War and empire profitable for ruling class

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From Craig Murray

How the system works was outlined 100 years ago by the Liberal economist J.A.Hobson in his great book Imperialism – A Study. Written at the greatest extent of the greatest formal Empire the World has yet seen, Hobson proved, counter to the prevailing wisdom of both supporters and opponents of Empire, that the Empire had cost Britain money, not been a gain at the expense of the colonies. But while the net effect had been to make Britain poorer, the redistributive effect had made the ruling class, military and arms manufacturers much richer, at the expense of everyone else.

Moon of Alabama found an instructive quote from Hobson.

The adoption of Imperialism thus serves the double purpose of securing private material benefits for favoured classes of investors and traders at the public cost, while sustaining the general cause of conservatism by diverting public energy and interest from domestic agitation to external employment.

War and imperialism makes the ruling class wealthier while also keeping the populace nervous about their jobs and scared of outside threats. Sound familiar?


  1. It should! I never read Hobson, but that’s what I’ve been saying for some time. Make no mistake: Bush continues the war because he and his cronies benefit from the war. And when he is replaced, the new President will need to have a lot of morals to avoid falling prey to the same temptation. (Anyone seen a candidate with a lot of morals lately?)

  2. Here’s the really scary part, as this hypothesis applies to a given situation: it serves a leader not only to avoid ending a war, but also to intentionally prolong and even exacerbate the conflict– in other words to antagonize existing enemies and seek new ones.

    And you thought our foriegn policy developed as a result of ignorance?

  3. Well, the Bushies have never let intelligence get in the way of them trying to do something. Look at the war, look at how the rest of the planet views the US now, they really are quite extraordinarily incompetent, as well as arrogant and greedy.

  4. Apparently you’re still assuming they wanted to invade Iraq to create democracy and make friends! Murray’s interpretation leads inexorably to the conclusion that the goal of war is not success, but more war. Arrogant and greedy the Bushies may be, but incompetent? They’ve served that goal quite well.

    What’s more, they continue to lay the seeds for future war with the needless bombing of civilians in Afghanistan, the antagonism (through our ally Musharraf) of the Pakistani population, putting nuclear materials within reach of hundreds of literally terrorist groups in India, pushing Iran to the brink of open conflict, and so forth. That’s only incompetence if you believe their goals are the good of the nation, not the greed of their cronies. But if Murray is right, they’ve done an exceptional job.

  5. I implied no such thing! “Democracy” had nothing to do with invading Iraq. Oil and hegemony did.

    And now even Obama said, darn it, we might have to bomb Pakistan to get al Qaida, an insanity if there ever was one.

  6. Once again, it’s only insanity if you presume his motives (or any leader’s motives) are for the good of our country. If OTOH one presumes the motives are to ensure war, make money, and acquire power, bombing Pakistan makes perfect sense and I’m surprised Dubya hasn’t already done it!

    This is the alternate paradigm I’ve been talking about: we can assume that what our leaders do is irrational, in which case we just need a set of rational leaders (anyone seen one lately?). Or we can assume that our leaders are entirely rational, but their goals are (1) not what they publicly say and (2) not consistent with ours.

    In this latter case, our leaders and our various enemies are in league together, because war serves them all. But not us, and not the constituencies of our enemies. Thus we can view war as a conspiracy of leaders against the civilians they claim to represent. (This was actually one of Sharif’s premises back in 1999, and I have found it very useful.)

    The answer (as we have seen once again with the Dems) is not new leaders– or at least that is not the entire solution.

    The real answer is severalfold. Some elements of the solution are: Seek a change in consciousness (in ourselves and in the constituencies of all parties) to realize that conflict is a means to gain power, and therefore conflict cannot be the way out of conflict. In fact, I don’t think an adversarial process can ultimately end a war (except through defeat of the adversarial party).

    Also, every leader, no matter how tyrannical, has some level of responsibility to his/her constituency, and can in some way be held accountable to that constituency. Only in this way can his/her actions be modified to be consistent with the needs of the constituency rather than the desires of the leader.

    And perhaps most importantly, those locked in conflict cannot be seen as individual actors, but must be seen as part of a whole, and only a holistic approach addressing the needs and concerns of the constituencies can resolve a conflict. Conflicts arise out of real needs, usually distorted by filtering through an “us/them” lens. Only by addressing the whole picture can the underlying needs be addressed.

    That’s by no means comprehensive, but it does touch on the basic elements. If by definition leaders have a vested interest in war, then the solution must transcend (rather than replace) the leaders involved.

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