Join 3,427 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


Is this the last days of the Empire, or just the beginning?
February 10, 2002 4:25 AM   Subscribe

Is this the last days of the Empire, or just the beginning? America the most powerful country since Roman Empire. I for sure hope that the good old US of A don´t meet the same destiny as the Roman Empire...But!? Has there been any country (empire) that survived being the biggest and best(?). Usually i read a lot about Swedens time of glory some couple of hundred years ago, now hoping that my grandchildren won´t read the same about the States. Should we be worried about what the history tells us?
posted by Ulwen (68 comments total)

 
No, we should not be worried about what history tells us, in this case. Cognizant, yes, but not worried that the same fate shall befall the US. The difference between the current sole superpower (US) and the historical ones (like Rome) is that ours is not based on extending Empire and taking territory and converting others. We *respect* other nations' right to exist in almost -- almost -- any manner they choose. Once a state believes that its' right to exist takes precedence over freedom and American (or Allies') lives, then we step in. Very interesting article.
posted by davidmsc at 5:36 AM on February 10, 2002


i'm so sorry, but america will end falling like the other empires. the peak and collapse of great nations is what history is all about. look at the romans, the aztecs, the mongols, the greek, etc., etc., etc. one day america will be just another country and no the "owners of the world" (like now).
davidmsc:
you're completely wrong. america has been the most interferencing country in all history. i mean, the other superpowers just conquer, and that is all, but america always disimulate his interference. the governments in america (the international diplomacy) have destroyed so many countries that is difficult to tell in which countries they have not intervene. do you, people in america, fell ok about this?
posted by trismegisto at 6:14 AM on February 10, 2002


do you, people in america, fell ok about this?
Sure! And if by chance any people in the US don't feel ok about it, then they can move to Canada. All the quality of the US without the destroying of countries.
posted by Keen at 6:27 AM on February 10, 2002


look at all the nations (or coalition of nations) that could face america: europe union, japan, russia, china, india, etc… there are a couple of them. they are also very powerful; and they are not causing any trouble by being "so much interested" about other nations political situation. look at what is causing right now in irak, iran, north korea and syria because of the statements of america's president. that statement about the "evil axis" is more than enough to be all ready intervening (tell me: when did america has suffered because an action of this countries?, i will answer: never)
look at what is happening in venezuela: the venezuelan's president was elected democratically, and now collin powell wants to derrocate chavez because his oil politics are not aligned with the ones in washington.
look at colombia. usa is intervening there "because of the drug situation"; but the truth is that they are just earning military presence in the amazons "just to be prepared"; why america does not try to stop the usage of drugs in their own territory?…

america disimulates his interventionism. it always says that is going to help the country in which it is intervening. i ask again: do you people in america fell ok or guilty because of this?
posted by trismegisto at 6:28 AM on February 10, 2002


Most Americans feel fine about this. We conquer (generally) from within, by introducing the viral notions of prosperity and glittering hipness, while at the same time being loathed and completely uncool. Not a bad trick. Hey, hege-money makes the world go 'round.

Will it last forever? Probably not. Although the recent bout of uber-patriotism makes this unwise to note in public, historical precedents be damned. Nothing lasts forever, politically. We may see a leap to something else, de facto power residing in boundryless culture or corporate zones. Who knows. I would love to read a history book 1000 years from now. Hopefully, someone will be.
posted by umberto at 6:37 AM on February 10, 2002


i mean, the other superpowers just conquer, and that is all

That is great.

trismegisto: Are you under the impression that the United States is the only nation on earth with a foreign policy?
posted by techgnollogic at 6:42 AM on February 10, 2002


hehehe keen, you're absolutely correct about the canada fact…

look people, the only problem with me is that america's government decides instead of millions of people that they are not governing. in some places, people can't even choose their way of living, that desicion is taken by washington. and believe me, that is really unfair…
just remember something: power destroys… and that is what destroyed other empires, if america's intentions do not change, it will end like the other empires: collapsed
posted by trismegisto at 7:03 AM on February 10, 2002


Running an Empire is an very expensive business and the costs tend to go one way only - up. It's much easier to take on commitments than it is to get out of them - look at all the American troops still in Okinawa and Germany. Equally it's much easier to keep feeding the defence industry fat contracts rather than pull the plug on jobs and entrenched interests.

America's amazing economy may postpone the moment of truth indefinitely (although the new budget suggests otherwise). If that moment comes however things get dangerous for everyone.

Of course the other factor that may exempt the Empire from the 'laws' of history is its genuine popularity - but I wouldn't count on it.
posted by grahamwell at 7:13 AM on February 10, 2002


do you people in america fell ok or guilty because of this?

Guilty? Absolutely not. I realize that the U.S. does things that it shouldn't and things that piss other countries off but guess what... I'm too busy trying to make ends meet to really give a shit. I do feel sympathy for people in other countries who are in a hurting way. But I'm not going to mope around everyday of my life feeling guilty about being an American.

