Thursday, March 6, 2014

William Graham Sumner On The Monster Empire That Was Beginning To Hatch

By, Chris Rossini

As the U.S. Military Empire began to hatch from its poisonous egg, there were some heroic individuals who spoke out against the direction that the government was taking.

In 1898, a group called the Anti-Imperialist League was formed. Theodore Roosevelt called its members “men of a bygone age.” Such a statement rings of the same mentality of John Maynard Keynes, who would later call gold a "barbarous relic".

One of the members of the Anti-Imperialist League was a man named William Graham Sumner. In a speech at Yale's College Hall, he would say the following words on Jan. 16, 1899:
It is militarism which is eating up all the products of science and art, defeating the energy of the population and wasting its savings.
Is this true today? Of course.
It is militarism which forbids the people to give their attention to the problems of their own welfare and to give their strength to the education and comfort of their children.…
Is this true today? Absolutely. The attention of American individuals (and, more importantly, their earnings) are constantly diverted to a never-ending carousel of foreign nations. It never stops. Today it's Iran, Syria, and Ukraine. Yesterday it was Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya.

What could've been done with the fortunes that were expropriated in order to fund these disasters? We'll never know.
The American people believe that they have a free country, and we are treated to grandiloquent speeches about our flag and our reputation for freedom and enlightenment.
Do Americans believe that the biggest Welfare/Warfare State in the history of the world is a free country? Sure they do.

Are there grandiloquent speeches that reinforce such a ridiculous canard? As far as the eye can see.

Sumner would then peer into the future and describe what it looks like when the the imperialist flame finally burns out:
Now what will hasten the day when our present advantages will wear out.… The answer is: war, debt, taxation, diplomacy, a grand governmental system, pomp, glory, a big army and navy, lavish expenditures, political jobbery—in a word, imperialism.
We've got it all.

Unfortunately, The Anti-Imperialist League did not succeed in holding back what would turn into 100+ years of wreckage. Their ideas were not held by enough individuals.

While it's too late to stop the formation of the empire, it's not too late to prepare for what comes after it. It will all depend on the dominant ideas that are held at that time. When the empire finally reaches that economic barricade, may they be greeted with a population that wants nothing more than liberty and peace.

Chris Rossini is on Twitter


  1. I don't feel to optimistic when our so-called intellectuals are mostly state-indoctrinated socialists.

    1. I agree Tesla921, it is difficult to be optimistic when confronted by the reality of the nation and world in which we live. The Anti-Imperialist League failed, for reasons Chris notes in his wonderful (as usual) essay.

      But we have cause to be hopeful nonetheless, on several fronts. First, so many of our fellow citizens are sick to death of the endless wars, oppressive taxation, and busybodies meddling in their affairs, that we are much closer to reaching a breaking point than we were a century ago.

      Second, we have squandered our inheritance, we have allowed ourselves to be pillaged and robbed by a gang of well-connected crooks, we are living on borrowed time, so that any significant crisis could at any time bring down the whole house of cards. As a nation we are perilously close to being reduced to depending on the kindness of strangers, and the way we've lorded it over the world, it's not so likely many will be found.

      Either or both of these conditions will likely bring about the end of the American empire, but there is obviously grave peril in them for anyone living here. Yet there is a third reason for hope: we have the unprecedented ability to disseminate our message of liberty broadly and unfiltered today. No longer must we depend on media gatekeepers to grant us access, as was the case with Hazlitt, Nock, and of course Sumner. Venues like EPJ, LRC, the Mises Institute and many others allow us to spread the message of peace, prosperity, and freedom broadly and boldly.

      I have eight friends of widely varying political backgrounds, both left and right, whom I've "converted" into considering themselves libertarian. I teach to a group of homeschooled teenagers, for whom I'm able to use the curriculum of my choice, with the goal being they learn to think critically and independently. Not all agree with me, and we have many lively debates, but when they enter the broader world, they will have been exposed to a far wider range of thought than if they had gone to public school. And in my area, homeschooling is a fast growing movement, filled with many parents who by the very nature of their educational choices show they are willing to question the current system.

      If each of us truly believes there is hope, and acts to spread the message of liberty among our friends, acquaintances, and most especially our children, we will find that we are well-prepared to meet the coming end of empire.