I have just finished the book “Empire of Debt” by William Bonner and Addison Wiggin. I won’t focus on much of the content of this book for I am doing a book review on it for Speaking Alpha and the reader should go there for a discussion of the book, itself, and its major thesis. What I want to concentrate on in this post is the authors disdain for people they refer to as “improvers” and the problems these people can create within a democratic form of government.
An “improver”, as defined by the authors, is someone who wants to make improvements to the world…wants to impose his or her view of how the world should run on all of the rest of us. Of course, politics within a democracy is a perfect venue for “improvers” to show their wares.
One can get a taste of what is meant by an “improver” by checking out Bonner and Wiggin’s “Hall of Shame” as well as their “Hall of Heroes.” To them, the stars of the United States Presidents they list as villains are Lincoln, Wilson, Franklin Roosevelt, Nixon, and Bush 43 and so on. The heroes that stand tall in their book are James Garfield, Chester Harding, Calvin Coolidge, Millard Fillmore, and their personal favorite Warren Harding.
Just waiting to enter into this “Hall of Shame” is Barack Obama…just his proposals, even before taking the oath of office, are enough to bring down the abuse and ridicule of these two authors. President-elect Obama wants to make the world better for others. What a joke! What a crock of …well, you name it.
And, it is just this attitude that is walking…no, now, running…no, now, sprinting…down the path to the doom of the empire. In short, the American empire has been built upon the shaky premise that foreigners will continue to finance the debt of the United States forever and will continue, through thick and thin, to keep faith in the strength of the almighty United States dollar.
How much debt is the Obama administration going to add to the total United States debt outstanding?
Trillions and trillions of dollars!
But, this is not the focal point of this post. The focal point is on Bonner and Wiggin’s definition of “improvers” and the role that “improvers” play within a democratic framework of empire. Empires, to Bonner and Wiggin, keep their people happy and distracted by giving the masses “enemies and circuses”. That is, the thing that keeps an empire going is the diversion of its people. And, a democracy, according to the authors, is just perfect for the exploitation of the people.
Empires have always existed upon imperial interests, which mean that there are always wars on the periphery. The twist of the modern day imperialist is that they “pretend all manner of selfless and world-improving motives, every one of which is either an obvious fraud or a monumental bamboozle.” The authors go on to say that “The gist of the modern empire builder’s creed is that he has a duty to make the world a better place, and he can only do it by telling other people what to do.”
Empires need enemies…and isn’t it just convenient that when the modern empire takes on an enemy it is often done to bring liberty and democracy to the people it is fighting for. Perhaps, Bonner and Wiggin argue, one of the most difficult periods for the American empire came after the fall of the Berlin wall and the collapse of Communism because it left the United States government with no “bad guy”…no enemy. Thank goodness, they continue, for 9/11 because it gave the empire a vague, world wide enemy, the terrorist, that it could combat endlessly and without constraint on cost. Just what the empire needed to continue.
But, just as the empires of the past, these excursions cost lots and lots of money. In the past the empires extracted the funds to pay for their adventures from the defeated. The modern empire, the wealthy, prosperous empire, the empire that does not do its own saving, borrows from the poor of the world…those nations in which their people actually save.
So much for wars…now for circuses. The modern day circus, to Bonner and Wiggin, has to do with the promises and dream worlds which politicians in a democracy offer to the electorate. These promises and dream worlds can never be achieved and many attempts at attaining them leave those whose votes are solicited by the politicians worse off. To get elected, therefore, the politicians engage in lies and outright fraud. But that is the way of the modern world.
And, what is promised? Full employment. No financial pain. A home of their own for everybody. And, so on and so forth.
And, who is going to pay for the delivery of all these programs and policies?
Bonner and Wiggin tell us…China, India, Brazil, countries in the Middle East…and others in the less developed world…who save some of their income.
I keep getting off-the-point. Democracy gives “do-gooders” (those that want to make the world a better place to live based upon the knowledge the “do-gooders” have about how the world works and what should be done to make the world a better place to live in) the opportunity to make the world a better place to live in. And, so we get the modern empire…America in the 21st century.
The obvious thesis of Bonner and Wiggin is that the world would be a lot better place if there were fewer “improvers” or if the “improvers” were taken for what they are, in the authors words, frauds and cheats. They believe that people need to stick to their own business, be humble, and work hard. They believe that grandiose ideals and plans can only lead to trouble. They believe that the United States did pretty well until that incompetent fake, Woodrow Wilson became President.
Europe knew that Wilson was a fraud and laughed at him. They used him and then abandoned him and his ideals on how the world should be built. Yet, Wilson became the model for the many activist Presidents that came after him starting with Franklin Roosevelt. And, as they say, the rest is history…the history of the American Empire.
As we stand here on January 10, 2009 on the edge of financial chaos we need to develop an answer for the criticisms of Bonner and Wiggin or we need to be very afraid. The debt of the United States is going to expand dramatically over the next few years.
Who is going to finance all these trillions and trillions of dollars of American debt? Is the only way to finance this debt to monetize it? To print paper money or to electronically generate money?
Who is going to want to hold the United States dollar? The dollar lost 40% of its value between the start of 2001 and August, 2008. Will it lose 40% more? Or, 80% more? Or, 100% more?
Is this where the “improvers” have brought us?
Bonner and Wiggin believe so.