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.
The presidency of Richard Nixon was the first serious attempt by the Oligarchy to establish an Imperial Presidency in their own image. It has been described as an administration surrounded by ‘courts’ in which junior staffers acted occasionally in contravention of executive orders or Acts of Congress. During the Nixon Presidency, the idea was advanced that a President was incapable of committing a crime because anything he did was inherently legal. (A critical component of the Imperial Presidency and the Oligarchy’s agenda) Under the cloud of Watergate, that concept was expanded to include the Presidential ‘court.’ Not only was the President above the law but so were his surrogates.
The resolution of the Watergate affair is often held up as an example of the system working. Nixon was driven from office. There was a peaceful transition of power and a resounding round of self-congratulations. But much of that appears a hollow victory now.
The next attempt to establish an Imperial Presidency came with Ronald Reagan. The lessons of Watergate had not been lost on those who would turn Franklin and Madison’s Republic into an Oligarchy. They aggressively facilitated the neutering of a free press by encouraging the acquisition of news operations by commercial companies. (They were determined that what Woodward and Bernstein had accomplished would never happen again.) Talking heads, those vacuous centers of self-love, became the preferred substitute for investigative reporters. Cable news became a year-round political reality show. Politics was turned into a Reality TV show with teams and winners and losers. Laws were passed expanding executive power. Defenses were raised against constitutional restrictions. But all these efforts proved ineffective in the end. The Iran Contra scandal and the actions of members of Reagan’s court, frustrated attempts to establish a truly Imperial Presidency. And besides, Reagan had a brain and believed in something – American exceptionalism.
“No one would have believed in the last years of the nineteenth century that this world was being watched keenly and closely by intelligences greater than man's and yet as mortal as his own; that as men busied themselves about their various concerns they were scrutinized and studied, perhaps almost as narrowly as a man with a microscope might scrutinize the transient creatures that swarm and multiply in a drop of water.” War of the Worlds, HG Wells
But the advocates of Oligarchy were not deterred. They only had to win once. They saw the world as the Martians did and the population as “transient creatures that swarm and multiply in a drop of water.”
9/11 saw the acceleration of the move toward an Imperial Presidency. George W. Bush keyed off the crisis to expand executive authority in national security and domestic surveillance. He had the tacit support of Congress, and for a time, a considerable portion of the public. This trend continued under Obama. Stonewalling from Congress caused the Obama administration to find innovative ways to exercise power. Obama became one of the most powerful Presidents ever.
But neither Bush nor Obama succeeded in becoming the Imperial President that the Oligarchs wanted. Both had a set of beliefs that guided their decisions and a deep respect for the country and its institutions. Neither man could be controlled by the Oligarchy to the extent they wanted. Neither brought sufficient ‘entertainment value’ to the office of the Presidency.
To truly perfect the Imperial Presidency, they needed a candidate who had no stable political beliefs, limited intellectual curiosity, no foundational sense of integrity, no respect for the history or institutions of the country and a preference for associating with dictators rather than democratically elected representatives. It would also be helpful if such a candidate had a past that would facilitate controlling him. Fortune was generous and delivered beyond their wildest dreams. That hand is yet to be played out but, no matter what happens, the Oligarchy might be closer to achieving its desired hegemony. Except …
The Rise of the Nation State Criminal Class
There is a new clan of vampires in town and they feed on the wealthy and powerful.
The second development that tilted the table in favor of this new type of criminal organization was the development of a global criminal syndicate that was beyond the laws of any nation. Aided by the emergence of the information age and a rising dissatisfaction with government among the general population, they could turn news into propaganda and ratify the uninformed beliefs of the disenfranchised. The assault on the sensibilities and beliefs of any population involved the same tools – deceit, distraction, disinformation and disruption. They became the four horsemen of the new apocalypse.
The information age brought a new kind of crime – one that was highly profitable and beyond the efforts of any nation’s law enforcement to prosecute. An early variant – pioneering if you will – was the Nigerian Advance Feed email scam. It did not go unnoticed that hundreds of millions of dollars were being lifted from simple-minded marks using an email scam that cost essentially nothing to manage. The creators of the internet and email had unwittingly provided a most efficient tool for scamming.
But bush-league criminals like the Nigerian Advance Fee scammers were only interested in money – and on a relatively minor scale. It didn’t take long for this new breed to criminal enterprise to realize that that was much more to be had. They also quickly realized that the Oligarchs has dutifully set the table for them with a feast beyond imagination. It was not only money that could be stolen on a massive scale – trade secrets, personal information and classified data were also avenues to massive profit and control. People, corporations and countries could be blackmailed. Massive profits were only the cherry on top of the Sunday. Global control was the real objective. World domination was the primary objective.
The most important advantage that this new criminal class had was control over either a nation state or a major corporation. They could use the revenues from taxes or sales to further their criminal enterprise – and the courts dutifully protected their ability to do so. They could harvest the benefits from the industry of citizens and employees and deploy them against the interests of those who had created them. Beyond that they could combine those revenues in political action committees and use the funds to buy influence and protect their interests. Buy now they don’t even need the courts.
The Most Powerful Oligarchs Are Part of the New Criminal Class
“And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned round on you – where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? This country is planted thick with laws from coast to coast, Man's laws, not God's, and if you cut them down – and you're just the man to do it – do you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then?” A Man for All Seasons, Robert Bolt
There is a rule when it comes to complex systems – it is the second-order results that bite you in the ass. Just as the god-fearing, law abiding Oligarchs were about to have it their way, in swooped the devil and stole it away. The democracies that they depended on for protection came under attack. The rule of law that they had worked to neuter was swept away by the new vampires. The four horsemen of the new apocalypse snatched their victory and made them just another class of prey for a superior predator.
In one country after another, the assault on the democratic process is on display. Why? Because the rule of law is an impediment to the new vampires. Like Roper, they would sweep it away. But unlike Roper, their intent is to feast more aggressively on the bleeding bodies of the impotent.
Why attack the electoral process in the US, Germany and France? Because a population that has lost the protection of the rule of law and the democratic process is more open to exploitation. Why engage in disinformation and the generation of fake news? Because a population that has become inured to consuming such trash can be led by their noses and induced to consume anything. Why work for the destruction of democracies? Global domination and the final victory of the criminal class. Why bless the architects of the New World Order? Because they, in their blindness and greed, made the final victory possible.
It would be pleasant to write a final paragraph that makes the world right and the story fiction. But there does not seem to be a pen available that can deploy such magic. It is true that the Dark Ages came to an end. As did the Middle Ages. Bur, for this age …