Global Coup d’État: Mapping the Corporate Takeover of Global Governance

Yves here. Even though the title of this interview might seem hyperbolic, the top wealthy, who have no strong loyalty to countries or societies, are using both the muscle of international companies and transnational organizations to further hollow out governments and reduce democratic accountability, with a new “global governance” model. It’s the newest flavor of the old neoliberal playbook, of bending government and society to the pet wishes of commerce.

Measures like “investor-state dispute settlement” which were effective in gutting national environmental and labor protections were getting enough bad press to make it hard to incorporate them into new trade pacts. So now this global elite is looking for new ways to extend its influence. And their big tool is creating new international bodies, dominated by corporations, which increasingly either co-opt or muscle aside national governments and existing chartered bodies.

By Lynn Fries. Originally published at GPENewsdocs

LYNN FRIES: Hello and welcome. I’m Lynn Fries, producer of Global Political Economy or GPEnewsdocs. Today I’m joined by Nick Buxton. He’s going to be giving us some big picture of context on The Great Reset, a World Economic Forum initiative to reset the world system of global governance.

A worldwide movement crossing not only borders but all walks of life from peasant farmers to techies is fighting against this initiative on the grounds that it represents a major threat to democracy. Key voices from the health, food, education, indigenous peoples and high tech movements explained why in The Great Take Over: How we fight the Davos capture of global governance, a recent webinar hosted by the Transnational Institute.

Today’s guest, Nick Buxton is a publications editor and future labs coordinator at the Transnational Institute. He is the founder and chief editor of TNI’s flagship State of Power report. Welcome. Nick.

NICK BUXTON:Thank you very much, Lynn.

FRIES: The Transnational Institute was co-organizer of The Great Takeover webinar. So what is it that you’re mobilizing against by opposing this Great Reset Initiative.

BUXTON:What we’re really concerned about is really that this initiative by the World Economic Forum actually looks to entrench the power of those most responsible for the crises we’re facing. In many ways, it’s a trick. It’s a sleight of hand to make sure that things continue as they are; to continue the same.

That will create more of these crises, more of these pandemics, will deepen the climate crisis, which will deepen inequality. It’s not a Great Reset at all. It’s a Great Corporate Takeover. And that’s what we were trying to draw attention to.

What we’ve been finding in recent years is that really there is something I would call it a kind of a global, silent coup d’état going on in terms of global governance. Most people don’t see it.

And people have become familiar with the way that corporations have far more influence and are being integrated into policymaking at a national level. They see that more in front of them. People see their services being privatized. They see the influence of the oil companies or the banking sector that has stopped actions such as regulation of banks or of dealing with a climate crisis.

What people don’t realize is a global level there has been something much more silent going on. Which is that their governance, which used to be by nations, is now increasingly being done by unaccountable bodies dominated by corporations. And part of the problem is that that has been happening in lots of different sectors but people haven’t been connecting the dots.

So what we’ve been trying to do in the last year is to talk with people in the health movement, for example; people involved in public education; people involved in the food sector; to say what is happening in your sector?

And what we found is that in each of these sectors, global decisions that used to be discussed by bodies such as the WHO or such as the Food and Agriculture Organization were increasingly done by these unaccountable bodies.

Just to give an example, we have now the global pandemic and one of the key bodies that is now making the decisions is a facility called COVAX [COVID-19 Vaccines Global Alliance]. You’d have thought global health should be run by the World Health Organization. It is accountable to the United Nations. It has a system of accountability.

Well, what’s actually happening is that the World Health Organization is just one of a few partners but really [COVAX] it’s being controlled by corporations and corporate interests. In this case it is GAVI [The Vaccine Alliance formerly known as the Global Alliance for Vaccines & Immunization] and CEPI [The Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations].

And they are both bodies, which don’t have a system of accountability. Where it’s not clear who chose them; who they’re accountable to; or how they can be held to account. And what we do see is that there’s a lot of corporate influence in each of these bodies.

What this webinar was about was about bringing all these sectors together who have seen this silent coup d’état going on in their own sector to map it out. And so one of the things that you’ll see in the webinar is this mapping of the different sectors who are seeing this going on.

And the idea is just to give a global picture that this is something happening. We’ve had more than a hundred of these, they are called multi-stakeholder bodies come into the fore in the last 20 years.

And there’s been very little kind of taking note of that and taking stock of what’s emerging. And what’s emerging is this silent global coup d’état.

FRIES:So what you find then in the big picture that you’re getting is that a global coup d’état has been silently emerging. And at the heart of it is a move towards the multi-stakeholder model of global governance. And that this is the model that is the path and mechanism of a corporate hijack of global and national governance structures.

The World Economic Forum agenda fits into all this, as the WEF of course is one of the world’s most powerful multi-stakeholder institutions. So Nick in explaining what all this means, let’s start with some of your thoughts on the history of how we got here.

BUXTON:I think what we had in the nineties was the kind of height of neoliberalism. We had the increasing role of corporations and the deregulation of the state. And it really starts to come through in 2000 with the Global Compact where the UN invited in corporations.

