Wednesday 24th of April 2024

oligarchic elitism in a democracy of basket weavers......

The Western Ruling Elite: Its Development and Its Betrayal



BY Finn Andreen


The Western ruling elite has become oligarchic in nature; its political and economic influence is disproportionate and even harmful to society. It is necessary, therefore, to review its historical evolution and expose its current goals.

Firstly, it must be recognized that it is natural and necessary for society to have an elite. Murray Rothbard wrote about the ideal of “natural aristocrats” who “live in freedom and harmony with their fellows, and rise by exercising their individuality and their highest abilities in the service of their fellows, either in an organization or by producing efficiently for the consumers.”

A free society needs such “natural aristocrats” because they are its main drivers and inspirations. Major entrepreneurial initiatives are generally taken by those who are farsighted and motivated, willing to make more sacrifices and take more risks than the average person. The whole of society indirectly benefits from the initiatives of these people.

The problem, therefore, is not the existence of an elite per se, but the fact that it is no longer composed primarily of “natural aristocrats.” Today it is composed of what Rothbard called “artificial aristocrats”—“those who govern by means of coercion”; that is, with the help of the state. The “Machiavellian” thinkers were the first to describe this oligarchic elite in a systematic way; they referred to the “organized and ruling minority,” as opposed to the disorganized and controlled majority.

As Gaetano Mosca wrote in his work The Ruling Class, “Political power never has been, and never will be, founded upon the explicit consent of majorities. It always has been, and it always will be, exercised by organized minorities, which have had, and will have, the means, varying as the times vary, to impose their supremacy on the multitudes.”

Indeed, when it becomes oligarchic, the ruling minority uses coercion to influence political decisions and even social values, in its own economic and ideological interests. However, it is not all-powerful and omniscient; its power is never fully acquired, and it does not always exercise its influence very skillfully.

As elsewhere, Western societies have always had “organized minorities,” but these have evolved over time. The political power of this elite has constantly increased, together with the expansion of the state and the crony capitalism that it facilitates. To quote Mosca again, “To the extent that the state absorbs and distributes a greater part of public wealth, leaders of the ruling class have more means of arbitrary influence over their subordinates and more easily escape anyone’s control.”

It must not be assumed that the introduction of “democracy” has reduced the influence of this ruling minority on society, for this political system has inexorably been accompanied by a considerable development of state power. Indeed, even in a “liberal democracy,” the disorganized and generally uninformed majority has virtually no influence over, for instance, the foreign and monetary policies of their governments.


Three Phases of Development

It is possible to identify three phases in the evolution of the ruling minority. During the nineteenth century, this minority was quite close to the ideal natural elite described above. In the absence of strong states and supranational institutions, the ruling minorities (in plural), were thus initially more national than international in outlook, sought economic rather than political power, and were more industrially than financially oriented. In France, the Count de Saint-Simon wrote about the “industrialists,” whom he described in an open letter to King Louis XVIII as “the natural and permanent leaders of the people.”

These minorities naturally always thought of their own interests first (although they were also philanthropists). Nevertheless, the investments of these ruling minorities contributed greatly to the increase in prosperity enjoyed in the West during the “long” nineteenth century.

Their relationship with the rest of society was thus rather symbiotic, despite real tensions related to the social conditions of early industrialization. For example, until World War I, these ruling minorities were committed to deflation and free trade and maintained a certain level of monetary control via the gold standard.

The modern ruling minority then consolidated, with the development of financial capitalism in the late nineteenth century, around the growing and increasingly political power of “international bankers” and their extended families. The historian Carroll Quigley described them, the Rothschilds, the Morgans, the Rockefellers, and the others, thus:

These banking families remained different from ordinary bankers in distinctive ways: they were cosmopolitan and international; they were close to governments and were particularly concerned with questions of government debts; . . . they were almost equally devoted to secrecy and the secret use of financial influence in political life.

In this second phase, the Western ruling minority emerges, international, politicized, and mainly financially oriented. This description of the core of the Western ruling minority is still the same today, despite major changes in the financial system over the last half century. Around this nucleus, of course, need to be counted political leaders and senior civil servants, as well as publishers and editors of mainstream media and the leaders of many Western multinational companies.

