In 1792, Thomas Paine sounded a cautionary note about the economics of empire:
The most unprofitable of all commerce is that connected with foreign dominion. To a few individuals it may be beneficial, merely because it is commerce; but to the nation it is a loss. The expense of maintaining dominion more than absorbs the profit of any trade.
Had Americans consistently heeded Paine’s advice, the United States might have avoided much of the overseas bloodshed, as well as domestic bureaucratization, which have accompanied the creation of the American empire.