Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Schumpeter on Roman Imperialism, Does This Sound Familiar?

In his book, America the Virtuous, Claes Ryn cited (p. 196) a great quote from Joseph Schumpeter's essay on Imperialism. Does this sound at all familiar? Try substituting 'America' for 'Rome' and 'American' for 'Roman'.
There was no corner of the known world where some interest was not alleged to be in danger or under actual attack. If the interests were not Roman, they were those of Rome's allies; and if Rome had no allies, then allies would be invented. When it was utterly impossible to contrive such an interest--why, then it was the national honor that had been insulted. The fight was always invested with an aura of legality. Rome was always being attacked by evil-minded neighbors, always fighting for a breathing space. The whole world was pervaded by a host of enemies, and it was manifestly Rome's duty to guard against their indubitably aggressive designs. They were enemies who only waited to fall on the Roman people.
This is the kind of world presence the pseudo-conservative hawks, what Ryn calls the New Jacobins after the French Revolution's Jacobins, are convincing Americans to uphold. As Ryn wrote (p. 191):
Neo-Jacobinism is the main factor behind the quest for American world supremacy.... There are grounds for suspecting that, upon gaining a further hold on power, the new Jacobins will gravitate in the direction of more despotic methods. They are already employing systematic demonization and ostracism of their critics.... As the constraints of American constituitionalism continue to deteriorate, military or other emergencies will provide neo-Jacobin leaders widening opportunities for silencing their opponents as well as for imposing general restrictions on civil liberties.

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