As mentioned, this politicization of the ruling minority is closely linked to the rapid expansion of the role of the state in society from the end of the nineteenth century, which first increased its control over production (state control over key industries), then over money (giving up the gold standard), then over consumption (introduction of price controls). As Albert Jay Nock wrote, “It is easier to seize wealth (from the producers) than to produce it; and as long as the State makes the seizure of wealth a matter of legalized privilege, so long will the squabble for that privilege go on.”


Phase 3: Messianic and Nefarious Globalism

With the Second World War and the rise of Keynesianism, monetary inflation—this artificial scourge upon the majority—became an important tool for the enrichment of the large banking institutions. With the financialization of the Western economies in the 1970s, the interests of the ruling minority began to clearly diverge from the interests of the “real” production-based economy in which the majority participates. The Western oligarchic elite then entered its third phase.

In recent decades, this Western ruling minority has become much more ambitious and aggressive than it once was. It is now fully imbued with an ideological mission, even a messianic one, to change the world. Return on investment and control of resources are no longer the only or even the most important objectives; the current ruling minority has a technocratic desire to shape societies, to control and direct their evolution. Indeed, its purpose today can be summed up in one word: control. It’s about controlling everything: people, finance, food, energy, health, and even nature.

This means weakening the nation-states by accelerating the transfer of national sovereignty to supranational authorities. In order to convince the majority that political globalism is the only hope for mankind, crises have been fabricated, and presented as insoluble at the level of the sovereign state. The three main crises created for this purpose are the climate “crisis,” the pandemic “crisis,” and the immigration “crisis.” The latter also serves to dilute ethnically homogeneous nations, and thus to diminish natural social and cultural resistance to political globalism.

The United Nations and the governmental institutions and nongovernmental organizations that orbit around it all play a key role. To name of few examples, the World Health Organization must be given the power to introduce a digital health tool that will allow the control of populations under pretexts of public health concerns. The European Union must impose obligations and restrictions on the behavior of European individuals and companies (see the Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive, the Digital Services Act, and the Green Deal). The introduction of digital currencies by central banks will allow the control of all individual economic transactions. The digital wallet will allow the introduction of a system of social credits, Chinese style.

All these initiatives are coordinated by the World Economic Forum and are progressive steps toward the goal of establishing a world government under the control of the Western ruling financial minority.


Opposing an Enemy of the People

These nefarious plans of the Western ruling minority obviously represent a significant threat to individual freedom on a global scale. Unfortunately, they have already been partially implemented. It is nothing less than a betrayal by the Western ruling minority of its own societies. The Western ruling minority has become over time an enemy of the people, which the majorities have no choice but to oppose.

It is mandatory to return to the situation that prevailed during part of the nineteenth century, when the Western ruling minority was mostly an economic elite. That is, the ruling minority should be composed essentially of Rothbard’s “natural aristocrats.”

When freedom is at such risk as it is today, these words of Ludwig von Mises come to mind: “Everyone carries a part of society on his shoulders; no one is relieved of his share of responsibility by others. . . . Whether he chooses or not, every man is drawn into the great historical struggle, the decisive battle into which our epoch has plunged us.”


The Western Ruling Elite: Its Development and Its Betrayal


Finn Andreen


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death of the bourgeoisie...


Cartoon from 2007....


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a gigantic lobby.....


The World Economic Forum and the world’s “elite”Is the WEF really a combination of capitalist consultancy firm and gigantic lobby?


by Wolfgang Bittner*


From 15 to 19 January, another meeting of the highly influential World Economic Forum (WEF) was held in Davos, with more than 2,800 participants, including over 60 heads of state and government. This time, the motto was: Rebuilding Trust. The author Wolfgang Bittner takes a dissecting look at this construct and its efforts to create a globalised, under private-law, undemocratic world order.

The disturbing plans of this forum for a fundamental reorganisation of society are barely known to the population. They are overshadowed by the confusing chaos of information, the climate panic and the wars in Ukraine and the Middle East. The WEF, a foundation and globally networked lobby organisation, has its headquarters in Switzerland near Geneva and organises annual meetings, mostly in Davos, which are attended by the world’s “elite”. It has offices in New York, Tokyo and Beijing. The power of this organisation – just like that of the Bilderberg Group1 – is often underestimated. After all, it is not a harmless society of dignitaries that meets in the Swiss mountains to have an amiable chat.


