Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Lost and Found
    There’s nothing new under the sun. But, as any magazine subscriber knows, there is renewal. Years ago, I found, and promptly lost, a terrific quote on the foreign policy of the Roman Empire that sounded amazingly like our own. I couldn’t search for it because I wasn’t sure of the words or who wrote them. They were a mere wisp on the wind.
    Heading for Lambert’s Cove beach the other day, I grabbed up what I thought was a Stan Getz cassette to play in our ancient Corolla wagon. I soon discovered that it was in fact a talk I had I recorded way back when by Michael Parenti, the splendid
contemporary radical sociologist.
    A couple of minutes into it, Parenti quoted the brilliant, long gone conservative economist, Joseph Schumpeter.  And there it was--my long lost quote! I experienced a thrill beyond that of discovering a stack of old Playboys in the attic. 
    I’ve been studying up on the American empire for decades. I even visited lands on our long and ever-changing target list. Rarely have I come across such a precise precis of what we’re really up to on the planet as what Schumpeter had to say back in 1918. Here’s a sample:

  1. ...a policy which pretends to aspire to peace but unerringly generates war, the policy of continual preparation for war, the policy of meddlesome interventionism. There was no corner of the known world where some interest was not alleged to be in danger or under actual attack. If the interests were not those of Rome, they were those of Rome's allies; and if Rome had no allies, then allies would be invented. When it was utterly impossible to contrive such an interest---why, then it was our national honor that had been insulted. The fight was always invested with an aura of legality. Rome was always being attacked by evil-minded neighbors, always fighting for a breathing space. The whole world was pervaded by a host of enemies and it was manifestly Rome's duty to guard against their indubitably aggressive designs. They were enemies who only waited to fall on the Roman people ..."
  Schumpeter went on to ascribe this policy not to foreign but to domestic concerns: “The alternative to war,” he wrote, “was agrarian reform. The landed aristocracy could counter the perpetual threat of revolution only with the glory of victorious leadership...An unstable social structure of this kind merely creates a general disposition to watch for pretexts for war—often held to be adequate with entire good faith—and to turn to questions of foreign policy whenever the discussion of social problems grew too troublesome for comfort. The ruling class was always inclined to declare that the country was in danger, when it really was only class interests that were threatened." --Joseph Schumpeter, The Sociology of Imperialism, 1918.
     Those are the kind of truths that you're not likely to hear from either Obama or Romney.