by Dr. Paul Craig Roberts
March 26, 2012
About Dr. Paul Craig Roberts
Paul Craig Roberts was Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for
Economic Policy and associate editor of the Wall Street Journal. He
was columnist for Business Week, Scripps Howard News Service, and
Creators Syndicate. He has had many university appointments. His
internet columns have attracted a worldwide following.
Great empires, such as the Roman and British, were extractive.
The empires succeeded, because the value of the
resources and wealth extracted from conquered lands exceeded the value of
conquest and governance. The reason Rome did not extend its empire east into
Germany was not the military prowess of Germanic tribes but Rome’s
calculation that the cost of conquest exceeded the value of extractable
The Roman empire failed, because Romans exhausted manpower and resources in
civil wars fighting amongst themselves for power. The British empire failed,
because the British exhausted themselves fighting Germany in two world wars.
In his book,
The Rule of Empires (2010), Timothy H. Parsons
replaces the myth of the civilizing empire with the truth of the extractive
He describes the successes of,
...in extracting resources.
To lower the cost of governing Kenya, the
British instigated tribal consciousness and invented tribal customs that
worked to British advantage.
Parsons does not examine the American empire, but in his introduction to the
book he wonders whether America’s empire is really an empire as the
Americans don’t seem to get any extractive benefits from it.
years of war and attempted occupation of Iraq, all Washington has for its
efforts is several trillion dollars of additional debt and no Iraqi oil.
After ten years of trillion dollar struggle
against the Taliban in Afghanistan, Washington has nothing to show for it
except possibly some
part of the drug trade that can be used to fund covert
America’s wars are very expensive.
Obama have doubled the national debt,
and the American people have no benefits from it. No riches, no bread and
circuses flow to Americans from Washington’s wars.
So what is it all about?
The answer is that Washington’s empire extracts resources from the American
people for the benefit of the few powerful interest groups that rule
...use the government to extract resources from Americans to serve
their profits and power.
The US Constitution has been extracted in the
interests of the Security State, and Americans’ incomes have been redirected
to the pockets of the 1 percent. That is how the American Empire functions.
The New Empire is different. It happens without achieving conquest. The
American military did not conquer Iraq and has been forced out politically
by the puppet government that Washington established. There is no victory in
Afghanistan, and after a decade the American military does not control the
In the New Empire success at war no longer matters. The extraction takes
place by being at war. Huge sums of American taxpayers’ money have flowed
into the American armaments industries and huge amounts of power into
The American empire works by stripping Americans of
wealth and liberty.
This is why the wars cannot end, or if one does end another starts. Remember
when Obama came into office and was asked what the US mission was in
Afghanistan? He replied that he did not know what the mission was and that
the mission needed to be defined.
Obama never defined the mission. He renewed the Afghan war without telling
us its purpose. Obama cannot tell Americans that the purpose of the war is
to build the power and profit of the military/security complex at the
expense of American citizens.
This truth doesn’t mean that the objects of American military aggression
have escaped without cost. Large numbers of Muslims have been bombed and
murdered and their economies and infrastructure ruined, but not in order to
extract resources from them.
It is ironic that under the New Empire the citizens of the empire are
extracted of their wealth and liberty in order to extract lives from the
targeted foreign populations.
Just like the bombed and murdered Muslims, the
American people are victims of the American empire.
The Cost of Building and...
Operating Empire (USA)
by David Redick
August 31, 2010
A Constitutional Republic such as the USA
depends on constant vigilance by its citizens to prevent takeover by the
always present self-serving power seekers in our midst.
Our citizens have become lazy in this regard,
and our government's orientation toward empire, spending, corruption, and
war are the bitter fruit of this neglect.
We got into our present economic and moral mess in the same way most nations
in history have:
In order to get more re-election votes, campaign
donations, wealth, and power, it has become "normal" for our leaders and
Congresspersons to support:
Expensive, unconstitutional, programs
Counterproductive distortions of the
Non-defense wars for Empire based on
Many of their votes in Congress are to serve
their friends and campaign donors, not We The People.
Our Federal government, and most states, have
gone far astray and need to be restored to their proper roles in compliance
with their constitutions. States rights have withered as power, control and
funding move to D.C., where the (fake) money is.
We have all the traits of a failing empire as
briefly stated in the three points below.
Our once productive economy has been
weakened by fake money (Federal Reserve notes made from thin air,
with no intrinsic value) that allows us to spend like crazy on wars
and welfare, and import most of the goods we once made (and thus
jobs are exported) so we have become a "consumer economy" using debt
for our high life style.
Crony-Capitalism and corporate subsidies
have replaced free-enterprise and competition. Corruption is routine
Our civil rights are being voided and
abused as government (especially the Feds, who have all the money)
and the police act like our boss, rather than our servant as defined
by the Constitution.
...are but a few examples.
Our leading faults are:
The death, maiming and
displacement of people, damaging their land with our wars
Our income tax system that is
based on gang-theft-by-vote (group A votes to take money
from Group B, while the rich to give to Group C: schools,
the poor, farmers, pals, etc.).
Once the majority of a nation's voters
accept this form of taxing through the excuse of "we all benefit,"
or "make the rich pay their fair share," the door to excess taxation
and spending is open, and the government grows like a cancer.