The “elites” and the “Spirit of Davos”: steering and controlling the world

The aim of the Open Forum, which takes place parallel to the annual meeting, is, according to the organisation, “to allow the public to participate in discussions between decision-makers from politics, business, science and civil society”. It continues: “Our panellists regularly include high-ranking government representatives, business leaders, scientists, artists and activists who share their stories and perspectives with the audience. In the spirit of Davos, the Open Forum aims to promote dialogue between decision-makers from different sectors and life situations in order to find solutions to the most pressing global challenges of our time.”2
  That doesn’t sound like a conspiracy at all. But the aim becomes somewhat clearer, and therefore problematic, when the WEF demands in its “Global Redesign” report from 2010 “that a globalised world is best managed by a coalition of multinational companies, governments and also through the United Nations (UN) system and selected civil society organisations (CSOs)”. Governments are no longer “the overwhelmingly dominant actors on the world stage”, so that “the time has come for a new stakeholder paradigm of international governance”.3


A plutocratic dictatorship?

In other words, the WEF plans to replace democratic forms of organisation, in which power in the state is supposed to emanate from the people through elected representatives, with a system of rule in which a group of “stakeholders”, i.e., “leading personalities”, form a global decision-making body. Seen positively, this would be the rule of the wise, whoever that may be. Viewed critically, it would mean a plutocratic dictatorship in a border-free, supranational world. A self-appointed “elite” would therefore take power and form a kind of world government. In this respect, the WEF presents itself as an extraordinarily influential quasi-Mafia organisation that is preparing a global takeover by “leaders” who are not democratically legitimised. Phases of global instability, such as the coronavirus pandemic, famine or the effects of the war in Ukraine, can then be used to implement the programme. Communications researcher and author Nick Buxton, who has analysed the WEF’s intentions in detail, concludes that “we are increasingly entering a world where gatherings such as Davos are not laughable billionaire playgrounds, but rather the future of global governance. It is nothing less than a silent global coup d’etat.”4


The “strategic partners” …

The objectives and power of the WEF become particularly clear when you look at who participates in what way in the WEF. There are around 1,000 member companies, each with annual revenues of over five billion US dollars each5, including the most important companies in their sector, which also play a political role. The basic membership fee is 42,000 Swiss francs plus a fee of 18,000 Swiss francs for the participation of the respective president at the annual meeting. Members from industry and strategic partners pay 250,000 Swiss francs and 500,000 Swiss francs respectively to be able to play a significant role in the Forum’s initiatives.6 Strategic partners include BlackRock, the Gates FoundationGoldman SachsGoogleThe Coca Cola CompanyAllianzBank of AmericaBP AmocoCredit Suisse, Deutsche Bank, Deutsche Post DHLFacebook, the pharmaceutical group Johnson & JohnsonMastercardMitsubishi CorporationPaypalSAPSaudi AramcoSiemens and the media group Thomson Reuters.7


… and the “Young Global Leaders”

In 1992, the WEF launched a programme for “Global Leaders of Tomorrow”, which has been called “Young Global Leaders” since 2004, to promote suitable future leaders. This created a global network of important leaders from politics, business, media, art and culture, the aristocracy and so on, who are committed to the WEF’s plans. In an interview, its founder Klaus Schwab said: “What we are very proud of […] is that we are penetrating the cabinets with our Young Global Leaders.”8 In this way, the WEF influences public life worldwide.
  The very first programme in 1992 was attended by well-known personalities as Angela MerkelTony BlairNicolas SarkozyManuel Barroso and Bill Gates. In the years that followed, hundreds more joined the programme and gradually took on important positions: Emmanuel MacronDavid CameronSebastian KurzAnnalena BaerbockMark Zuckerberg (founder of Facebook), Jacinda Ardern (Prime Minister of New Zealand), Sanna Marin (Prime Minister of Finland), Ida Auken (ex-Minister of the Environment of Denmark), Crown Prince Haakon of Norway, Larry Page (co-founder of Google), Leonardo DiCaprio (actor), Niklas Zennström (co-developer of Skype) and Jimmy Wales (co-founder of Wikipedia).
  In 2019, more than 400 civil society organisations and 40 international networks opposed a partnership agreement between the WEF and the United Nations. The UN Secretary-General was called upon to end the agreement as it was a “disturbing corporate capture” of the UN that “moves the world dangerously towards a privatised and undemocratic global governance”.9
  US journalist considers the WEF to be a “combination of capitalist consultancy and gigantic lobby”, focussed on “digital innovation, massive automation through ‘artificial intelligence’ and ultimately even the ‘improvement’ of humans by artificially endowing them with some of the characteristics of robots: e.g. problem solving without ethical distractions.” She warns against the “voice of would-be Global Governance.  From on high, experts decide what the masses ought to want, and twist the alleged popular wishes to fit the profit-making schemes they are peddling.”10


