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On Populism Pt I
The Failures of Progressivism
As discussed in my last article, the root of our problems seems to stem from upper-class control over political systems and even the technological advances our civilization chooses to implement. This control affords the elites to engage in more than just political wrangling for big government contracts, but gives them the power to participate in what can only be described as social engineering. Evidence abounds that a very enmeshed corporate cartel has managed to engulf much of the planet within an economic system where governments and transnational businesses work in lockstep to centralize the means of production within the hands of the very few who sit atop a hierarchical pyramid of power.
Though some call it Capitalism, this system of economic enslavement could best be described as Colonial Imperialism. Finding its roots in the feudal systems of medieval Europe, the modern leviathan evolved out of the earliest corporations designed to distribute the plunder of the various European Empires. Though the fervor for outright colonization has faded into the dustbin of history, financial mechanisms continue to extract labor and centralize production and distribution facilities long after the hoards of conquering armies have receded.
Central banks, working closely with international organizations such as the World Bank and International Monetary Fund, continue to exploit the resources of the world by supplying large government loans in return for development contracts with corporations within the cartel. If you haven’t already, I suggest reading Confessions of an Economic Hitman by John Perkins who describes how this process works. You can hear my interview with him for a further explanation.
Though the Progressive movement has been ostensibly fighting the growth of this cartel for nearly one hundred years, the past two years have been the most successful for the upper class in the history of humanity. The one percent of the one percent managed to extract trillions of dollars from the economy during the covid crisis alone, while the lower classes have been taking a beating since the early 1970s. I think it’s time that those seeking to empower the lower classes in the face of such massive wealth inequality begin to seek alternatives to Progressivism as the pathway through which liberation will occur.
Elite Advocacy of Progressivism
Strong evidence suggests that the Progressive movement was never really intended to achieve the publicly stated goal of reducing wealth inequality. Its history is replete with upper-class interests spending an abundance of both time and money to develop and propagate the Progressive movement from its inception. As described in the linked interview, the origins of this movement were promoted by organizations connected to the billionaire class. In the early days, these proponents of “scientific socialism” did not hide their affiliation with other materialistic perspectives such as eugenics, the burgeoning technocracy movement, as well as social sciences that included operant behavioral conditioning and the use of propaganda to affect the mass mind.
Upper-class foundations have long been accused of supporting the radical “left”. In 1954 a Congressional Committee, headed by Representative B. Carroll Reece of Tennessee, was tasked with understanding the impact these billionaire foundations had on creating and applying public policy. Its chief investigator, Norman Dodd, discovered a tangled web of elite money supporting Communist, Socialist, and Progressive forces the world over. This interview by author and independent activist G. Edward Griffen with Dodd explains his findings:
His analysis of Carnegie Endowment meeting notes reveals a desire to use war as an agent of social change, control the education system in the United States and abroad, infiltrate the US State Department, and promote Collectivism to monopolize the means of production.
This last statement seems to fly in the face of Progressive ideals. Collectivist ideologies are commonly considered to fight the effects of free-market policies to reduce wealth inequality. Yet here we find evidence that the Capitalist class has fostered this movement to effectively aid in the process of centralizing wealth accumulation in the hands of the few. Is it possible that modern Progressives have essentially been tricked into believing they participate in a working-class movement while inadvertently supporting upper-class interests? How could this be possible?
A False Dialectic
Core to the Progressive belief system is the notion that free-market policies are the root cause of the monopolization of wealth and power. Stemming from the Marxist concept of materialist dialectics, this theory of historical evolution posits the inevitable procession of economic power into the hands of an upper class. Beginning with primitive societies, and evolving into Feudal, then Capitalist systems of organization, this dialectic continues until the vast majority are so subservient that they are forced to rebel, resulting in the End of History in which mankind will liberate themselves from these forces of oppression. This final stage is referred to as Communism.
The notion is that before the final revolution, natural free market forces which include property rights provisions inevitably lead to the accrual of wealth in the hands of a few who dominate a competitive market. The strong survive and thrive within this state of nature until only the most powerful are left with complete control of a population essentially reduced to economic slavery. Only through violent revolution can this cycle of oppression come to an end.
Marxist philosophy is built upon the work of Friedrich Hegel, who first posited the notion that history was determined through this dialectal procession. Hegel, however, believed that previous democratic revolutions against the feudal system represented the “end of history” as mankind had entered the age of reason and transcended the forces of nature that powered these historical movements.
This dialectic historicity lies at the heart of the modern political paradigm. Those on the “left” are proponents of this final revolution, while those on the “right” believe in Hegel’s version of events. From the “left” perspective, “right-wing” advocates are stuck inside the Capitalist phase of the dialectical process, which, from their view, will continue to erode the economic sustainability of the lower classes until revolution becomes inevitable.