And the idea was that we’re going to need to involve corporations; one because we will need private financebecame the kind of mantra. So we need to involve corporations, they can be part of the solution. So it was partly finance. It was partly the withdrawal of states from kind of global cooperation. And that started to invite corporations into global governance where corporations were increasingly being invited into these kinds of bodies.

That dovetailed with this whole movement called Corporate Social Responsibility [CSR]. That corporations weren’t just profit-making vehicles. They could be socially responsible actors. And so increasingly corporations were pitching themselves as not just corporate entities but as global citizens.

And one of the key vehicles for that, of course, was the World Economic Forum, which has really been articulating through Klaus Schwab and through their whole work this idea that corporations should firstly be socially responsible. And secondly as part of that, they should be treated as social entities and should be integrated into governance and decision-making.

That we needed to move from what was considered a kind of antiquated state led multilateral approach to a much more agile governance system. And this is again the kind of mantra coming in of the private sector being efficient. That the private sector if you involve them in decision-making, you would get more faster decisions. You’d get agile decisions. You’d get better decisions. So this all really came together. And in some ways, it’s even being consolidated even further.

The irony is that as you’ve had nationalists governments come to power, the kind of Trump America first in the world or Modi India first, they articulate a nationalist agenda but they haven’t actually questioned the role of corporations in any way whatsoever.

And as they’ve retreated from multilateral forums like the United Nations, they’ve left a vacuum that corporations have been able to fill. Corporations now say: we can be the global actors. We can be the responsible actors. We’re the ones who can tackle the big crises we face such as inequality, such as climate change, such as the pandemic.

So really we’ve had this convergence of forces coming together where as States have retreated corporations have filled the vacuum.

FRIES:You noted earlier the World Economic Forum was one of the key vehicles for these ideas. The WEF also went big in filling that vacuum that you’re talking about. TNI reported the WEF Global Redesign Initiative stretching back to 2009 created something like 40 Global Agenda Councils and industry-sector bodies. So in the sphere of global governance, the WEF created space for corporate actors across the full spectrum of governance issues from cybersecurity to climate change you name it.

BUXTON: So yeah, the Global Redesign Initiative was one of the first initiatives that the World Economic Forum launched in the wake of the financial crisis. And their idea was that we needed to replace what was an inefficient multilateral system that was not able to solve problems with a new form of things. So they were saying instead of multilateralism where nations make decisions in global cooperation we needed a multi-stakeholder approach, which would bring together all the interested parties in small groups to make decisions.

And the Global Redesign Initiative was really a model of that. They were trying to say: okay, how do we resolve issues such as the governance of the digital economy. And their answer to it is we bring the Big Tech companies together, we bring the governments together, and we bring a few civil society players and we’ll work out a system that makes sense. And so you had a similar thing going on in all these other Redesign Councils. Really their models for how they think governance should be done.

And some of them have not just become models. They’ve actually become the real thing. So many of the multi-stakeholder initiatives we’ve seen emerge today have emerged out of some of these councils. The Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness [CEPI The Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations] one of the key ones leading COVAX right now in response to the pandemic was launched at the World Economic Forum. So the World Economic Forum is now becoming a launch pad for many of these multi-stakeholder bodies

FRIES: We should also note the World Economic Forum is a very well funded launch pad. As power points from The Great Takeover webinar put it corporations do not pay tax but “donate” to multi-stakeholder institutions. The WEF of course is funded by powerful corporations and business leaders. The power points also noted the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is of the main funders of multi-stakeholder institutions.

In contrast, multilateral institutions are being defunded on the back of falling corporate tax revenues for nation states. Given it depends on government donors, the UN regular budget that is the backbone of funding for the 1 country 1 vote multilateral processes of intergovernmental cooperation and decision making has taken a big hit. Perhaps you could comment on some big picture implications on this kind of changing dynamic that’s going on between corporate actors and nation states.

BUXTON:Yeah. Yeah, I think what we’re seeing is that as gradually the corporations have become more powerful they have weakened the capacity of the state. So they have reduced the tax basis. You know most corporations have seen corporate tax rates fall dramatically and even more trillions are now siphoned away in tax havens.

So the entire corporate tax base, which used to play a much bigger role in state funding, has reduced. At the same time their influence over policies which benefit corporations has increased. So they’re reducing the regulations that were on them. They’re reducing all the costs that used to be imposed on them [inaud]. So you’ve had a weakening of the state and a strengthening of corporations.

And what’s happened at a global governance level is that they have also moved not just from influencing dramatically through their power, their economic power, political decision-making, but initiating this global governance thing is the next step forward. Because they’re not just saying that: we want to be considered and we will lobby to have our position heard. They’re saying we want to actually be part of the decision-making bodies themselves.

And the classic again is if we look at the pandemic with COVAX is that…. I looked actually at just at the board of GAVI the Global Alliance for Vaccines. If you look at the body the Board is dominated firstly by big pharmaceutical companies. Secondly, you have some nations and some civil society representatives but you have far more, interestingly, a large number of the Board are financiers. They come from the finance sector. They come from big banks.

