The Long View 2003-04-27: Misguided Plans

If only John were still here, I would love to talk with him about the current slate of US Presidential candidates. In this post from 2003, you can get a feel for what he would have thought of Jeb Bush. John probably would prefer a third term from Bill Clinton instead of a first for Hillary[as would I]. I suspect John would find Trump gauche, but he would find something interesting to say about his candidacy. Scott Adams thinks Trump is a master of manipulation. Steve Sailer isn't so sure, but still finds Trump interesting. I think I want to see both Trump and Sanders run third party campaigns, and make the current parties implode.

Also of relevance to US Presidential politics, John talks a bit here about the likely formation of a universal state in the latter half of the twenty-first century. Right now, Europe and the US are both exhibiting the some of the same patterns of events we saw in the Late Republican period of Rome. The attractiveness of the US and Europe to immigrants and refugees alike is an example of this.

Finally, there is a reference to a couple of John's books: Apocalypse & Future, and The Perfection of the West. Both are self-published collections of his blogs and online essays. They were John's attempt to summarize his thoughts on millennialism and universal states. Which is pretty much what I am trying to do here. I still have no idea who owns the copyrights to John's works now, but I do my best in my own small way to promote his ideas regardless.

Misguided Plans
No statement in a political magazine has alarmed me more in recent years than The Weekly Standard's recent assertion that Jeb Bush is the Republican presidential front-runner for 2008. (The Weekly Standard did two issues last week so they could gloat about Iraq longer, and I kept neither. I think the piece was "O Brother, Where Art Thou?" in the April 19 issue.] Part of the problem is just the realization that anybody, anywhere, is giving serious thought to the election of 2008 at this point. However, my alarm is chiefly due to what the candidacy of Jeb Bush would signal about the Republican Party.
Jeb Bush is the governor if Florida, where he is reasonably well regarded, and the brother of the current president, who seems to like him too. The Weekly Standard quotes him rhapsodizing about emptying out the government offices in the state capital as he privatises more and more public services. He is very keen on tax cuts. If he has any ideas about foreign policy, he keeps them to himself.
May I point out that his brother lost the popular vote in 2000 by running on that platform? And that was before the bottom dropped out of the fool's paradise we had been living in during the Clinton years about the irrelevance of war and diplomacy to domestic politics. You can't take a flight on a commuter airline these days without being frisked by the agents of world history. These people have to be paid. When someone assembles a budget, that sort of question has to be the chief consideration.
The era of conservatism, indeed of social renaissance, is now upon us. The era of small government is over. If the national Republican Party still has not understood that, then it does not deserve to win any more elections.
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One person who is little tempted by soccer-mom politics is the economic historian and born-again imperialist, Niall Ferguson. In today's New York Times Magazine, he has an article, The Empire Slinks Back, in which he seeks to stiffen the American people to their imperial duty. If the United States were running a proper empire, he complains, Americans would be living abroad and administering things in the colonies, as the British did. The British were willing to do that decade after decade, even century after century. It seems that, right up to the 1930s, a remarkably high percentage of the graduates of elite British schools went forth to administer the empire.
The US, in contrast, seems to regard the prospect of an occupation of Iraq lasting more than a year or two with deep misgivings. And who would run the protectorate, anyway? American colleges pay little attention to foreign societies, and particularly to foreign languages. In fact, the denizens of the prospective imperium are far more eager to come to the United States than the Americans are to go to them. What kind of an empire is that?
I would respond that it's not any kind of an empire at all, but the beginning of a universal state. The US has a special role in the system, one aspect of which was discussed in another piece in today's Times. In American Power Moves Beyond Merely Super Gregg Easterbrook argues that the US military is so far beyond any possible combination of rivals that essentially the rest of the world has given up on the idea of a conventional arms race with America. No other country has a serious navy, he asserts, and even when the US fights a country with a modern air force, the enemy planes do not dare offer battle.
This kind of piece makes me uncomfortable. Even if it were true, it would jinx the whole business. In any case, as I have pointed out before, the military preeminence of the US is like being smartest kid in the dumb room. The world is in fact demilitarizing. (Easterbrook gives figures suggesting that, worldwide, military expenditures have about halved in the last 17 years.) It is a matter of acquiescence, not of the absolute power of the United States.
What the US has done is to monopolize a whole stratum of international life. This gives the US quite a lot of say in many contexts, but it's not the same as a traditional empire. It does not exclude the possibility of other countries becoming comparably preeminent in other spheres. Even if the US can be said to be the cop of the world, we should remember that cops don't run city hall.
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Of course, Ferguson's argument that the US is too impatient to run an empire should not be dismissed. The Astronomer Royal of the UK recently published a book, Our Final Century, in which he makes a plausible case for "doom soon." The book is also out in the US, but here it is called Our Final Hour. Now that's a difference in attention spans for you.
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For anyone who is interested, I would like to announce that my next anthology is in the works, The Perfection of the West. A print-on-demand book brought to us through the ingenuity of Xlibris, it pulls together just about everything I have had to say in recent years about the coming Universal State and related matters. It will take longer to appear than I had hoped, though. I should get the proofs in a week or two, but the book may not be available until well into the summer.
I do have another Xlibiris anthololgy, by the way: Apocalypse & Future. The Perfection of the West is slightly more cheerful.
Copyright © 2003 by John J. Reilly

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