“Great Reset” and transhumanism

In 2021, the former Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Cardinal Gerhard Ludwig Müller, spoke out and criticised the fact that people like Klaus Schwab were sitting “on the throne of their wealth” and were not affected by the everyday difficulties and suffering of people caused by the coronavirus pandemic. Instead, they see such crises as an opportunity to push through their programme of a meritocratic global “Great Reset” with increasing control over society.11 Müller criticised support from areas such as transhumanism12. He was countered with accusations of antisemitism.
  Klaus Schwab and the French economist and “global strategist” Thierry Malleret wrote about the intentions of the WEF in their bestseller “The Great Reset”, published jointly in 2020: “It is about making the world less divided, less polluting, less destructive, more inclusive, more just and fairer than we left it in the pre-pandemic era.” There could be changes “that seemed unimaginable before the outbreak of the pandemic”, there would be a “new normality”.13
  Asked in an interview on 19 November 2020 about his ideas for the intended “global new beginning”, Schwab replied: “I think the word ‘reset’ is appropriate […]. Because one thing is clear: we cannot return to the old normality.” With regard to combating the coronavirus pandemic, he took the following view: “So what we need in our world is a more systemic approach, […] a reform of the international system.”14

Comprehensive digitalisation,
centralisation and surveillance

The coronavirus pandemic phase is therefore seen as an epochal change that will fundamentally alter conditions in the world in line with the WEF agenda outlined above. It remains to be seen how this will happen once the war in Ukraine is over. In the meantime, countries are completely in debt, the economy and finances are in tatters and many people are completely at a loss, so that the ideas of the World Economic Forum’s trustees are increasingly gaining weight, regardless of whether there will be a “great war” or not.
  The optimally networked WEF aims for a globalised world order under private-law that is not democratically controlled. According to informed circles, the ideas are moving in the direction of comprehensive digitalisation, centralisation and surveillance.15 These plans must be prevented and the focus directed towards humane, more adequate forms of human coexistence.  •





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wealth extraction......

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The extraction of wealth is a pathology of late capitalism and is defined by the cultural and political processes by which the rich establish themselves as the dominant class. Social theorist and organizer Marjorie Kelly labels this phenomenon “wealth supremacy” which is also the title of her latest book. But as she points out in this exclusive interview for Truthout, wealth supremacy, which has institutionalized greed, defines a system that is not only biased but rigged against the great bulk of the population and thus detrimental to the economy, the citizens and the planet. She argues, in turn, that a movement to build a democratic economy is our only way out. Kelly is Distinguished Senior Fellow with the Democracy Collaborative. In addition to Wealth Supremacy: How the Extractive Economy and the Biased Rules of Capitalism Drive Today’s Crises (2023), she is the author of The Making of a Democratic Economy: Building Prosperity for the Many, Not Just the Few (coauthored with Ted Howard; 2019). The interview that follows has been lightly edited for clarity.

C. J. Polychroniou: One of the most pronounced developments over the past 40 years within the global economy, and particularly within developed countries, is financialization — which means finance has come to dominate our economy, our culture, the natural world, even our ostensibly democratic politics. Some say financialization represents a new phase of capitalism, while others see it as a consequence of neoliberalism. Your recent book, Wealth Supremacy, analyzes the current form of capitalism and shines a light on what you perceive as its core problem, while also offering a vision of an alternative system, a democratic economy — along with pathways to get there. Let’s start with what you mean by “wealth supremacy,” and how, in your own view, financialization came to dominate over all other forms of economic activity.

Marjorie Kelly: We can’t fix a problem that we can’t name. We point to “corporate power,” “inequality” and “greed” as the problem. But these don’t get to the root of the system’s dysfunction. I call it wealth supremacy — the bias that institutionalizes infinite extraction of wealth for the wealthy, even as it means stagnation or losses for the rest of us. Personal greed is certainly operating. But the system problem is how greed is mandated, rewarded, normalized and institutionalized in the practices and institutions of the system.

It’s mandated in how investments are managed, how corporations are governed; the aim of both is maximum income to capital. In operation, wealth supremacy takes the form of capital bias — the way only capital votes in corporations, how a rising stock market is equated with a successful economy.

