Home » Uncategorized
Category Archives: Uncategorized
Exposing BlackRock: Who’s Afraid Of Laurence Fink and His Overpowering Institution?
By: Andrew Gavin Marshall
10 December 2015
Originally posted at Occupy.com
It’s not a bank, nor an insurance company, central bank, finance ministry or sovereign wealth fund. But it advises or owns such institutions. It operates virtually unregulated, often in the background, yet there is scarcely a company, country or region of the planet that this, the world’s largest asset management firm, does not touch or influence.
At a mere 27 years of age, BlackRock manages $4.5 trillion in assets, making it the single largest investor on Earth. It manages more wealth than Japan and Germany have in GDP. In fact, only China and the United States have a larger GDP than BlackRock has assets under management. Yet when one includes assets that the company not only manages, but advises upon, the number soars to around $15 trillion, roughly equal to U.S. GDP.
It’s safe to say that BlackRock is the single largest financial institution in the world: a vast holding company that has become a major shareholder in roughly 40% of all publicly traded companies in the U.S., the largest single shareholder in one out of every five U.S. corporations, and one of the largest shareholders in companies around the world, from Canada to Brazil, Germany, Japan, China and beyond.
Owning it All
In terms of America’s most profitable and recognizable corporations, BlackRock is a top shareholder of Walmart, General Electric, General Motors, Ford, AT&T, Verizon, Google, Apple, Exxon Mobil and Chevron.
BlackRock’s other large holdings include Microsoft, Johnson & Johnson, Amazon, Facebook, Berkshire Hathaway, Gilead Sciences, Pfizer, Procter & Gamble, Merck, Intel, Coca-Cola, Walt Disney Company, Home Depot, Philip Morris, VISA, McDonald’s, Cisco Systems, PepsiCo, IBM, Oracle, Comcast, Lockheed Martin, MasterCard, Starbucks, Boeing and ConocoPhillips, along with thousands of other, smaller brands.
But despite its size and influence, BlackRock remains virtually unregulated as an asset management firm. Unlike a bank, asset management firms do not manage and invest their own money, but do so on behalf of their many clients. In the case of BlackRock, those clients come in the form of banks, corporations, insurance companies, pension funds, sovereign wealth funds, central banks and foundations. Gerald Davis, a professor of management and organization at the University of Michigan, described BlackRock as “the silent giant” that few know about, but which is “incredibly powerful.”
The company’s power is expressed not merely in terms of its equity (shareholdings) and bonds (debt ownership), but in its role as an adviser to governments and institutions. This role is not only played by certain divisions within the company, but by the co-founder and CEO of BlackRock itself, Larry Fink. The son of a shoe salesman and English professor, Laurence Fink started his finance career working for First Boston, trading bonds during the 1980s, and became the firm’s youngest-ever managing director at the age of 31.
Fink Ascends to the Top
In 1988, Fink, along with a handful of other traders, founded BlackRock with support from its first financial backer, the private equity firm Blackstone (notice the similar name). Within five years, BlackRock had more than $20 billion under management. But in 1994, a conflict with Blackstone’s Stephen Schwarzman led to a separation of the two companies. Schwarzman sold Blackstone’s 32% share of BlackRock to a Pittsburgh bank, PNC, for $240 million, a transaction Schwarzman would later regret.
BlackRock went public in 1999 and began acquiring other companies throughout the 2000s. But the company’s most profitable move was its purchase of Barclays Global Investors for $13.5 billion, turning BlackRock into the world’s largest asset management firm overnight. This occurred in 2009, in the immediate aftermath of the global financial crisis, and the firm took on a vast portfolio of exchange-traded funds (ETFs) known as iShares.
