Rising Global Inequality and the Reign of Corporate Empire

Steven MacMillan

Today’s world is increasingly becoming dominated by private special interests and multinational corporations who usurp political systems around the world, creating vast wealth inequality and largely rendering democratic political systems futile. As the profits, power and influence of corporations explode in the 21st century, the gap between the rich and the poor spikes in tandem, creating what many believe is the emergence of a new feudal society.

An Oxfam study published last month titled: Even it up: Time to end extreme inequality, which was supported by many prominent individuals including Nobel prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz, concluded that the number of global billionaires has doubled since the financial crisis in 2007/2008, in a world where vast economic inequality is becoming the pressing issue of today:

“Seven out of ten people on the planet now live in countries where economic inequality is worse than it was 30 years ago (p.34)…. The number of dollar millionaires rose from 10 million in 2009 to 13.7 million in 2013. Since the financial crisis, the ranks of the world’s billionaires has more than doubled, swelling to 1,645 people. Oxfam’s research in early 2014 found that the 85 richest individuals in the world have as much wealth as the poorest half of the global population.” (p.36)

The report then continues to argue that the cause of this dramatic increase in inequality is largely due to a “capture of power” by “economic elites” and “corporate interests”, who usurp governments for the benefit of their interests and objectives:

“The second is the capture of power and influence by economic elites, including companies, which in turn drives further inequality, as political policies and public debate are shaped to suit the richest in society instead of benefiting the majority (p.59)… Money buys political clout, which the richest and most powerful use to further entrench their influence and advantages (p.63)… Corporate interests have also captured policy-making processes to their own advantage…Financial institutions spend more than €120m per year influencing the European Union (p.64)… Around the world elites have long used their money, power and influence to shape the beliefs and perceptions that hold sway in societies, and have wielded this power to oppose measures that would reduce inequality.” (p.66)

This study followed an earlier report by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), which found that global income inequality is at the same level as it was in the 1820’s, with globalisation pinpointed as a driving factor in the explosion of wealth disparity in recent decades.

Trade Deals and the Corporate Class

We are living in an age where corporate power is at unprecedented levels and global wealth inequality is at levels not seen for almost 200 years, despite the pervasiveness of jargon filled economic theories. “It is no great secret that the economy is overwhelmingly in the hands of private corporations”, as Noam Chomsky wrote in his book Hopes and Prospects. Surreptitious trade deals are being negotiated across the globe that could see sovereign law subservient to corporate dictatesin many countries, where multinational corporations could potentially sue national governments if policies are deemed to infringe on corporate profit, with many viewing these deals as a corporate coup.

The European Union and the United States are in the process of negotiating “the largest bilateral trade deal ever brokered” — the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) — which if passed, could see Britain’s National Health Service (NHS) irreversibly privatised. A second massive free trade deal which is being negotiated behind closed doors is the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a US-led deal negotiated between 12 nations that would see even more power concentrated in the hands of private corporations.

A major centre of today’s corporate class is the private round table organisations which stretch across the planet and comprise the economic-corporate oligarchy, with the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) in America, and the Royal Institute of International Affairs (or Chatham House) in London, the pre-eminent organisations. A look at the corporate membership of these round table groups reveals the degree of corporate power vested in these institutes, which serve as front organisations for an international banking cartel. Exxon Mobil, Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase & Co, Google, Facebook, Lockheed Martin, Merck, GlaxoSmithKline, Microsoft and Raytheon are just a handful of the corporate members at the CFR. Across the water in London, Chatham House corporate members include: BP, the European Commission, the Ministry of Defense, Barclays, HSBC Holdings, Rio Tinto, Prudential, the Scottish government and Royal Dutch Shell.

Two key architects in the formation of these organisations were the British imperialists Lord Alfred Milner and Cecil Rhodes, who shared the belief that Britain expansionism would lay the foundation for a world empire. As CFR historian Carroll Quigley wrote in the Anglo American Establishment, Rhodes and Milner sought to “unite the world” through “secret political and economic influence”:

“Both sought to unite the world, and above all the English-speaking world, in a federal structure around Britain. Both felt that this goal could best be achieved by a secret band of men united to one another by devotion to the common cause and by personal loyalty to one another. Both felt that this band should pursue its goal by secret political and economic influence behind the scenes and by the control of journalistic, educational, and propaganda agencies” (Quigley, 1981, P.49).

Plutocrats on the Run!

 Today, the elite is becoming increasingly fractured and polarised as some within the plutocracy fear the blowback from policies which have dramatically increased the wealth disparity between the rich and the poor. Nick Hanauer, a self-proclaimed “.01%er” who founded an internet advertisement company that was sold to Microsoft for $6.4 billion in 2007, wrote an article featured in Politico this year titled: The Pitchforks are Coming… for us Plutocrats. In the article, Hanauer notes that such extreme inequality only ever results in an “uprising” and rebellion:

“The oldest and most important conflict in human societies is the battle over the concentration of wealth and power… Since 1950, the CEO-to-worker pay ratio has increased 1,000 percent… CEOs used to earn 30 times the median wage; now they rake in 500 times. Yet no company I know of has eliminated its senior managers, or outsourced them to China or automated their jobs… If we don’t do something to fix the glaring inequities in this economy, the pitchforks are going to come for us. No society can sustain this kind of rising inequality. In fact, there is no example in human history where wealth accumulated like this and the pitchforks didn’t eventually come out. You show me a highly unequal society, and I will show you a police state. Or an uprising. There are no counterexamples. None. It’s not if, it’s when.”

This sentiment was echoed by this year’s World Economic Forum (WEF) pinpointing “income inequality as the number one global concern”, with a WEF report by United Nations advisor Amina Mohamed warning that such severe economic disparity “weakens social cohesion”. Of course, many governments around the world have been in the process of building up a police state in anticipation for major civil unrest, as pitchfork protests and anti-establishment demonstrations intensify as a result of plummeting living standards.

Reducing the influence of corporate power on the functioning and practices of government is paramount in order to build freer and more equal societies. People should increasingly refrain from shopping at major multinational corporations on a frequent basis, and instead; buy local, shop ethically and support small businesses in order to build real and prosperous economies.

Steven MacMillan is an independent writer, researcher, geopolitical analyst and editor of  The Analyst Report, especially for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”
First appeared: http://journal-neo.org/2014/12/10/rising-global-inequality-and-the-reign-of-corporate-empire/

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