I don’t know what they have to do with public health. And the WHO is just one of the players. So it’s suddenly over-crowded by others who have no public health representation. They’re being dominated by finance and pharmaceutical companies starting to really shape and guide decision-making.

And on the finance side, of course, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is now the big player in many of these things. And it’s not just donating; it’s also involved now in shaping policy. So those who give money in a philanthropic way, no matter how they earn that money or no matter what their remit is and who they’re accountable to, they’re only accountable to that to Bill and Melinda Gates ultimately, are now part of the decision making process as well.

And this has become so normalized that there seems to be very little questioning of it: we will bring together these players.

Now who chose them? Who chose this body to come together? Who’s it accountable to?

There was a British parliamentarian called Tony Benn. He says, if you want to understand democracy, you need to ask five questions: What power do you have? Who did you get it from? Whose interests do you serve to? To whom are you accountable? And how can we get rid of you?

If you look at a body such as COVAX: where did they get the power from?

They just self convened. They just brought together a group of powerful actors. They will make a token effort to involve one or two civil society representatives, but the power very much lies with the corporations and with the financiers. Those who are financing it. And it’s not accountable. They chose their body.

The interests are very clear who it serves. It serves the pharmaceutical companies. They will, of course do certain things within the remit. But ultimately they will not undermine their business model. Even if that business model is getting in the way of an effective response to the pandemic.

We can’t get rid of them because we never chose them in the first place.

So it fails really the very fundamental principles of democracy. And yet it’s now being normalized as this is the way that global governance should happen.

FRIES: Nick comment briefly on an agreement that was quite a milestone in this process of normalization of multistakeholderism as the way global governance should happen. I am thinking of the strategic partnership agreement signed by the Office of the UN Secretary General with the WEF in 2019. So what’s some background on that and your response to that UN WEF Agreement?

BUXTON:Well, the World Economic Forum has been advocating this model of multistakeholder capitalism to replace multi-lateralism for a long time. And they have been gradually I would say kind of setting up parallel bodies. These multi-stakeholder bodies to make decisions on major issues of global governance, whether it’s the digital economy, or whether it’s how to respond to a pandemic. And so they’ve been advancing in this model alongside the UN for some time.

But what was really concerning to us is that they’re starting to increasingly engage with the UN and start to push this model within the United Nations. And the classic example was this strategic partnership which was signed in I believe June of 2019. I don’t think it went even in front of the [UN] General Assembly.

So it wasn’t discussed amongst the members [UN Member States]. It was a decision by the Secretariat of the UN without any at least any formal systems of accountability to sign a deal with the World Economic Forum that would essentially start to involve World Economic Forum staff within the departments of the UN.

They would become so-called kind of whisper advisors. The World Economic Forum would start to have its staff mingling with UN staff and starting to make decisions. And there was no system of accountability. There was no system of consulting more widely.

And we know the World Economic Forum is a business forum. If you look at its Board, it’s completely controlled by some of the most wealthy and powerful corporations. And many of those corporations are responsible for many of the crises we face. And yet here they were being open- armed welcomed into the United Nations to play a very significant role.

And we protested that. We said that this is not a way to solve global problems. To involve those who have been actually responsible for the crisis to resolve it will only lead to solutions that are either ineffective or actually deepen the crises we face.

We understand why the UN is doing it. It’s because of this lack of national support. It’s because of the defunding. They’re looking to kind of survive as an organization. And they’re going to the most powerful players in the world which are the corporations.

But what they’re going to end up doing is ultimately undermining the United Nations. It will actually damage the United Nations because it will remove all of the democratic legitimacy that it currently has.

We desperately need global collaboration and cooperation but it must be based on public and democratic systems of governance not unaccountable secretive forms of governance dominated by corporations.

FRIES: So that’s pretty clear. You oppose multi-stakeholderism because it’s an unaccountable secretive form of governance dominated by corporations. As well as being unaccountable, the multi-stakeholder model is a voluntary and a market based approach to problem solving. Comment on how that also fits into why you oppose multi-stakeholderism.

BUXTON:Yeah. The solutions they’re looking for are volunteeristic where you can come in or out and they’re market-based. So they will never actually challenge the business model as it is.

Ultimately what happens is that they make decisions, which are not binding and actually force actors like corporations to do certain things. They’re based entirely on this voluntary model.

It’s a kind of a take it or leave it governance where you can do things that look good for annual report, but don’t actually change the way you actually operate. And so ultimately they won’t resolve the crises that we’re facing.

So it’s not just that they’re unaccountable but they are ultimately very ineffective.

So if we look at the climate crisis, for example, it will say the only way that we can deal with the climate crisis is market solutions. Even if we know that really the scale of the climate crisis, the urgency, and the timing requires us to take much more drastic solutions which will be state- led; which will require corporations to reduce emissions that will start to transform economies. That will have to be taken; these kinds of public decisions.

We’re ignoring that entirely for a model, which is based on kind of market incentives, which really do nothing to change the business model that has created the climate crisis.