But even before it earned the title of largest money manager in the world, BlackRock was raising eyebrows concerning its business advising and contracting with governments. When the financial crisis struck the U.S. in 2008, the U.S. Treasury and Federal Reserve turned to BlackRock and Larry Fink for support. BlackRock advised the government on the rescues, bailouts and purchases of Bear Stearns, American International Group (AIG), Citigroup, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
Throughout the crisis, Fink would find himself on the phone multiple times a day in conversation with then-President of the New York Federal Reserve, Timothy Geithner, Treasury Secretary and the former CEO of Goldman Sachs, Hank Paulson, and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke. Fink explained, “It gives comfort to our clients that we are being involved in some of the solutions of our economy, and it allows us to show our clients that we are being asked in these difficult situations to provide advice.”
According to Vanity Fair, One of Fink’s favorite phrases to insert into casual conversations is: “As I told Washington…” And it’s something to be said without much exaggeration. When Timothy Geithner went from being President of the New York Fed to Secretary of the U.S. Treasury, Fink’s access to the top echelons of political power grew immensely. Indeed, apart from other government officials, the BlackRock chief became “the Treasury secretary’s most frequent corporate interlocutor and an emblem of BlackRock’s growing influence in global financial affairs,” noted the Financial Times.
Using data compiled from the Treasury Secretary’s public records from 2009 to 2013, Geithner held phone calls or private meetings wit Fink at least 104 times during the duration of his term. Even with Geithner’s successor at Treasury, Jack Lew, pervasive contact has been maintained with Fink.
Enter Hillary’s Right-Hand Woman
In 2013, BlackRock hired to its board of directors Cheryl Mills, a “longtime confidant and counselor to former secretary of state Hillary Rodham Clinton.” Mills was chief of staff to Clinton at the State Department, and was “among the inner circle of advisers helping Clinton chart her plans for the future.” Mills has a long history with both Clintons; she was one of President Bill Clinton’s top attorneys during his impeachment. A former aide with knowledge of the Clinton-Mills relationship explained, “There are no secrets… Cheryl knows everything and that’s a great equalizer for them.” In an interview with the Washington Post, Mills explained that she still advises and speaks with Hillary regularly.
As Hillary Clinton campaigns for the Democratic presidential nomination, her discussions of Wall Street regulations focus almost exclusively on banks – but nowhere does she mention the role played by asset management firms like BlackRock. In fact, in her comments on the subject, Clinton actually tends to parrot the ideas that have been put forward by Fink himself. For instance, after Clinton gave a speech on Wall Street reform, The New York Times noted that it seemed as if “she could have been channeling Laurence D. Fink.”
For years, Fink has been touted as a possible Treasury Secretary the likelihood of which may increase if Clinton becomes president. Indeed, Fink, a longtime Democrat, would be perfectly suited to such a position as the “top consigliere” of Wall Street in Washington, Suzanna Andrews writes in Vanity Fair, “and the leading member of the country’s financial oligarchy.”
And of course it helps that Fink and BlackRock are not simply influential within the U.S. but across the globe. BlackRock has been hired as a consultant and adviser in Europe multiple times throughout the European debt crisis, having worked with the Irish central bank, the Greek central bank, and more recently the European Central Bank to advise on its quantitative easing program.
With $4.5 trillion in assets under management, the firm is without a doubt “one of, if not the, most influential financial institutions in the world,” noted a BlackRock co-founder. And Larry Fink, the architect of “his own Wall Street empire,” could become a household name in U.S. politics soon enough.
Andrew Gavin Marshall is a freelance researcher and writer based in Toronto, Canada.
I would first of all like to thank everyone who donated to and supported my Kickstarter campaign to try to raise money for my book. Unfortunately, it was a resounding failure, so the book has to be put on hold indefinitely. It’s back to the drawing board, and potentially back to school for me. I am, however, attempting to continue doing some writing of shorter articles in the meantime, so long as I can afford to do so.
In the past couple weeks I have written and posted two articles on Greece and its relationship with Germany and the EU:
I am also currently working on putting together a short video on Europe’s crisis and those who wield power across the continent.
But I cannot continue doing any of this without financial support. So while I attempt to solve my medium and long-term financial challenges by planning to return to school and potentially get a ‘real job’ (perhaps put my writing on hold for some time), any short-term financial support would be greatly appreciated! If you are able, please consider making a donation.
