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imperial overstretch: is a bloated defense budget weakening the u.s.?

November 22, 2011

Interesting article suggesting that the US’s economic decline, as well as its decline as a major power in the world, is directly tied to its bloated defense budget:

Imperial Overstretch: Is A Bloated Defense Budget Weakening the U.S.?

In The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers, Prof. Kennedy argues that empires can extend themselves beyond their ability to maintain or expand their military and economic commitments in what he calls ‘imperial overreach’ or ‘imperial overstretch’; in Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism, Lenin argues that modern day imperialism is actually the highest form of capitalism, a distinct, developmental phase or stage of capitalist economy as opposed to merely a policy preferred by finance capital.

Incidentally, considering the recent report about record lobbying spending by banks and the massive consolidation of banks since the ’90s, number two in his list of basic features of imperialism seems especially relevant today, i.e., “the merging of bank capital with industrial capital, and the creation, on the basis of this ‘finance capital’, of a financial oligarchy.” Looking at the present state of things, as well as the way they’ve been trending for at least the past few decades, and comparing that to what Lenin wrote about the evolution of capitalism, I think there’s ample reason to take his analysis seriously.

The US’s actions and polices, as well as its current economic structure in general, seem to indeed be more or less imperialistic in the sense that Lenin defined it, and follow much the same pattern as he laid out in his 1916 pamphlet. That doesn’t mean, of course, that I believe Lenin’s analysis to be 100% correct, but I do think both Prof. Kennedy’s and Lenin’s ideas have merit, and are worth considering in tandem. Not only to see where we’re potentially headed, but to start a conversation about what, if anything, we can do about it.

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