Over the last 150 years, these theories have been tempered by Fabian Socialism and Progressivism, which both feel that a Socialist revolution may occur over time, rather than as the result of a bloody rebellion. Both movements seek to increase government control over the means of production to combat what they view as the pernicious effect of free-market forces to produce wealth inequality.
In practicality, most voters in the modern-day see the dialectic represented by the for-profit corporate system on the “right”, and the publicly funded government system on the “left”. If the corporations are allowed to participate in an unfettered market, they would dominate, centralize the means of production, and wield near-total power over the mass of humanity. The “left” prevents this inevitability by promoting government interventions designed to prevent this from happening.
Were this the case, however, one would expect these same upper-class interests to invest heavily in free-market ideas and ideologies which would aid in their desires to centralize power. It would make sense that these tax-exempt foundations would pour their nearly inexhaustible funds into spreading the ideas of Austrian economics, sound money, and the necessities of a solid property rights system. Instead, the opposite is the case. The evidence of elite funding for Progressive causes is everywhere, while very few educational institutions even offer a cursory introduction to the principles of free-market economics. Free-market principles are not within the purview of the mainstream. Rather, we have seen a marked rise in Progressive educators to the point where alternative thinkers are feeling silenced and shunned.
Why would the wealthy among us seek to control educational institutions, then steer them towards collectivist belief systems, unless these belief systems were in the best interest of the upper class? If these collectivist systems of thought are in the interest of the upper class, how does a theory of materialist dialectics make sense?
Dialectics and Ethics
The truth is it doesn’t. The theory simply does not posit an understanding of the real mechanisms of power that constitute the root causes of wealth inequality. Despite real Progressive strides with the creation of a welfare state, the implementation of an expansive public education system, massive government intervention in the healthcare market, and the apparent takeover of academic institutions with Progressive ideals, wealth inequality remains at an all-time high.
The evidence supports the notion that the upper-class themselves are not threatened by Progressive ideas, or they would not go out of their way to fund the very institutions that purport to work against elite interests. How can this be?
By utilizing historicity founded on the principles of dialectic evolution, I think Progressives have missed the mark. Rather than viewing corporations as extensions of a Capitalist, free-market system inevitably created through the forces of dialectics in history, can we not view them as extensions of government power created for processing and distributing the plunder of colonization?
By upholding the belief that governments exist in opposition to corporate power, as the left/right paradigm requires, Progressives have been taught to regard support of government as support for those naturally oppressed by this Capitalist phase of dialectical progression. What if we switched our historical paradigm to one that emphasizes morality over inevitable historical forces? The political conversation changes drastically when the discussion shifts from economics to ethics.
Prior to the development of dialectical thinking in politics, the concept of virtue was inextricable with any discussion about politics. We want to make sure that good people are calling the shots. When bad people take over, the life of the average person by definition becomes jeopardized. An unethical person with the power of government at their back can do irreparable harm. Pretty simple right? Unfortunately, history is replete with examples of what bad people do when they take power.
These ethical philosophical conversations drove the movements that became the Democratic revolutions of the 19th century. Constitutional Republics began to replace the old feudal system limiting the power of government by instituting a system of ethics based on the notion that all individuals had rights. It was unethical for governments to use power to impose laws that infringed upon those rights. Those responsible for the use of violence in this way lacked virtue.
By shifting the conversation away from ethics to dialectics, oppression became an inevitable part of a larger historical process, rather than caused by the unethical actions of a person or organization. Viewing history through the lens of the dialectic paradigm actually gives these people a pass. Controlling and monopolizing behavior from the elite class becomes just a natural consequence of history, rather than the result of personal actions that run counter to the public good. The oppressed are asked to wait until some critical mass is achieved, sometime in the future, before acting to stop or prevent those who break ethical laws by ignoring the natural rights enshrined in many national Constitutions.
Utilizing a dialectical sense of history allows free rein for those who seek power to gain it. It provides a false sense of the inevitability of oppression, leaving the oppressed victimized, rather than empowered.
The Corporate/Government Complex
While ostensibly colonization appears to be defined in terms of political conquest alone, it is easy for military control to hide the real function of Empire. This function, of course, is to reap the benefits of the resources the colonizing force now has under its control. If the military leaves, but the resources are still under the control of the Empire, has colonization really ended? Clearly not.
Empire building, in its most basic ethical permutation, is a form of theft on a large scale. To perpetrate this theft, European royal families established a network of transnational corporations. The East India Trading Company and Dutch East India Company are but two examples. These public/private institutions were responsible for the collection of raw materials as well as the manufacture and distribution of the goods produced. This early form of what is now called Capitalism was known as Mercantilism.
