by: William Bonner and Addison Wiggin, started in 2010
6 “If you deny that the United States is now an empire, you are as big a fool as we were. For a very long time we resisted the concept. We did not want the United States to be an empire. We thought it was a political choice. We liked the old republic of Jefferson, Washington, the U.S. Constitution … the humble nation of hard money and soft heads; we didn’t want to give it up. We thought that if the United States acted as though it were an empire it was making an error.
“What morons we were. We missed the point completely. It didn’t matter what we wanted. There was no more choice in the matter than a caterpillar has a choice about whether to become a butterfly.” This is total nonsense until you define ‘empire’.
9 “…we do not particularly care when or how we meet our end. We just wish to know where, so we can avoid the place.”
12 “Of course, almost all empire builders think they are improving the planet. Even Alexander the Great thought he was doing it a favor by spreading Greek culture.” Didn’t he?
13 “But more than three million American soldiers went to Vietnam and many came back flat. And for what?” To prevent the spread of communism.
13 “[on] August 15, 1971…Richard Nixon severed the link between the imperial currency and gold.”
13 “All empires must pass away. All must find a way to destroy themselves.” This is a fairly categorical assertion made without ever having defined ‘empire’.
14 “Empires are thought by many to be good things. They expand the area in which trade can take place. In modern parlance, they allow for increased “globalization.” Generally, globalization is good for everyone. It permits people to specialize in what they do best, producing more and better things at lower costs. But it is more beneficial to some than to others. There are three billion people in Asia. And almost every one of them is willing to work for a fraction of the average American wage.” Count me as one who thinks this way.
14 “Each person plays the role given to him; everyone believes what he needs to believe to play the part.” Seems too categorical to me.
15 “An empire looks outward, taking on its shoulders the fate of much of the world. An empire is like a bull market. It grows, it develops … often it passes into a bubble phase, when people come to believe the most absurd things.” Should I take this as a definition of ‘empire’?
20 “…we felt as though someone should have sent a copy [of The Makers of Venice, Doges, Conquerors, Painters and Men of Letters] to George W. Bush. ‘Read this. Spare yourself some trouble,’ the author might have written on the accompanying note. But who reads anything but newspapers in the Capital City? Who reads at all?” Bush didn’t read newspapers, nor do I. We both read books.
23 Male bovine fecal material! Just because the dead can’t vote (although they do in some precincts) doesn’t mean they don’t influence culture. They obviously do, big time, in many contexts.
42 “What is the history of this tattered ball but the record of the rise and fall of civilizations, of governments, of battles and heroes?” Well, for one, the record of the inexorable advance of individual freedom. For another, the advance in our knowledge of our universe and of our exploitation of its features, in particular in our use of energy and advances in food production. Duh!
46 “And what [the Romans] seemed to like doing was going out and making war against everyone they thought they could beat. That is what Empires do.” That does not characterize the US, particularly since WWI.
48 “Money poured into Spanish coffers during the sixteenth century—the country imported it the way the United States imports big-screen televisions, giving little in return.” This comparison is nonsense.
52 “In normal places at normal times, people go about their normal lives earning a living the best they can. But an empire changes the way people think. The common householder turns away from his humble house and his spouse and begins to think about the fair world beyond his kith, kin, and ken. He looks outward and sees how much better the world could be if he and his fellow citizens could run it their way. He sees that he must plan a greater role in global affairs, that he must walk on the world stage, not as a bit player, but as the main character—the hero. He must play the lead role.” More male bovine fecal material!
53 “England’s empire was much grander, stretched further, and left more debris when it broke up.” Debris?? What about the huge positive influences?
54 In March 2004, the New York Times reported that it was now respectable to describe the United States as an empire. ‘Today,’ said the NYT, ‘America is no mere superpower or hegemon, but a full blown empire in the Roman and British sense.’” NYT male bovine fecal material!
55 “America had no rivals, he [Paul Kennedy, NYT] said. Militarily, China was no real competition; it was just another country on America’s hit list.” Hit list?? Absurd.
55 “Even after 227 years, America’s stock continued to rise. That it had gotten high enough to vex Nature worried no one. That it might decline troubled no one’s sleep. That being an empire is not necessarily an unadulterated blessing bothered neither the president nor his ministers.” All B.S.
56 “While Americans get to make a public spectacle of themselves, the Swiss have to make do with private life.” While the Swiss profited from Hitler, America liberated their continent and went on to rebuild and defend it.
61 What a distorted and contrived fit between reality and the authors’ “blame America first” and “hate America” viewpoints.
63 “A basic, consensus definition would be that an empire is a large political body which rules over territories outside its original borders [- Stephen Howe]” It’s hard to fit the USA into this definition.
65 “We do not argue that the Soviet system was not wretched, but only that the border between its wretchedness and the misery inflicted by other systems of political organization is not nearly as well marked as we have been told. Always and everywhere, nuances and particularities trump the theories.” These guys need to read Solzhenitsyn or Sharansky.
71 “The United States is the world’s only superpower; since the capitulation of the Soviet Union, she has no enemies capable of inflicting serious damage; what is she defending herself against? But that is just the point. The imperial spirit has gotten the best of her.” The answer is obvious: she is defending the rest of the world against tyranny.
71 Non sequitur. The premise is true but instead of “dictatress” she is “defender” and “protector”.
90 The “best presidents”?? Surely this nonsense is meant to be a joke.
. . . . .
With such distortions and revisions of history, these authors have destroyed any credibility with me as historians. Thus I have no confidence in their ability to say anything meaningful about economics or finance either. I gave up reading the rest of this book.
©2010 Paul R. Martin, All rights reserved.