Neoliberal government policies let this capital-centric machine loose. The result was financialization — the churning out of more and more financial wealth.

Behind it all is the aim of keeping the wealthy on top, protected, comfortable. Wealth supremacy is a manifestation of class bias. It’s about the countless ways our culture favors the wealthy, the upper class. Class is many things — exquisite taste in art and wine, speaking and dressing well, having children attend the right schools — but it stands on a foundation of wealth, which makes possible all the rites of class.

Building wealth is certainly a goal that many people aspire to; yet, in your book, you argue that the ongoing processes of piling up wealth are actually detrimental to the economy, to citizens and to the planet. How is wealth detrimental? And who’s the culprit here — the culture of “wealth supremacy” or capitalism itself? 

The real problem is excess wealth — like the eight billionaires who own half the world’s wealth. But the culture of our economy in general supports, in fact mandates, maximum wealth extraction. When investors look at their/our portfolio returns, we step into the dreamworld of wealth, the fiction that financial gains somehow fall from the sky, pristine and unblemished. The system is so focused on benefit to wealth that it ignores the impact on others. Wealth has an underside we rarely talk about.

At the Democracy Collaborative where I work, we commissioned work by three international economists who demonstrated how wealth grows by extraction. Every asset held by one person represents a claim on someone or something else. Credit card debt is a claim against your checkbook. Shares of stock are a claim on the value of a corporation and growing that value for wealthy shareholders often means laying off workers, or turning full-time jobs into part-time and Uberized jobs, in order to shift income from labor to capital. The problem isn’t just that wealth is unequal. As these international economists demonstrated, the financial sector has become the locus where inequality is created.

As our society watches the wealth of multimillionaires and billionaires magically expand as though out of thin air, much of that wealth is being extracted from the pockets of ordinary people and our taxpayer-financed governments. We’re told we’re in a “trickle-down” economy. The truth is the reverse: What’s happening is a vacuuming upward. Financial assets have become a giant sucking action squeezing consumer pocketbooks, creating unemployment, pushing housing prices to unreachable heights, creating monopolies that hampers family businesses, blocking our ability to tackle climate change, destabilizing the economy with stock market booms and busts. And enabling billionaires to capture democracy.

Capitalism is this system of extraction. Its aim is keeping the wealthy rolling in clover. Our culture helps to hold it all in place — to legitimize it — when we revere the wealthy as the possessors of godlike powers, and when we accept the operations and institutions of the economy as normal, necessary and benign. Calling it out as a system of bias is a step toward delegitimizing it, turning its cultural foundation to sand.

You write about the myths of wealth supremacy that normalize the system’s bias. What are some of those myths and how do they impact politics and democratic governance in particular?

I identify seven myths that form the operating system of our economy. The core myth is the myth of maximizing — the idea that no amount of wealth is ever enough. That’s the basic principle of investing. In the book, I distinguish “profit making” from “profit maximizing.” Businesses need to make a profit to survive, but maximizing unleashes damage to society and destruction of the Earth.

There’s the myth of corporate governance, which says workers are not members of the corporation. Workers can go to a company every day for 40 years, keeping the place running, but they’re outsiders. Hedge fund investors holding shares for 15 minutes are the insiders, because only capital has a vote for the board. Workers are dispossessed and disenfranchised.

There’s the myth of materiality in corporate and financial accounting, which says that gains to capital alone are real. Impacts on the environment or society aren’t real, aren’t “material,” unless they affect capital. ExxonMobil increased shareholder value by nearly 80 percentin 2022. That’s considered a success. No matter that these products are fueling catastrophic wildfires and flooding cities.

Important for our politics is the myth of the free market, which says government is to be subdued, for it’s the enemy of the independence and power of wealth. There shall be no limits on the field of action of corporations and capital.

This myth is about letting the machine of wealth extraction run unimpeded. Yet as that machine revs into overdrive — financial assets are now five times GDP in the U.S., and even more in the U.K. — ongoing extraction becomes more difficult. Regulations need to be knocked down, monopolies built up, good jobs eliminated, taxes evaded. But regular folks in a democracy don’t support such an agenda. Thus, the party of wealth gets white working-class resentment on its side by blaming immigrants, inflaming racial bias. And it seeks to destroy democracy itself — vilifying the very concept of government, deploying dark money to change how ballots are cast and counted. Or pitching the Big Lie, as Donald Trump is doing. Yet beyond Trump, as Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse has said, the broader assault on democracy is run by a small billionaire elite.

