David Simon, the creator of The Wire, addressed the Festival of Dangerous Ideas recently in Sydney, with the title There are now two Americas. My country is a horror show. This is an extract from it.
It’s feeling like a progressive process. We find we keep flip-flopping about this all the time. Is it just a flow of history we’re trapped in, everyone is carried along with and compelled to play their role in? Or, as many will have it, the state of the world has been driven by pernicious design.
Certainly, there are very well-funded groups that do work towards certain ends. Various associations, particularly in the USA, have had great success in getting their agendas fulfilled by government, forming policy that has profoundly affected America and the whole world, and never more profoundly than when hushing up Henry George.
Of course, why shouldn’t there be think tanks, schools of thought, that associate and seek to gain influence through their ideas? That’s an integral part of the democratic process. Of the many foundations and institutions, there are some today that particularly come to people’s attention.
There’s the Council on Foreign Relations in the US, by invitation only, which goes back to the 1920s. It’s a kind of club where the CEOs of the largest corporations, government policy makers, major media owners, university professors, and every CIA director and US Defense Secretary back to the 1950s, have attended. They meet up to talk about issues, like free trade around the world and how this could be advanced.
There’s the Trilateral Commission, a business think tank set up in 1973 to create close partnership among the ruling classes of North America, Western Europe, and Japan. There’s surely some significance to membership of these bodies, since no less than 300 CFR and Trilateral Commission members served in Bill Clinton’s administration. That was a significant proportion of the CFR’s total membership who were serving in the government.
In 2001, Bill Clinton was followed into the presidency by George W Bush, whose government had several members in key positions drawn from a think tank which has had an undoubted historical influence. The Project for the New American Century, was founded on the idea that American leadership was what was America and the world needed, and promoted a policy of military strength and moral clarity. A colossal amount of history unfolds from this, which can’t be visited here. In these years, American military and security spending surged to enormous levels again, and a new kind of America started to appear, even scarier, seeking to impose itself on the world with awesome power, enormous reach and efficiency. Bush’s successor has extended the remote reach of American action in the world.
It’s clear to see the ambitions of groups like the Project for a New American Century, that America must be the boss of the world, and its drive to be that has been evident for a long time, in an almost divinely entitled way. It comes from a belief that this is what’s best for the world.
There’s various international gatherings that give people the whiff of conspiracy and secret global government, and certainly, the most powerful of the ruling and owning elites do come together in close association, in various different arenas.
The famous Bilderberger Group, recently in Watford, provoke a lot of intrigue. This is an annual by-invitation conference of CEOs, large financiers, government officials, media, academia from America and Europe. There’s the World Economic Forum, 2,500 business leaders, owners, political leaders, selected intellectuals and journalists that meet at Davos in Switzerland every year.
Why shouldn’t people meet and discuss stuff? But whatever they’re discussing behind closed doors, it reinforces the idea that only those in the know must be running the world, that it has to be this way. And it reinforces the idea that there is secret knowledge that only the initiates hear.
Maybe it’s all a conspiracy to give the impression that they are conspirators, and that they’ve got it all sussed, whereas they’re more likely all floundering around trying to find straws to clutch. They probably have many secret sessions on how to manage the mess that this whole set of bad ideas has made. Or is it even a charade to create the illusion that the attendees are the ones that have the power? People watch from afar and wonder; and there's something not right about that.
The whole problem is that power is with elites in the first place. A rarified political, military and business elite would just fade away if justice reigned. There would be no summit, because power would be everywhere, with everyone. Government and banking would be humdrum, clerical sort of things. Talented people would surely still get rich, but not to the extent that this could have any bearing on anyone else’s world, at all. There would always be wealth to be had, but there wouldn’t be power.
That’s certainly one of the greatest benefits that flows from the Remedy: wealth and power are separated. Of course they are, for all power comes from illegitimate monopoly. In fact, power, as we know it, as Ludwig von Rochau knew it, would cease to exist. The turning away from the true understanding of economics, that is the source of power in the world, and the source of servitude and poverty.
For now, there is a great concentration of power in the world, but it’s not a grand conspiracy or secret dictatorship. It’s a self-replicating system, it’s a mad meme that has taken over our understanding and we can’t break out of it. It doesn’t serve any of us, we’re just all trapped in it.
Yet if it’s not a conscious conspiracy, it might just as well be. To cheat the people of the world of their inheritance is not necessarily a conscious thing (though often it obviously is.) It’s a structure that evolves and sustains itself and turns everybody to its service and its increase. It recruits everyone to its purpose, it generously corrupts its chosen ones; whereupon they must leave the common world and insulate themselves from it.
To live, as a human animal, you have to work for the machine. Obviously you can’t find a place in the machine unless you learn and follow its laws, repeat its mantras.
In the old Soviet Union, you couldn’t do anything at all except quietly labour without embracing the correct orthodoxy completely. In America, you just weren’t going to get a job teaching economics unless you taught neoclassical economics, and very soon that’s all people knew about. Soon there was a generation of academics explaining economics in neoclassical terms, assiduously adding layers of complexity to increase its apparent weightiness. And that’s how to establish an orthodoxy, you just need to control a few strategic vents of influence and a repeating structure grows around it like the formation of a crystal. It’s amazing how comprehensively it worked.
In this machine, people need to work. Most people have to work for somebody else, there is no choice about that, And people want to get on, in science and academia, in law and public service and politics, in the media, in writing, in banking. The many thousands of people who work in banking around the world would be completely unaware of their ultimate employers and their influence on the world. As in any other hierarchical system at any time, to get on you had to join the system, you had to speak the right language and wear the suit. People need to get paid, and so they have to do what the boss wants, one way or another. But everybody should be boss, of their own share of nature’s bounty.