FRIES:OK. So that goes a long way in explaining why you say the World Economic Forum Great Reset Initiative is no reset at all. Nick, briefly touch on some of your further observations. Like why as the multi-stakeholder model is based on market solutions, when push comes to shove, the profit motive will always win out under this approach to global governance.

BUXTON:Yeah. Absolutely. Corporations will accept market solutions, which give them the power to really control the pace of change. And so you’ll see that they’re very happy to produce these corporate social responsibility reports, but they will fight tooth and nail against any regulation, which actually enforces social and environmental goals.

And they will fight on an international level to have trade rules to actually prevent States imposing social and environmental goals. So, there’s very much an approach where they’re willing to have greenwash. They’re willing to have the propaganda around social environmental goals but they will absolutely oppose any rules that would actually control their environmental and social impacts.

They do not want anything, which actually requires regulation, and impacts, which will actually force them to do certain changes. They want their changes to be very much ones that they control and which they shape. And ultimately that they can ditch at the moment it starts to challenge the profits that they want to make.

FRIES:Let’s turn now to the coalition fighting for a democratic reset on global governance. So a future where decision making over the governance of global commons like for example food, water, health and the internet is done in the public interest.

I see this coalition put together resources and it’s posted on your website.You’re in the nexus of all this. So this time around in the wake of the COVID pandemic, what’s your read on the situation of peoples versus corporate power?

BUXTON:This global coup d’état that’s been going on silently in so many different sectors has been advancing because there hasn’t been enough information and knowledge about it. And also people haven’t been connecting the dots to see this is happening in every sector.

So what’s really important this year and I think it’s particularly important in the wake of the pandemic is that so many movements are coming together. The People’s Health Movement has come together; a lot of groups involved in food sovereignty, the trade union sector is coming together. They’re all saying: this is not in our name.

And of course, these are all groups that you’ll never see in a multi-stakeholder initiative. Whenever they do have civil society partners, they don’t involve people in the front lines. You won’t find one health union worker in the COVAX Initiative. You won’t have public health people really represented. So these movements are now starting to come together to say that we don’t want this.

And one of the things we did was launch this letter. It’s an Open Letter and its really alerting people to what’s going on. It’s saying that we’re facing this in so many different sectors.

The UN is opening the door, the UN Secretariat I should say is opening the door wide open to the World Economic Forum, which is the key body advance in multi-stakeholderism. And it’s changing governance as we know it and it has no systems of accountability or justice embedded in it.

And these movements are now coming together to say: we’re opposing this. We’re uniting our forces. And we’re going to fight back against this.

And we know more than ever before with the pandemic that nationalist solutions to the global crisis will not work. We need global cooperation. We need global collaboration.

But if we hand over all that decision-making to the pharmaceutical companies, for example, we won’t be dealing with real issues such as trade protections and TRIPS. And patents and everything that really benefits pharmaceutical companies and don’t advance public health. Because they are in control of the process; they won’t allow things that affect their profits.

So we need global solutions but the corporations, which actually worsen and deepen the crisis we face, cannot lead them.

FRIES: So as we close,I just wanted to play a clip of a comment you made back in 2015 about a book you had co-edited titled The Secure and The Dispossessed.

I found a review of the book so relevant to our chat today. I just want to cite a few lines. It said: Among the books that attempt to model the coming century. This one stands out for its sense of plausibility and danger. It examines several current trends in our responses to climate change, which if combined would result in a kind of oligarchic police state dedicated to extending capitalist hegemony.

This will not work, and yet powerful forces are advocating for it rather than reimagining and working for a more, just, resilient and democratic way forward. All the processes analyzed here are already happening now, making this book a crucial contribution to our cognitive mapping and our ability to form a better plan.

So Nick, in wrapping up briefly comment on that book and then I’ll play the clip

BUXTON:Yeah, back in 2011 we noticed a trend going on in terms of climate change where there was a lack of willingness to really tackle the climate crisis on the scale it needs and with the tools and instruments that it needs.

But there was increasingly plans by both the military and corporations for dealing with the impacts of climate change. And they very much looked at it in terms of how do we secure the wealth of those and secure those who already have power and wealth and what that would mean. So in the face of climate crisis, the solution was very much a security solution.

We’ve already seen really an increasing role of military and policing and security and a real process of militarization of responses to climate change. Most obviously in the area of the borders, we see border walls going up everywhere. The response to a crisis has been to kind of retreat behind fortifications no matter the consequences.

And so that’s really a trend that we see increasingly is that our response to climate adaptation by the richest countries is really to militarize our response to it. And that’s a real, as that quote you just read, that’s a real concern because it’s a kind of politics of the armed lifeboat. Where basically you rescue a few and then you have a gun trained on the rest.

And it’s both totally immoral and it’s also ultimately one that will sacrifice all of our humanity because we need to collaborate to respond to the climate crisis. We need to find solutions that protect the vulnerable. We cannot just keep building higher and higher walls against the consequences of our decisions. We need to actually start to tackle the root causes of those crises.