Power will destroy the U.S. eventually. We won't last forever. Some other super power will replace the U.S. and then everyone will have to alter their pre-canned complaints to name the new power because I don't think the end of the U.S. is going to be the end of bad foreign policy. Whoever is in a position of power generally does whatever it needs to remain in that position.
posted by auzten at 7:18 AM on February 10, 2002


Imminent death of MetaFilter's home predicted.
posted by NortonDC at 7:23 AM on February 10, 2002


The Roman empire didn't "die" anyway--it evolved, hived, mitosed, whatever. Just like Latin never died, it simply evolved into French, Italian, etc. The Byzantines of AD 1000 saw themselves very clearly as the modern Roman empire--to them, the empire never fell. The whole Decline and Fall thing is an invention of eighteenth-century British historians.

In a hundred years I can't imagine there will be a US in its current form--just like we aren't the US of a hundred years ago. The (mild) institutional continuity masks a lot of cultural and political discontinuities. No current nation has an easy road ahead in the next few decades, with the end of fossil fuels coming, bioweapons, genetic engineering, terrorism, and a host of other disruptive things in the wind. There are crises coming, and crises change political systems. The fact of change and its consequences is far more important than the question of whether some geographically contiguous group of humans will revere the pronouncements of some North American enlightenment-era landowners as their national mythology.
posted by rodii at 7:25 AM on February 10, 2002


trismegisto Said:

"i mean, the other superpowers just conquer, and that is all," "do you people in america fell ok or guilty because of this?"

Not overly, we are usually the lesser of evils and its not like Iraq or any other country would do no less if they had the power. Most exert influence to some degree, an example being the Arab nations using its oil to leverage the US. Its a power struggle like any other. Which bully would you rather have? America or Iraq? Countries that aren't as aggressive get swallowed by places like Iraq, takes a bully to fight a bully.
posted by madmanz123 at 7:34 AM on February 10, 2002


You would hope that eventually, eventually, the world would move towards a more noble cause that what it has already encountered. Countries would become no more than boundries for designating where one lives, with a world-wide economy. People would work for the desire to improve the world. Hunger, disease; would be wiped out. People would have enough, and would be able to pursue the things that they want to pursue, rather than working in jobs they dislike to the day they die.

Will the US eventually disappear? Probably so. But you can hope that what will follow would be prosperity for the Earth and not a single nation.
posted by benjh at 7:34 AM on February 10, 2002


What destroyed other empires was not mere 'power'. (What kind of power? Military might? Economic power? Better memes?) That can contribute, but the greatest threat is complacency, the idea that you are the center of the world and there's no place else which matters. China fell victim to this when they disbanded their exploration fleets in the mid-1400s; they reduced themselves to being a nation discovered, instead of the discoverers. Complacency leads to stagnation, which leads to being eaten alive by your competitors. Barbarians with dirty bombs, anyone?
Personally, I think that we need a frontier to keep ourselves from falling into the complacency trap; if we took maybe 10-20% of the military budget and channeled it into space exploration, we'd have enough challenges to keep us busy for hundreds more years. (Not to mention that there are hundreds of global-extinction-level asteroids out there, which we really should be doing something about.) And we could *still* 'whip the rest of the world with a hand tied behind our back'.
posted by darukaru at 8:06 AM on February 10, 2002


We're the largest debter nation now returning to Cold War Reagan-era spending that actually surpasses that time by leaps and bounds. This seems like the last big push before the collapse. Most people seem to right-off our problems with a "oh they wouldn't let that happen." Uh huh. You assume they're even paying attention.
posted by fleener at 8:25 AM on February 10, 2002


Well said darukaru.
posted by stbalbach at 8:26 AM on February 10, 2002


US dominance is tied pretty tightly to cheap energy. Once that is gone, our (the world) economy is going to go into shock as we try to adjust. In what, 30 or 40 years?, I envision a great depression to end all great depression. Of course there will be energy wars and other short-term fixes since it will be too late for anything more substantive. We'll come out of it, but we won't be what we were. We may even break into separate states. The later half of the 21st century belongs to China or India or some player like that.
posted by willnot at 8:34 AM on February 10, 2002


Wow. I never imagined there were so many "down on the US" posters this early on a Sunday morning. Equally surprising is the number of posters who feel that the US is "inevitably" going to fall, decline, or otherwise crash. I'm going to rustle up a copy of the September 17th edition of "The Economist" and I'll post a quote from it later today - interesting to see what the reaction will be. Hold on - I'll be right back...
posted by davidmsc at 9:09 AM on February 10, 2002


...here it is. The Economist stated in the September 15th, 2001 edition:

"Thanks to America, and only thanks to America, the world has enjoyed these past decades an age of hitherto unimagined freedom and opportunity. Those who would deflect it from its path must not, and surely will not, succeed."

THINK about that first statement. Think about the Nazis and think about the USSR. Heck, think about Saddam Hussein, on a smaller scale. Without the US, do you really think that the world would be as free, as democratic, as properous, as healthy, as it is now? Surely, we have had allies to help promote the principles of democracy, capitalism, and liberty, but America has been the torch-bearer and the fountainhead of same since it's birth. America has had flaws, and continues to suffer shortcomings, but America's inherent goodness should be obvious to all.
posted by davidmsc at 9:32 AM on February 10, 2002


Equally surprising is the number of posters who feel that the US is "inevitably" going to fall, decline, or otherwise crash.

