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"Economics of Empire"

By       Message Alan MacDonald     Permalink
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The pathology of Empire really has more to do at its core with economics than with politics.  All traditional empires have been at heart a project of economic advantage only affected by political rationalization, and ultimately the military power to carry out the seminal goal of economic advantaged status. 

 

The reason for economics being the leading factor of the ‘will to empire’ is simply that empire itself as a system is leveraged and dependent on a concept, one might say, even a love of elitism, and thus must support the underpinnings of a highly skewed hierarchy of privilege, wealth, status, and power, which can only be accomplished and maintained with an ever larger scale of economic advantages that come from broadening economic exploitation ---- both within one society and extending to ultimately all societies.

 

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While the realms of political power and military fame can and are motivators of expanded personal exploits, and can frequently lead to personal advantage and fame, it is only through the conscious acquisition of expanding economic resources that an entire social, political, and particularly military system can expand and sustain itself beyond the scope of its own society or nation-state.   By definition an empire is self-referential and must be composed of those within the empire’s identity, and those without --- who are more thoroughly exploited for the advantage of the empire’s members. 

 

Some, within any society regardless of its form of political economic structure and rule, may achieve stature, wealth, power and elite status within the community or society itself.  But such fame or elite status within the society, whether sought or given, is relative within the community, and thus places an upper limit on both the scale and the steepness of any elitist hierarchy.  Therefore the great political leader or the great general can be renowned within the society but not too visibly to the detriment of the whole society, and this limiting factor places a constraint on the essentially limitless lust, elitism and hubris of some with lesser real talents but with lust for stature.  While social reverence for political or military leadership by members of the society may often be enough to satisfy leaders with such genuine skills, the possession of an infinitely expandable and symbolic representation of greatness in the form of wealth creates the basis and mechanism of institutionalizing an elitist grasp for hierarchy beyond that demonstrated by genuine personal qualities of leadership within one society.

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Empire entails the conscious design and development of the methodology to exploit ‘outsider’ societies in order to support an elitist hierarchy which is larger, steeper, more robust, defensible and satisfying than could be supported within one’s own society alone.

 

How many times have we heard the statement about the Iraq war, “the war can not be won militarily alone, but must be won politically”?  However, the real and deeper truth is that wars are not won militarily OR politically, but only economically.

 

Economics, not politics or some vague patriotic reference to geopolitics, is the basis and driver for all “wars of aggression” ----- and the “economics of empire” is foundational to the support of the elitist concept and reality of all empire.

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Karl von Clausewitz famously said, “War is merely politics by other means”. But what he failed to describe is that, “politics is merely economics by other means”.

So what we have (by transitive property) is that, if war = politics (by other means), and politics = economics (by other means), then war = economics (by disguised means). This, in fact, we might more generally term; the fundamental property of Economic Empire.

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Retired Director of Product Strategy NEC now teaching HS part time.

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