Empires’ collapse – some libertarian thoughts

The death of Elizabeth Windsor and her recent appointment of Liz as new prime minister prompted us to ask about Britain’s fate – something the media and the talking heads (political and media and celebrity) won’t. It triggered some further thoughts here at TPOL on the fate of empires in general.

Empires are viewed by many of us lovers of liberty with suspicion and hatred, for good reason. They have someone or some group as “supreme rulers” over multiple territories and people – often by conquest and always by force. Even if the submission is (at least initially) voluntary.

Empires and imperial ambitions are enemies of liberty and people. Or are they?

How many empires do we have in 2022? Some may disagree, but here is our TPOL list:

  1. “New” Chinese (Communist) 1949- present
  2. European Union 1992- present
  3. FedGov 1775- present
  4. “New” Russian 1991- present

Is it not reasonable to say that NONE of these are friends of liberty? And even greater enemies of freedom and liberty than your average national government? (Especially a relatively innocuous one like, say Belize or Norway or Switzerland?)

Compare that to 1890:

  1. British – circa 1957
  2. French – circa 1963
  3. Russian (Czarist) – 1917
  4. German (Kaiserreich) -1918
  5. Turkish (Ottoman) -1919
  6. “Old” Chinese -1912
  7. Austro-Hungarian -1919
  8. Spanish – 1898
  9. Portuguese – 1975
  10. American 1776 – present
  11. Dutch -1949
  12. Belgian -1960
  13. Italian – 1943 (1960)

I leave off the starting dates here: there is too much variation or questions. Note that I consider both Russia and China to have been the controller of three separate empires and Germany two. Russia: Czarist, Soviet (Communist), and 2nd or Modern. China: Qing to 1912, the Republic of China 1912-1949, and modern Communist China 1949 to present. Germany, of course, included both the Zweites Reich and the Drittes Reich (Kaiser und Fuehrer).

Were ANY of these friendly to liberty? Not in absolute terms. Perhaps in relative terms, the Dutch, British, and American ones were more friendly to personal liberty than the other ten. Despite the central and local and colonial governments’ abuse of those they ruled.

But note: only ONE of those thirteen has direct continuity to the four listed today. The fate of the rest was to fall, to collapse. For various reasons, under different circumstances. But they are now just history.

Again, feel free to disagree. A lot of people will and do. And some will quibble on the dates as well. For example, the “Japanese Empire” is usually dated to 1910 and formal annexation of Korea, but Korea was essentially part of the Japanese sphere of influence by 1876. And the Republic of China was still an empire: nominally controlling distinct regions not actually an integral part of Han China. A situation not understood today by most people.

Imperialism is NOT a system of government. A republic, a monarchy, a dictatorship, even a democracy can all be imperial – can all rule an empire. The American Heritage Dictionary defines “empire” as “A political unit having an extensive territory or comprising a number of territories or nations and ruled by a single supreme authority.” But the current Wikipedia definition seems more accurate: “a political unit made up of several territories and peoples, usually created by conquest, and divided between a dominant center and subordinate peripheries. The center of the empire exercises political control over the peripheries.” Wikipedia goes on to identify a “supreme ruler or oligarchy” in charge – but that big boss does not have to be a single person – and an oligarchy can still be republican or even democratic in nature.

So why do we see the United States of America as an empire since 1775? Because it (both states and the common, later federal, government) comprised a number of territories: separate nations – the various AmerInd tribes and confederations and the various ethnic settlements within the Thirteen States and then the Territories. And even without such “imperial” possessions as the Philippines, DC – the FedGov – still is a single supreme authority over multiple nations and peoples and territories.

There are, of course, other empires during these periods: of less impact on world history and considered less worthy of attention: Brazil, though its “imperial” monarchy did not last long, was and probably still is an empire because of the various AmerInd and ethnic settlements and groups. Mexico, too, though only officially an “empire” twice, is still an imperial power because of its various “nations” and territories. This goes for both Persia (Iran) to modern times and even to the modern Republic of India with its large enclaves of various ethnicities.

And sadly, some empires are made up, at least partially, of empires: consider California, Alaska, and Texas as examples. There are many parts of all three States that chafe under the ruler of a supreme authority in Sacramento, Juneau, and Austin. And long for both freedom and liberty. (Yes, even some Texans long to be free from Texas – or at least Austin.)

Empires rise and fall – remember that even most of the modern European Union was once part of a single empire: no, not the Imperio Romano (SPQR – Roman Empire), and not the wrongly-named “Holy Roman Empire” (Heiliges Römisches Reich). We are writing of the Roman Catholic Church. A religion, yes, but still an empire. We can say the same for Russia and China: the present empire controls much of what the old empires did. They fell and rose again. And sometimes, still again.

The exception is the FedGov: its formal territory and territories it controls haven’t been under a single ruling entity at any time in history – unless it was pre-Flood! But it is safe to say this unique condition does NOT mean that the American empire will not fall.

The only questions are when, and how, and what will follow.

Although sometimes, greater liberty results for many – perhaps even most – people when an empire falls, that is not always the case. Oh, that it were!

When American empire collapses, will more people have more liberty? We can pray that is so.

About TPOL Nathan

Follower of Christ Jesus (a christian), Pahasapan (resident of the Black Hills), Westerner, Lover of Liberty, Free-Market Anarchist, Engineer, Army Officer, Husband, Father, Historian, Writer, Evangelist. Successor to Lady Susan (Mama Liberty) at TPOL.
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