I think it's pretty arrogant (and dangerous) to think america is gonna be around forever. what is so special about us? there is just entirely too much corruption of our government happening before my eyes (and who knows how much goes on where we can't see) for me to give this place my unwavering support.

although, I don't think america is gonna simply vanish like the roman empire did. it seems pretty clear to me that life here is gonna get progressively worse so long as most of our citizens would be rather be soaked up in entertainment and self-indulgence as opposed to taking a genuine interest in what's really going on.
posted by mcsweetie at 9:40 AM on February 10, 2002


The article seem to be worrying about a big, built-up U.S. military becoming restless with nothing to do. I'm more worried about a big, built-up Justice Department with nothing to do once the War on Terrorism is over. We have a War on Drugs, we almost had a War on Porn before 9-11, we may be about to have a War on Copyright Infringers.
posted by gimonca at 9:47 AM on February 10, 2002


The USA is toast. In twenty years, it won't be a great nation, and it certainly won't be a nation worth living in. The public has become complacent: it accepts the lowest quality of everything, from governing to movies to consumer products.

It has become a nation of lowest-common-denominators.

And that, alone, ensures that it will fail.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:49 AM on February 10, 2002


The arrogance comes from an utter lack of understanding of how the rest of the world views us, including our "allies." We have the biggest economy because we're the biggest debter nation (e.g., a house of cards). We command the most respect because we carry the biggest stick. One day we will fall under our own weight and everyone (in the U.S.) will stand around dumbfounded wondering how it happened. How could something as obvious as Enron happen and screw so many peoples' lives? Same reason - no one is looking at the big picture, only their own short-term self interest.
posted by fleener at 9:54 AM on February 10, 2002


well said fresh fish. sad but very true.
posted by specialk420 at 10:39 AM on February 10, 2002


We have the biggest economy because we're the biggest debter nation

No, it's the other way around. We're the biggest debtor nation because we have the biggest economy, and thus the creditors have confidence we'll be able to pay. The rich can easily borrow money.
posted by kindall at 10:46 AM on February 10, 2002


The USA is toast. In twenty years, it won't be a great nation, and it certainly won't be a nation worth living in. The public has become complacent: it accepts the lowest quality of everything, from governing to movies to consumer products.

It has become a nation of lowest-common-denominators.

And that, alone, ensures that it will fail.


five fresh fish...with all due respect, what the hell does this mean? Honestly, are you telling me that people would rather buy Hondas instead of Mercedes because they're cheaper? Are you saying that movies in the 50s were/are better than they are now? Are you saying that our government under Roosevelt, Wilson, or Taft was better than it is now with Johnson, Reagan, and Clinton? Please explain yourself...
posted by BlueTrain at 11:02 AM on February 10, 2002


Other 'empires' that survived being the biggest.

Uh, England comes to mind. And China.
posted by rich at 11:02 AM on February 10, 2002


and thus the creditors have confidence we'll be able to pay.

HAHAHA! I needed a good laugh. Thanks. So, uh, in how many more decades will are bills be paid? We can't even put a dent in the interest.
posted by fleener at 11:10 AM on February 10, 2002


HAHAHA! I needed a good laugh. Thanks. So, uh, in how many more decades will are bills be paid? We can't even put a dent in the interest.

fleener, you understand that our national debt, and the fact that countries and companies continue to invest in our nation, tell the world that we are still the strongest economy? And without this confidence, our economy would falter. And BTW, this dent in interest you mention...please. We could, at any point, pay off this debt. We don't because the citizens would rather the government spend the money on more programs or cut taxes, depending on their political leaning. This debt is $6 trillion, our GNP is $8 trillion. I believe our economy is pretty stable.
posted by BlueTrain at 11:18 AM on February 10, 2002


I think it's pretty arrogant (and dangerous) to think america is gonna be around forever.

mcsweetie, if you had actually ready any of the posts in this thread you would have seen that almost nobody believes that the US will be around the forever.
I am of the belief the US is not going any aware in the near future.

rodii has made the best point of this entire thread. The Roman Empire never really "fell." It simply mutated into something that was something undistinguishable from its original form. Will this be the fate of US? Perhaps. The historical trend that empires change and/or shrink rather than be destroyed. Further, while the actual country may be eliminated, the cultural ground may stay around. For example, the British Empire, Chinese Empire, Japan, India, France, Italy, Germany are all ancient or medieval groups/civilizations that still exist today. These cultural groups have been around for hundreds, even thousands of years, but in many different forms. Let me pose a question: Britain has been around since at least 1066, it’s time that it fells? The answer is that what was defined as “Britain” has “fallen,” reborn and been redefined many times. “America” like “Britain” is more than just a sovereign nation defined only by its bounties and incorporating documents. If US really is an “empire,” which everyone here seem to agree than it is, that I believe this is the fate of the US.

