Previously we concluded that America does not meet the criteria for an Imperial Power in the classical sense because it does not have a policy of territorial expansion, domination, or power, yet America is widely viewed by others as Imperialistic. Many liberals and non-Americans reject this classic definition of Imperialism because America doesn’t fit the definition therefore; they have elected to redefine Imperialism. The basis for this new definition for Imperialism is to ensure America can be described as Imperialistic because it includes “influence” and on this basis American can indeed be accused of Imperialism. But even with this expanded definition, America may not actually be Imperialistic because this would require America to have a formal and announced policy to influence or change other countries and cultures. But the question becomes, if others choose of their own accord to emulate America, does that represent Imperialism?
Within this new framework the New Imperialism includes economic, political, and cultural influence. Certainly America is an economic superpower not only through our vast expenditures worldwide, which range in the trillions of dollars and touch almost every country, but through our consumption as well. If the American market were to collapse, the entire world would drop into global depression and whole countries would be ruined economically. This actually happened in 1929 when the American Stock Market crashed it brought the whole world to its knees and that was before America became the economic powerhouse it is today.
There is no doubt but that the American economy represents a major part of the world economy if not the actual foundation of it. But the reality is that it is our purchasing power that makes us such a formidable economic force, not some policy of economic domination. Our purchasing power is a direct result of our productivity and capitalist system. It is capitalism that is shunned by much of the world because it permits a great disparity in wealth, and this brings us to the concept of Imperialism via political domination. This charge is leveled at the US primarily by the various dictators and Marxists around the world, because the very word “democracy” is a threat to their power.
America is frequently accused of attempting to impose democracy – American style democracy – on the rest of the world, but this is really not the situation. America’s policy has always been one of self-determination by the people being governed. Now having a policy and being able to enforce it are two separate things entirely, hence the USSR was able to subjugate Russia and most of Eastern Europe through intimidation. This is also true in Cuba, Venezuela, and various countries around the globe. The US has chosen not to intervene because these governments at least appear to be self-detemined. However, when it is possible the US has consistently acted in the interest of the people being governed and when military force is used, that military is withdrawn as soon as practical. But that just means that the US is not Imperialistic in the classical sense, yet American politics influences much of the world.
The concept of equal rights for women or equal rights for all was initiated by America and voluntarily adopted by various other countries. The same is true for the concept of sexual harassment, hate crimes, environmental protection, and many more. These political changes have been freely adopted by other countries – primarily in the west. It was the US that pioneered the concept of human rights and human rights violations which are widely recognized today. However, these were changes that the US adopted internally and never inflicted on other governments. These concepts were freely adopted by other governments reflecting America’s drive for equal treatment for all. So America’s political views are widespread but spread through influence not through any policy that inflicts these on others. But America’s influence isn’t restricted to the political arena but it extends culturally as well and perhaps this is the one area that causes the most criticism around the world.
America exports our culture through movies, television, language, the internet, and business. There is a long list of American companies whose names and logo’s appear around the world; companies such as Coca Cola, McDonalds, Burger King, IBM, Disney, Microsoft, and many others. These are businesses which are expected to make a profit and represent investment and employment in the countries where they exist. Yet, many regard these businesses as a form of American Imperialism, when in fact they are an example of American entrepreneurship and capitalism. If these businesses didn’t have customers they would go out of business, so the critics of these American companies do not represent the feelings of the majority of the citizens. This is particularly true in France where English words are creeping into the language, in spite of strenous efforts by the government to prevent it.
Of course television has played a dramatic role in the cultural influence of America. When the USSR ran a television show that showed poverty in America it backfired on them because the poor in America had TV sets, automobiles, nice clothes, food, and generally a home, things missing for many citizens of Russia and other countries. The result of television and movies has been the spread of American style of dress, food, and language which are being adopted worldwide, especially by the youth of these countries. It isn’t that people want to be Americans as much as they want to be LIKE Americans. Consequently, America is seen as Imperialistic by many liberals and governments, when in fact the influence of America is being voluntarily absorbed by the people to the chagrin of the governments. America is not Imperialistic by policy but there is no doubt that America’s influence is impacting virtually every country in the world and it is this influence that offends many governments who fear that influence, the Muslim countries in particular see American culture as destabilizing. America is seen as the great Satan because of the temptations it offers in the form of freedom.