When did the American empire start to decline?

Stephen Walt traces the beginning of the end to 1990 and the first Gulf war, which ushered in an era of American hubris about its ability to direct events in the Middle East to its and Israel’s liking.

It is noteworthy that he does not ask if the American empire is in a state of decline. He takes that as a given. The question is what has caused it.

It seems pretty obvious to me too that the US is heading for a major crash because of its unsustainable policies, a combination of oligarchical looting at home and disastrous wars overseas. What puzzles me is why more people, especially those in the upper levels of government, don’t see this and take the necessary steps to avert the catastrophe.

Maybe Tom Tomorrow’s cartoon from 2010 is right.


  1. says

    Shalom Mano,

    I go back much further to ’60s and the administration of President Lyndon Johnson who made the tragic mistake of believing the United States economy was robust enough to pay for both guns and butter and the resulting explosive growth of our Military Industrial Complex which needed foreign lands to use up what it was manufacturing in order to continue growing as the stockholders demanded.



  2. says

    Let me, as a former resident of the Soviet Union (former chief opponent of America) to express your opinion:
    America began to lose their positions when “consumerism” has become a higher power “Spirit of America.” It happened somewhere in 1970.

  3. P Smith says

    The decline of the US can be traced back even further, to the Rockefeller family. It was with the beginning of the 20th century that capitalism changed from working for wealth to acquiring for wealth. No longer was it about “building the better mousetrap”, but about the agglomeration of wealth. Control of an entire economy by a few hands was never before possible until the 20th century, not even in empires of one individual like the Khans, Alexander or Chinese.

    The US government of the attempted to challenge monopolies, and monopolists fought back with bribery under the guise of “lobbyists”. Lawmakers have been bribed for decades to write laws that favour the wealthy, to gradually reduce the taxes paid by them and shift the burden onto the working class and middle class. Gradually, the populace is being nickeled and dimed out of their nickels and dimes, and all that money being given to the wealth in what I call antisocialism. The term is apt because it’s both antisocial (detrimental to society) and a form of socialism, the redistribution of wealth but toward the rich instead of the poor.

    Ludicrous laws in the last two decades have gotten to the point where the wealthy can go without paying any taxes whatsoever by declaring companies as being “offshore” or by paying dividends in “preferred stock” which are not taxed. The rich talk of the poor being “welfare queens” living off the backs of the working class, but it is actually the wealthy who do. The rich reap the benefits of being in the US, but pay little or none of the cost. In many cases (e.g. oil companies, among others) US military force has been a tool of such corporations, paid for by taxpayers instead of those who benefitted from “intervention” (e.g United Fruit Company).

    The goal of corporatists in the US seems to be a return to feudalism with only the wealthy and poor and nothing in between. It has been said that “communism was the 20th century experiment that failed,” but the same could be said of the middle class in the US. And both did not “fail”, they were both killed off by mismanagement and corruption -- communism from within, the middle class from without. The corporatists seem to be blind to the history of feudalism -- collapse, and eventually, revolution. They seem to think that the government and military can be used for their own benefit and create a police state. That might work for a while, but not forever.

    The problem with killing off the middle class is it kills off the source of revenue generation and taxpaying base. When only the poor exist to pay taxes, they do not earn enough to pay off the debt, and the US debt will eventually cause the US’s economic collapse. The “wealth” of the rich will be worth nothing in the end because there is no system for it to have worth. And that’s without any mention of the destruction of the educational system -- when there are no new brilliant minds, you can’t develop new technologies.

    The US is behaving exactly the same way the Roman empire did 2000 years ago -- invading and controlling other nations, stealing the wealth of others for their own benefit, opposing self-determination by others and calling it “guidance”. And like the Romans, some oppose it -- whether Hannibal or Osama bin Laden, someone eventually tried to use large elephants to attack the capital of the empire (the financial capital, New York).

    The attack put a scare into the empire and drove it to a worldwide imperialistic spree, but as it did, it needed to steal more wealth from other nations. The imperialism continued until there was no more wealth to be stolen, and immediately thereafter the empire disintegrated economically and fell apart within a few years. It took the Romans 150 years of war and a century of collapse, but the US is trying to do both within 30.


  4. says

    Our decline can be tracked to our lack of manufacturing and evolution to a service society. If we will recover, we will need to start making items and exporting Fords and Chevys to South Korea instead of importing Hyundais.

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