The Emerging American Imperium

"The Emerging American Imperium," Wall Street Journal, August 18, 1997.


The world has never seen an imperium of this kind, and it is hard to know what to make of it. In its favor, it lacks the brute coercion that characterized European imperialism. But it also lacks the authentic missionary spirit of that older imperialism, which aimed to establish the rule of law while spreading Christianity. (Our missionaries live in Hollywood.) What it does offer the world is a growth economy, a “consumerist” society, popular elections and a dominant secular-hedonistic ethos. It is a combination that is hard to resist — and equally hard to respect in its populist vulgarity. It is an imperium with a minimum of moral substance. While the people of the world may want and need it now, one wonders how soon they will weary of it.