What helped remake U.S. politics was financialization. This led to runaway inequality — creating the expanding pool of the disaffected working class — while also creating the wealth that shifted policy toward corporations and the rich. The post-1980 neoliberal era marked the rise of the plutocracy — what Whitehouse calls “the unseen ruling class.” Destroying democracy is part of its game plan to keep the wealth extraction machine going.

In what I understood to be an attempt on your part to interfuse class and race, you wrote that white supremacy and wealth supremacy are closely related. Are you saying that capitalism has color?

These two forms of bias are deeply intertwined. In the initial phase of what Guyanese intellectual Walter Rodney called the “capitalist/imperialist system,” much wealth came from extracting from persons and nations of color, through slavery and imperial possession. Racial extraction by finance continued in modern times through redlining, predatory mortgages, and more.

But if systems of wealth supremacy and white supremacy work together, they also function by separate logics. White supremacy persists, inflicting harm across generations. Yet wealth supremacy accelerates. Because the larger the sphere of swollen wealth becomes, the greater extraction it requires in order to grow larger still. If people of color have long been and remain primary targets for this extraction, today the planet itself is caught in its iron grip. And the suffering that people of color have long known is hitting white people.

State socialism is pretty much dead, and social democracy is on its knees. First, how do we go about changing the current system and, second, what would a democratic economy look like? 

So now we’re talking about system change. Not regulating capitalism, but shifting to a next system, where capital is no longer at the center. It starts by recognizing that ownership and control of our political economy by a wealthy elite is the core problem. Then the solution becomes clear. We need to preserve political democracy and bring its spirit into the economy itself — creating a democratic economy, where wealth and power are held broadly, where economic institutions and practices are designed to allow all of us to prosper on a flourishing Earth.

How do we get there? We need a great ownership transition, including public ownership of key sectors like water and health care, worker ownership of enterprise, protection of the commons through trusts and preserves, just ownership and control of land, forests and housing. And we need corporations redesigned to have a legal obligation to serve the public good. The profit-maximizing corporation that exists to make the rich richer can no longer be allowed to exist.

We also need a next system of capital — including debt forgiveness when necessary, a new ecosystem of banking in the public interest, authentic impact and local investing, and wealth and inheritance taxes that prohibit the formation of dynasties. Also needed are regulations reining in the super-predators, the uber-extractors like private equity and hedge funds.

I’m often asked if all this is possible. And I like to break that question into two parts. Are these new models of a democratic economy — like public banks and worker-owned firms — are these models feasible?The answer is yes. They’re proven. They’re practical. They’re superior in their outcomes, if success means human well-being rather than just a rising share price.

The second question then is: Is system change possible? But if we had started there with climate change — asking if it’s possible to cut carbon emissions by 80 percent — we would have given up. As Nelson Mandela said, “It always seems impossible until it’s done.”

System change doesn’t start by asking if transformation is possible. Instead, we ask: Is it necessary? It’s here we begin.

One thing we can know with some certainty. A world half plutocratic and half democratic cannot endure long. One half will eventually supersede the other. Either the plutocratic economy will destroy democracy, or we’ll suffuse democracy into our economy, building the democratic economy now necessary to our survival.



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a planet for 1%.....


Environment: The wealthy cause climate change; the poor suffer its consequences    By Peter Sainsbury


Richest 1% produce as many greenhouse gases as the poorest 66%. Climate denialists have a new lyric: ‘sure, it’s happening – so what?’ but Australians are concerned about climate change and want action. No, it’s not OK to shoot a hippo.


Climate Equality: A planet for the 99%

… is the title of a report from Oxfam that examines the ‘twin crises of climate breakdown and runaway inequality’.

In 2019, the richest 10% of people were responsible for 50% of CO2 emissions – five times their fair share, so to speak. The poorest 50% were responsible for 8% of emissions – a sixth of their fair share (although it’s clearly ludicrous to talk about a ‘fair share’ of something that needs to be eliminated).

The super-super-rich (the 7.7 million people who constitute the wealthiest 0.1% globally) were responsible for 4% of emissions (40 times their fair share), each of them producing on average 214 tons of CO2 per year. This is almost three hundred times the per capita emissions of the poorest 50%.