do you, people in America, fell ok about this

First, all countries do bad stuff if it suits their interests. One needs look no further than British oppression in Northern Ireland for a great example of oppressive foreign policy.
Second, you gotta do what you gotta do. The UK knows it, and so does the US.
Third, I do not always agree what my government does. Those outside the US should know this. When I was living in Italy, I felt Italians would look at me a see Ronald McDonald or Bill Clinton rather than who I really am: an American who thinks for himself and has never been in lock-step with US foreign policy or the actions of US corporations. Hint: Most Americans fell this way too. Doesn’t anyone else think that that’s unfair? I sure do.
posted by Bag Man at 11:25 AM on February 10, 2002


When history is molded to meet a political end, it is essentially devalued. If you think that the USA is going to collapse because it's some 'big evil empire' like Rome, you haven't a clue what Rome was and you most certainly don't understand the USA.
posted by John Galt at 11:26 AM on February 10, 2002


The Roman Empire didn't vanish, it morphed into the Holy Catholic Church.

"Axis of Evil?" Give me a break. I think that line was thrown in the SOTU to distract from the rest of the speech. It's a new war, needs to be fought in a new way, and should be funded accordingly. It's ridiculous, however, for Bush, on one hand, to talk about the need for unity and austerity, and on the other, about a retroactive refund of the minimum corporate income tax, which would hand over billions of dollars to billion dollar corporations, many of which will benefit greatly from the huge new military budget.

Barring a massive meteor strike or genocidal space aliens, the U.S. empire/hegemony/arrangement won't vanish. There is no conventional military power that could challenge it, apart from China, with whom the U.S. does business in the vain hope that free markets will lead to free people, instead of consolidating and institutionalizing a hereditary kleptocracy. This could turn out badly.

The terrorist threat, on the other hand, could eventually make U.S. society unrecognizable. Events could occur which convince enough Americans that security is better than freedom, in this case I'm glad at the slowness of government. I think the U.S. constitution is up to the test, though, and that the U.S. system of government has the capacity for an effective and equitable end to the present threat, and, through a more thoughtful foreign policy, for a more just world.
posted by Ty Webb at 11:51 AM on February 10, 2002


Empires are damn resilient things. Take Germany, for instance. It suffered two tremendous defeats in European wars and in short order returned to the same, or greater, economic and social power. Tens of millions of Russians died in the 20th century to resist Germany, and now Germany and the German-run EU economy vastly overpowers and many important respects controls Russia.
posted by MattD at 12:16 PM on February 10, 2002


I can't even conceive of someone believing that the US is somehow above the cycles of human civilization (and nature, for that matter). Countries rise and fall. Seasons rise and fall. Tides rise and fall. That's how it works. That's how it's always worked. That's how it will keep working.
posted by arielmeadow at 12:17 PM on February 10, 2002


David, I don't see what your Economist quote has to do with anything. First of all, they're just a magazine; they don't have any superior access to TRVTH. Secondly, the question of whether a nation survives or not surely has little to do with its virtue or good influence. Ask Poland about that one, to take one example of many.
posted by rodii at 12:30 PM on February 10, 2002


The American Empire, such as it exists, will unfortunately survive for a long time. It's the Republic we should be worried about. We're accustomed to forward progress, so it's probably hard to comprehend that the Romans went from Republic to Empire, and downhill from there, with over one thousand years between the end of the Republic till the Italian Renaissance.

Bush's vastly increased military and "homeland security" budget is a tremendous threat. Ratchet, ratchet, ratchet. But there's no need for it. The US still has a cold war military. It could spend half the amount for double the effectiveness against current threats, but you'd have to kill all the bureaucratic fiefdoms and congressional pork/corporate welfare that is today's military.
posted by mlinksva at 1:06 PM on February 10, 2002


Egypt was a superpower once upon a time too.
posted by bunnyfire at 1:13 PM on February 10, 2002


America the most powerful country since Roman Empire.

Perhaps you forget that Britain has ruled almost half of the planet at one point or another, including the US. That's why so many people in the world speak English for a start.

Napoleon's Empire was also extremely powerful, and France has given a lot to the world too (driving on the right, the world's second language, the metric system)

Given its technology, I'd say the US is actually a rather calm nation. If the Romans/Hitler/Mongols had your technology, we probably wouldn't have a planet left to live on. Thankfully philosophy and international relations have improved somewhat since the days of vast empires.
posted by wackybrit at 1:18 PM on February 10, 2002


I think now, more than ever, is time for real expansion of the American Empire.

I seriously don't care what the rest of the world thinks, because no matter our actions we're damned if we do, damned if we don't. If America engages another country in conflict we'll hear howls of condemnation about "interference". If we ignore things and just let them happen, we'll hear about America not filling it's duty as the biggest kid on the block. Screw that, I say.

