Since 1981, democracy and the environment have been trapped in a conspiracy theory. There, I’ve said it, the taboo word.
The “Amway” conspiracy, “Greed is Good”, call it what you will, has lulled the western world onto a t.v. inspired stupor. The economic miracle, which, for the last 30 years, has provided untold advances and wealth, has at the same time, driven civilization to the point of collapse. A free market fundamentalism, which, has become the largest empire ever seen, has gripped every western “democracy”, and the new converts from former communist/socialist bloc countries. It is a conspiracy that was introduced by Ronald Reagan, the Hollywood actor, and has turned citizens into “consumers.”
It is a conspiracy that seeks to exploit every resource available, to explore every nook and cranny looking for extractable material, if not financially viable now, it will be in the future. No place is sacred, no species immune, no tradition inviolable.
It is a conspiracy that satisfies the budding genii, the Nikola Tesla or Alfred Einstein or Steve Jobs of the past, present and future, with the arrogant theory that technology will save the environmental day. A conspiracy that holds out the vain hope that technocrats can solve the immense debt bubbles that have destroyed democracy. THESE ARE EXACTLY THE SAME PEOPLE THAT HAVE CAUSED THE PROBLEM.
It is a conspiracy that allows one economic principle to be taught, thought and dominate, a principle consigned to humanity from Milton Friedman and implemented by Goldman Sachs, there is no freedom of choice in this new global fascism.
Taking the conspiracy theory to a defining moment, it is no surprise that the financial crisis coincided perfectly with the Copenhagen climate summit in December 2008, when support and the build-up of expectation for a global solution to climate change was at its peak. Climate change was not only “the” major concern and distraction at the time, it was the idea that had to be crushed, A 90% cut in carbon emissions made no sense to vested interests, and crushed it was. The aftermath saw a concerted campaign by the denial industry to discredit and place in doubt, 50 years of scientific progress.
Having succeeded with reversing public opinion on climate change, and many elected officials minds too, the stage was set to place economics at the forefront of concern. For 3 years the economic situation has become THE news topic, everything is now assessed on its economic merit, i.e. jobs.
It doesn’t matter one iota whether or not mere “people” object, singularly or en masse, this is the new democracy of the oligarchs, as persuasively advocated by Barack Obama and the 1% that matters. A contrived aspirational democracy based on freedom, on individuality, on choice, on supply and demand, who could ask for more ? After all, if a black man can become President of America anything is possible if you just set your mind to it. That is the Amway.
Global “markets” were thrown into panic when George Papandreou wanted to refer the latest IMF/ECB loan to a referendum. He was told he had to go, it was not acceptable. Threatening to withhold an already agreed $8 billion payment of the first bail out agreed upon, Papandreou had no choice but to resign. The choker of globalisation would not tolerate prevarication, and Silvio Berlusconi with his “dithering” on austerity measures was the next to fall, both were replaced by non-elected technocrats schooled by Goldman Sachs, the very cause of the whole problem. Mario Monti’s new Italian government cabinet does not have one single elected representative. In a speech given at an Italian university, Herman Van Rompuy, one of the ruling cabal of the “Frankfurt Group” said, “What Europe needs now is reform, not elections”
But the miracle has burst, debt drives everything now, to the point where democracy, or the democracy that the 99% understood has now been cast aside for economic expedience. The austerity measures have seen hundreds of thousands of workers retrenched, a similar number thrown out of housing, pensions cut and lives laid waste. Not 1 tax haven has been closed, not 1 culpable banker has been charged, the 99% are expendable, the 1% are not.
“For now, it’s still bubble economics. And the only thing for certain is that the air is coming out, not going in”. David Weidner, What’s really ailing Wall St. An industry without easy money
The current global economy (GDP) is $65 trillion and is forecast to race to $140 trillion by 2050. Given Professor Alfred Bartlett’s basic mathematics of exponential growth, the planet, the people who populate the planet nor the debt ridden economic system can possibly subsidise that growth.
Across the complete triple bottom line of sustainability (economic, social, environmental) the current economic conspiracy theory fails each and every test. Not only has market fundamentalism or globalisation, completely destroyed any prospect of a livable environment, it has now destroyed any semblance of a democratic future, For the sake of the existing oligarchy, the 1%, it has also placed many generations to come in deep debt. Education is a right, universally, it should not be a route to debt..