And that was very much a picture we started to paint back in 2015 with the launch of the book, The Secure and The Dispossessed. But if anything it’s more pertinent and more prescient than ever before.

FRIES:Nick Buxton, thank you.

BUXTON: Thanks. …keeping the profits, the huge profits rolling even though it’s wrecking the planet. So they have no intention long term of changing their business model. Their business model is wrecking the planet.

And their determination is how to keep that going. And what we see in all of this is that corporations and the military are very much responding in a paradigm of control, its security.

And this word security has suddenly infected every part of daily debate. We see it, food security; we see it very recently now with everyone saying we need security of our borders to protect against refugees. We need water security.

And in all of these cases, what you see is those who are being secured are the corporations and those who have wealth. And those who are losing out are those who are actually suffering the most from climate change.

So the peasant who has their land grabbed in the name of food security. The community that no longer has control of their river because a corporation has taken it in the name of water security. Or the protestors against coal power stations who are actually trying to stop the climate crisis are being repressed and having their civil liberties taken away in the name of energy security.

In each of these cases the security is quite clearly for a small proportion of people and insecurity for the vast majority. I think this is one of the most important issues of our age. Is do we want to leave our future in the hands of corporations and in the military

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    1. Lee

      I watched the first three parts yesterday and I can’t get Can’t Get You Out of My Head out of my head. I can attest to its effects as described by an Independent reviewer as

      “…..The feeling of watching Curtis’s best work has more in common with an encounter with a piece of art than it does a piece of history or a more traditional documentary. You emerge from
      Can’t Get You Out of My Head not with the clean satisfaction of rational combat, but the sense of having been carpet bombed out of your old worldview.”

  1. Patrick

    IIRC Matt Stoller’s “One World Order” (below) was linked to this NC 2014 post

    One World Order (corporate globalization and “free trade”)

    Twentieth century European and American elites have tried their hand at a One World government, a movement sparked by a 1939 book called “Union Now” by globalist Clarence Streit. Far from being a fringe idea, Streit’s concept has been endorsed by almost every major U.S. Presidential candidate since WW II, and supported by U.S. Congressional resolutions on more than one occasion.

    Streit’s idea, mainstream in the 1930s, remains alive today. The United Nations is called the United Nations for a reason. But lots of other institutions, like the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and the North American Treaty Organization, aren’t subtle about it either. The same is true about newer trade agreements like The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and The Transpacific Partnership (TPP) currently being fast-tracked (enacted without debate and without amendment) in Congress at the urging of President Obama. (2018 update: free trade agreements, including NAFTA and the TPP, lost favor during the 2016 elections; NAFTA is now being “renegotiated” while the TPP remains on the back-burner).

    Our trade policies derive from Streit’s geopolitical utopian vision, which was adopted and promoted by U.S. Undersecretary of State George Ball in the 1960’s. Ball argued that our trade policy was key to getting rid of nation-states altogether, and for allowing multinational corporations to rule the world. He saw the multinational corporation as the ideal resource management vehicle, the very pinnacle of progress and perfection.

    It’s amazing what you find in the Congressional Record. In the 1960’s, for example, you find American political officials engaged in an actual campaign to get rid of countries with their pesky parochial (local or selfish) interests and have the whole world managed by global corporations.

    The Congressional record reveals that in 1967 a Joint Economic Committee hearing was conducted to consider a major series of global trade talks after which “internationalists” like Wall Street bank executive David Rockefeller and former Undersecretary of State George Ball began pressing for the reduction of trade barriers and impediments. Ball was an architect of 1960s U.S. trade policy – he helped write the Trade Act of 1962, which set the stage for what eventually became the World Trade Organization.

    But Ball’s idea behind getting rid of these barriers wasn’t about free trade, it was about reorganizing the world so that corporations could manage resources for “the benefit of mankind”. It was a weird utopian vision that is being expressed today in United States trade negotiations.

    But back to the 1967 hearing. In the opening statement, before a legion of impressive Senators and Congressmen, Ball attacks the very notion of sovereignty. He goes after the idea that “business decisions” could be “frustrated by a multiplicity of different restrictions by relatively small nation states that are based on parochial (local or selfish) considerations,” and lauds the multinational corporation as the most perfect structure devised for the benefit of mankind. He also foreshadows our modern world by suggesting that commercial, monetary, and antitrust policies should just be and will inevitably be handled by supranational organizations. Here’s just some of that statement:

    “For the widespread development of the multinational corporation is one of our major accomplishments in the years since the war (WW II), though its meaning and importance have not been generally understood. For the first time in history man has at his command an instrument that enables him to employ resource flexibility to meet the needs of peoples all over the world. Today a corporate management in Detroit or New York or London or Dusseldorf may decide that it can best serve the market of country Z by combining the resources of country X with labor and plan facilities in country Y – and it may alter that decision 6 months from now if changes occur in costs or price or transport. It is the ability to look out over the world and freely survey all possible sources of production… that is enabling man to employ the world’s finite stock of resources with a new degree of efficiency for the benefit of all mankind.
    “But to fulfill its full potential the multinational corporation must be able to operate with little regard for national boundaries – or, in other words, little regard for restrictions imposed by individual national governments.