America needs to do what's right for us, preferably that strategy would involve bringing democracy and some form of capitalist system to countries that need it (Afghanistan, most of Africa, Iraq, Iran) to bring them up to the level of the developed world. Other countries that have these systems would much prefer to trade with America (Gemany, England, Western Europe) than hide terrorists (Afghanistan, Iraq).

I may not completely support Bush's "Axis of Evil" but the fact that Europe has started howling against it makes me think he may have a point. Here's a continent who again and again seems to not understand the lessons of WWII. America has to expand so that a Nazi-like group (right now Al Qaeda, next week someone else probably funded by the Saudis) doesn't rise up and attack us, the biggest target.
posted by owillis at 1:22 PM on February 10, 2002


Yes, and if too much of the US population continues the moral equivocation and nihilistic doomsaying, then in a few years time we'll all be bowing to Mecca in our burquas with a gun to our heads. Those of us that didn't have walls pushed on top of us, that is.

Really, all in all America is a good place. Really, it is. I'll take Britney Spears over Stalinism or Wahhabism any old day.
posted by evanizer at 2:14 PM on February 10, 2002


I seriously don't care what the rest of the world thinks, because no matter our actions we're damned if we do, damned if we don't.

this is the sort of attitude that, left unchecked by an apathetic populace, will spell doom for a republic.
posted by mcsweetie at 2:29 PM on February 10, 2002


Rich: Britain survived? Please, do provide proof of that!
posted by five fresh fish at 2:29 PM on February 10, 2002


Egypt was a superpower once upon a time too.

For over 3000 years and been around at least 5000. It still retains autonomy despite countless outside conquests. Why? The successful empire is able to absorb its attackers and after a few generations turn them into their own. Egypt, India, China, Russia. The USA is good at this as well.
posted by stbalbach at 2:38 PM on February 10, 2002


But the fact that there was once a country called "Egypt" and that there is now a country called "Egypt" doesn't mean that they're the same thing, or that Egypt somehow "survived" from pharaonic days until the present. There have been Greek, Roman and Arab empires in the meantime and they weren't absorbed into some greater Egyptian continuity. It's just a place name.

A nation, and empire, a republic, whatever you want to call it, is always in flux, always being redefined, and always the object of nostalgia and mythologizing for later generations. late Roman (and later, English) historians, with their own present-day axes to grind, contrived a nostalgia for the incredibly corrupt and immoral Roman Republic by villainizing the post-Augustan empire. Comtemporary pundits praise the Founding Fathers. Germany, for its own nation-building purposes, invoked the spirit of the "Holy Roman Empire" of Charlemagne, never mind that Charlemagne had little to do with any German conditions or institutions. China did it with its mythical emperors. The list goes on. To pick any historical entity, present or past, and act like it has any permanent existence or essential nature, is naive.
posted by rodii at 2:54 PM on February 10, 2002


I'm waiting for the U.S. to withdraw from nation building, perhaps if we get a bloody nose on the world stage, we will. The reason we are hated by many countries is fairly straightforward:
1) Whenever the U.S. administration/congress changes, our foreign policy shifts a little. This is why we are often accused of abandoning our allies, I think. I don't know if that abandonment claim is completely legitimate, since we still have an entire army division in South Korea, for example.
2) Japan, for example, loves us because we have made them an economic superpower, but they hate us because they are treated like a satellite of the U.S., a puppet government that doesn't even have its own military (aside from self defense forces)
3) Only for economic interests do we prop up some pretty vile and ruthless dictators, who would perhaps fall without our support.

Eventually, the U.S. will withdraw from the position it holds now. That is the nature of history. Britain was once the big brother, emperor to the world. They are now a prosperous economy with a limited level of military engagement.

My dream is that one day the U.S. will be like Switzerland: neutral, self defensive, and prosperous. We would still be involved in the world, to be sure, but we would use our economy as our diplomatic bargaining chip, and instead of sending troops overseas, we would send aid workers, educators and missionaries.
posted by insomnyuk at 3:25 PM on February 10, 2002


what what great vncle say? first make rodii a senator, for the truth. egypt had the strongest form of rulership (i think surpassing, say the devaraja kingdoms of early Angkor (ANG-KO) absolute as to isolate and create imperial cities, yatta-yatta. Britian was not an empire for long. China is the longest civilization that exists in form or another today (perhaps culture is better fit) America makes the romans look like amatures no offense. It is hard to compare/contrast this one. "We have the biggest economy because we're the biggest debter nation" this is almost like taking a calculator to temple circa 142 a.d. to good to be true. Extraction of wealth, and its redistribution was dependent upon the empire system. The days of tiberius to say, licinius was vast, BIG SAM would have another 200 years, plus the few hundred before. what makes this argument impossible is the synergistic effects of damage done to the planet infrastucture. columns and feilds of blood have piled high for eons. what is history compared to the dangers man faces today? (not to take away from mans experience of horror before petro-chem and A-bomb)It seems that past empires could afford to fall , a head here, some land there, but this? the only saving grace between the mentallity of roman civics and america civics is progress; in what shape you want to fashion it. social progress with benefical material progress (the rubber glove, the buick, the vcr:) this is evident. because if it were not, some nero would get ahold of a real modern army and change a few boaderlines (in doing so, most likely ruin most of the ionisphere) "late Roman (and later, English) historians, with their own present-day axes to grind, contrived a nostalgia for the incredibly corrupt and immoral Roman Republic by villainizing the post-Augustan empire. " your thinking Sutonius?....and...Rush Limbaugh
posted by clavdivs at 3:49 PM on February 10, 2002


