8 February 2007

"Republic or Empire" at Harpers

Republic or Empire by Chalmers Johnson.

In explaining the economic dysfunction of the military-industrial complex, Johnson quotes Senator Robert La Follette Sr. (1855-1925). Many of his quotes comment on 50s McCarthyism and the 2000s 9/11 alarmism. It has me vacillating between the dread of impending doom and the rationalism of a history of cycles. Take, for instance, this La Follette quote:

The purpose of this ridiculous campaign is to throw the country into a state of sheer terror, to change public opinion, to stifle criticism, and suppress discussion. People are being unlawfully arrested, thrown into jail, held incommunicado for days, only to be eventually discharged without ever having been taken into court, because they have committed no crime. But more than this, if every preparation for war can be made the excuse for destroying free speech and a free press and the right of the people to assemble together for peaceful discussion, then we may well despair of ever again finding ourselves for a long period in a state of peace. The destruction of rights now occurring will be pointed to then as precedents for a still further invasion of the rights of the citizen.

I would emphasize one or two phrases here, yet they're all telling. I'm reminded that modern America did not invent fascist tendencies, but also that cycles don't necessarily return to an equivalent state. Knowing that free-speech zones exist and are enforced is difficult to get out from under no matter how many people invoke a defense in the form of pendulums and counterweights. How also to explain that All forty-two previous U.S. presidents combined have signed statements exempting themselves from the provisions of 568 new laws, whereas Bush has, to date, exempted himself from more than 1,000?

To cut to the climax, here's Johnson's final assessment:

The more likely check on presidential power, and on U.S. military ambition, will be the economic failure that is the inevitable consequence of military Keynesianism. Traditional Keynesianism is a stable two-part system composed of deficit spending in bad times and debt payment in good times. Military Keynesianism is an unstable one-part system. With no political check, debt accrues until it reaches a crisis point.

He looks at Roman descent from empire to a destructive military fascism and British transformation from empire to the sustainable democracy of a more modest kingdom, and sees neither available to America before our military economy humbles us.

[ posted by sstrader on 8 February 2007 at 5:39:47 PM in Politics ]