There was a brief time that advocates of Oligarchy, as an alternative to democracy, thought that they could remake the world in their vision. They called that vision the ‘New World Order’. The idea was that the wealthy, and those they enlisted to wield their power, would re-shape and then rule the world.
All sorts of conspiracy theories swirled around this idea. Some involving secret societies like Skull & Bones at Yale. Others focused on families such as the Bush clan. Then there was the crowd that meets as Davos every year to ‘divide up the world’s economic pie’. Great fodder for conspiracy theorizing. But these were impotent ramblings of the irrelevant. Hegemony seemed within the grasp of the advocates of Oligarchy. The world would be theirs.
But the whole project has gone off the rails under the bootheel of a new kind of criminal organization. In the past, such organizations were private association – often based on family relationships or nationalities. But, during the latter half of the 20th century, a new type of criminal organization was perfected – the state or corporation as an organized criminal enterprise.
The emergence of this new breed of criminal organizations has overrun the dreams of dominance of the wealthy class to such an extent that their drive for world dominance is in danger of becoming as endangered as the US middle class they plotted to bleed dry. Two trends have shifted the balance of power towards these new vampires – one made it possible while a second promised to turn that possibility into reality.
The Rise of the Oligarchy
The latter half of the 20th century saw an unparalleled concentration of wealth and power accumulating in the hands of a smaller and smaller percentage of the population. Early in the 21st century, the imbalance of wealth and income reached, and then exceeded, that which existed during the middle ages – when virtually all productive resources and wealth was owned by a small group of ‘nobles’. When the imbalance reached those extremes, the vast majority of the population – whether they lived under a dictatorship or in a democracy – became surfs. Over worked, burdened by rising debt and facing a future which offered less and less to both them and their children. Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness was reduced to simple, servient survival.
As wealth concentrated in the hands of the few, protection of wealth, income and prerogatives became essential to retaining and extending advantages. What seemed expensive in the past now became pocket change. Governments could be bought for campaign contributions and political support. The strategy was amazingly simple. Make running for and staying in office as expensive as possible. The capstone of that effort in the US was the Citizens United Supreme Court Decision and the proposition that corporations were people. (Can you imagine the likes of James Madison, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams or Thomas Jefferson agreeing with the proposition that a legal entity stood equal to a citizen of the country they were forming? The colonies were rebelling against the power of the British Government and the corporations that represented it!)
Once corporations and political action groups achieved supremacy over the population as a form of uber-citizen – based on their superior resourcing and access to wealth and power – the die was cast. There could be only one outcome. The Oligarchy would achieve the dominance and control it so ardently desired. The realization of that desire came to flower across the globe and along many paths. But the results were generally the same everywhere. A good example is what occurred in the United States beginning in the closing decades of the 20th century.
The term Imperial Presidency became popular in the 1960s. Historian Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr wrote The Imperial Presidency because he believed that the US presidency was uncontrollable and that it had exceeded constitutional limits. His fears then will have turned in to nightmares now.