Well, Fourier believers (I don’t totally subscribe to his ideas) see the decline of the American Empire as the next epoch in the history of human liberty. The first made serfs out of slaves, the next made wage-earners out of serfs and the last will make free men out of wage earners. Capitalism is the life blood of the American Empire, if it dies what does that say about them?
posted by raaka at 3:57 PM on February 10, 2002


Tangent : Why should we bother to save Canada?

I wish America would go away, sometimes, but this makes me mist up.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 5:46 PM on February 10, 2002


to long on the 48th son, toooo long.
posted by clavdivs at 7:18 PM on February 10, 2002


My dream is that one day the U.S. will be like Switzerland: neutral, self defensive, and prosperous. We would still be involved in the world, to be sure, but we would use our economy as our diplomatic bargaining chip, and instead of sending troops overseas, we would send aid workers, educators and missionaries.

Two problems with that. First, using our economy as a bargaining chip would leave us just as resented as we are today. Second, everyone can't be Switzerland - someone has to stop the Nazis.
posted by jaek at 7:56 PM on February 10, 2002


the last will make free men out of wage earners.

First of all, what does that mean? Every individual would have to be completely self-sufficient in fulfilling their material needs, right? Division of labor becomes unnecessary/arbitrary/useless because of a more efficent scheme. Everybody gets a solar-powered Star Trek replicator, maybe? Wouldn't that leave us with no time for anything but pursuing our own interests and enjoying care-free, comfortable lives? Like, NO WAY would any of us 280 million lazy, bored, entertainment-craving Americans go for that.

I remember an article in Omni magazine about 6 years ago that described a fully automated, mechanized, roboticized system that would eventually buzz and whir and turn out whatever manufactured goods or food or product you wanted it to, (Solar power array covering the Gobi or Kansas, division of robot labor, chemical reduction/purification of the elemental components of topsoil to provide necessary raw materials, blah blah blah). At that time Omni estimated it would take (IIRC) ~$10-$50 Billion for the initial R&D and implementation. That's friggin expensive, sure, but its 1/4 or so the cost of the Joint Strike Fighter. Sure, it's science fiction - I mean this is Omni we're talking about - but either way, no one has come forward to foot the bill to even attempt it. That'd take one hell of a philathropist, considering the final outcome of such an endeavour would be the collapse of currency and the obsoletion of labor - scary stuff any which way you work it. You ain't getting them dollars back either, Mr. Gates... But would you need them ever again? Not if it worked, I guess.

You'd think Bill would get a kick out of heading up that kind of powerhouse.

Capitalism is the life blood of the American Empire, if it dies what does that say about them?

It says all the capitalists must've switched to something clearly superior. You're talking about people who will do just about anything to make a buck, regardless of traditions, religions, cultural taboos, and - occasionally - laws. Do you think these people wouldn't absolutely jump at the chance to have everything they desired without having to deal with other people? nobody likes a customer service gig. That's my take, anyway.
posted by techgnollogic at 8:09 PM on February 10, 2002


The Roman empire didn't "die" anyway--it evolved, hived, mitosed, whatever. Just like Latin never died, it simply evolved into French, Italian, etc.

And my grandfather didn't die either; he became me. No, really. Look, I'm wearing his watch.
posted by bingo at 9:11 PM on February 10, 2002


I agree with insomnyuk, the US should aspire to Swiss politics. The whole world should actually. The only model I know of that has brought peace and prosperity (and centuries of it) and without massive homogenization and centralization.

MattD: Look at a map of Europe c. 1914. Germany is much smaller now. That's only scratching the surface of its decline in influence. Prior to WWI and even WWIII ethnic Germans had settled throughout eastern Europe where they had great influence. If their kin hadn't put the Nazis in power, bringing the wrath of the world down on all Germans in Europe, the cultural and economic "Greater Germany" would be much larger than it is today. Funny thing -- don't listen to the nationalists, for they are the greatest threat to a nation's glory.
posted by mlinksva at 9:21 PM on February 10, 2002


My dream is that one day the U.S. will be like Switzerland: neutral, self defensive, and prosperous.

Switzerland can be Switzerland because of their size. No one finds them threatening. If the U.S. had no pro-active foreign policy at all, a military trained only for defense, and maintained current levels of prosperity, we would still be a perceived threat to many states. (Read your Thucydides.)

The reality is that if you have power, someone is going to feel oppressed by it. (Whether they actually *are* oppressed is irrelevant.) Much of the global complaining about U.S. activity abroad is framed as if the U.S. government were "the man behind the curtain" and solely or even *largely* responsible for the evils of the world. If you look at the cold hard facts about how many U.S. government resources are actively deployed in non-domestic functions, it's kind of laughable that anyone could blame the U.S. for so much. We have our own problems. There are only 24 hours in a day and so many bureaucrats. We simply don't have the resources to plot world domination in the literal sense.

