An empire is, fundamentally, in the business of providing protection. People in America applauded when the Soviet Union collapsed and China took the capitalist road…but it practically put them out of business. There was nothing to provide protection against.
The sensible thing for the United States to do, following the fall of its one and only major enemy, would have been to cut the defence budget down to a nub…and invest the money in infrastructure and capital improvements, so Americans would be able to compete on better terms with the rising economies of their former enemies. It was obvious that with billions of people entering the modern economy for the first time, the world was beginning a new, more competitive phase of development…and that without huge capital investment, labour rates for marginally skilled workers were doomed to fall.
But what kind of world would it be if people always behaved sensibly? Instead, it was party time in the U.S. of A. Americans went on a binge of spending, borrowing and soft-headed thinking. Colleges switched from teaching engineering to letting students emote on subjects such as gender and racial equality. The leading profit makers switched from manufacturing to finance…from making things to lending money…from Detroit to Wall Street. New regulations imposed higher operating costs…and more lawyers and more delays. And lobbyists got billions in special favours.
No lobbyists were as successful at squeezing the public tube as those who work for the defence industry. People come to believe what they must believe when they must believe it. The United States is an imperial power with one major leading industry: defence. But with no enemies capable of inflicting real damage to the country, the defence industry had to invent one: terrorism…and the people had to believe it.
Readers typically want to argue this point. “What about 9/11?” they ask.
Of course, terrorists always pose a danger to individuals. And if they are daring and determined enough, they pose a danger to many individuals. But they pose no real danger to the state…and none to the Pentagon. You could put all the world’s terrorists together in a single army…they would still stand no chance whatsoever of defeating the United States of America.
Normally, it is the police who are charged with protecting citizens. The fuzz fight crime and criminals…even gangs of criminals. Terrorists in the U.S.A., as near as we can tell, are practically non-existent. They don’t seem capable of breaking into a parking meter, let alone challenging the U.S. Army. There must be 10,000 paid cops for every one of them. Why bring the Pentagon onto the case?
As mentioned in these reckonings, the feds are adding to the official national debt at the rate of $1.5 billion per day. Still, neither Democrats nor Republicans dared challenge the Pentagon’s latest $600 billion spendfest. No one wants to audit the Pentagon. No one wants to oppose it. The Pentagon is in a bubble of its own.
The average man is no genius. And half the population is even dumber. He responds to popular issues by instinct. He’s not going to spend his leisure time thinking about how the military industry complex works. Instead, he’s going to get behind the man in the crisp uniform. He’ll support America’s leading industry – until it ruins him.
Yes, dear reader…every empire is a kind of bubble in power…an extraordinary, temporary thing. And like every bubble, empires end in bankruptcy…disgrace…and the perp walk.
Markets and Money