1.1 The emergence of a systematic private-public partnership

With the downfall of the Third Reich and the regained independence by colonised nations, a wind of freedom and hope for a humane world had begun to sweep across the world. It was essential to ensure it came to nothing, that democracies did not, true to their nature, become an obstacle to interests detrimental for the very large majority and instead remained a tool for their perpetuation.

Hence the informal relation between the private corporate world and the public sphere was in the postwar period increasingly systematized through private-public partnerships, an immediate goal being the safeguard of patent laws without which profit-maximization cannot be maintained.

In 1954, the leaders of the private and public sectors, including heads of State and academics, came together to form the Bildeberg group to “bring together the political elites on both right and left, let them mix in relaxed, luxurious surroundings with business leaders and let the ideas fizz.” To quote Professor of governance, Andrew Kakabatse, its aim is “to bolster a consensus around free market Western capitalism and its interests around the globe”.[1] The role of consulting firms in particular has been major from the outset. To begin with, they have helped to impose the necessary business model, first in America and then in the rest of the world. From advising industry, these firms rapidly came to advise governments and public institutions, evidently in the latter case paid for by the taxpayer. For instance, the National Health Service, British Rail and the Bank of England were reorganized in the 1960s under the guidance of McKenzie & Company.

In the same spirit, the Club of Rome was founded in 1968 at a gathering organized by industrialist Aurelio Peccei in one of David Rockefeller’s mansion, followed by the world Economic Forum (WEF) in 1971 based on the ideas of Klaus Schwab, and the Trilateral Commission in 1973 founded by Rockefeller with the help of Zbigniew Brzezinski and Jimmy Carter.

To use former American Senator Barry Goldwater’s remarks regarding the Trilateral Commission, these multinational organizations and corporates represent “a worldwide economic power superior to the political governments of the nation-states involved”.[2] In effect, they are the secular heirs of the Roman Church, which after the fragmentation of the Roman Empire, was far mightier than any monarchy limited by frontiers could be, managing its wealth through a complex network of banks and money-changers, with the capacity of moving it around international according to its needs.

Like the Church formerly, their activities are veiled in secrecy though they lead to major policy decisions that now affect billions across the planet, especially billions living in democratic nations – a critical difference from the past. Covertness is by definition contrary to the spirit of democracy. However a 1975 report by the Trilateral Commission asserts that “the effective operation of a democratic political system usually requires some measure of apathy and non-involvement on the part of some individuals and groups”.[3] Were their interests altruistic, would this have been the case?

That both the Trilateral Commission and the WEF came to reinforce the ranks of profit-making in the early 70s is no coincidence.

This is the period when pollution issues could no longer be avoided, in particular those caused by pesticides and herbicides, posing risks to one of the most lucrative sector: agribusiness. Its emergence dates from the synthesis of ammonia around the turn of the 20th century to increase efficiency in agriculture. It followed Malthus’ alarmist and unsubstantiated thesis that population would grow much faster than food resources, but in effect population growth was essential to satisfy industry’s need for manpower, and has been enabled by artificially made ammonia and later pesticides and herbicides, not the other way round. However the manmade versions of molecules are obtained using methods dissimilar to natural ones, and so the geometry of their natural counterparts cannot be replicated. The basic question as to possible harmful consequences on human health because of this fundamental difference has never been considered.

The 70s is also when it was realized that physical reality could check the continuance of profit-maximization. This spelt doom for the Club of Rome, which reiterating the Malthusian nightmare blaming population growth – a thesis laid out in their 1972 report “The Limits to Growth”, and reformulated multiply since then, notably by Henry Kissinger in 1974,[4] or in the Global 2000 Report commissioned by President Carter in 1980. Because this thesis takes the profit-maximization perspective as given – as natural “as nature” –, its unstated aim is its continuance. Hence it can only blame the poor outside this perspective, thus nothing a hindrance, while glossing over the fact that the acceleration of depletion is due to the over-consumption and pollution inevitable within such a perspective, an over-consumption which increases with wealth. Indeed, by keeping to the profit path, a stage must inevitably be reached where resources are squeezed to their limits since this path requires constant growth and always more energy. The problem is we cannot increase the amount of matter available on our planet. This is one of the constraints of the reality we are part of and which we cannot alter. We cannot produce matter from nothing, we can only transform matter. And compared to human timescales, matter is produced at a very slow rate by the biosphere from the energy it gets from the sun. If we consume matter at a quicker rate than this natural rate of production, namely retransform it into unusable diffused energy too rapidly, we invariably deplete the available material resources. Besides, if there be an unsustainable population growth, it is due to the impossibility of resolving the questions of poverty and education within the profit perspective. In a different economic system, population size can remain stable at a congenial level without any coercive measures, as was the case in India until the colonial period; declines due to famine and disasters were localized and punctual, and there is an absence of unsustainable increases.[5]

Now, within a context of resource depletion, to keep the profit perspective unrolling, controlling them becomes essential, and thus wars, thereby further boosting profits of the armament industry, which resulted in the imposition of an oil embargo by producing countries in 1973. This in turn contributed to the first major postwar recession, thereby deepening a social discontent that cannot be avoided within such a perspective. Its natural course towards abstraction from ever shrinking material resources was early reflected in a debt driven monetary system, namely one where banks create new money out of nothing whenever a loan is made, but no new money is created for the interest payment. In this system, paying interest amounts to “using someone else’s principal” as “there isn’t enough money to pay the interest on all the loans”, leading inevitably to an increasing accumulation of wealth in fewer and fewer hands.[6]

All in all, early rumblings of an approaching storm could be heard. In these circumstances, the Trilateral Commission was founded to notably counter President Nixon’s “strategies toward detente with the Soviet Union and closer relations with Red China”, which were felt to “severely weaken the Western alliance”.[7]

  1. https://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-13682082
  2. Goldwater, B. With No Apologies. New York: William Morrow. 1979.
  3. Crozier M. J., S. Huntington and P. J. Watanuki. Crisis of Democracy, Report on the governability of democracies to the trilateral commission. New York: New York University Press, 1975. p. 114.
  4. National Security Study Memorandum 200: Implications of Worldwide Population Growth for U.S. Security and Overseas Interests.
  5. Lal, D. The Hindu Equilibrium: India C. 1500 BC-2000 AD . Oxford: Oxford University Press. 2005.
  6. Lietaer, B. A. and J. Dunne. Rethinking money: How New Currencies Turn Scarcity into Prosperity. San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler Publishers. 2013.
  7. Eringer, R. The Global Manipulators. Bristol: Pentacle. 1980.