THE GREAT RESET IS NEITHER
The urge to save humanity is almost always only a false-face for the urge to rule it. ______ H.L. Mencken
Under capitalism man exploits man, under communism it is just the opposite. ______ John Kenneth Galbraith
There are no conspiracies, but there are no coincidences. _______ Steve Bannon
I would set you free if I knew how. But it isn’t free out here. All the animals, the plants, the minerals, even other kinds of men, are being broken and reassembled every day, to preserve an elite few, who are the loudest to theorize on freedom but the least free of all. _____ Thomas Pynchon
Recently, conspiracy theorists went even more berserk when the World Economic Forum (Davos Boys) began using the Covid Pandemic and the Climate Crisis as the rationale for a GREAT RESET (vague elite proposals for a spanking new cooperative capitalism to address mounting economic, medical, and environmental crises on a global scale). One of the few clear features, so far, is that perhaps elites will spend less on climate denial campaigns. While creating the illusion of un-rigging the system, it is actually re-rigging on a much grander fashion. Moreover, most of this re-rigging of the game has been underway for decades if not the better part of a century. This plan at least has the potential virtue of bringing elites and their agenda out of the shadows. I am reminded of when a BYU religion professor and former FBI agent, Cleon Skousen, in his book, The Naked Capitalists, reviewed Georgetown history professor and Clinton mentor, Carrol Quigley’s chronicle of the Anglo-American Banking Combine (Tragedy and Hope), and believed he had found the smoking gun of global communism in the corporate boardrooms. Only most of the bullets had been fired near the end of era of European colonialism. This fact was also tangentially discovered by Hannah Arendt back in the 1950s in his classic, The Origins of Totalitarianism (which is back on best seller lists). In short, all the Isms (especially Capitalism) are actually only slightly differing versions of oligarchy (the rule of the unscrupulous few). Since the end of WWII, global elites, greatly aided by both US political parties, have been hellbent on erasing all remnants of the New Deal and restoring some sort of Financial Feudalism (with governments as subservient vassals and the masses as willing serfs). In essence, converting their oligarchy back toward an obligatory aristocracy. For much more on this resurrection of feudalism and fascism by mainstream economists, see:
Button, Button, Whose Got the Button
Contrary to most conspiracy theorists, the Great Reset is not a communist nor socialist plot. Our reigning oligarchs do not want state ownership of anything, they just want the state to protect and expand their ownership of everything. All the far-right discussion of elites as closet socialists is a complete misreading of who actually has their finger near the reset button. Most of these guys were once card-carrying capitalists, who quickly learned, as Michael Harrington observed, “in places like America they have socialism for rich and free enterprise for the poor”. Ditto for kleptocrats across the planet, who merely pretend to honor their local isms, proclaiming they are merely dutiful stewards of the commonwealth. While various progressive elements have been duped (much like the far-right has been duped by their own fascist demagogues), the great reset is just the latest attempt to manufacture credibility for the decades long neofeudal enterprise with fake allegiances in all directions.
The project is now is nearly complete: yet, with few, if any, of the ismatic promises ever met. Remember Ross Perot’s “great sucking sound of NAFTA”? Well, the sound (and smell) of the Great Reset is that of millions of toilets flushing, with all the floaties remaining. It has been undetectable to many for half a century or more; not so much because it is a grand conspiracy of various secret societies, rather because leading economists were so successful in asserting their ideological vision for a highly stratified society. Now, given Covid and the Climate Crisis, the Davos Boys and their delusional sycophants have rebranded their on-going project with discussions of the “corporate social responsibility” and vague “stakeholder values” (low carbon, high fairness, etc.). They want us to pitch in and “build back better” after their increasing enfeebled version of capitalism and/or mixed socialism collapses. They want us to help them destroy what little remains of Democracy to save their fake version of Capitalism.
Regarding their newly embellished button, one wag remarked that “the Davos men could not even find the button, let alone push it”. They require our help to locate the missing element of full-frontal feudalism — — widespread acquiescence to utter subjugation. We are already converging upon their world where as they tell us “We will own nothing, but be happy”, but they haven’t quite worked out the happy part yet. Elites merely claiming title to all of the collateral, already repledged hundreds of times over, is the easy part. Ditto for all the public lands, resources, and even future taxes to cover a small portion of the galactic levels of public debt. Concessions to labor, meanwhile, will actually demand less or their attention, as AI (Artificial Intelligence) and monopoly consolidation forge ahead, and exceedingly small “guaranteed incomes” are provided by a diminished pool of tax payers. Making of us cheerful about this this ultimate permanent dispossession, is their task at hand. Maybe free distribution of serious mood modifying drugs (like the “Soma” in Brave New World) and free admission to the Metaverse will help. Nevertheless, it is very hard to believe that their previously well cultivated mythology of pathological individualism will simply disappear in an instant.
Don’t get me wrong, we need a dramatic economic transformation (e.g., restoration of the ancient “Debt Jubilees” for a start), but I do not believe that it should automatically entail a return to the ownership, governance, and religious patterns of the Middle Ages. While the iron fist of fascism seems to be re-establishing itself across the planet, transforming themselves into praiseworthy aristocrats remains a monumental chore. Finally focusing attention on serious problems without actually having serious solutions could make matters much worse. “Let them eat virtual bread”, might not cut it. Are our current Masterbaters of the Universe (who created the lion’s share of this mess), really up to the task?