Some idea of the complexity of the conspiracy was outlined in “The New Scientist” recently. http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg21228354.500-revealed–the-capitalist-network-that-runs-the-world.html The article was entitled “Connected Companies”
It should be stressed that this is not a contrived political agenda, but when an economic philosophy is so universally propagated it bears serious critical consideration, particularly when the outcomes are widespread loss of ecological systems and social well-being.
The 1318 transnational corporations that form the core of the economy. Superconnected companies are red, very connected companies are yellow. The size of the dot represents revenue (Image: PLoS One)
Revealed – the capitalist network that runs the world
AS PROTESTS against financial power sweep the world this week, science may have confirmed the protesters’ worst fears. An analysis of the relationships between 43,000 transnational corporations has identified a relatively small group of companies, mainly banks, with disproportionate power over the global economy. ……………
The study’s assumptions have attracted some criticism, but complex systems analysts contacted by New Scientist say it is a unique effort to untangle control in the global economy. Pushing the analysis further, they say, could help to identify ways of making global capitalism more stable…….
The idea that a few bankers control a large chunk of the global economy might not seem like news to New York’s Occupy Wall Street movement and protesters elsewhere. But the study, by a trio of complex systems theorists at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich, is the first to go beyond ideology to empirically identify such a network of power. It combines the mathematics long used to model natural systems with comprehensive corporate data to map ownership among the world’s transnational corporations (TNCs)……………
From Orbis 2007, a database listing 37 million companies and investors worldwide, they pulled out all 43,060 TNCs (trans-national corporations) and the share ownerships linking them. Then they constructed a model of which companies controlled others through shareholding networks, coupled with each company’s operating revenues, to map the structure of economic power.
The work, to be published in PLoS One, revealed a core of 1318 companies with interlocking ownerships (see image). Each of the 1318 had ties to two or more other companies, and on average they were connected to 20. What’s more, although they represented 20 per cent of global operating revenues, the 1318 appeared to collectively own through their shares the majority of the world’s large blue chip and manufacturing firms – the “real” economy – representing a further 60 per cent of global revenues…………..
When the team further untangled the web of ownership, it found much of it tracked back to a “super-entity” of 147 even more tightly knit companies – all of their ownership was held by other members of the super-entity – that controlled 40 per cent of the total wealth in the network. “In effect, less than 1 per cent of the companies were able to control 40 per cent of the entire network,” says Glattfelder. Most were financial institutions. The top 20 included Barclays Bank, JPMorgan Chase & Co, and The Goldman Sachs Group…………..
John Driffill of the University of London, a macroeconomics expert, says the value of the analysis is not just to see if a small number of people controls the global economy, but rather its insights into economic stability……………
“It’s disconcerting to see how connected things really are,” agrees George Sugihara of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in La Jolla, California, a complex systems expert who has advised Deutsche Bank………….”
Following this article is a list of the top 50 TNC’s within this network, and whilst this article does not subscribe to an overt plot for world dominance, when the economic theories that govern ALL the major transnational corporations are considered, they are all formulated from the same economic ethic which sees the environment as an “externality,” and similarly, the general public, apart from shareholders. There is no intrinsic ethic other than profit.
It is this network that makes up the new corporate empire, something hinted at when Norman Mailer delivered a speech entitled “Only in America”, on the eve of the American invasion of Iraq.
As that conflict, and the neighbouring conflict in Afghanistan come to a conclusion, it is healthy to consider Barak Obama’s recent overtures to the Pacific region. This is where ALL the substantial growth will occur over the next 10 years, and the economic conspiracy has not yet taken hold completely, but just as Obama’s silent war with drones never hits the headlines, his empirical economic juxtaposing is very real and very obvious.
“The manic money-grab excitement of the Nineties had never been altogether free of our pervasive American guilt. We were happy to be prosperous but we still felt guilty. We are a Christian nation. The Judeo in Judeo-Christian is a grace note. We are a Christian nation. The supposition of a great many good Christians in America is that you were not meant to be all that rich. God didn’t necessarily want it. For certain, Jesus did not. You weren’t supposed to pile up a mountain of moolah. You were obligated to spend your life in altruistic acts. That was still one half of the good Christian psyche. The other half, pure American, was, as always: beat everybody. One can offer a cruel, but conceivably accurate, remark: To be a mainstream American is to live as an oxymoron. You are a good Christian, but you strain to remain dynamically competitive.
And then there was the stock market. It kept sinking. Slowly, steadily, unemployment rose. The CEO scandals of the corporations became more prominent.
America had been putting up with the ongoing expansion of the corporation into American life since the end of World War II. It had been the money cow to the United States. But it had also been a filthy cow that gave off foul gases of mendacity and manipulation by an extreme emphasis on advertising. Put less into the product but kowtow to its marketing. Marketing was a beast and a force that succeeded in taking America away from most of us. It succeeded in making the world an uglier place to live in since the Second World War. One has only to cite fifty-story high-rise architecture as inspired in form as a Kleenex box with balconies, shopping malls encircled by low-level condominiums, superhighways with their vistas into the void; and, beneath it all, the pall of plastic, ubiquitous plastic, there to numb an infant’s tactile senses, plastic, front-runner in the competition to see which new substance could make the world more disagreeable. To the degree that we have distributed this crud all over the globe, we were already wielding a species of world hegemony. We were exporting the all-pervasive aesthetic emptiness of the most powerful American corporations. There were no new cathedrals being built for the poor— only sixteen-story urban-renewal housing projects that sat on the soul like jail.
Then came a more complete exposure of the economic chicanery and pollution of the corporations. Economic gluttony was thriving at the top. Criminal behaviour was being revealed on the front pages of every business section. Without September 11, George W. Bush would have been living in the nonstop malaise of uglier and uglier media. It could even be said that America was taking a series of hits that were not wholly out of proportion to what happened to the Germans after World War I, when inflation wiped out the fundamental German notion of self, which was that if you worked hard and saved your money, you ended up having a decent old age. It is likely that Hitler would never have come to power ten years later without that runaway inflation
The Republicans who led the campaign to seize Florida in the year 2000 are descended from 125 years of lawyers and bankers with the cold nerve and fired-up greed to foreclose on many a widow’s home or farm. Nor did these lawyers and bankers walk about suffused with guilt. They had the moral equivalent of teflon on their soul. Church on Sunday, foreclose on Monday
This war, should it come, is intended to mark the official emergence of the United States as a full-fledged global empire, seizing sole responsibility and authority as planetary policeman. It would be the culmination of a plan 10 years or more in the making, carried out by those who believe the United States must seize the opportunity for global domination, even if it means becoming the “American imperialists” that our enemies always claimed we were.
Back in 1992, a year after the final fall of the Soviet Union, there were many on the right in America, early flag conservatives, who felt that an extraordinary opportunity was now present. America could now take over the world. The Defence Department drafted a document which, to quote Jay Bookman once more, envisioned the United States as “a colossus astride the world, imposing its will and keeping world peace through military and economic power. When leaked in its final draft form, however, the proposal drew so much criticism that it was hastily withdrawn and repudiated by the first President Bush….
The defence secretary in 1992 was Richard Cheney; the document was drafted by [Paul] Wolfowitz, who at the time was defence undersecretary for policy. Now he is deputy defence secretary under Rumsfeld.
Obviously that document, “Project for a New American Century,” projected prematurely in 1992, had now, after September 11, become the policy of the Bush administration. The flag conservatives were triumphant. They could seek to take over the world. Iraq could be only the first step. Beyond, but very much on the historical horizon, are not only Iran, Syria, Pakistan, and North Korea, but China.
Of course, not every last country had to be subjugated. Some needed only to be dominated or brought into partnership. There could be firm and mutual understanding.
Flag conservatives may yet be hoping to send some message like this to China: “Hear ye! You Chinese are obviously bright. We can tell. We know! Your Asian students were born for technology. People who have led submerged lives love technology. They don’t get much pleasure anyway, so they like the notion of cybernetic power right at their fingertips. Technology is ideal for them. We can go along with that. You fellows can have your technology, may it be great! But, China, you had better understand: We still have the military power. Your best bet, therefore, is to become Greek slaves to us Romans. We will treat you well. You will be most important to us, eminently important. But don’t look to rise above your future station in life. The best you can ever hope for, China, is to be our Greeks.”
In the 1930s, you could be respected if you earned a living. In the Nineties, you had to demonstrate that you were a promising figure in the ranks of greed. It may be that empire depends on an obscenely wealthy upper-upper class who, given the in-built, never-ending threat to their wealth, are bound to feel no great allegiance in the pit of their heart for democracy. If this insight is true, then it can also be said that the disproportionate wealth which collected through the Nineties may have created an all-but-irresistible pressure at the top to move from democracy to empire. That would safeguard those great and quickly acquired gains. Can it be that George W. Bush knows what he’s doing for the future of empire by awarding these huge tax credits to the rich?
Part of the liberal media, The New Yorker, The Washington Post, and some on The New York Times are joined with Senators Hillary Clinton and Dianne Feinstein, Senator Joe Lieberman and Senator John Kerry in acceptance of the idea that perhaps we can bring democracy to Iraq by invasion.
The Americans who worked to create their democracy were veterans of Roosevelt’s New Deal and, mark of the period, were effective idealists.
There does not seem much comprehension that except for special circumstances, democracy is never there in us to create in another country by the force of our will. Real democracy comes out of many subtle individual human battles that are fought over decades and finally over centuries, battles that succeed in building traditions. The only defenses of democracy, finally, are the traditions of democracy. When you start ignoring those values, you are playing with a noble and delicate structure. There’s nothing more beautiful than democracy. But you can’t play with it. You can’t assume we’re going to go over to show them what a great system we have. This is monstrous arrogance.
Because democracy is noble, it is always endangered. Nobility, indeed, is always in danger. Democracy is perishable. I think the natural government for most people, given the uglier depths of human nature, is fascism. Fascism is more of a natural state than democracy. To assume blithely that we can export democracy into any country we choose can serve paradoxically to encourage more fascism at home and abroad. Democracy is a state of grace that is attained only by those countries who have a host of individuals not only ready to enjoy freedom but to undergo the heavy labor of maintaining it.
Democracy, I would repeat, is the noblest form of government we have yet evolved, and we may as well begin to ask ourselves whether we are ready to suffer, even perish for it, rather than readying ourselves to live in the lower existence of a monumental banana republic with a government always eager to cater to mega-corporations as they do their best to appropriate our thwarted dreams with their elephantine conceits”.
The top 50 of the 147 superconnected companies
1. Barclays plc 2. Capital Group Companies Inc 3. FMR Corporation 4. AXA 5. State Street Corp. 6. JP Morgan Chase & Co 7. Legal & General Group plc 8. Vanguard Group Inc 9. UBS AG 10. Merrill Lynch & Co Inc 11. Wellington Management Co LLP 12. Deutsche Bank AG 13. Franklin Resources Inc 14. Credit Suisse Group 15. Walton Enterprises LLC 16. Bank of New York Mellon Corp 17. Natixis 18. Goldman Sachs Group Inc 19. T Rowe Price Group Inc 20. Legg Mason Inc 21. Morgan Stanley 22. Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group Inc 23. Northern Trust Corporation 24. Société Générale 25. Bank of America Corp. 26. Lloyds TSB Group plc 27. Invesco plc 28. Allianz SE 29. TIAA 30. Old Mutual Public Limited Company 31. Aviva plc 32. Schroders plc 33. Dodge & Cox 34. Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc* 35. Sun Life Financial Inc 36. Standard Life plc 37. CNCE 38. Nomura Holdings Inc 39. The Depository Trust Company 40. Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance 41. ING Groep NV 42. Brandes Investment Partners LP 43. Unicredito Italiano SPA 44. Deposit Insurance Corporation of Japan 45. Vereniging Aegon 46. BNP Paribas 47. Affiliated Managers Group Inc 48. Resona Holdings Inc 49. Capital Group International Inc 50. China Petrochemical Group Company
* Lehman still existed in the 2007 dataset used