January 22, 2009

Empire Undermines Tradition

In response to a 2007 essay by Charles A. Coulombe and a reply by Edward Feser, Jeff Martin offers the following criticism of empire over at What’s Wrong with the World:

To be certain, there are those who argue that empire is a straightforward transcription of American ideals, particularly politico-economic ones, but the virtual identity of this view with leftist readings of American history ought to give conservatives pause. If conservatives end up sounding like Howard Zinn in terms of narratives, but differ only by virtue of the assignment of an opposite moral value to the narrative, well, the most basic term for what has happened is failure.

American empire, in the judgment of paleoconservatives, is not merely imprudent and tragic, but more often than not a violation of core ethical norms, such as that of subsidiarity.

One could add to this criticism that empires are often revolutionary by their very nature.  If a traditional ‘nation’ implies (as the Latin nasci suggests) link by blood, then empire entails propositionalism, an ideological construct that will eventually undercut older ancestral mores.  One could argue that the constant meddling of empires undermines the traditional beliefs of the native stock, deracinates the population, and finally demographically replaces it.  As Steve Sailer has said, “Invade the world – invite the world.”

There are numerous empires one could examine, but here I shall make a few superficial generalizations about the transition from the Roman Republic to the Roman Empire.  Although the republic (since the Punic Wars) was inherently imperialistic and the empire maintained vestiges of republicanism, one can nevertheless document gradual change.

Some generalizations on the Roman Republic and Empire:

– Demographic Replacement.  In an empire,  the native population will eventually be diluted or replaced.  The elite of the Roman Republic were Italic, but in the Roman Empire one eventually finds that the new elite (and many of the emperors) are non-Italic.

– Foreign Military.  The constant need for soldiers required the recruitment of foreigners into the military (starting under Julius Caesar), which eventually resulted in a power shift in military leadership.

– As the people change, so does the civilization.  Think of Petronius’ ridicule of the new Romans (foreigners) in Cena Trimalchionis and their customs.  Traditional morals are replaced by the often foreign practices of a new elite. 

– The spoken language is simplified due to foreign influence (e.g. Vulgate Latin or Koine Greek), art declines, and the country’s infrastructure becomes unaffordable.

–  And finally the chickens come home to roost (vide Alaric).

Moral:  Although republicans might see immediate advantages to empire, they are disinheriting their grandchildren.

Update:  Rome and Demographics


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