We have different names for this, depending on our place of reference. Biblically, it’s called the mark of the beast. Politically, it’s called oligarchy. Socially, it’s called draconian. Those who care for the poor call it injustice. Economically, it’s called monopoly. But it’s all one and the same thing, being called out by different commentators. But the voices are united.
Growing up in the 1960’s in Australia, monopolies were greatly frowned upon, and pretty much illegal. Government was seen as important to the society, to ensure a balance of power in all sectors. This concept of balance of power was one of the most underlying issues in Western democracy. The legislature was to be separate from the courts. Banks must function under regulation to ensure their power doesn’t grow. This governing principle developed in Western Christian democracies from its roots in Moses, where powers were clearly delineated to protect the society against corruption: meaning the overriding of the interests of the weak. This is always the issue with power regulation, whether with the kings of old, or the monopolies of today: the interests of the masses, the poor and weaker people or common people.
As I said, back in the 1960’s we had strong regulations to protect us against the amassing of power in monopolies. There were very good reasons for this. First, that which touches consumers most immediately: prices. Monopolies mean there is no price control. Companies with large capital can undercut competitors and run them out of business. Once they take the market share, they can rise prices, oppressing the consumers. This has happened in our society today. We call it the 1%, those who now control over 50% of the world’s resources. This is what monopoly power has done, and it has done it through what were once illegal practices.
But there are longer term consequences of monopoly power. Once fewer people begin amassing too much wealth, they are in a position to influence public policy. This is the higher level of corruption Moses warned of. With huge reserves, monopolies can buy their way into many other markets and sectors. This is a very straight forward way of amassing not just too much economic power in few hands, but also social power, political power, a power in education and even legislative power. If you speak this way today you are called a conspiracy theorist. But this is the consequence that earlier Australian laws sought to prevent. It was known to be a very real and imminent danger to our societies and laws against it were serious and intentional. We then called it “vigilance.” This is life, the way things work. Humanity is still prone to corruption.
But over time, when prosperity grows, we become lax. A little compromise of our laws, to increase industrial efficiencies, won’t hurt. You don’t want to be called “square.” From the 1980’s, upon the propaganda of Soviet economic inefficiencies, full liberties were given to “capitalist” fancies in the West. Reagan and Thatcher said government was the problem and must get out of the way and give full autonomy to business interests, for the good our economic growth indices. Large corporations began to merge and use their increased wealth to lobby government policies in America and around the world. Even banking laws were changed, freeing them up to issue huge amounts of free money, to inject into the system, over and over again. This rendered the banking and corporate sectors so powerful that governments around the world have become almost helpless.
These corporations have also influenced government tax policies. Corporate tax rates and tax rates of the rich have plummeted. Businesses can now also move huge amount of their revenue into charity accounts, where they pay no tax at all. These accounts are allowed to not only give to charities, but make “gifts” to other companies, even though they own shares in those companies. This means the influence of the people at the top grows even faster, as they have almost unlimited tax-free funds with which to increase their stretch and control. They may not always profit immediately from other businesses they support from this supposed philanthropy, but through interconnected technologies and markets that develop, opportunities and profits coming back to the “giver” are immense.
Then there are the offshore accounts. These were developed deliberately by Britain after WWII due to its declining industrial power. As corporations began to strip British industries and move their operations to cheaper labour market overseas, the bottom line of business interests became the shareholders, not the public interests. Anti-Soviet propaganda on steroids. (Anti-other is always so useful in developing things the way we want them.) Now it’s the shareholders’ interest that matter the most to every CEO, who is looking for his annual bonus. So, if companies are striped of assets in the West, and labour is thrown out onto the street, and operations moved abroad, then all the better for the shareholders and the CEO’s. Retirement funds of pensioners relaxing on beaches have gone through the roof, as workers’ rights and wages have gone through the floor. So as industry fell, offshore accounts grew.
