Monday, August 28, 2006

An American Empire

I had a chance to do a little thinking this morning in the bathroom....

I've read recently complaints on the left that Bush is an imperialist, that 9/11 was an attempt to grab power for himself and to create an American empire.

Bush is not responsible for setting up an American Empire, anymore than Clinton, or Bush I or Reagan, or Kennedy, or even Roosevelt.

History demonstrates that all democracies and republics evolve to empires. That's a simple fact, because democratic forms of government cannot possibly compete with the twin factors of the gathering of material wealth and it's concomitant, power.

Democratic power, by defintion, is diffused. I cannot gather a big enough bloc of votes without appealing to a large number of people.

On the other hand, wealth, with its aggregation in the hands of the few or even the one, can garner massive power that does not require a consensus. It merely requires an opinion in order to be deployed.

Ergo, when viewing history thru the lens of power, we see that wealth inevitably trumps cooperation.

We've seen it already in this country for centuries, literally almost from the beginning, but let's look at the latter half of the twentieth century for relevance:

Democratic power is best exercised when law and precedent are revered above any other "social god", for want of a better turn of phrase (and I'm just back from vacation, so taht's the best you're getting!). Washington got it correct when he went out of his way to ensure that his custom and precedent was something that was fair and equitable to all. Like only standing for election twice.

So here comes FDR, a savior of the nation, arguably the greatest President ever, to demolish that institution at the altar of personality.

Similarly, we've seen the brick-by-brick devolution of our personal freedoms, most recently in the Patriot Act, but also in the actions of previous presidents in the so-called "war on drugs", whereby the Fourth and Fifth Amendments have been greatly challenged and the SCOTUS has agreed they needed trimming.

The First Amendment is in danger of collapsing under the weight of public opinion, goaded on by the petty, small-minded administration currently in power, but the fatal blow was dealt by the Reagan FCC when it removed the Fairness Doctrine and when the 1996 Telecommunications Act greatly increased the concentration of media ownership.

Similarly, an huge blow to personal freedom was dealt by the Supremes themselves when they determined that corporations had precisely equal rights to natural born persons (I think this was in the Ford administration, but someone correct me if I'm wrong). Couple that to the fact that corporations already had rights far exceeding those of natural born persons (the right to socialize losses but privatize income, for example) and you can see that the dangerous combination of material wealth and power were mixing.

And we've already seen the beginnings of the coalescence of power into pools based on families: The Kennedys, Rockefellers, and Bushes. And now, the Clintons are poised to join the plutocracy.

There are examples of how a country evolves from a democracy to an empire, but the obvious choice is Rome (and here, I highly recommend reading "Rubicon").

Right now, all we have standing between us and an empire is the rule of law. All it takes is for one person to decide he is above the law (and as recent Presidencies indicate, that's not hard) and that's the ballgame, Charlie. Sadly, I don't see a way to reverse or even stop this trend from happening.