Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The Economic Basis of Imperialism

Image found on this blog, among others.
In September 1898, Charles Arthur Conant wrote an article for the North American Review entitled “The Economic Basis of Imperialism”. Imperialism was a policy which, at the time, most Americans were against. But anti-imperialism was at odds with the treasured American ideals of free markets and Capitalism.
“The United States cannot afford to adhere to a policy of isolation while other nations are reaching out for the command of these new markets… New markets and new opportunities for investment must be found if surplus capital is to be profitably employed.”
American companies were producing more goods than the country could support and exports were subject to very high tariffs in other “civilized” countries. The unending need for “new markets” for American products was used as the enticement to agreeing to imperialism. Conant characterized those new markets – namely in the Philippines and other parts of Asia – as “half-savage islands,” which clearly shows the racism and superiority that Americans felt at the time. The notion of new markets held a great appeal to Americans. The idea of losing those markets to other industrialized countries made the distasteful act of imperialism all the more appealing.

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