Imperialism and Anti-Imperialism

PP_IAI_2013_C — with Thomas J. DiLorenzo

Dates: September 9, 2013 - October 7, 2013
Status: Closed

A Note From the Instructor

For generations, American students have been taught that their government was a constitutional republic and, as such, is truly “exceptional.”  So-called American exceptionalism is contrasted first with the imperialistic British empire from which the original colonists rebelled.  A war was fought against the Spanish empire in the late nineteenth century, and against the monarchical empires of Old Europe in World War I.  The fascist empires of Germany and Japan were defeated in World War II, after which the U.S. government commenced a new war against the Soviet empire. With the demise of the Soviet Union, American exceptionalism was once again invoked to impose democracy at gunpoint all over the world in the name of peace.

All of this standard narrative is a lie.  How can the world’s biggest opponent of imperialism (supposedly) have become the biggest imperialistic empire the world has ever known?  How does an “anti-imperialistic” government end up with hundreds of military bases spanning the entire globe, with “military command centers” on every continent, even including an “African Command” operated out of Germany?

Was William Graham Sumner right when he argued in his 1898 essay, “The Conquest of the United States by Spain,” that America itself had finally evolved into an imperialistic empire not unlike the Spanish empire it had just defeated in a short war?  The answer to this rhetorical question is “yes and no.”  Sumner was right about the nature of the U.S. government as of the turn of the twentieth century, but his timeline was off.  The road to imperialism began many decades earlier.

Beginning on the evening of Monday, September 9, I will be teaching a five-week online Mises Academy course on Imperialism and Anti-imperialism, featuring the writings and ideas of such scholars as Ludwig von Mises, Murray Rothbard, Hans-Hermann Hoppe, Joe Salerno, Tom Woods, Randolph Bourne, Robert Higgs, William Graham Sumner, Joseph Stromberg, and Justin Raimondo, among others (including myself).  The economic and political nature of imperialism will be discussed, followed by discussions of American imperialism in action.  The fallacies of the contemporary arguments for never-ending war – that “democracies” supposedly never fight wars with each other – will be exposed and the consequences of this philosophy and policy examined.

An important element of the course will be the study of the anti-imperialistic tradition in America – and in the world.  This tradition acknowledges that, as Rothbard once wrote, “The State thrives on war . . . expands on it, glories in it” as “the aggrandizement of State power crosses national boundaries into other States pushing other people around” as a sort of “foreign counterpart of the domestic aggression against the internal population.”

Or as Ludwig von Mises wrote, under imperialism, “the individual no longer has value.  He is valuable to [the state] only as a member of the whole, as a soldier of a army.” And as a payer of ever-increasing taxes, I would add.  The “imperialistic peoples’ state,” Mises wrote, has a “lust for conquest” that is “unlimited,” and “foreign peoples are in its eyes not subjects but objects of policy.” Is there a more precise definition of American foreign policy over the past century?


Live lectures will be held online Mondays at 5:30 pm Eastern Time. Lectures will be recorded and archived for later viewing for enrolled students.


All readings will be free and online. A fully hyper-linked syllabus with readings for each weekly topic will be available for all students.

Grades and Certificates

The final grade will depend on quizzes. Taking the course for a grade is optional. This course is worth 3 credits in the Mises Academy. Feel free to ask your school to accept Mises Academy credits. You will receive a digital Certificate of Completion for this course if you take it for a grade, and a Certificate of Participation if you take it on a paid-audit basis.

Refund Policy

If you drop the course during its first week (seven calendar days), you will receive a full refund, minus a $25 processing fee. If you drop the course during its second week, you will receive a half refund. No refunds will be granted following the second week.

Thomas DiLorenzo

Thomas J. DiLorenzo

Author of The Real LincolnLincoln Unmasked, and Hamilton’s Curse. Dr. DiLorenzo is today’s foremost critic of “Lincoln hagiography”.

DiLorenzo is a professor of economics at Loyola University Maryland and a senior fellow at the Ludwig von Mises Institute, he has written for the Wall Street Journal, USA Today, the Washington Post, Reader’s Digest, Barron’s, and many other publications.  He is widely published in the academic journals, including the American Economic Review, Economic Inquiry, International Review of Law and Economics, Public Choice, Quarterly Journal of Austrian Economics, and many others. He holds a Ph.D. in economics from Virginia Tech.

Click here to read an interview with Professor DiLorenzo.

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