Two Views of an Empire of Liberty

By Chandrashekar (Chandra) Tamirisa, (On Twitter) @c_tamirisa

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“Even those as aristocratic as the wealthy slaveholding planter William Byrd and Francis Fauquier, a colonial governor of Virginia, conceded that all men, even men of different nations and races, were born equal and that, in Byrd’s words, “the principal difference between one people and another proceeds only from the differing opportunities of improvement.” “White, Red, or Black; polished or unpolished,” declared Governor Fauquier in 1760, “Men are Men.” … “State a moral case to a ploughman and a professor,” said Jefferson; “the former will decide it as well, and often better than the latter, because he has not been led astray by artificial rules.”
Empire of Liberty, A History of the Early Republic, 1789-1815
Gordon S. Wood, The Oxford History of the United States

The United States of America, blessed with an abundance of resources, having taken the brave leap forward into the new world in 1776 in an untamed land, has naturally reaped the most rewards because it took the greatest risk by treading into hitherto politically unchartered waters. It is the wealthiest and the most powerful nation on earth despite its current economic travails from which it can buy itself out, push come to shove. It is an imperium larger than Rome with the zealotry of the spirit of the crucifixion of Christ: the planet in the nearly 7 decades since the end of World War II is mostly democratic and more socially equal than less, in the American mold.

Consistent with the ideas of its founding, post-Cold War United States seems to have settled quietly into seeing America balancing its well-being and self-interest in the context of the rest of the world, but for Jefferson’s ploughmen who are being left behind by the professors. A realpolitik view of an empire of liberty, more in line with Andrew Jackson than with the Enlightenment thinkers has once again set in to shape America’s view of itself and its role in the world.

The Shanghai ranking of the world’s elite universities consists of 8 American and 2 British in the top 10. True to the belief that the world’s peoples, White, Red or Black, are all equal but for the opportunities for improvement, these opportunities are now being afforded to all at the top 10 Anglo-American educational institutions. The idea is to cultivate a meritocratic class in the Anglo-American mold, to establish a global empire of liberty. It is truly a noble thought, in principle. The practice, however, is reminiscent more of empire than of liberty because the dismal science of economics distorts the nobility of the intent.

Resources are finite. Therefore, they are scarce. The issue for geopolitics thus becomes one of economic equity, for a mostly socially equal world under law is unsustainable in the absence of economic equity. The United States stakes it claim on a majority of the world’s resources, all the economic factors of production around the world, to sustain its standard of living together with the rest of the rich countries it helped rebuild since 1945: the former imperial aristocracies of Europe and Japan constitute the G7 group of countries together with the American republic. Thirteen other democracies on the planet have only been recently added to the group of 7.

The Shanghai top 10 university graduates from around the world, particularly since the election of the first post-Cold War American president, Bill Clinton, are shaping the new world order in subtle economic terms, largely behind the scenes, in the shadows and in a manner that is unaccountable to the electorate. They are creating a three-tiered world of the wealthy, a vast middle class, and the poor, just as in America, but one that preserves the economic disparity of the 13 new post-colonial additions relative to the standards of living of the first 7 post-World War II countries that were shaped by iron and blood by the United States and United Kingdom.

Subliminal to this view, and indispensable for its execution and fruition, is the accompanying global social order with the Anglo-Americans at the top and the rest of the apologists carrying water for that agenda both within the wealthy countries and in the rest of the world, for this is the indoctrination of the Shanghai top 10 education that permeating every single global institution, both in the public and private sectors. This neo-economic ethno-centric view after the Cold War is no different from the Churchillian imperial view of the world at the end of World War II. The 20th century imperial colonies of Europe have become the 21st century democratic colonies of America.

Gandhis and Mandelas do not fit into this picture which perpetuates relative economic inequity and the consequent social inequality to justify the realpolitik of geopolitics and geoeconomics but nicely, through integration rather than segregation. All lives are, however, not equal as much as the world’s wealthiest man and his wife, Bill and Melinda Gates want it to be, despite their joint endowment of $100 billion together with Warren Buffett.

It is fascism masquerading with a smile of Platonic utopian republicanism on its face as if the Churchills on both sides of the Atlantic pond had learned from Hitler’s mistakes and coopted by the mortification of the Jewish Holocaust and the nuclear Holocaust across the two shining seas that moat America as if the United States had entered the two wars of choice to become the empire of liberty having finished that job on the American continent from sea to shining sea.

Death through deprivation comes upon drip by drip, similar to Chinese water torture, for a global populace of Jeffersonian ploughmen unable to unbundle their beguiling aspirations for a better life from their despondency to achieve it, for they cannot be what they are not being permitted to be by the structural constraints in the system that sets standards of living. This first view of the empire of liberty, therefore, is distinctly un-American.

Setting aside the first view, there is a more honest second not different in the idealism of the first but salient by its integrity because of the alignment of political economic pragmatism with the idealism of the politics, for an empire of liberty means just that, literally: the world can be socially equal if and only if all have equal opportunity for determining their economic destiny. The means and ends are one and the same.

It is time to see other universities in the Shanghai top 10, outside the Anglo-American club, because the shadow boxing of foreign meritocratic elites with those of the Anglo-American elites is for the inevitability of emancipation, a tension neither side concedes but is patently palpable (thanks to my friend Mary Putnam for sharing the animated chart of global economic convergence by Professor Hans Rosling of University of Uppsala, Sweden).

Coming out of the shadows sooner than later for these two views of an empire of liberty to converge can be salutary for both sides. Especially because the Jeffersonian ploughmen, in enlightened self-interest, ought not to be forgotten.


About Chandrashekar (Chandra) Tamirisa
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