The tiny but incredibly privileged 0.1% really are a breed apart, even from their not-quite-so-rich neighbours. Each of them produces almost four times as many emissions as the next 0.9%, and twelve times as many as the next 9%. We’re comparing subgroups of the world’s richest 10% here, a group that, let’s face it, includes me and, I suspect, many of you.

The singular-super-rich 1% produce 16% of total emissions – staggeringly in my view, the same as the 5 billion poorest two-thirds of people in the world. However, in addition to the enormous emissions produced by their lavish lifestyles, the wealthiest 1% are important (read disastrous) for the climate in at least two other ways:

  1. Their massive financial investments in heavily polluting industries help to maintain the energy status quo, and
  2. Their incredible influence over the media, the economy, politicians and policy making helps to maintain the economic and political status quo.

And on top of that, they are best able, at least in the short term, to insulate themselves from the effects of climate change.

Oxfam proposes three big steps for a transition to a fair and sustainable world:

  1. A radical increase in equality, including a legislated living wage for all, partly funded by a 60% income tax on the richest 1% and 50-90% windfall taxes on 700 megacorporations.
  2. A rapid transition away from fossil fuels.
  3. An over-riding social purpose of wellbeing for all and planetary flourishing.

The report includes much more data and many case studies but if you have just five minutes I strongly recommend reading the two short forewords by Greta Thunberg and Njoki Njehu, Pan-African Regional Coordinator for Fight Inequality Alliance. Two extracts:

‘Climate breakdown and inequality are linked together and fuel each other. If we are to overcome one, we must overcome both.’ Greta Thunberg

‘I believe, now more than ever, that the rich and the powerful in our world fear the end of capitalism – their power and privilege – more than they fear the end of our beautiful, precious planet. I also believe, now more than ever, that we can, and we must, stop them. To do this we must build peoples’ movements bigger than we have ever known. Climate warriors and inequality fighters; rural farmers and feminists; trade unionists and youth activists must join arms across the planet to scream ‘Enough! No More!’ Njoki Njehu

There are two interesting additional aspects of this inequality story:

  1. In 1990 almost two-thirds of inequalities in global emissions was due to inequalities between countries rather than inequalities within countries but by 2019 the reverse was true.

This change is largely attributable to many of the rich, industrialised nations controlling and sometimes modestly reducing their total emissions, while many developing countries have been necessarily increasing theirs. It is certainly not due to inequalities between individuals decreasing, as demonstrated by the second point.

  1. Over a similar period (1995-2021), the richest 1% globally captured 38% of the growth in global wealth, while the poorest 50% captured 2.3%. The box in the graph below tells us that in 2021 the richest 0.001% owned over three times as much wealth as the poorest 50%.

So, if you imagine 100,000 people, one of them owns over three times as much as 50,000 of them.

To quote John Bellamy Foster (Monthly Review, July-August 2019): ‘The poor shall inherit the earth or there will be no earth to inherit’.

Climate denialists still singing loudly but with different lyrics

Analysis of 12,000 climate denial videos on 96 YouTube channels with a penchant for posting such trash has shown a change of the dominant messaging over the last five years. Less important now are the messages that ‘global warming is not happening’ and ‘human-generated greenhouse gases are not causing global warming’. Presumably the denialists have realised that the public is not as likely to be taken in by this stupidity as they were – the results of global warming are now too obvious to deny.

Denialists these days are more likely to push ‘climate solutions don’t work’ and ‘climate science and the climate movement are unreliable’, and to a lesser extent ‘the impacts of global warming are beneficial or harmless’.

In 2018 the ‘Old Denial’ message (basically ‘it isn’t happening’) made up about 70% of climate denialists’ claims but in 2023 the ‘New Denial’ message (‘it’s happening but so what?’) constituted about 70%.

That all said, each of the videos was viewed on average only 27,000 times. Or to put it another way, each day one of them was watched by 150,000 people (assuming no one watched more than one a day). YouTube has around 2.5 billion regular users. Climate denialists may still be singing their songs but no one much is listening.

Nonetheless, it’s important to know which climate denial messages need to be countered these days and to encourage Google to expand their ban on sites containing ‘Old Denial’ garbage to include the ‘New Denial’ trash.

If you’re still game to waste your time talking with climate denialists (life’s too short, in my view), Skeptical Science has updated its summaries of what the science really says about fifty commonly promoted global warming and climate change myths.