    “To achieve such a free trading environment we must do far more than merely reduce or eliminate tariffs. We must move in the direction of common fiscal concepts, a common monetary policy, and common ideas of commercial responsibility. Already the economically advanced nations have made some progress in all of these areas through such agencies as the OECD and the committees it has sponsored, the Group of Ten, and the IMF, but we still have a long way to go. In my view, we could steer a faster and more direct course… by agreeing that what we seek at the end of the voyage is the full realization of the benefits of a world economy.

    “Implied in this, of course, is a considerable erosion of the rigid concepts of national sovereignty, but that erosion is taking place every day as national economies grow increasingly interdependent, and I think it desirable that this process be consciously continued. What I am recommending is nothing so unreal and idealistic as a world government, since I have spent too many years in the guerrilla warfare of practical diplomacy to be bemused by utopian visions. But it seems beyond question that modern business – sustained and reinforced by modern technology – has outgrown the constrictive limits of the antiquated political structures in which most of the world is organized, and that itself is a political fact which cannot be ignored. For the explosion of business beyond national borders will tend to create needs and pressures that can help alter political structures to fit the requirements of modern man far more adequately than the present crazy quilt of small national states. And meanwhile, commercial, monetary, and antitrust policies – and even the domiciliary supervision of earth-straddling corporations – will have to be increasingly entrusted to supranational institutions….

    “We will never be able to put the world’s resources to use with full efficiency so long as business decisions are frustrated by a multiplicity of different restrictions by relatively small nation states that are based on parochial considerations, reflect no common philosophy, and are keyed to no common goal.”

    From this we learn that current trade policies, including the Trans-Pacific Partnership, are not and never have been about trade. You simply cannot disentangle colonialism, the American effort to unify Europe by creating the European Union, and American trade efforts – they are all part of the same recipe.

    After their opening statements, Ball and Rockefeller wanted to build a set of supranational institutions that could manage all the important economic questions, while national leaders got to argue about symbols.
    Conspiracy theorists who believe in UN-controlled black helicopters aren’t as wrong as you might think about trade policy. Oh sure they’re wrong, but so are the people who deny that our trade agreements are just about trade. They aren’t. These agreements are about getting rid of national sovereignty, and the people who first pressed for NAFTA were explicit about it. They really did want a global government of, by, and for corporations.

    1. flora

      Such a noble and magnanimous outlook our global corporationists have. All this effort toward universal corporate control (and astronomical profits) solely for mankinds’ (or a few mens’) benefit. To Serve Man. /s

      1. flora

        More seriously, the ‘one world’ idea is premised on the US corporations and their Western subsidiaries running the ‘one world’. Now there’s another economic hegemon rising; I wonder if that’s why neoliberal one-worlders are suddenly in a hurry.

  2. Michael

    Sounds like our currency.
    Don’t like how its operating, add another layer on top.
    Add another layer of security…
    Add another layer of data collection…

    1. JTMcPhee

      It’s pretty clear that it’s not “our” currency, except in the sense that “we” are forced to use it, thereby validating the froth on the top that sucks all the vitality out of the economic system (double entry bookkeeping?) that does the draining. The currency does not “belong” to the mopes whose labors create the wealth that currency draws its validity from.

      And I would emphasize that what’s described is a SUPRANATIONAL structure, bigger than nations and dominant over them. Go Nationalism! Go Autarky! A bas les corporations!

  3. Thuto

    It’s been unnerving to hear the phrase “government can’t do it on its own, we need the private sector by our side” creep into nearly every speech our president makes here in South Africa, only for business leaders to appear in the news the next day admonishing the government for not getting out of the way and letting business drive the agenda. Government thinks it can get a partnership of equals, big business is clear that a corporate oligarchy with a subservient state is in everyone’s best interests.

    Scale that dynamic and you get what this post talks about ie. the seemingly inexorable march towards a global corporate oligarchy (albeit with a democratic veneer to befuddle those who look close enough to spot a hint of malign intentions behind its grand sounding scheme). The very institutions (governments, multilateral institutions) that are meant to act as a check on the pernicious effects of unconstrained corporate power are now the conduits through which the profit driven, anti-social mandate of the world’s largest companies is discharged. Maybe it’s time to take up the pitchforks and charge Washington, London, Paris, Berlin, Pretoria et al.

  4. tegnost

    Two thoughts…
    One, The trump election blindsided the smart people. This whole nefarious machination, as pointed out in the post, has been going on for a while. WTO happened under clintoon(sic?) the philanderer (maybe it’s time to embellish the names of the putative leaders). In that light the world dodged a bullet when clintoon the lesser lost. TPP would have been revived in an “improved” format according to the thrust of the above argument. The whole operation is still going on, but in that brief space was the chance to catch up a bit. Remember the mantra of the tech lords is “I can do it if you can’t stop me” and now bezos is taking that and his access to data to the pentagon.Musk is ringing the planet with starlink. Uber is creating a new labor class of unprotected serfs. Everything they do is scalable globally as long as they have the bankers to destroy any opposition.
    Obviously this is why snowden is in russia and assange is in prison.