Though many of the Democratic Revolutions of the late 18th and early 19th century explicitly argued for free markets rather than the centralized and monopolized markets that characterized Imperial Mercantilism, actual economic independence was another story. Over two-hundred years since the Age of Enlightenment spawned these attempts at self-determination, overwhelming historical evidence suggests that the Mercantile system remained and expanded into the modern corporate cartel. These early attempts to sever the codependent relationship with Empire ultimately failed. What does the Queen of England care if Commonwealth governments claim autonomy, so long as she still gets paid by British Petroleum and Cargill Corporation, and other modern-day versions of the East India Company?
Though the left/right paradigm describes government intervention as the solution to corporate control, wealthy elites at the head of the corporate cartel control political power, creating more of a symbiotic relationship than an opposing one. Much of what is considered “corporate profits” are primarily accrued through government spending, not through engaging in any kind of free-market. Last year, government spending rose to 44% of the entire GDP of the United States. Where is most of that money going if not into corporate coffers?
Nearly half the entire economy is directly controlled by the decisions made in government buildings. Those corporations with strong political connections get access to these funds in the form of large government contracts. This volume of business from one customer provides a massive advantage compared to small companies trying to compete in a “free market”. The government/corporate complex is a cash cow.
Even in the so-called “Democratic Socialist” nations of Western Europe, we find governments simply buying more from well-connected corporations than in the “Capitalist” United States. Though these countries will give goods and services to their citizens in the form of subsidies, these goods and services are provided, to a great extent, by the very corporations these governments are supposed to be fighting against. Though there is a surface appearance that industries have been “nationalized”, more often than not these services have simply been contracted out to the corporation of choice. If your company is not part of the transnational cartel, good luck getting a piece of that action.
Communist countries, who claim government ownership of the means of production, also fall prey to the needs of transnational corporatism. This conversation with Patrick Wood, discussing the work of Antony Sutton, describes how Western financiers were intimately involved in the development of the Soviet Union. We also discuss the rise of China, which has clearly altered the definition of Communism to include corporate partners.
All forms of government are just slightly different versions of the government/corporate complex, with slightly different organizational structures. We are taught to believe that “Capitalist” and Communist” countries are in opposition, but power is power. The corporate/government complex profits, no matter how it is organized.
By utilizing a dialectic, rather than ethical, view of history, the Progressive does not see what is occurring right under their nose. While continuing to repeat the mantra of a need for National Healthcare or more public funding of education, they do not see this funding going straight to the corporate system, which will happily produce all the goods and services required. No free market necessary.
Clearly, the Progressive movement has failed in its stated goal of fighting corporate power to reduce the wealth inequality they perceive to be an inevitable result of free market forces. This failure should provide skepticism to those concerned with an understanding of the root causes of economic oppression. Not only has wealth inequality increased exponentially over the more than one hundred years of Progressive advocacy, but strong evidence suggests direct upper-class involvement, rather than grassroots action, propelled Progressivism to the forefront of the struggle for economic justice. This involvement suggests that the wealthiest among us do not perceive the movement as a threat to the status quo.
Through a misunderstanding of the principle forces driving major historical events, Progressives have been fooled into a belief that government power works in contrast to corporate oppression. In reality, a corporate/government complex, working in lockstep, has continued to centralize both political and economic power in the hands of an upper class. This complex, characteristic of colonial empire, is emboldened whenever power is concentrated, whether that concentration occurs in corporate boardrooms or government offices.
Though believing they are helping the poor and underserved members of our population, by centralizing government power, their belief system inadvertently also centralizes corporate power. Ultimately, the concentration of power leads to the concentration of wealth.
This explains why upper-class interests have and continue to promote Progressive causes. Knowing they have control over the political arena, the centralization of the means of production, whether in the hands of the government or through corporate largess, will always benefit the wealthy. Progressivism is just their way of convincing the masses to not only accept, but advocate for this centralization of power.
Once open-minded to an ethical sense of history, it becomes easy to see through the ruse. The corporate/government complex is exposed for what it has always been, an imperial construct designed to process the harvests of empire. The solution to the problem of “Capitalist” oppression is not government power, as that simply feeds the beast, but rather the decentralization of power in all its forms.
We would all do well to drop dialectical thinking, whether we identify as on the “left” or the “right”. There will always be those of us who prefer to be more community oriented and those of us who prefer a more individualistic path. We shouldn’t let these natural differences divide us. Through dialogue, rather than dialectic, we can harmonize these impulses and help each other discover the truth through the lies.
In Parts II & III of this series, I will discuss a political movement that could do just that.
Please consider subscribing if you are interested in learning more about my perspective, and I look forward to engaging in the broader conversation as those of us resistant to the technocratic takeover continue to seek a healthier relationship with life, the planet, and each other as we move forward.
For more information about my work and to find all episodes of my podcasts, go to www.theshiftnow.com. Paid subscribers to The Populist Papers will receive a subscription to “The Shift with Doug McKenty” and have access to all feature-length versions of the show.