Thanks again to all who have contributed and supported my work over the years.
Andrew Gavin Marshall
I have recently launched a Kickstarter campaign to try to raise money to support my efforts to finish the first book of what will likely be a series on ‘Power Politics and the Empire of Economics’.
What I am asking of my readers is not only to consider donating to the project, but more importantly, to share and promote it through social media, by sending it to others who you think may be interested, and to help get the word out in any way you can!
Every bit helps, and a great deal of help is needed if this is to be successful!
I have collected below links to the campaign, as well as a video I made to promote it, and links to the sample introduction chapter that I published online so that potential patrons could read the kind of material that they would be supporting.
About the Project:
This book will tell the stories of the rich and powerful oligarchs and family dynasties who collectively rule our world: the global Mafiocracy, operating behind-the-scenes playing their games of power politics, globalization’s Game of Thrones where rich and influential families play their games, balancing collusion and cooperation with fierce competition to rule the world Empire of Economics.
In 1975, Henry Kissinger told President Ford: “The trick in the world now is to use economics to build a world political structure.”
This book is that story.
A small network of banks and other financial institutions dominate the global economy, its wealth and resources. This small network of corporate power functions as a global financial Mafia, complete with excessive criminal behaviour in laundering drug money, funding terrorists, rigging interest rates and manipulating markets.
Name a nation, and there are rich dynasties that rule behind the scenes. The Rockefellers in the United States, the Rothschilds in France and Britain, the Agnelli family in Italy, the Wallenbergs in Sweden, the Tata family of India and Oppenheimers of South Africa, the Koc and Sabanci families of Turkey, the Gulf Arab monarchs and the rich industrial families of Germany with dark Nazi pasts.
Germany once again rules Europe, with the European Union’s institutions of unelected technocrats undertaking a process of internal colonization as they impose their economic empire upon Greece, Spain, Italy, Ireland, Portugal and Cyprus. Finance ministers and central bankers are the agents of empire, cooperating closely with bankers, oligarchs and dynasties to create a world which best serves their interests. The global financial Mafia mingles with political leaders at forums and secret meetings like the Bilderberg group, the Trilateral Commission and the World Economic Forum.
From the streets of Athens, to Egypt, Turkey, Brazil, Spain, China, South Africa, Chile, Canada, and in the streets of Ferguson and Baltimore, people are rising up against exploitation, repression and domination.
This book is not simply a collection of stories of the ruling Mafiocracy; it is designed to encourage strategy among popular and revolutionary movements capable of creating something altogether new. It is time to do away with a world ruled by oligarchs, and save the species from itself. But first, we must know our world better.
Help me to complete the first book in a series on ‘Power Politics and the Empire of Economics’. For four years I have been doing my own research, scouring the archives of the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Financial Times, government documents, official reports and corporate strategies, studying the world of power and empire, translating the political language of ‘economics’ into plain and simple English.
I have been published in multiple news sources, online and in print, interviewed by radio and television networks, and now I am asking for your help to raise $10,000 so that I can finish the first book in this series, to expose the Empire for all to see, its strengths as well as the weaknesses left exposed for us to exploit. Let us bring true democracy and an end to Mafiocracy. Help me to write this book, and together, let’s help each other to end the Empire.
Donate today. Thank you.
Andrew Gavin Marshall
The first sample “chapter” has been completed, in its rough draft form. Now begins the process of editing. As per usual, the chapter is obscenely long, 137 pages in total. And so the editing process will either trim it down (by roughly 100 pages), or it will simply be published as a series of samples from multiple chapters throughout the book, which is the general intention of the introduction anyhow.
