The Cost of Building and Operating Empire (USA)

David Redick

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: Corrupt leaders (political and financial) using war, fake money, and debt to enhance their power. In order to get more re-election votes, campaign donations, wealth, and power, it has become “normal” for our leaders and Congresspersons to support:  A) Expensive, unconstitutional, programs.  B) Counterproductive distortions of the free-market.   C) Non-defense wars for Empire based on lies. 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.

  1. Economics: 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 and rampant.
  2. Personal Rights: 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. Warrantless wire-tapping, FISA, TSA, absence of habeas corpus, and SWAT teams restricting our right to assemble, are but a few examples.
  3. Morals: Our leading faults are: A) The death, maiming and displacement of people, damaging their land with our wars for Empire.  B) 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. Some say, “We need taxes in order to adequately fund our social welfare projects.”  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, work-oriented society. 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 IRS.

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 create enemies. 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 friends. Our bases create a lot of animosity — some violent — as we have seen, with various bombings and 9-11 (see W. Pape’s book Dying to Win, about suicide bombers; the poor man’s nuke). The counterproductive results of Empire-USA are also covered in C. Johnson’s three books 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:
  1. Theft by War: A) 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. B) 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.  C) Annexation of Hawaii in 1898.
  2. Purchase:  A) The Louisiana Territory from France in 1803 (for $15 mill, 2.8 cents per acre).  B) Alaska from Russia in 1867 (for $7.2 mill, 1.9 cents per acre).
  3. Negotiation: 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 Churchill). 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. The 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 by Congress! 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!). The Bush-Cheney plan was to rule the USA and the world 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, intimidation, assassinations, torture, and sponsored insurrections were their primary tools. The problem with such Imperialistic plans is that they are not only illegal and immoral, but they never work. 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 today. 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:  A) Corruption and B) 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.

Author, David Redick

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