Monday, June 27, 2016

The Decline of the Anglo-American Empire

The revolt of the elites in the West and most notably in the English-speaking nations has been going on now for the last thirty-five years.  Essentially, the members of the moneyed class have decoupled their futures from those with whom they share a geographic and political community. 

In short, the Washington-Westminster consensus entails a neo-liberal agenda of cutting corporate and personal income tax, deregulating financial markets, reducing investments in social programs, moving manufacturing to where labor and environmental laws are lax, encouraging predatory lending to the disadvantaged, and extracting wealth from the real economy to be re-invested in off shore tax havens. 

In doing so, the elites have left the common folk in the United Kingdom (UK) and the United States (US) behind to fend for themselves in a beleaguered society that no longer has the sufficient resources and economic opportunities to maintain the quality of life that previous generations enjoyed.

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Before, throughout the post war period, there existed an inclusive social contract that embodied the belief "that we (those of Anglo-Saxon descent and their close cousins) were in this together."  No longer.  Now, there exists a "sink or swim" worldview in which those with the good luck of being born into well-off families are gliding quite well through the turbulence that incessant globalization has brought about, a middle-class struggling to keep their heads above water, while the poor are drowning in hopeless despair.

What has changed is that the callous treatment previously reserved for members of visible minorities has now been expanded to be applied to the vast majority of those who represent the racial bedrock from which the Anglo-American Empire drew its strength -- the English in the UK and white Americans in the US.  Both groups, having grown accustomed to preferential treatment, resent the decline in their living standards and are now pushing back, refusing to follow the leadership of their ruling elites.

Recently, much to the chagrin of Westminster and the City of London, those who felt very strongly they were being left behind (the English outside of London) and wanted to change Great Britain's trajectory voted to take the UK out of the European Union (EU), causing an immediate 10% devaluation of the national currency and a 120 billion dollar decline in the value of the companies listed in the national stock exchange. 

I think the Westminster crowd now realizes that what goes around comes around.  Because of the push back from the underclass, not only has the UK reduced its economic exchange with the largest trading block on the planet, it also now faces a very real threat that Scotland will leave the UK in order to maintain its ties with the EU.  Far from its imperial glory of ruling over the British Empire, Westminster might have its territorial reach reduced to the puny territorial expanse of England, Wales, and Northern Ireland -- a far cry from the sun never setting on the Empire.

The tectonic plates are also shifting is the US as the two-party political system seems to be coming to an end.  Most notably, in the run-up to the Presidential elections, white Americans have abandoned the leadership of the Republican Party to nominate the xenophobic, trash-talking, demagogue Donald Trump.  In doing so, they have repudiated the economic program that has left them behind as compared to the very well off, the upper 1% of the population.  Instead, they have embraced the vilification of those of different skin color, in particular Mexicans and Arab Muslims, who, apparently, are responsible for the hard times that many Americans are now experiencing as a result of the stealing jobs from white Americans by immigrants.

Things are almost as bad on the other side with the Democratic Party.  Coming into the Party's National Convention in July 2016, the favorite, the former Secretary of State, Hilary Clinton, still has not secured the Party's nomination as Presidential candidate, in a campaign that has been marred by widespread electoral fraud and voter suppression.  Indeed, the vast majority of the under 40 electorate has turned its back to Hillary and would rather support the candidacy of the declared Democratic Socialist, Bernie Sanders.

Faced with unmanageable debt loads incurred while pursuing a post-secondary education, combined with limited economic opportunity in their immediate future, millions of millennials are now pushing for substantial change to America's political economy, including a living wage of $15 per hour, single-payer health care, free university education, and a substantial reduction of military expenditures.  They may not get their wishes granted in this election cycle; however, over the next twenty years, because of their demographic weight, they will inevitably change the trajectory of the American military-industrial-congressional complex.

How this will play out on the world stage remains to be determined.  Will the US remain as the world's only super power?  I doubt it.  Faced with growing divisions within, the US will be forced to turn its attention and more of its resources to domestic matters.  During this period of internal preoccupation, other world powers, military, political, and cultural will exert greater influence and bring to a close the hegemony of the Anglo-American Empire.

Unless, of course, the US decides to embark on yet another military campaign to rid the world once again of some regime accused of possessing weapons of mass destruction, supplied by the same elites who stand to gain financially by selling to the US government the arms necessary to neutralize the new perceived threat to global security.

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