But within the 137 pages a great deal of areas are covered in at least some detail, serving as an introduction to multiple subjects which will be the focus of the first book in this series, including: the influence of corporate and financial dynasties, the concentration of ownership and influence among dynasties, individual oligarchs and institutions within what are broadly called “financial markets”; the nature of power politics and empire, with the central role of states and political authority in the exercise of that power; the realm of economic and financial diplomacy and governance (finance ministers, central bankers, international technocrats); the construction of a system of global governance through economics; the institutions and forums through which globalized power is exercised, from think tanks like Bilderberg and the Trilateral Commission, to industry associations and lobby groups like the Institute of International Finance and the Group of Thirty, and political forums of financial diplomats and heads of state, such as the Group of Five, the G-10, Group of Seven and G-20; the gangster state power politics that lies behind the veneer of China’s totalitarian technocracy; and much more!
The approach and influences to discussing these issues of power politics, Mafiocracy and the Empire of Economics is a mix of a linguistic-rhetorical critique drawing heavily from George Orwell and Noam Chomsky (with a focus on the uses and abuses of ‘political language’ and ‘Mafia principles’, though applying these concepts more to finance and economics than politics and foreign policy), as well as a mix of Machiavelli’s ‘The Prince’, written as a clear and concise examination of power as it exists (as opposed to power in theory). Machiavelli dedicated his book to the first financial dynasty of the modern world, the Medici family, whom he had long advised, among princes, popes and others. His intention was to analyze the realities of power and strategy, to speak plainly and purposefully in an effort to support those institutions and individuals of authority. I am trying to bring a similar approach to discussing power, though with opposite intentions: to expand the understanding and support the development of strategy among the wider population, mixing an anarchistic approach to revolution with a pragmatic understanding of power.
I am hoping that the editing process for this first chapter (or multiple samples) will be completed this week, and published almost immediately thereafter, I shall keep you readers updated on progress.
Thanks again for all the support.
Andrew Gavin Marshall
Power Politics, Mafiocracy and the Empire of Economics
As a brief update, I have raised more than stated goal of $500 to finance the completion of the first chapter of my book on, ‘Power Politics, Mafiocracy and the Empire of Economics’. I would like to thank all those who have generously donated to supporting my research and writing. This really would not be possible without your contributions and support, so thank you!
I am currently well into writing the first draft of the first chapter of the book, which I still have to finish and subsequently edit (a great deal!). The chapter is designed to serve as a rough introduction to the subjects and themes of the book(s) to follow, an examination of the power politics that lie behind the public pronouncements and posturing of politicians, the behind-the-scenes financial and corporate dynasties who wield immense influence and indirect power, the modern-day Machiavellis who serve as conduits and collaborators between dynastic and oligarchic groups and the ruling political and state power structures.
The book is a collection of stories about a system of Empire built largely upon economics and finance, the institutions and individuals who rule in public and private, their games of power politics, balancing cooperation with competition in what can be described as Globalization’s ‘Game of Thrones‘. Henry Kissinger, the glorified errand boy (modern-day Machiavelli) to the global Mafiocracy, told President Ford in 1975 that, “the trick in the world today is to use economic to build a world political structure.”
This book is that story. The first chapter provides a glimpse at the cast of characters, the key locations, influential institutions and events which have come to characterize power in the modern world.
Upon its completion, the first chapter will be made available for all to read online, in order to promote the book and further fundraising, so that readers and supporters (and newcomers) can get a glimpse at the kind of research and writing their support contributes to.
Thank you, once again.
Andrew Gavin Marshall
Global Financial Diplomacy and the Empire of Economics
By: Andrew Gavin Marshall
30 March 2015
The world of Global Financial Governance and Diplomacy is a world of empire, power politics, colonialism, war and destruction. Its brutal functions are veiled behind the dull, technocratic language of economics and finance, obscuring behind rhetoric the realities of ideology, actions and effects. It is an empire built by war, waged not with bombs and bullets but with numbers on screens and other illusions. Through the flow, management and direction of money and debt (representing what we call ‘financial markets’), nations are raised up and pushed down, countries prosper and plunder, people are enriched and impoverished, societies are structured, shaped and dismantled.