Australians want ‘health trigger’ for new fossil fuel projects

Thankfully, more and more Australians are now convinced by the evidence before them and 80% are concerned about the impact of fossil fuels on human health – 31% are ‘Very concerned’. No surprise that the rates of concern are highest among Greens and ALP voters but even 71% of Coalition voters can see the writing on the wall. No wonder the Teals did so well in 2022.

Australians also know what needs to be done, with two-thirds supporting a requirement that governments consider the impacts of climate change on human health when making decisions about fossil fuel projects. I hope Minister Plibersek is aware of this as she works on the new Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act.


Trophy hunting myths debunked

I’m sure that you’ve faced the same difficult choice as I from time to time: elephant tusks for the main entrance or tiger skin (with head, of course) for the lounge room floor – which shall I bag on safari this year? Oh, bugger the expense, I’ll get both. Maybe I’ll shoot a hippo too. You only live once.

What those greeny animal-lovers don’t appreciate is that trophy hunting targets only surplus and old animals and actually supports healthy animal populations and species conservation. They don’t realise the benefits it brings to local populations and they have no idea of the legal hoops and hurdles I must jump through to shoot just one measly old lion.

‘Every year, tens of thousands of wild animals worldwide are killed by trophy hunters with the aim of acquiring body parts of target animals as trophies – for example, full body mounts, tusks, horns, or skins. Rarer species are typically more expensive to shoot. Trophy hunters even target endangered and strictly protected species, such as elephants or rhinos. To justify this gruesome hobby, the hunting lobby puts forward arguments that do not stand up to scientific scrutiny.’

Fourteen of the more common phoney arguments to support trophy hunting have been blasted to smithereens by a coalition of animal welfare and conservation organisations. I imagine the duck shooters of Victoria use similar myths to justify their annual slaughter-fest.

Climate change: whose problem is it?

That depends on what you mean by ‘problem’: who has caused the problem? for whom is it causing most problems? who has the greatest responsibility to tackle the problem?

The stylised graph compares the three dimensions of emissions, impact and responsibility to act. This figure and the [other one] are from the Oxfam report.

Second, more detail about the outrageous disparity between income and emissions. Note that the ultra-rich in the bottom line are an even smaller cabal than the super-super-rich group I described above, with emissions per person about 30% higher than the super-super-rich.




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“The Treason of the Intellectuals,” with Niall Ferguson | Uncommon Knowledge


Niall Ferguson is the Milbank Family Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, and a senior faculty fellow of the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard University. In this interview, Ferguson discusses his stunning essay “The Treason of the Intellectuals,” published in December 2023 in the Free Press. The essay delves deeply into the changes Ferguson has observed in his 30-year career as an academic, especially over the past 10 years. He describes in the opening of his essay: “I have . . . witnessed the willingness of trustees, donors, and alumni to tolerate the politicization of American universities by an illiberal coalition of ‘woke’ progressives, adherents of ‘critical race theory,’ and apologists for Islamist extremism.” Ferguson also discusses the resignation of Harvard president Claudine Gay and what it means for all institutions of higher learning, as well as putting forth some solutions for addressing these issues.




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The death of ideology | John Mearsheimer [Full Interview]



the heartland explained...


Israel’s Options, Plus Navalny’s Legacy and Ranking the US Presidents, with Dan Senor | GoodFellows


Why did Vladimir Putin call for an “inter-Palestinian meeting” in Moscow? And has Israel drawn a red line regarding a hostage release and an assault on the Gazan city of Rafah? Dan Senor, host of the Call Me Back podcast and author of two books on Israel, joins Hoover senior fellows Niall Ferguson (live from Jerusalem) and John Cochrane to discuss the moving parts and global ramifications of the Israel-Hamas conflict. Following that: remembering the late Alexei Navalny and what the future holds for Russian political opposition amid Putin-brand fascism; America’s “trust” credit rating as it reneges on promises to friends and allies; plus George Washington’s recent demotion to third-greatest of all US presidents.


GoodFellows, a Hoover Institution broadcast, features senior fellows John Cochrane, Niall Ferguson, and H.R. McMaster discussing the social, economic, and geostrategic ramifications of this changed world. They can’t banter over lunch these days, but they continue their spirited conversation online about what comes next, as we look forward to an end to the crisis.






The death of ideology | John Mearsheimer [Full Interview]



the heartland explained...




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Capitalism is dead and so are we | Yanis Varoufakis interview

New Study: THIS Is Why The West Is Really Doomed.