And yes, there is a bit of the damned-if-you-do; damned-if-you-don't. We were criticized for being in Somalia in '93 because internecene tribal warfare wasn't 'any of our damn business', and criticized for not being in Rwanda a year later, because it apparently *was.* We're constantly told that we're not global policemen, and shouldn't be; that we "interefere" too much, while simultaneously being berated for our isolationism and the fact that we self-absorbed Americans don't know what's going on in the world; don't care, and won't get involved.

Much of the U.S.' s power is hegemonic (cultural rather than overt), and has more to do with demand for American exports, foreign direct investment by U.S. corporations, and as much as many people hate to admit it, the realization that the American system, for all its faults, appears to be the most successful. None of this is dictated by some central planning office. It happens because it's a natural byproduct of a liberal democratic capitalist system that has (through use of that system) accumulated a level of resources that dwarf those of other countries. Do i feel guilty about that? no. I'd have to have a problem with the system itself to have a problem with its natural products, and i don't. The U.S. is responsible for more humanitarian aid than any other country in the world, and the "evil" U.S. multinationals are responsible for jobs, tax revenue, and infrastructure that wouldn't otherwise exist in many developing countries, so it's intellectually dishonest to act as if all of this U.S. influence is somehow precipitating global decline.
posted by lizs at 9:26 PM on February 10, 2002


Much of the U.S.' s power is hegemonic (cultural rather than overt), and has more to do with demand for American exports, foreign direct investment by U.S. corporations, and as much as many people hate to admit it, the realization that the American system, for all its faults, appears to be the most successful. None of this is dictated by some central planning office.

Actually, I think it's dictated by a number of decentralized planning offices, in the marketing departments of the major corporations. One thing we Americans are the best at it creating "demand" for our products, both here and abroad, sensationalizing movies and soft drinks (for example) that really aren't (or shouldn't be) sensational. I think that's a large part of the cultural hegemony you're referring to. Foreign cultures that have spent a thousand years nurturing their own ideas of "sensational" resent our bullshit even as they're swayed by it, and I think that's understandable.
posted by bingo at 10:02 PM on February 10, 2002


umberto, "Hege-money makes the world go round" also makes me laugh my pants off. I want it on a t-shirt. Thanks for the giggles.
posted by lisatmh at 10:07 PM on February 10, 2002


Foreign cultures that have spent a thousand years nurturing their own ideas of "sensational" resent our bullshit even as they're swayed by it, and I think that's understandable.

i agree with your statement generally, but are you implying that we should stop marketing, lest we offend anyone? isn't sensationalization the *point* of marketing? How would you even go about removing the bullshit aspect of American marketing? (incidentally, i think bullshit-in-marketing is a global phenomenon. We don't have a monopoly on it.)
posted by lizs at 10:13 PM on February 10, 2002


We don't have a monopoly on it, but we seem to be the best at it. That, and/or we do it on the grandest scale.

I wasn't implying that we should stop doing anything, really...I'm certainly not opposed to offending people...just commenting on the way things are. I don't have a solution.
posted by bingo at 11:19 PM on February 10, 2002


Ok, maybe what I was trying to say is this. The idea of bullshit-in-marketing, in general, annoys me, even though I know it's always been around in some form, and is here to stay. I believe that there is such a thing as a good product, and such a thing as a bad product. In my admittedly unrealistic dream world, corporations would put their energies into creating good products first, and second into marketing campaigns that explained why those products were good.
posted by bingo at 11:25 PM on February 10, 2002


The difference between the current sole superpower (US) and the historical ones (like Rome) is that ours is not based on extending Empire and taking territory and converting others. We *respect* other nations' right to exist in almost -- almost -- any manner they choose.

Reading through this thread very late, I just wanted to say that davidmsc's comment above really made me laugh -- I mean, wow, how naive. There are many ways of "extending Empire" that aren't as blatant as moving in and subjugating a country with troops, and they're all just as effective (with the added bonus of being easier to keep quiet) and just as wrong.
posted by lia at 1:57 AM on February 11, 2002


Selling people Coca-cola = evil spread of US Empire MUaHAhAhaHa?

Naive how? We let the fucking Taliban hang around for 5 years, until their subjects start crashing planes into us. Saddam Hussein: Still the Man in Baghdad (psst, we hate that guy). The whole of EUROPEAN POLITICS is a constant Anti-American Bitchfest, and we ALREADY have troops there... no subjigatin' though, last i saw. China: still red. Africa: Clan warfare, get your clan warfare!

The US gets blasted for "not promoting freedom and democracy in other regions of the world" almost as much as it gets blasted for "not allowing others to rule themselves in ways they see fit." Make up your mind or stop whining ALL of the time.
posted by techgnollogic at 5:38 AM on February 11, 2002


I think the only current country/empire that has survived in its primary form is Great Britain. While it has shifted from the Monarchy, that was done in a fluid, non-disruptive way as opposed to armed conflict and massive rebuilding.