At the center of this system are the banks, asset management firms, oligarchs and financial dynasties that together control the network – or cartel – of the Global Financial Mafia. A network of roughly 150 of the world’s largest financial institutions collectively control each other and a significant percentage of the network of the world’s largest 47,000 transnational corporations. This unprecedented global financial power concentrated in a relatively small list of banks, insurance companies and asset management firms is itself controlled by rich and powerful individuals and families: the core constituency of the world of Global Financial Governance.
As with every imperial system, a form of State Power is needed, as only nations have sovereign authority and accepted legitimacy. The global imperial system is multi-faceted and complex, though the most obvious areas of operation are in the ministries and departments of powerful nations concerned with foreign policy, military and defense, intelligence and ‘national security’. The largest military power in human history is the United States. Its foreign policy apparatus spans the globe, with hundreds of military bases in foreign nations, aircraft carriers, destroyers, air fields and fighter jets, entire fleets spread out across the Oceans. Large military occupations and bombing campaigns are waged by America (and its key allies) in the Middle East, Africa and Central Asia. Hundreds of millions live under the brutal authority of dictators and tyrants, propped up with money and weapons from the powerful nations. International Relations is, in truth, a lobotomized label to describe a game of empire and power politics.
It is an imperial system overseen and managed not simply by presidents and prime ministers, but by foreign ministers, Secretaries of State, defense ministers, intelligence and military chiefs. The foreign ministers promote the nation’s interests and policies abroad, working to build alliances with other nations and undermine those who defy the demands of the imperial power. If the diplomats are unable to solve the situation, the military and intelligence chiefs move to the front. Collectively, they strategize and implement policies designed to advance the imperial power interests of their home nation. It is a function and reality of all empires through history that there are official positions of authority dedicated to the planning and implementation of ‘foreign relations’, of protecting and advancing the interests of the empire. At times this calls for cooperation with other empires, at times it calls for competition, and at times it calls for conquering and occupation. It is an historical and present reality of Empire.
But distinct to the modern global imperial system – which is to say, distinct to the ‘democratic-capitalist’ system of nations – is the scope and structure of the financial and economic system of imperialism. It is a complex system, dominated by many – often conflicting and competing – interests, with state power being exercised by financial and economic diplomats: finance ministers, treasury chiefs, central bankers, trade ministers, and the heads of regional and international organizations.
Foreign and Defense Ministers are most concerned with the “stability” of the ‘international system.’ Stability, however, has a particular definition. In the case of empire, stability means that the interests of the imperial power are safe and secure. Occupied populations are passive, “friendly” dictators are secure in their positions, and Western corporations and banks are able to influence and profit off of foreign policies and programs. This is, by definition, a state of “stability.” Nations that do not follow the instructions (or “advice”) on how to govern their nations and behave in the international arena are seen as a threat to the ‘stability’ of the global system. Order, then, must be restored, even if it means through war.
Foreign policy officials are largely drawn from and frequently remain within the foreign policy establishment: influential universities, think tanks, foundations and research organizations that ‘educate’ and employ those who are interested in ‘foreign policy’. With individuals drifting back and forth from these institutions into government agencies, the foreign policy establishment shapes the ideology, language, objectives and policies of powerful nations. But because we live in the ‘post-colonial’ world, where outright declarations and endorsements of empire and imperialism are no longer publicly acceptable (as it was in past centuries), the language and rhetoric of foreign policy must be made inaccessible for most people to understand (for those without a proper ‘education’).
In nations or regions of imperial interest and action (which is to say, the entire world), foreign policy figures talk of destabilization, radicalization, threats to ‘national security’, attacks against democracy and freedom. Behind the ‘democratic’ rhetoric lies the brutal power politics that have guided nation states and empires since their origins: Who shall rule, and in what way, through what means, and to what ends?
As a corollary to the world of political diplomacy and the foreign policy establishment there is the world of financial diplomacy and the financial policy establishment. Finance ministers, central bankers and other technocrats are most worried about the threat to the global financial system, and above all else, declare their desire to see ‘stability’ and ‘growth’ in the global financial and economic system.
If the interests of ‘financial markets’ or the global economic system are not served by certain nations or regions, then the global financial diplomats do their best to integrate these regions into the ‘global system’. Over the decades and centuries, this system has extended its influence across most of the world. This is the system of Global Financial Governance, itself a product of and supported by the financial (and economic) policy establishment: universities, think tanks, foundations, and research organizations that ‘educate’ and employ the members of the economic establishment. Officials pass through these institutions into finance ministries, central banks and international organizations. And just as with the foreign policy establishment, the financial diplomats also integrate with and pass through the revolving doors between academia, think tanks, state institutions, international organizations, as well as to and from the boards of corporations and big banks, with larger paychecks, hefty financial holdings, shares, directorships and cushy consulting jobs, rewarded for their years of service to the financial and corporate world.
Just as in the foreign policy world, the world of financial diplomacy and economic policy must obscure its imperial interests and ambitions behind incomprehensible ‘technocratic’ rhetoric, understood only to those who have received the proper ‘education’ and ‘expertise’ to understand the complex world of economics and finance. They do not speak of empire, exploitation and domination, but of austerity, structural reform, deficit reduction, interest rate adjustment, labour flexibility and ‘market discipline’. They do not desire to control colonies, but rather, to foster the development of ‘market economies’. They speak not of threats to ‘national security’, but the threats of ‘market instability’. Their version of promoting ‘democracy’ and ‘freedom’ is to champion ‘free markets’ and ‘free trade’.
Financial diplomats do not send weapons or armies to tyrants and regions seeking to maintain and extend their influence and domination. Instead, they send money and teams of technocrats to advise and implement programs of ‘fiscal consolidation’ and ‘structural adjustment’ with the desire for stability and ‘growth’. They do not bomb and conquer; they privatize and deregulate. They do not occupy, they ‘consolidate’. They do not colonize, they ‘liberalize’.
Behind the words, terms and technical details, lies a world of empire and domination, power politics and colonization. It is a brutal, unforgiving world; far more advanced, globalized and institutionalized than its foreign policy counterparts. It is more directly connected and representative of the networked ‘core’ of the global financial system: concentrated corporate and financial power. For this reason, financial diplomats maintain regular contact and interaction with leading institutions and individuals who represent this core of financial power: the Global Financial Mafia.
It is this world of global financial diplomacy and governance – the financial policy establishment – and its related institutions and interests which is the chief focus of my upcoming book, and which will be the primary focus of a sample chapter I am currently raising funds to support. With a goal of $500, I have thus far raised $200 to support the writing of a sample chapter in a book on these subjects (and much more!). For an expanded list of topics to be discussed, please see this previous posting here.
The objective is to place the unnecessarily complex world of economic and finance in the context of its real-world role (as opposed to the fantasy world of its rhetoric and ideology): a world of empire, tyranny, colonization, conquering, mass destruction and control. Foreign ministers and politicians, military generals and intelligence chiefs are always concerned with the rumbling and rising masses of people in the world, the potential for revolutions and uprisings against tyrants long-supported by our “democratic” nations, armed to the teeth with aid from our “humanitarian” foreign policies. Finance ministers and central bankers are also concerned with the restless and rising populations around the world, with those who take to the streets, resist austerity, protest, riot, rebel and revolt against neoliberalism and the global financial order which takes so much from so many and gives to those who already have the most.
This is the Empire of Economics, a world ruled by a Mafiocracy, leaving mangled nations and impoverished populations in its wake, with billionaire bankers and private family dynasties dominating global wealth and the power that comes with it. In short, it is a world not unlike those that came before, but it is ours to understand and to take a stand if we hope to change it. If these subjects interest you, please consider making a donation to support my writing, and the completion of a sample chapter within the next month which I will make available for all to read.
Thank you kindly,
Andrew Gavin Marshall
Global Power Project: Bilderberg Group and the Tyranny of the Technocrats
By: Andrew Gavin Marshall
19 December 2014
Originally posted at Occupy.com
Bilderberg is an inherently technocratic institution. It brings together top “experts” and decision-makers from a number of important sectors to engage in off-the-record conversation, speaking a “common language” in order to help design and coordinate policies that more accurately represent the interests of concentrated power.
