I have noticed over the past six months, as a construction worker in Denver, a strange and steady change in the demeanor of tradesman on jobsites all over Colorado. Once strong, proud and enterprising small businessmen, the tradesmen are now sullen, worried and taciturn. Virtually the only banter passed between the thinning crews of workers on jobsites revolves around the prospect for new work. The phrase "You keeping busy these days?" echoes from jobsite to jobsite.
When the tradesmen do speak to one another for any extended period of time, the topic usually involves domestic politics or the economy. "If they can force the banks to start lending," I often hear in this regard, "maybe we can get rolling again this year." The claim is usually made somberly, however, as if the speaker doesn’t really believe it himself. It is truly heart wrenching to watch men gloomily and broodingly trudge through their work, when they were previously so sturdy and enterprising.
These tradesmen once formed a critical section of the backbone of the American economy. They knew what it meant to go out and forge a life for themselves and their families with the sweat of their brows and the strength of their hands and minds. They are now finally learning what it means to be citizens of a global empire — an empire run by the most powerful and wealthy government machine ever assembled by man. Perhaps most importantly, they are learning that there are massive costs to be paid for the maintenance of the American Empire — and that they are going to have to pay a hefty portion of those costs themselves. In other words, the tradesmen have found themselves at the complete mercy of the political classes of this country — mere cogs in the engine of the American Empire.
It was extremely easy in previous years to forget that the empire required constant maintenance and massive amounts of fuel. Tradesmen, businessmen, and private employees of all other stripes in the United States were able to go about their daily business without bothering their busy little minds about the latest foreign and domestic schemes and boondoggles of the political classes in Washington and New York. "What goes on in the gilded halls of our government has nothing to do with my own life," many no doubt thought to themselves in the smug years of the past two decades. This sentiment led many to the false idea that every individual American was the sole master of his own destiny — that each man could "do anything" with his life if he simply worked hard enough, got a college degree, or started a small business. It also led to the equally false idea that government spending for war and welfare is irrelevant to the enterprising individual American, and that he need never worry that his life’s work could be wrecked in an instant by inflation by the Federal Reserve.
These ideas have now been exposed as mere fantasies engendered by years and years of artificial prosperity financed through government debt and money creation. The veil of artificial prosperity has finally been lifted, allowing many to see for the first time the awful costs of our imperial government. What is also being discovered, moreover, is that our American Empire has conferred no real benefits to the ordinary Americans who continue to be forced to finance it. On the contrary, it has only produced a great deal of death and destruction around the world (which has unsurprisingly generated abject hatred and resentment for this country abroad), and it has produced a suffocating regulatory and welfare-based economy at home. It has also had the inevitable consequence of devastating the American economy by inducing millions upon millions of Americans to start businesses and take up lines of work that were (and remain) unsustainable without more and more Federal Reserve money creation.
To be a citizen in the American Empire, these men are finding out to their horror, means to be forced to pay for interventionist adventures to bring "democracy" and "freedom" to the poor and hapless people of the world. The leaders of our imperial government are not content to leave the poor masses of the world to their own devices (or, to put it differently, to treat foreigners like human beings capable of taking care of themselves); rather, they are convinced that they have a divinely-ordained mission to take money from their own population of increasingly impoverished and unemployed workers and either use that ill-gotten money to invade foreign lands or give it to other governments. The American tradesman who has lost his job and has no prospect for future employment must content himself with the knowledge that his own misery has made it possible for our government to kill countless foreigners and prop-up foreign governments despised by their own people. This knowledge offers precious little in the way of consolation for the tradesman who has no idea how he will keep a roof over the heads of his family members and food in their bellies. It is a cost he must bear, however, because our imperial government lives and flourishes on money that is taken from its own people through brute force — that is, through the awful and infamous institution of taxation.
On the domestic scene, the tradesman is forced to bear equally onerous burdens in order to support the empire. The empire’s domestic tentacles have wriggled and forced their way into every nook and cranny of the American economy. In order for the tradesman to make a living for himself he must bow down, ask permission, or hide from the legions of bureaucrat-regulators and policemen that claim the right to tell him what is permissible and impermissible in this so-called "free market" economy. He cannot even hang sheetrock without first gaining permission to operate as a contractor from fat bureaucrats he has never met, filling out reams of paperwork to take care of the taxes and permits required by the empire’s local henchmen, and then having his work "inspected" by someone who claims to know his trade better than he does. If he is fortunate enough to jump every hurdle correctly, he will be rewarded with what the federal government calls the "self-employment tax," robbing him of a massive portion of the fruits of his labor.
And where does his confiscated money go? It is used as fuel to keep the empire marching along: paying salaries for fat politicians and bureaucrats, paying for welfare to people who are unwilling to work for a living like our beleaguered tradesman, and paying for more foreign adventures in the name of "freedom" and "democracy." In fact, the only person who can be assured he will not benefit from the existence of the domestic and interventionist empire-machine, (beside the innocent people murdered abroad by the empire’s legions, that is), is the tradesman-taxpayer himself.
There is thus no reason to be surprised that tradesmen have become gloomy, brooding and increasingly dejected. They have finally discovered that they are not the rugged and indomitable entrepreneurs they, until very recently, imagined they were. They have found out that their lives and labor are, and will continue to be, the property of the imperial American government.
It is still too early to tell, however, whether the bureaucrats and politicians at the helm of the American Empire have scored a decisive victory over the enterprising American tradesmen. For, while the fools and knaves in Washington and New York have indeed managed to destroy virtually everything the tradesmen labored to build up for themselves over the past few decades, they have not yet managed to erase the memory of the old, non-imperial America: the America that existed before the creation of the fraudulent Federal Reserve system; the America before the emergence of predatory social engineers, welfare bureaucrats and regulators; the America that existed before Washington and New York managed to wrest all control away from the rest of the empire’s fifty colonies; and the America that chose peaceful trade over military intervention and war.
Unless or until the architects and managers of the American Empire can conspire successfully to completely destroy the memory of the old, non-imperial America, there will always remain the possibility that the American tradesmen will stand up and fight the Washington and New York-based empire of today in the same way that their ancestors fought the London-based empire of their day.
Mark R. Crovelli [send him mail] writes from Denver, Colorado.