Stephen W. Browne Rants and Raves

January 4, 2016

Who runs the world?

Filed under: Op-eds,Politics — Stephen W. Browne @ 7:26 am

In the run up to the nominations I have noticed something about people’s views of the electoral process. There are those who believe that only their preferred candidate can fix things, and the other candidate will work diligently to destroy the republic once in office. Take your pick.

Then there are the people who believe it makes no difference who gets elected, that elites working in secret control the world, and allow us only the illusion of choice.

It used to be the first view was “normal” and the second the quasi-religious conviction of a few nutty conspiracy theorists.

Has anyone noticed the conspiratorial view seems to have become normalized?

Consider all the talk about “the one percent” and how similar it seems to the John Birch Society (remember them?) with their talk of The Conspiracy that runs the world from the Hotel de Bilderberg in the Netherlands and the Trilateral Commission, and gets together for fun and recreation at the Bohemian Grove.

That some people are richer, more powerful and influential than the rest of us is not news. The political reform organization RepresentUs cites a study that showed zero correlation between the likelihood of a bill passing congress and how popular it is among the general electorate, and a strong correlation between the likelihood of passing and how popular it is among the top ten percent of wage earners.

But that’s ten percent, not one percent.

According to IRS data for 2013-2014, the average per capita income in the U.S. is $48,000. To get into the top one percent you have to be making at least $380,354. Cutoff for the top 10 percent is $113,799.

This is of course a measure of income, not savings, real property, art collections, etc.

Point remains, those “one-percenters” are not shadowy individuals who live in penthouses in New York, London, and Paris when they are not relaxing on their private islands or country mansions. You quite likely have known someone who makes or has made in some year enough to qualify for that percentile. You might very well know people in the ten percent well enough to call by their first name and make small talk with.

There are for example, quite a few farmers who fall into those brackets in terms of cash flow. But ask a farmer if he feels rich as harvest approaches in a drought year.

Farmers by the way, are about one percent of the population these days. I can remember when one in 13 Americans was a farmer. And at farm meetings I’ve covered I’ve heard quite a lot about how this translates into their business getting regulated by people with no personal experience with wresting a living from the land.

But what about the banksters and big oil?

Influential for sure. And like representatives of all influential sectors of the economy, able to get legislation passed that makes it easier for them to make and keep money, harder to lose it in the market, and scandalously rescued by taxpayers from the consequences of their bad decisions.

But do they run the world?

Remember how the invasion of Iraq was all about oil? When Iraq was briefly reasonably peaceful the rights to exploit the country’s oil resources were auctioned off. Care to guess how much American-based companies got out of it?


So is anybody in charge? We can see how powerful some are, but on the other hand the world seems remarkably chaotic – which is even scarier than the notion of all-powerful elites working in secret.

A friend who is an avid board gamer recently introduced me to a game called “Illuminatus” named for one of the secret societies which allegedly runs the world. It’s a simulation game in which players are invited to create conspiracies to take over everything on the board.

Something interesting happens however. The invariable result is that alliances are created, and just as readily broken as it becomes advantageous for players to betray their present alliances and make new ones. The lesson seems to be that secret conspiracies are unstable, just as cartel monopolies are in a free market.

The world it seems, resists being “run” by anybody. Whether that’s comforting or alarming is another question.

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