You couldn't say the same for Italy and the Roman Empire. Or Egypt. Or China for that matter, since its dynasty system was purged and destroyed by Maoists.

Japan, however - thinking about it, even after its defeat in 1945, it didn't go through a major governmental upheaval that resulted in the the destabilization of its society. And it still keeps its links to the Emperor.

Russia has undergone too much change from the elimination of the Tsars through Communism to the current system.

France also had its revolution, as did Spain. (someone mentioned France being the world's second language - uh, I really think it is Spanish. I never heard of French being a 'world language' on par with the general knowledge of english and spanish globally)

I think you would have to say that any country that went thoguh a significant revolution where revolution was not the norm, and where that revolution changed the form of government and the society underneath it has not 'survived'.

As for extending Empire - there is much less of the government-as-expansionist. I don't consider the export of cultural items like Coca-cola or Baywatch to be expansionist from a governmental point.. more of a cultural exchange. I do see some 'expansionist' type policy in trying to instill democracies in other countries, since this policy is usually only applied to 'non friendly' dictatorships and oppressive regiems as opposed to ones that are 'friendly.' It's a protectionist policy.

What I can see is the European Union over the next 100 years breaking down internal borders while solidifying external ones and becoming a massive US-style country with the states of France, Germany, etc... and then becoming expansionist by virtue of non-included (eastern) European or Balkan or eurasian states wanting in for the economic benefits as well as for the protection benefits.
posted by rich at 6:54 AM on February 11, 2002


neal stephenson's ideas on burbclaves and phyles might apply. like his idea of future civilization revolved around communities of interest rather than geographic location. so like people on metafilter (mefites) could constitute a phyle, while people who played everquest a lot might be another kind of civlilization/empire/whathaveyou. like edward said, benedict arnold and naomi klein all talk about identity politics as the new field where battles rage and wars are won. i also think it's why martha nussbaum's ideas about cosmopolitanism and (neo-)humanist philosophies are so important now.
posted by kliuless at 7:03 AM on February 11, 2002


oops, benedict anderson! :)
posted by kliuless at 7:06 AM on February 11, 2002


I'm completely in favor of America reaching the same fate as Rome, since Michael and I are my Latin class's resident Germanic horde.

Oh, and BTW: it's actually rather difficult to get Canadian citizenship.
posted by dagnyscott at 7:18 AM on February 11, 2002


Two problems with that. First, using our economy as a bargaining chip would leave us just as resented as we are today. Second, everyone can't be Switzerland - someone has to stop the Nazis.

Both those statements are debatable. Yeah, isn't America grand. I mean, we sure gave those Nazis what-for. I wonder if we did more damage by being involved, because we allowed the Russians to take Eastern Europe. If you don't think the Stalinist regime was worse than Hitler's regime, try reading Solzenhitsyn (A Day In The Life Of Ivan Denisovich). I forget which book it is, but Solzenhitsyn estimates the Communists killed an upwards of 160 million people. We try to justify what we did with our self-righteous attitude (rescuing the world from Nazism), when in fact I don't think we made things much better.

And I think we can be like Switzerland. The U.S. faces no threat of military invasion simply because we have two enormous oceans separating us from most of the rest of the world. I say let China be the world hegemon and become everyone's enemy. I say we get out of this agressive foreign policy stance, and let the chips fall where they may.
posted by insomnyuk at 7:39 AM on February 11, 2002


"I think the only current country/empire that has survived in its primary form is Great Britain. While it has shifted from the Monarchy, that was done in a fluid, non-disruptive way as opposed to armed conflict and massive rebuilding.

You couldn't say the same for Italy and the Roman Empire. Or Egypt. Or China for that matter, since its dynasty system was purged and destroyed by Maoists."???????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????. the maoist built new empire son. there was no chinese empire for centuries before mao. (thanks england) GB was a short lived empire, roughly 1815-1945.(well before, yes an empire, but not the supreme)
"extending Empire" that aren't as blatant as moving in" really lia, and what methods me dear are used other wise....willing subjigation, internal stirfe and rapid opium addiction, threats...personally, i respect the person coming after me head on, then sneaking around with political machinations. Query? do you (anyone) think Bush is empire building?
posted by clavdivs at 7:56 AM on February 11, 2002


Calvdivs.. My point about the Maoists was just that - it was a completely separate 'empire' from previous ones in China.

And Great Britain still exists in its 1815-1945 incarnation, just smaller..(actually, I'd include before 1815, and include the monarchy as part of the life of England).

It has evolved slowly instead of being interrupted by a massive decline into near-chaos, revamp of political and social systems, and rebuilding. I'm not thinking of empires as measured country boundaries, but the basic structure the country or empire is built around and the tenants that hold it together, whether it be monarchy, democracy or transitions seamlessly through different government styles.
posted by rich at 1:57 PM on February 11, 2002


« Older Enron? Nader is glad you asked...  |  This article... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments