A Poorly Understood ‘Bargain’: How Democracy and the 60s Movements became Orphans in the ‘Free Market’ Era.
31 August 2013
Snoopman Editor’s Note: This article outlines how it is that the planet is currently on a trajectory of ‘colliding crises’. It traces the roots of the current ‘Crisis of Democracy’ back to the 1970s when a North Atlantic capitalist class viewed the counter-cultural movements that emerged in the 1960s as a threat to their power. The North Atlantic capitalist class resolved to undermine democracy by encouraging apathy (amid ‘free market reforms’ that they knew would bring hardship to many).
Reader Warning: This article has a satirical tone, which is a genre that is best used when it ridicules the hypocrisies of the ruling classes. Satire used to be a commonplace television genre before the ‘free market’ era invoked fiscal discipline on television networks, for reasons that will be clearer as you read on. (See: Snoopman News for sourced references).
A Crisis of Democracy is felt most by those bearing the brunt of capitalist forces. Many activists, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and activist scholars around the world have discerned that this current Crisis of Democracy is one of numerous ‘colliding crises’. Together, we travel on this trajectory of crises, which include: a global economic depression, systemic financial crimes, social destabilization, food shortages, environmental catastrophes, rampant militarism, and systemic poverty (that implicitly renders a ‘global poor’ population as ‘surplus’ to a ‘global free market project’).[i]
This Crisis of Democracy is actually the property of a ‘Crisis Family’. Democracy has siblings. They are called: Social Justice, Environment, Peace, Anti-War, and the non-identical twins, Human Needs and Human Rights. (Human Needs is the older and terribly neglected of the two, while the younger twin has been seriously abused). The story gets sadder. All of these siblings of the Crisis Family are all famous orphans. And sadder still, there are less-well known ones too.
I use this familial metaphor because an orphan to one family, say a Bottom, Middle or even an Upper Class one, is potentially a ‘blank canvas’ to a Psychopathic Family. As psychopathy expert Clive Boddy has argued in his paper entitled, The Corporate Psychopaths Theory of the Global Financial Crisis, a psychopath is a person who deviously wins the confidence of his or her intended victims, for whom the psychopath lacks empathy.[ii] At this point, I’m going to climb out on a limb of the Human Family Tree and argue that it is from this particular limb that the world is run. Upon this limb dwell the world’s economically, politically and militarily powerful psychopaths. It’s a ‘special branch’ of the Human Family (he tangata whänau).
The trajectory of colliding crises has a sinister underbelly. The intent of elite policy planners, four decades ago, was to exploit these colliding crises for their economic, political and military gain. The current Crisis of Democracy has occurred because ordinary people all over the world were systematically encouraged to feel hopelessness about struggling for worthy causes. This planning for what I call systemic apathy began in the early- to mid-1970s, because the ‘counter-cultural revolution’ that appeared in the 1960s was regarded by a North Atlantic capitalist class as an affront to their perceived right to permanently rule the planet.
Indeed, as a term, Crisis of Democracy, was coined by a global policy-shaping group called the Trilateral Commission. In its 1975 report called, “The Crisis of Democracy”, the view expressed by the Trilateral Commission was that there was too much democracy. Chase Manhattan Bank chairman, David Rockefeller, founded The Trilateral Commission in 1973. (At the time, Rockefeller also chaired another global policy-shaping group, a New York-based think tank, the Council on Foreign Relations, which shared this too much democracy view). The Trilateral Commission called for powerful new economic management stratagems. “The Crisis of Democracy” report sought to instill discipline among the mass populaces of the developed countries through proactive labour intervention and skills development, and among the developing countries, by “tying neocolonial economies even closer to Western finance.”[iii] The new economic framework that a sect within the North Atlantic capitalist class favoured was ‘free markets’.
This sect, that had begun field-testing ‘free markets’ in the mid-1960s, came to be known as the neoliberal movement. Their ‘Holy Grail’ was ‘efficient’ price mechanisms allegedly governed by an ‘invisible hand’. However, this Invisible Hand turned out to be a Wealth Defence Industry that had all along been quietly constructing a world-wide, state-sponsored Financial Secrecy Haven Complex. This means that the North Atlantic capitalist class has assumed political power over economic matters so that their vast, anti-competitive transnationalised cartels could control new ‘free markets’. Therefore, the ‘global neoliberal project’ is more accurately a ‘global neo-colonialist project’.[iv]
The emergence of ‘too much democracy’ in the 1960s was known in posh elite circles as a ‘governance crisis’. This ‘Crisis of Democracy’ coincided with several other major crises. One crisis beset the ‘Patriarch’ of the Crisis Whanau, and that was The Crisis of Declining Profit Rates (NoooOOOOOOO!!!). This crisis arose from the overcapacity of production, and became a most ‘serious crisis’ for the dominant corporations of the North Atlantic capitalist class (particularly the United States and Britain, who had only partially re-tooled in the years since World War II). It was a most ‘serious crisis’ because there is only one thing that can “kill [a] bloodless legal construct” – the Corporation – and that is an inability to extract a financial surplus (as Thomas Kessner put it in his book Capital City).[v] As implied earlier, it was a crisis of the Patriarch’s own making, since he had sought to dominate the post-World War II World. Thus, the Crisis of Declining Profit Rates was really a shadow-self of the Crisis Family’s Patriarch: Capital.[vi]
Another, and largely forgotten, crisis known as ‘Developmentalism’, sought political and economic autonomy for the neocolonial economies of the ‘developing world’. The perpetually ‘developing’ countries were demanding Western technology so they could ‘develop’, as a ‘fair trade’ for having supplied the raw materials for the ‘long post-war boom’.[vii]
To ‘solve’ these crises, a special study group was sponsored in the early 1970s by the Council on Foreign Relations in New York to work on what they called the ‘1980s Project’. Essentially, this study group was tasked with ‘solving’ crises that their predecessors had caused in their attempts to control the world through oil and finance. As William Engdahl argued in his book The Gods of Money (2009), during World War II, the Council on Foreign Relations sponsored a War and Peace Studies Group (p.136-165). This Studies Group was comprised of elite policy planners who worked out how the United States would dominate the post-World War II world. Their work underpinned what became known as the Bretton Woods Agreement of 1944, which secured control over petroleum and finance for the United States (with its fraternal partner, Britain becoming its best supporting political actor). It was this Bretton Woods Agreement, which eventually broke down in the late 1960s and early 1970s when global capitalism faced the three major crises mentioned.
The ‘1980s Project’ Study Group worked out a blueprint for the transformation of economies around the globe under the rubric of ‘free market’ economic policies.[viii] The 1980s Project prescribed a new alliance between the wealthy and politically connected of America and Europe to include Japan. To this end, the Trilateral Commission was formed. The Trilateral Commission was tasked with working out how to technically deploy the ‘free market’ framework and preserve as far as possible the dominance of their Trilateral World, as Laurence Shoup and William Minter have argued in their seminal book, Imperial Brain Trust.
In the ‘governance crisis’ discourses of the time, it was considered vital for the success of the 1980’s Project that apathy be created among the mass populaces of the world. It was deemed crucial by the elite policy planners at the Council on Foreign Relations to “depoliticize” important issues and remove them from popular political consciousness.[ix] Indeed, one task force group in the ‘1980’s Project’ was to focus on ways to downplay political-economic conflicts, including unemployment, inflation and international relations. Audaciously, “The Crisis of Democracy” report by the Trilateral Commission claimed that popular demands on governments were overwhelming authorities to address various crises. Furthermore, governance itself was facing a Crisis of Legitimacy!
In this way, the mass populaces of the world had angered the matriarchal figure of democracy, Liberty, and had inadvertently exposed her shadow self – her Crisis of Legitimacy. Here, it needs to recalled, or known, that representative democracy, or limited democracy, based on the Westminster parliamentary system was spread around the world as a strategy to protect the extremely wealthy from the riskiness of “pure” or participatory democracy, as Noam Chomsky, an expert in US foreign policy, pointed out in the 1994 documentary Manufacturing Consent.[x]
The ‘offending’ counter-cultural/peoples’ movements of the 1960s and 1970s included: the Civil Rights, Feminism, Anti-war, Peace, Environment, New Left, Free Speech, Gay Liberation, United Farmworker Movement, and Developmentalism. Together, their collective rejection of authority represented a combined yearning from ‘below’ to construct autonomous communities.[xi] Because their demands, in effect, sought political and economic equality, or a decentralisation of power and redistributions of wealth, these popular movements were regarded as threats to the ruling North Atlantic capitalist class. From the perspective of the Patriarch and Matriarch of the Crisis Family – Capital and Liberty – the Bottom and Middle Classes needed to be taught to feel powerless and give up their ‘newly-born movements’.
The stratagem to undermine too much democracy contained in the 1980’s Project, which essentially sought to demoralize mass populaces (both in the ethical sense, as well as the motivational one), was therefore a devious one. Indeed, the ‘free market’ framework that was worked upon by the 1980’s Project Study Group and elite planners at other right-wing corporate-funded global and national policy-shaping think tanks, (which proliferated in 1970s) came packaged with a cover-story to hide the real intent. ‘Free markets’ were slickly marketed in the 1980s and 1990s with the idea that they would deliver individual freedom and prosperity for all, as Naomi Klein argued in her book, The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism. The North Atlantic capitalist class (now transnational in scope) had embarked on a ‘war of position’ as William Carroll called it in his book The Making of a Transnational Capital Class.[xii]
To ensure they won this ‘war of position’, the neoliberal movement followed a stratagem espoused by the sect’s leading proponent Milton Friedman, a professor of Economics at the University of Chicago, who favoured a ‘shock therapy’ approach, as encapsulated by his mantra: “speed, suddenness and scope”.[xiii] In this way, targeted populations were overwhelmed with the economic shocks as whole sectors of society were transformed and coerced to support the new framework. These ‘free market shock treatments’ included lifting financial controls to increase the fluidity of capital flows between countries, the corporatization and privatization of state infrastructure and services, the introduction of user charges, shifting the tax burden ‘downward’, and down-sizing public sector employment. Thus, Friedman’s shock doctrine was a structured set of ‘new enclosures’ that were designed to absorb the needs, values and aspirations of the ‘disobedient’.[xiv]
In other words, key insiders that comprised the North Atlantic capitalist class set a course to transform the world under a ‘free market’ framework in order to impose ‘market discipline’. The ‘Patriarchal and Matriarchal forces’ – Capital and Liberty – that comprised this North Atlantic capitalist class hated it that their shadow selves, the Crisis of Declining Profit Rates and the Crisis of Legitimacy, respectively, had been exposed. Once Capital and Liberty regained their composure, and reinvented themselves as the neoliberal movement, they downplayed the hardships that their ‘reforms’ would impose. Together, Capital and Liberty disingenuously claimed that everyone would prosper and through this promised prosperity, they would somehow gain ‘freedom’.[xv]
In a classic ‘bait and switch’ maneuver, the masses were offered freedom and prosperity in the future if they gave up their offspring in the present: Social Justice, Environment, Peace, Anti-War, Developmentalism and the non-identical twins, Human Needs and Human Rights. These, too, were to be managed by the ‘market forces’.[xvi] The intention that underpinned the marketing of ‘free markets’ was to deceptively lure the world’s mass-hapless populaces into orphaning their ‘newly-born movements’. It was, therefore, a poorly understood ‘bargain’. Thus, the principle upon which the ‘global neocolonial project’ is based, is one of entrapment.
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Boddy, C. (2011). The Corporate Psychopaths Theory of the Global Financial Crisis. Journal of Busniess Ethics. (102) 255-259. Retrieved from DOI: 10.1007/s10551-011-0810-4
Bruce, B. (Director & Writer). (2013 Mind) The Gap: A Special Report on Inequality [Motion Picture]. Red Sky Television. Retrieved from http://www.tv3.co.nz/INSIDE-NEW-ZEALAND-Mind-The-Gap/tabid/3692/articleID/94816/MCat/3061/Default.aspx
Carroll, W. K. (2010). The Making of a Transnational Capitalist Class: Corporate Power in the 21st Century. London: Zed Books.
Chomsky, N. (2006). Failed States: The Abuse of Power and the Assault on Democracy. Crows Nest, NSW, Australia: Allen & Unwin.
Chossudovsky, M. (2003). The Globalization of Poverty and the New World Order (2nd ed.). Montréal, Canada: Global Research Publishers.
Chossudovsky & A. G. Marshall (Eds.) (2010). The Global Economic Crisis: The Great Depression of the XXI Century. Montréal, Canada: Global Research Publishers.
Curtis, A. (2007). The Trap: Episode II, The Lonely Robot. [Motion picture]. Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WbRApO3k_Jo
de Angelis, M. (2001, May). Global capital, abstract labour, and the fractal panopticon. The Commoner. Retrieved from http://www.commoner.org.uk/fractalpanopt.pdf
Douglas, J. (1976, October). The Overloaded Crown. British Journal of Political Science, Vol. 6, No. 4, pp. 483-505.Cambridge University Press. Retreived from jstor.org.stable/193284
Edwards, S. (2012). “It’s the Financial Oligarchy, Stupid: A study of Anglo-American news coverage during the 2007-2008 financial crisis and bank bailouts”. http://hdl.handle.net/10292/5536
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Foster, J. B. & Magdoff, F. (2009). The Great Financial Crisis: Causes and Consequences. New York, NY: Monthly Review Press.
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Gitlin, T. (2003). The Whole World is Watching. Mass Media in Making and Unmaking of the New Left. London, England: University of California Press.
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Roper, Brian S. (2005). Prosperity for All? Economic, Social and Political Change in New Zealand Since 1935. Albany; New Zealand: Cengage Learning.
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[i] See: Chossudovsky 2003; Chossudovsky & Marshall (Eds) 2010; Edwards 2012; Gitlin 2003; Klein 2007; Neilson 2013.
[ii] See also: Achbar, M., & Abbott, J. (Directors), & Bakan, J. (Writer). (2005).
[iii] Carroll 2010: 43.
[iv] See: Winters (2011); Palan, Murphy & Chavagneux 2010); Neilson (2013, February). Engdahl (2009); Carroll (2010).
[v] Kessner 2003: 326.
[vi] The Crisis of Declining Profit Rates is the most commonly cited crisis of this period in political-economic literature. See: Foster 2007; Foster & Magdoff 2009; Lapavitsas 2009; Magdoff & Sweezy 1985; McNally 2009).
[vii] See: Klein 2007: 54-66.
[viii] ‘Free market shock treatments’ included lifting financial controls to increase the fluidity of capital flows between countries, the corporatization and privatization of state infrastructure and services, the introduction of user charges, shifting the tax burden ‘downward’, and down-sizing public sector employment. Thus, a structured set of ‘new enclosures’ were designed to absorb the needs, values and aspirations of the ‘disobedient’.
[ix] See: Douglas 1976: 493; Rose 1979: 369; Shoup & Minter 2004: 268-269. In his 1979 paper “Ungovernability: Is There Fire Behind the Smoke?” a professor at the Centre for Policy Studies, Richard Rose, observed that political indifference had been “underestimated” as means for states to maintain authority since it undermines people’s capacity for self-reliance and attention to the activities of authorities (p. 369). Rose saw that political scientists would need to develop a language to that could describe the variance of features that defined governments of the West. Gill and Law (1989) found that several think-tanks influenced the Thatcher regime, including the British Centre for Policy Studies, situated at Glasgow University, whose purpose was to reshape public opinion by means of a “battle of ideas” (Gill & Law, 1989, p. 482).
[x] See also: Achbar (1994); Winters (2011).
[xi] See also: Chomsky 2006: 216-217; Chossudovsky, 2003; Engdahl, 2004; Gitlin, 2003; McNally, 2009; Shoup & Minter 2004: 268-269).
[xii] Carroll (2010: 205). Looking back on how the neoliberal rationalist paradigm came to be the dominant ideology of our time, BBC filmmaker Adam Curtis found in his 2007 documentary series, The Trap: Episode II, The Lonely Robot, that this ‘battle of ideas’ included the new language and thinking of a technocratic elite. Rationalism here means a methodological pattern of thought that is self-justifying, un-rooted to ethical considerations and which advocates efficiency based on a ready supply of answers that express no doubt (Saul, 1993). The regime of the neocolonial sect redefined workers as human resources and human capital that would perform to ‘numbers’ to fit with the ideology’s central demand: efficiency.
[xiii] Klein 2007: 7
[xiv] Between the mid-1960s and 1970s, five countries in the ‘developing world’ that pursued an economic framework called ‘developmentalism’, were subsequently subjected to military juntas and/or CIA backed coups (Klein 2007: 87). Under a developmentalism framework, the state uses tax-funds to invest in infrastructure and services, subsidizes local industry and imposes high tariffs on imports (Klein 2007: 55). These economic policies were considered as an affront to the expansionist interests of European and American transnational corporations, and were rapidly replaced with ‘free market economic shock’ policies (Klein 2007:55-128; Jarecki 2006). The hapless countries that suffered military juntas and/or CIA backed coups, were Brazil in 1964, Indonesia in 1965, Chile and Uruguay in 1973 and Argentina in 1976. Klein argued in her book The Shock Doctrine that key insiders of the neoliberal sect, who comprised part of the North Atlantic capitalist class, sought to cleanse ‘free market’ ideology of its association with the terrorism meted-out during its field-testing stage (p.198-128). Klein also argued that the use of military violence to facilitate the spread of ‘free markets’ has continued into the 2000s. Her view is supported in Eugene Jarecki’s documentary Why We Fight (2006).
[xv] See: Barry 2005; Bruce 2013; Kelsey 1997; Roper, 2005; Whitecross, Winterbottom, & Eaton 2009.
[xvi] Numerous corporate-funded foundations founded and/or sponsored an array of cause-focused non-governmental organizations in the 1970s (Klein 2007: 121-124; Engdahl 2004: 143-147).