, during the mid to late 20th century, the nation became a self-consciously and unapologetic empire with a self-granted mandate to spread its ideology around the world.
A path to reversing Empire
Garrett identifies the first five components of Empire:
- the dominance of executive power: the White House reigns over Congress and the judiciary.
- the subordination of domestic concerns to foreign policy: civil and economic liberties give way to military needs.
- the rise of a military mentality: aggressive patriotism and obedience are exalted.
- a system of satellite nations in the name of collective security;
- and a zeitgeist of both zealous patriotism and fear: bellicosity is mixed with and sustained by panic.
These are not sequential stages of Empire but occur in conjunction with one another and reinforce each other. That means that an attempt to reverse Empire in the direction of a Republic can begin with weakening any of the five characteristics in any order.
Garrett did not directly address the strategy of undoing Empire but his description of its creation can be used to good advantage. The first step is to break down each component of Empire into more manageable chunks. For example, the executive branch accumulates power in various ways. They include:
- By delegation — Congress transfers its constitutional powers to the president.
- By reinterpretation of the Constitution by a sympathetic Supreme Court.
- Through innovation by which the president assumes powers that are not constitutionally forbidden because the Framers never considered them.
- By administrative agencies that issue regulations with the force of law.
- Through usurpation — the president confronts Congress with a fait accompli that cannot easily be repudiated.
- Entanglement in foreign affairs makes presidential power swell because, both by tradition and the Constitution, foreign affairs are his authority.
Deconstructing these executive props, one by one, weakens the Empire. When all five components are deconstructing, the process presents a possible path to dissolving Empire itself.
A sixth component of Empire
But in Rise of Empire, Garet Garrett offers a chilling assessment based on his sixth component of Empire. There is no path out. A judgment that renders prevention all the more essential.
That was why Garrett does not deal with how to reverse the process of Empire. Once an empire is established, he argues, it becomes a “prisoner of history” in a trap of its own making. He writes, “A Republic may change its course, or reverse it, and that will be its own business. But the history of Empire is a world history and belongs to many people. A Republic is not obliged to act upon the world, either to change it or instruct it. Empire, on the other hand, must put forth its power.”
In his book For A New Liberty, Murray Rothbard expands on Garrett’s point: “[The] United States, like previous empires, feel[s] itself to be ‘a prisoner of history.’ For beyond fear lies ‘collective security,’ and the playing of the supposedly destined American role upon the world stage.”
Collective security and fear are intimately connected concepts. It is no coincidence that the sixth component of Empire — imprisonment — comes directly after the two components of “a system of satellite nations” and, “a complex of vaunting and fear.”
“We speak of our own satellites as allies and friends or as freedom loving nations,” Garrett wrote.
“Nevertheless, satellite is the right word. The meaning of it is the hired guard.” Why hired? Although men of Empire speak of losing China [or] Europe … [how] could we lose China or Europe, since they never belonged to us? What they mean is that we … may lose a following of dependent people who act as an outer guard.”