As such, Bilderberg not only serves a technocratic function, but it is also populated with a number of the world’s most influential technocrats who are members and invited guests: top officials of central banks, finance ministries, international organizations, think tanks, foundations and universities. Their participation in Bilderberg meetings provides them with a “private” forum in which to engage with the political, corporate and financial oligarchy. More concretely, Bilderberg meetings enable participants to promote the expansion and further institutionalization of technocracy. But to understand Bilderberg’s relevance to technocracy, let’s first define the concept.
What is Technocracy?
Technocracy is largely defined as “rule by experts,” or the exercise of power by “professionals.” As the Economist explained in 2011: “Technocracy was once a communist idea: with the proletariat in power, administration could be left to experts.” But the scientific management of society “was popular under capitalism too,” and the magazine noted there was even a prominent “Technocratic Movement” in the United States in the early 20th century.
The late 19th and early 20th century witnessed rapid industrialization, new oligarchies, mass migration, revolution, a clash of empires between old and new, emerging technologies and inventions, expanded literacy, new energy sources and novel forms of communication and transportation. It was an age of oligarchs and unrest. Many of the most powerful societies turned to technocracy to help manage the great transitions of the era. As the oligarchs sought to maintain their influence by institutionalizing it within society, they also while sought to manage the expectations and interests of the population: by engaging in social engineering with the objective of maintaining social control, or what the ruling class called “stability.”
Capitalist, Communist (or State-Socialist) and Fascist societies turned to technocracy and the rule of experts to transform the structure of modern civilization through a “scientific management” of human society – where oligarchic power is legalized and institutionalized, and the population gives its consent, or is at least its obedience, to the ruling structure.
The Chinese Communist Party and state is largely ruled by unelected technocrats, as are several military dictatorships and one-party states. On occasion, even Western “democratic” nations become ruled by unelected technocrats, though as the Economist noted, “only for a short time” and “in unusual circumstances.”
Recent examples include the imposition of technocratic governments in Italy and Greece, in late 2011 when democratically elected leaders were removed from power and replaced with economists and central bankers. Another recent example was in Ukraine, where, following the removal of the more pro-Russian president, the management of the government was handed to a former central banker.
Despite these exceptions of direct technocratic rule, there are technocratic institutions and individuals who oversee major parts of our society and determine important policies that have profound consequences for hundreds of millions, and often billions, of people around the world. Central banks, finance ministries, international organizations, think tanks, foundations and universities are all highly influential technocratic institutions, often managed by high-level technocrats and governed (or advised) by members of the financial and corporate oligarchy.
China’s Technocratic Tyranny
A November 2013 article in The Atlantic described Chinese politics as “a nightmare” for those who were “lovers of clear, concise language.” The author, Matt Schiavenza, cited the names of the top ruling body (Politburo Standing Committee), the major conference establishing policy and direction for the following years (Third Plenary Session of the 18th Party Congress), and the conference’s resulting document that promised to “comprehensively deepen reforms,” and argued: “Chinese politics are designed to attract as little attention as possible.”
The technicality and obscurity of the language serves to hide the exercise and effects of power behind an image of “expertise.” Only those who are experts in matters of law, finance, economics, political science, etc., are capable of understanding the language, and thus, the implications of its use. In China, the technocratic language of the Party and state hide the rule of not only the visible top technocrats, but of the powerful political and financial oligarchs and dynasties behind them.
China’s political and economic power is concentrated in the hands of a new aristocratic class of what are called “Princelings,” the descendants of Communist China’s revolutionary leaders. These leaders wielded formal political power, and after the turn to capitalism, from the late 1970s onward, the descendants of these families came to dominate the economic resources of the country. As Bloomberg noted, in China “wealth and influence is concentrated in the hands of as few as 14 and as many as several hundred families.”
