By Justin Williams
When most Americans hear the word empire, they think of the Romans or the British. They do not think of their own nation, the United States. So it was no shock when Niall Ferguson published “Colossus: The Rise and Fall of the American Empire” in 2005, he received lots of criticism from both the left and the right. But to read this book, the reader must open his or her mind to big ideas that are truly outside of the box.
At first, Ferguson analyzes the expansion of the United States westward and shows the clear cases of imperialistic rhetoric during that time. Even though this period was one of the United State’s clearest periods of imperialism, it may be a surprise to some that the same people who fought Britain imperialism had imperialism in their own mind for the newly created nation of freedom fighters.
Even some of the founders, including George Washington, Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and even Thomas Jefferson, referred to the United States as an empire. For example, Alexander Hamilton wrote in the opening paragraph in the first essay of the Federalist Papers that this new nation “in many respects the most… interesting… empire… in the world.”
But after a well-detailed analysis of imperialistic actions that compares American actions to other countries throughout modern and contemporary history, Ferguson focuses-in on the biggest setback of the United States liberal empire: debt.
Ferguson believes that heavy debt is causing the American empire to fall and thus, something must be done in order to keep a liberal empire. What Niall Ferguson doesn’t seem to realize that, in the words of Randolph Bourne, “War is the Health of the State.”
In other words, war keeps people loyal to their governments. This loyalty can then be transformed into big government. And then big government naturally equals more debt.
In Ferguson’s perfect world, the United States would use economic freedom to open up countries. Military strength would be used to take down those countries that sponsor terrorist activities. Sounds simple for many war hawks that support economic freedom, but countries simply cannot have both.
As of 2008, the United States’ armed forces were had 820 installations in 39 countries including full-scale wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Not so coincidentally, since these wars began, Big Government has grown even bigger. Not to mention, the Big Government explosion in America was under Franklin D. Roosevelt during the Great Depression and World War II eras.
Overall, the book is provocative and will challenge almost anyone who has gone through the Public School systems in the United States. It is well researched and offers an important voice in American politics. The reader will definitely have to approach this book with an open mind.
Justin Williams is the Senior Commentary Editor of ALG News Bureau and, as always, he accepts questions and comments at email@example.com