Use of progressive rates to increase the
percent tax on higher incomes (a penalty on success) adds to the
offense. The government is soon viewed as a money pot to do anything
nice or needed (the Constitution is ignored), and most people strive
for a part of it.
I say, if you want to help someone,
voluntary charity is the best way. It's more work to seek voluntary
donations, but it is moral - and less is needed in a prosperous,
No fair using immoral funding methods to
support your projects!
For both the economic and moral issues above, an
80% reduction in government spending, and more use of fully compensatory
user fees (school tuition, parks, libraries, buses, etc.), would be a good
start to needing less tax revenue, and the end of the invasive and damaging
This would bring a form of free-market pricing (voluntary purchases; no
subsidies) to government services:
"If people won't pay the full cost (not
worth it), don't provide it!"
If people really want a service or product, the
free-market will always provide it (if allowed by the government!), and
history shows the cost to create, operate, and maintain it will be far below
what the government cost would be.
Rapid rail transit is a good example. Contractors love to build them (and
donate to the legislators who approved them), but ALL of them require
subsidies to attract customers, and even so often have low usage. Buses are
cheaper and allow more flexible (and adjustable) routing, but don't help
politicians get elected!
There are a million examples, and they are all
dragging us down!
Many of our problems relate to building and operating Empire-USA. We don't
own many colonies (territories), but we have a lot of control over other
nations, and have over 800 bases worldwide to assure compliance.
This is called an "interventionist foreign
policy" at best; some would say boss and bully.
Empires cost a lot of money to run and also
People don't like to have foreign troops on
their soil, or violations of their culture. They especially hate invading
occupiers, hence the attacks on our troops by locals and their insurgent
Our bases create a lot of animosity - some
violent - as we have seen, with various bombings and 9-11 (see W. Pape's
Dying to Win, about suicide bombers; the poor man's nuke). The
counterproductive results of Empire-USA are also covered in C. Johnson's
The Blowback Trilogy. Our current economic and military problems
are the classic symptoms of an Empire in decline.
The original USA was expanded in various ways.
The acquisition of land to form what is now the
fifty states was done by:
Theft by War:
Land from Spain and France after
the expansionary' War of 1812 (which we started by invading
Canada at Detroit with a goal to annex it), which is now
Alabama and Florida.
Upon winning the 1846 to 1848
Mexican-American War (which started after the guest USA
settlers there "annexed" in 1836 the Mexican northern
province of Texana, and illegally declared it as the
Republic of Texas) we took the northern half of Mexico, now
our entire southwest, from TX to CA.
Annexation of Hawaii in 1898.
The Louisiana Territory from
France in 1803 (for $15 mill, 2.8 cents per acre).
Alaska from Russia in 1867 (for
$7.2 mill, 1.9 cents per acre).
The Oregon Territory from Spain and
England in 1846 - now OR, WA, ID and parts of WY and MT (too bad for
the resident Indians).
The creation of our overseas Empire and presence
started with the Spanish-American War in 1898 (we got the Philippines, Guam
and Puerto Rico), and our around-the-world show of strength with Teddy's
Great White Fleet from December, 1907, to February, 1909.
Our worldwide strength and presence grew while
helping the allies win WWI and WW2, both of which we should have stayed out
of (Wilson wanted a say in the post-WWI deals, and FDR poked Japan until
they reacted at Pearl Harbor so he could get us into WW2 to help his buddy
These wars allowed us to establish our over 800
bases worldwide, which we now use to control our interests such as oil and
economic "cooperation." Maintaining this empire is very expensive due to the
cost of foreign bases and foreign aid (bribery), plus occasional wars to
expand it (Afghanistan, Iraq, and Iran soon?).
The power of our Executive branch of the Federal government has continued to
grow since 1898 because of its accepted role in leading foreign affairs.
fake Gulf of Tonkin incident led to the Vietnam War and LBJ's massive Guns
and Butter spending.
Then, Nixon abrogated our last monetary
connection to gold in 1971, when spending took off even more!
A big increase in executive power was forced by Bush and Cheney, who were
the most aggressive in creating an Imperial Presidency, assisted by a meek,
self-serving Congress. Long Signing Statements changed laws already passed
Existing laws and the Constitution were ignored. After their
election mandate in 2004, the Democrats took reform off the table, hoping to
use the new powers later for themselves (and Obama is!).
Bush-Cheney plan was to rule the USA and the
from D.C., with a focus on controlling access to cheap oil.
pre-emptive wars for economic and political
goals (for oil and Israel, not homeland defense)
bribes to foreign rulers
domestic pork and welfare
...were their primary tools.
The problem with such
Imperialistic plans is that they are not only illegal and immoral, but they
Expenses, corruption, and backlash/blowback grow
faster than the "benefits." Death, and destruction abroad, and a depression,
loss of rights, and crushing debt at home, are the results we see around us
Thus, the USA has declined from its peak of military and economic
strength in the 1950 - 1970 period, and now faces serious problems.
All empires fail in a similar way:
Excess spending at home and abroad
Since history, and our own experience, shows
that empires eventually do more harm than good to their homeland, it is
obviously smart to not be one.
England, France, Spain, and Russia had sense
enough to back off, and give up their colonies when they faced going broke.
The USA should do the same, and emerge as a good customer (with a strong
negotiating position) as it enjoys peaceful trade worldwide.
This is not a weak or "peacenik" approach, it is
the smart way to avoid economic and political failure.