    1. neo-realist

      With all those anti-voting rights, anti-civil rights uber-conservative judges appointed to the courts by the victor over clintoon the lesser, I’m not all that sure we dodged a bullet here in the states as opposed to the world at large.

  5. JTMcPhee

    “Personnel is policy.” Government is people. Everywhere, pretty much, the creatures of the executive, legislature and courts are currently and increasingly “citizens of corporations” by training and prior experience and expected future employment and positions.

    How many of South Africa’s “government” are what used to be thought of as public servants, as “civil service,” as opposed to people moved by corporate interests into positions of power? Like everywhere, corporatization is a winning process, “because that’s where the money is.”

    Is a ruling set of the Chinese government from the “public servant” vein, or just another bunch of corporate shills and grifters and facilitators?

    Feels to me like this process is an irreversible reaction, like burning fuels to extract energy…

    1. Synoia

      like burning fuels to extract energy…

      Which is a trend to equilibrium. The problem than becomes slightly more complicated because there are two sets of equilibrium, stable and unstable.

      Given the lack of stability in human systems, I suspect we dance between different valleys of equilibrium, and there is no stable resting place – thus our human system is a set unstable equilibrium, with topping point and sudden and rapid change from one equilibrium to another.

      That is: chaotic.

    2. Kouros

      So very true!

      I experienced that on my own skin in my neck of the woods, being the type that tries to further the purpose of the organization, not the organization per se. Fighting to maintain the use of a free in house case management system that worked as opposed to buying an of the shelf inappropriate system designed for something else and costing $50 K was one thing and got me just a Shut the F/U (because of a blanket policy of outsourcing every technical service). Interfering with the wrong application of privacy legislation got me more than sidelined…

      But there are ways to fight and get some victories. At my assault, the government and parliament had to relinquish the use of one merit commissioner and replace the person with a different one, or else….

  6. Susan the other

    Best way to control profit-motive-profiteering’s usurpation of public authority is to build a firewall between sovereign money and private money. If private money wants to risk it all, fine. Let them do it on their own dime. And let them come begging, Please buy our product, we designed it just for you, here we’ll even give you some private money so you can make purchases. We can no longer commingle our finances with the enemy. Money itself is not “profit”; it is not private initiative; it is not there for the taking. Money is a sovereign agreement to use some medium of exchange to allow people to get the things they need – both consumers and producers – all things in the public interest. So, as it stands, there is only one “money” and it is sovereign money. To allow the corporations to pretend they actually have their own private money, when it has been created in the first place as sovereign money, is nonsense. It’s parasitism. If they will not behave in the public interest, let them print their own tokens – let them use crypto coins. But do not let them exchange it for sovereign money. Ever. And while the stakeholders (soon to be a synonymous term with bag-holder) are busy among themselves seeking some infinite wealth and power, maybe quantum wealth, probably making their electronic tokens received before they are even spent – the real world will be organizing to save the planet and live rationally and sustainably without the impoverishment of private money and private profits. Without exploitation. And to that end we need to give the military a new mandate. A green one. And free the military from the “private” corporate stranglehold they live by. This whole mess is brought to us by Congress for the last 75 years – it is a dereliction of public duty and it must stop.

    1. JTMcPhee

      Too much of the “value” of “private money” comes from the real value generated by the people who create the “full faith and credit” that sovereign money stands on.

  7. Mantid

    Get ‘em while they’re young. I am a recently retired public school teacher – USA. Google, Mac, Amazon and other very large corporations have their finger in the pie of education and their thumb on the children, staff and families. A large portion of the reason I retired was the corporate takeover of education. All students, from K – 12 (and beyond) “must” submit their homework on google docs, Camas, youtube, etc. Teachers must purchase their supplies via Amazon, field trip (remember those pre Covid?) forms and permissions, google docs ….. I think you get the picture. I left the schools because of this surveillance capitalism though I could have taught another 8 -10 years. Because I teach music, which is a lifelong endeavor, I still run various bands/orchestras. I “model” responsible behavior for the students: I garden and can food; I don’t allow cell phones at rehearsal (I don’t own one); I make passing comments about the corporatization of music (spotify, youtube, etc.) and while teaching music itself, show students ways to present their skills while avoiding “selling out”. It’s quite difficult but can be done. Thank you so much for this fine, well articulated article.

  8. Bee

    I’m just reading The Code of Capital: How the Law Creates Wealth and Inequality by Katharina Pistor. She explains very clearly how many of the international issues addressed in this article have been codified into law, protecting corporate interests at the expense of everyone else and the earth.

    1. Kouros

      Jonathan Nitzan and Shimshon Bichler – Capital as Power A Study of Order and Creorder

      I think NC had some post about them in the past, this is why I found about their work…

    2. deplorado

      ‘The Code of Capital’ is a fantastic book. I am reading it too, and find that Im saving about half of each page for future reference. Very strongly recommended.

