Decline of American Power – Is that a bad thing?
A lot of conservatives lament the decline of “American Power” around the World. Just this week Bill O’Reilly had a rant about that. But to those who love Liberty, American Power is just another phrase for Government Power, and the less Government there is at home and abroad the better the lives of all individuals around the world will be.
Thoreau had a great quote about that:
“I heartily accept the motto,—“That government is best which governs least;” and I should like to see it acted up to more rapidly and systematically. Carried out, it finally amounts to this, which I also believe,—“That government is best which governs not at all;” and when men are prepared for it, that will be the kind of government which they will have”.
I look forward to the day when men are prepared for a government that governs none at all. But until then the Leviathan that is the State with its Coercive Power will be with us. Our job for those who love liberty is to educate ourselves and others about the True Nature of the State and the Blessings of Liberty.
Franz Oppenheimer made it crystal clear the difference between how the State acquires what it desires and the way free individuals voluntarily trade to gain what they desire:
There are two fundamentally opposed means whereby man, requiring sustenance, is impelled to obtain the necessary means for satisfying his desires. These are work and robbery, one’s own labor and the forcible appropriation of the labor of others. Robbery! Forcible appropriation! These words convey to us ideas of crime and the penitentiary, since we are the contemporaries of a developed civilization, specifically based on the inviolability of property. And this tang is not lost when we are convinced that land and sea robbery is the primitive relation of life, just as the warrior’s trade – which also for a long time is only organized mass robbery – constitutes the most respected of occupations. Both because of this, and also on account of the need of having, in the further development of this study, terse, clear, sharply opposing terms for these very important contrasts, I propose in the following discussion to call one’s own labor and the equivalent exchange of one’s own labor for the labor of others, the “economic means” for the satisfaction of needs, while the unrequited appropriation of the labor of others will be called the “political means.”
When anyone advocates for the use of “American Power” they are advocating for the use of coercion to benefit themselves. They are advocating for the threat of violence to gain compliance. They are advocating for the use of force when compliance is not given and they are advocating for the destruction, acquisition and redistribution of the property of those who don’t comply. Come to think of it that is exactly what happens in America everyday. Consent or die. That is the “Political Means” of attaining “sustenance”.
When “American Power” is projected around the world who really benefits? It isn’t myself or you. Do you feel any safer with the U.S. Government having 900 military bases around the world? Do you feel any safer with the U.S. Government using force to dictate how the individuals of other countries constitute their governments? Do you feel any safer that Special Ops teams are hunting a fictitious threat in Uganda? Do you feel any safer that Gaddafi is dead? Do you feel any safer that Drones are killing “suspected terrorists” around the world? Do you feel any safer that the U.S. Government is still occupying Afghanistan after they have been told to leave?
My answer to all of those questions is an emphatic no. In fact all of those actions are not to make anyone “safer” but to enrich a few at the expense of the many. Who advocates for these military bases overseas, these endless wars and expansion of the assassination programs? It is the State itself. It is the contractors who suckle at its teat and the Bankers who loan the money to make it all happen. Whenever you hear someone advocate for the projection of “American Power” remember what they always mean is that they are really advocating for expansion of Government Power to enrich themselves. That is the “political means” for the attaining of “sustenance” as Oppenheimer put it and it is no different from out right theft. When you use force to gain something from someone who would not voluntarily give it to you,that is theft.
Not only does the use of “American Power” overseas violates the Natural Rights of individuals in those countries that are the victims of it, the use of American Power abroad expands Government Power at home. When The State uses “Political Means” to attain what it wants abroad it must also use “Political Means” at home to make it happen.
Albert J. Nock wrote in “Our Enemy the State” that as the State’s power grows, Society’s power shrinks. Everything that the Government has it has taken from individuals. Ever bullet, bomb, and aircraft manufactured, transported and used by the Guardians of the State was purchased with money taken by the State from productive individuals or borrowed against their future production from bankers who have a long and nefarious history of stirring up and supporting wars around the world. When “American Power” is used abroad it is in direct proportion used at home to facilitate that foreign intervention. Not only does taxation increase but also regulations do as well. When Government grows it “governs”. That literally means to limit. When the huge machine of the State is geared more and more towards war it must more and more control the actions of individuals in order to continue the flow of funds to buy more bullets, bombs and aircraft and make sure to pay the interest it owes to the bankers.
Now those who love liberty are advocates for only using the Economic Means to gain “sustenance”. That is what occurs when Individuals are free to trade with each other. The Economic Means of attainment is simply when two individuals voluntarily trade for mutual benefit. That is a simple as can be. And great things occur when individuals are free of Government Edicts and Coercion. They are free to pursue their passions and uniqueness and unimaginably awesome new products and services are invented and made available for purchase by anyone around the world, (unless governments intervene with tariffs and other protectionist b.s.). Today people do not realize how Free Trade enriches us all. In Leonard Read’s classic, “I, Pencil,” he does an amazing job of showing how the rational self-interest of individuals leads them to trade their goods and services to others to gain what they want which in turn makes it possible for others to trade for what they desire until after thousands and even millions of individuals satisfying their own needs working through ”economic means” produce a simple “pencil” that is made available for purchase by consumers. It is millions of people “cooperating” not through the edict of central planners but through the pursuit of rational self-interest which in turn produces the beautiful spontaneous order of the Free Market.
All the products we enjoy today are the result of what is left of the Free Market. If you want more innovation at a lower cost then Less “American Power” is what you should be advocating for because Less “American Power” means less Government Power and that always means more Individual Liberty.
So the next time you hear anyone talking about using “American Power” abroad remember it’s not “American Power” that is being projected, its’ Government Power, it is the Political Means of attaining what someone desires, and it is the song of those who want to Grow the State’s power at Home and Abroad at the expense of a peaceful and free Society.
The Government that governs best governs least. Or stated differently the Government that interferes the least with the lives of individuals at home and abroad is the best, and that is what we can hope for until men deserve the Government that governs none at all.
When Individuals are free to trade amazing things happen from Ipads to enjoying Lemons in Winter, to being able to swallow a camera pill to see inside your small intestine to being able to fly for fun into Space. Peace, Liberty and Free Trade are the cornerstones of a Free and Prosperous Society. The less Government intervenes around the world the less it will intervene in our own lives at home and the more Freedom we will have to pursue our own individuality which in turn enriches us all.