I first ran across the expression “wealth pump” in a 2012 post “The Nature of Empire” that appeared on “The Archdruid Report.” It struck me as an admirably straightforward and simple explanation of the purpose of an empire:
With this [preceding 13 paragraphs] in mind, we can move to a meaningful definition of empire. An empire is an arrangement among nations, backed and usually imposed by military force, that extracts wealth from a periphery of subject nations and concentrates it in the imperial core. Put more simply, an empire is a wealth pump, a device to enrich one nation at the expense of others. The mechanism of the pump varies from empire to empire and from age to age; the straightforward exaction of tribute that did the job for ancient Egypt, and had another vogue in the time of imperial Spain, has been replaced in most of the more recent empires by somewhat less blatant though equally effective systems of unbalanced exchange. While the mechanism varies, though, the underlying principle does not.
You may have run across the expression elsewhere, earlier or later than 2012. In any case, I found that the idea of a wealth pump is useful well beyond its application to the principles of empire. Continue reading “What Is a Wealth Pump?”