      Although I wish it was written in less of a popular style. The pop style isn’t very obtrusive, but it does somewhat dilute the forcefulness of the insights she reveals. It also seems to me that the fact that English is not her native language does sometimes come through in the sentence structure (forgive me if Im committing the same sin here). Also, I detected that she tries to speak very openly about what the legal coding enables as a matter of technique/technology, but avoids making a further, radicalizing, connection to politics and power. I suppose that is the only way that it could be published – but it is nevertheless an excellent, insightful book, packed with illuminating statements, and everyone should read it.

  9. Synoia

    Now we all become Libertarians?

    Which them morphs to becoming a set of “Feudal States” (The Corporations). Who meet regularly to device what policies should be pursued, and do become Feudal States, in as much as one or two Corporations dominate specific sets of Economic Activities.

    The Feudal Corporations then will arrange to have their economic activities protected by the Governing Apparatus.

    I’ve read Science Fiction postulating such a System: Possibly The Syncic by Kornbluth

    I believe I read that in the Summer of ’64 we moved to Felixstowe at the beginning of the summer vacation.

    The mental issue I have is that for the individual, I cannot but think there is little distinction between living in a Communist State, and a Fascist or Libertarian State. Both have a “Nobility” and both pay lip service to their citizens, while both appear to punish dissent severely.

    1. Alex Cox

      Kornbluth’s book is titled The Syndic.

      As I recall, it depicts a US in which the Mafia is more powerful than the corporations, and runs the government. And the system works pretty well…

      Kornbluth was a wonderful SF writer, all of whose stories are worth reading. His book with Fred Pohl, The Space Merchants, written in the early 1950s, depicts a world with which the reader may be strangely familiar.

      1. Michaelmas

        The Space Merchants, written in the early 1950s, depicts a world with which the reader may be strangely familiar.

        Indeed. Kornbluth’s story ‘The Matching Morons’ from 1951 was essentially ripped off by the film ‘Idiocracy’ and, arguably, by current American reality.

        Pohl and Kornbluth’s novel 1955 GLADIATOR-AT-LAW is one I like as much as THE SPACE MERCHANTS and where the world depicted through a 1950s SF funhouse mirror is at least as ‘strangely familiar’ to the modern reader, focusing as it does on Wall Street instead of Madison Avenue (as MERCHANTS did).

        And yes, Kornbluth was a good writer. He seems to have been one of those very rare authors with writing talent from the time he dropped out of the womb, and sold his first (still readable) story at 16. Not a happy camper, however — he had a fatal heart attack at 37.

    2. John Anthony La Pietra

      Also perhaps worth considering is David Brin’s 1990 novel Earth, which has in its background a world war against . . . Switzerland?! As TV Tropes would say, It Makes Sense in Context — including, IMO, the context of this post. . . .

  10. JEHR

    Every time I hear Bill Gates pontificate on radio or TV I get a really sick feeling in my stomach. Is he pretending to be wise because he is the wealthiest man in the world? Does he forget that the wealthiest may also be the greediest?

  11. Jeremy Grimm

    I had trouble reading this post, beginning with its title. I checked the meaning of “coup d’état” but to me it ill-fits what is going on at the WEF with its “Great Reset”. After reading this post, with effort, I was left looking for its content and wondering who or what sponsored the Transnational Institute (TNI). In the middle of a list of what appear to be European government based sponsors the Rockefeller Brothers Fund and the Open Society Foundations, founded by George Soros show up. I believe the message of this post, if it can be said to have a message, might be: fear the model of multistakeholder capitalism the WEF is pushing to replace multi-lateralism. That is a little too abstract for me.

    After I heard about the Davos WEF “Great Reset”, I went to the WEF website to learn more about it. I found a forest of links to vacuous and “feel good” content with beautiful images and slick web-presentation. A giant “Green-Paintbrush” was all in my face. On the surface the TNI and the Open Society Foundation website were less glitzy, and in my face. After seeing behind a few curtains from watching “Planet of the Humans” and associating and the other Green initiatives with Soros, I did not dig into rabbit-holes I expected find.

    For fun, I grabbed a couple of quotes from the post:
    “Now who chose them? Who chose this body to come together? Who’s it accountable to?”
    After the last many elections I suggest asking those questions after replacing “body” with the bodies of US Congressmen, Senators, President, Executive Branch, and Supreme Court.
    Then regard:
    “We desperately need global collaboration and cooperation but it must be based on public and democratic systems of governance not unaccountable secretive forms of governance dominated by corporations.”
    I would ask how and where these accountable public and democratic systems of governance can be found or built. I am not inclined to look to TNI for guidance. Let’s bell the cat.

    G. William Domhoff, “Interlocks and Interactions Among the Power Elite
    The Corporate Community, Think Tanks, Policy-Discussion Groups, and Government” [] traces a part of the Corporate and Private Foundation webs of power and influence. This post from TNI feels like a TED talk. Maybe Candide has the best idea — “Let us tend our garden.”

    1. ckimball

      I am wondering. Could it be that self censoring is a now component of a posted conversation like this one.

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