I headed over to the Empire Salon to hear Kevin Phillips deliver a talk on his latest book: American Theocracy: The Peril And Politics Of Radical Religion, Oil And Borrowed Money In The 21st Century. The Salon meets regularly in Washington D.C. where one can practically hear the beating heart of empire and feel its tremors in the ground. They look to hash out the implications of American Empire. In Phillips they had the man for the job.
Phillips is a former Republican strategist turned fiery critic of the Republican Party’s metamorphosis under George W. Bush. He has also dedicated much of efforts in studying leading economic powers of the past – Great Britain, Spain, the Dutch and Rome in particular. Phillips has come up with some yardsticks to gauge the decline of these powers. All past empires suffered through the following. And all of the below ‘seem to be intensifying under the George W. Bush administration.’
1. As the empire topped out, there was a popular sense that something was wrong – loss of jobs, increased violence, moral decay and more.
2. An intensification of religious fervour (See the rise of the mega churches in the ‘red states.’)
3. Conflicts between faith and science (witness the Evolution-creationism
4. Imperialism and global overreach. (See the Iraq War, which Phillips called ‘the most poorly thought out war in U.S. history.’)
5. Decline of industry and the rise of finance (as Phillips says, ‘moving money around as opposed to building things.’)
6. The burden of excessive debt. No need to comment here.
The other interesting wrinkle Phillips tackles is the role of energy. Past empires mastered an energy source and as the importance of that energy source diminished, they could not make the adjustment. America’s addiction to increasingly expensive oil will play a role in its downfall, Phillips says. “The U.S. is not going to make it with another energy regime.” It is oil or bust.
Finally, attendees got a surprise when congressman and presidential hopeful Ron Paul showed up. He made a few remarks, which brought cheers from the gathering: ‘I’m not running based on what I’m going to do for you. I’m running telling you what I’m not going to do. I don’t want to run your life. I don’t want to run the economy. I don’t want to police the world.’
Are the American people ready to walk without a shepherd? Many will decide in 2008. Somehow, there is little suspense as to the answer.
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