Applying the concept of the nature state to the United States is inherently difficult. Getting in the way is the leathery notion of American exceptionalism, in which the United States is considered outside the supposed normal path of historical development. Under this influential idea, the United States is considered a prototype of civil society, while ‘Europe’ is characterized as dominated by big states. In exceptionalist thought, the United States is also considered a republic, not an empire, a dichotomy that complicates discussion of any colonial nature-state project. To work one’s way through this ideological thicket, great attention has to be paid to the specific articulation of American power. This is not to say that the United States lacked a state apparatus at any time in its history as a nation, but that the composition of the actually existing ‘state’ has changed over time. In the nineteenth century, federal power was limited, though the individual state and local authorities had a disproportionate role in both regulation of the economy and promotion of public welfare. Nevertheless, as the century wore on the institutions of the ‘state’, particularly the federal state, focused increasingly upon the harnessing, rationalization and disposition of natural resources, particularly land, to the private sector. Within political economy, their chief function was seen as enabling capitalism to grow boundlessly. Abundant natural resources have played a key role in underpinning this political economy. 1