That is, Britain saw that if it couldn’t be the industrial centre anymore, it could be the financial centre. It could attract the world’s capital into its coffers. So, it offered tax free accounts, at first in offshore banks in islands far away, but later in “offshore” accounts even in London. These were only legally “offshore.” Funds channelled into these accounts were entirely tax free. It undermined international propriety in the balanced relationship between capital, labour and government regulation over business, in order to become first in the financial market and increase the personal wealth of the elite. It’s the aristocracy climbing its way back to the top, to reimpose a neo-feudal society. It would even offer secret accounts. No one needs know who the owner is, or where the money comes from or goes to. “Client protection,” it was called. But the poor weren’t protected., They had no voice. Banks calls it discretion. Billions have been siphoned off from developing countries to this day, robbing billions of people of their education, health, retirement and destroying the value of their savings and currencies. This is large scale crime, responsible for untold suffering. Money even finds its way secretly back into these countries in terrorist funding. How do you think all these terrorists have such fine vehicles and weaponry, so well financed?
And what happens to all this free money from bank credit and offshore accounts? It finds its way into the most speculative rich markets, like housing in London and throughout Western nations and other rich centres, making homes almost unaffordable to the normal person. The gap between the rich and poor continues to expand, and the reasons for this are simple and we know how to stop it. Combining the governments’ tax policies with British, USA, Netherlands and other nations’ offshore policies, the relaxation of most laws prohibiting monopolies, you now get a sector of society that has broken its former limits. The balance of power has been lost. The corporate sector now controls the “universe,” in exactly the way early laws were designed to prohibit. With this has come the destruction of poor all over the world, and the decline of genuine democratic opportunity. Government itself is owned by the money. Politicians who support business gain campaign funds, fringe benefits and lucrative jobs after retirement. It’s now oligarchy (government owned by the rich) not democracy.
It’s not hopeless. We rebuild democracies by rebuilding the interests of the poor. The Evangelicals of old did it, around the time of Jon Newton and so many others. They cared. They proved that commercial powers, even commercial imperial empires, could and would bow to those who were determined to make the welfare of others their own interest.
A far more democratic way of managing the corporate sector is to make sure it’s properly taxed. If corporations move funds into a tax-free charity and then give one million dollars, they only really give half a million. It was the taxpayer that gave the other half. But the taxpayer had no say how that money was given, to what purpose it was used. This means the giving of philanthropic organisations, when the funds run into large amounts, is not democratic. It is controlled only by a few people. Multiplied billions of dollars that really belong to the taxpayer are given by philanthropists without any taxpayer say. This money is determining the futures of many people, without any democratic input. I have no doubt that the 1% believe this is the right way to do things. We have heard them say so, claiming they are more able to spend the money intelligently. We could say this is the rule of the technocrats, exactly what Eisenhower warned of in his last speech as President of the USA. He said the technocrats would gain too much power and even dominate government.
The biggest philanthropists call this “capitalist-philanthropy.” They claim capitalists are better able to spend the money for the common good than the inefficient government. People tend to agree when they see the wastefulness of government bureaucracy and the politically correct ways of spending. But the difference here is that we can vote this government out and control its spending on media and other ways it may influence our public and private institutions. We have no control at all over capitalist-philanthropism. Capitalist-philanthropy will always have their bottom line in mind. Their definition of efficiency is to make a profit. The term “capitalist-philanthropist” is an oxymoron. It contradicts itself. It will be self-interested, without accountability. We will speak more on this later, showing this is how it works out in fact on the ground in nations where the charity is being spent.
We know the phrase, “Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others.” It is full of all kinds of inefficiencies. This is life, especially where people have freedom. The problem with eradicating inefficiencies, is that it brings about a rule of dictatorship, where someone needs to exercise the kind of control that enforces their definition of efficiency. Hitler comes to mind. So democracy is a constant balancing of power. It never gets it right, but is always vigilant, always adjusting, and then watching again. It never sleeps. There can never be an allowed, sanctified, or hallowed imbalance, whether by religion, government, business, science or the technocrats, like Silicon Valley. Without religion we have no ethics and no soul. Science cannot say of religion, “We have no need of thee.” Any society that allows a dictatorship from any sector is doomed to become a dehumanising holocaust.