For foreign businesses and banks to gain access to the Chinese market, the most effective means has been through the practice of hiring or establishing relationships with the Princelings. Major global banks, such as Deutsche Bank, Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs, Credit Suisse and others, frequently hire princelings in order gain access and influence within China’s leadership, since the relatives of princelings themselves govern the bureaucracies and state-owned industries, determining the flow of money through society.
JPMorgan Chase has been under investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) for its practice of hiring hundreds of princelings in China to gain access to its lucrative market. In the words of Bloomberg, these princelings have become China’s “new capitalist nobility.”
Wen Jiabao served as China’s prime minister for the decade leading up to 2012, and his family amassed billions in assets, a practice consistent for most (if not all) of China’s ruling political figures, including its new president, Xi Jinping. Almost all of the nine members of the ruling Politburo Standing Committee under the previous Chinese government were from families that amassed enormous fortunes and controlled entire areas of the economy, with corruption “more severe than at any time in history,” as the Financial Times quoted a veteran Communist Party member and journalist.
China is a one-party dictatorship with powerful military and security forces and high-tech surveillance. It is ruled by gangsters, oligarchs and technocrats. China is, essentially, a Mafiocracy. Yet the language of its technocratic form of governance obscures this reality behind the veneer of impartiality and expertise. Behind the scenes, gangsters rule and families feud.
This reality of Chinese politics was revealed in 2012 when one of China’s princelings and rising political stars, who was set to gain a seat on the Politburo Standing Committee in 2013, became the subject of a dramatic downfall worthy of the palace intrigue in ancient imperial China. Bo Xilai’s rise to power was turned into a life sentence in prison after his closest adviser sought asylum in a U.S. consulate, fearing for his life and telling the Americans that Bo Xilai’s wife had murdered a British banker in a hotel room with cyanide.
The fall of Bo Xilai and his family was not a subject the Chinese leadership wanted aired publicly. The popular attention and implications of the story were largely the result of social media being used by an increasing percentage of Chinese citizens. What was intended to be the behind-the-scenes factional power struggles of families vying for top-spots on the Politburo Standing Committee, spilled out into the public as the most dramatic news story since the Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989, and changed the course of Chinese politics.
It is also interesting to note that one of China’s top technocrats, Liu He, was invited to the Bilderberg meeting in 2014. In China, Liu He is one of President Xi Jinping’s top economic advisers, considered to be largely “pro-market” and seen as a prominent reformer. The Wall Street Journal described Liu He’s job as “nothing less than to craft an economic vision that will guide China for the decade to come.” He has also been referred to as “China’s Larry Summers.”
Technocracy in the West
Much like the powerful, dramatic and shocking figures and processes hiding behind the bland language of Chinese politics, the ambiguous language of global economics and finance hides its own ruthless realities. Behind the words and actions of central bankers, finance ministers and other top technocrats, we’re able to see countries collapse, governments overthrown, populations impoverished, societies destroyed, fascism and racism explode as people riot, rebel and revolt.
The language of “financial technocracy” belies a world of mass impoverishment, exploitation, domination and immense concentrations of power. These technocrats define and manage global financial and economic policy, construct the ideology the justifies the rule of the oligarchy, and implement policy which is intended to protect and expand the interests of that oligarchy.
As central bankers demand “fiscal tightening” and finance ministers implement “structural reforms,” the populations of Greece, Portugal, Ireland, Cyprus, Spain and Italy were plunged into crisis. Meanwhile, poverty and unemployment rise, fascist parties emerge, social unrest and riots in the streets become common, suicide rates increase, health and education systems come under strain and collapse, and governing political parties lose legitimacy and turn to police repression to control the crowds. Economic opportunity and political democracy become things of the past. Behind the technocratic language of economics lies a world of brutality.
Bilderberg’s structure, members and objectives that promote and expand the power of technocracy are inherently destructive to democracy. Europe’s debt crisis, and the technocratic institutions and individuals that managed it, have had profoundly negative consequences on the lives of hundreds of millions of people. The functions of technocracy and the actions of Europe’s top technocrats effectively serve the interests of concentrated financial and corporate power.