The WEF’s sudden romance with so called “Stakeholder Capitalism” (suggesting that firms should directly serve their employees, customers, suppliers, fenders, and their communities at large, as well as their shareholders) is the most incredible crock of all. The stakeholder theory of management was designed for a bygone era of company towns and privately held firms, and was never more than wishful thinking on the part of Business Ethics (an oxymoron if there ever was one) professors, like myself. The concept had its origins in the writings of Chester Barnard via his 1938 book, The Functions of the Executive, and it was popularized in the 1980s by Darden School (UVA) professor, Ed Freeman (who only looks like Karl Marx). In the meantime, the theory and practice of business was thoroughly captured by the notion by “Shareholder Primacy”. This off-the-cuff idea of Chicago School (neofeudal) economist, Milton Friedman, became the touchstone for corporate leadership and completely altered the course of business and finance over the last 40 years. This occurred despite the fact that CEOs like GE’s Jack Welch called it the “dumbest idea in the world”. Such ingenious stupidity allowed various banks and “shadow banks” (“vulture” capitalists and hedge and “pirate” equity funds), as well as ratings agencies and insurance companies, etc. to undermine governance and focus CEOs and CFOs on financial shenanigans, stock manipulations, etc. In recent years, 70% of corporate earnings went to stock buybacks (which used to be illegal); and firms with virtually no profits have valuations in the stratosphere. In this milieu many, if not most, firms are mere conduits for the accumulation of phantom wealth. Building a better mouse trap or even turning a profit are subordinate to providing large scale investors with platforms for pumping and dumping shares. So, it goes without saying that quaint concepts like “good corporate stewardship” have had little place amid this planetary Ponzi scheme.
The Saintly Saboteurs
The last time rentiers and financiers had this much raw power and privilege was during the Gilded Age (late 1800s to early 1900s). Back then a bold yet largely forgotten economist named Thorsten Veblen took a more ecological approach and explained elite behavior in terms of “predatory impulses”. He saw the economy was devolving back to “barbarism”, and saw how corporate leaders were rewarded for “sabotaging” their own industries. He analyzed the ways in which “Absentee landlords” gobbled up all the serviceable land, and a new corrupt American gentry gradually displaced the aging European aristocracy. This era culminated two horrible world wars and one monumental global depression.
With the end of WWII, elites lost their grip momentarily. Of course, they regained their power via the saga of the American Empire and by enshrining a new banking and trade apparatus (IMF, World Bank, WTO, etc.) to colonize the world with US dollars. As financialization grew, oil cartels, tech monopolies, and war profiteers systematically dismantled American industry and its middle class. They also gave us protracted financial crises, perpetual warfare, and continued destruction of fragile global eco-systems. In their recent book, Sabotage: The Hidden Nature of Finance, gifted business scholars, Anastasia Nesvetailova and Ronen Palan describe the present era of hyper-financialization as Veblen’s predation story on steroids.
The current ecology of money and banking is the mother of all parasitic relationships, where the mass production of phantom wealth robs from future generations yet unborn and diverts vital resources away from sustainable production and innovation. Based in the fundamental frauds of “fractional reserve banking” and the creation of money as interest bearing debts (literally “out of thin air”), this system astronomically extends a debt monster even as defaults amass. As a mountainous house of cards, it periodically collapses devouring the real economy, and thus constantly requires care and feeding by the tax payers (which elites have arranged to only minutely include them). As the late Buzz Holling and various other socio-ecological systems scholars point out, a coherent economy would strive to create institutions which enhance “resilience” and work with natural “adaptive cycles”, rather fueling destabilization and pandering to apex predators. For further discussion on this point, see:
The Great Gangster Game
Without fundamentally altering our financial systems (e.g., nearly 100% reserves and making banking more like a public utility) along with various dramatic policy changes (e.g., a Tobin Tax, Glass-Steagal, etc.), the Great Reset will merely be a continuation of the Great Grift, and eventually the parasites will completely overwhelm their hosts. At that point, it really will be a deadly detour back to the Dark Ages, only with vastly enhanced systems of surveillance and suppression (e.g., AI, facial recognition, and social tracking & stacking, etc.). Even if some elites have somehow rediscovered “the obligations of wealth”, the many sociopaths among them will still be engineering crises. Hence, requiring more bailouts, further anti-trust allowances, and continuing regulatory relief. The ultimate insult, however, is that they also seem demand that we further honor and reward their raping and pillaging, concretize their dominion, and simply thrust them to take care us and our planet. It would be comical were it not so serious. The unstated ultimatum seems to be “get into line or more economic, bio-chemical, and climate chaos (and accompanying social unrest) will ensue”. This appears to be a colossal “protection racket”.
Thus far the only element of the actual protection are we have seen are the ESG (Environmental, Social, Governance) Criteria, and like the “Pirate Code” (of the Caribbean films), “they are really just sort of suggestions”. Critics refer to it “woke-washing”. CEOs are merely compiling their phony lists of “urgent concerns” (from “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” to transgender rights and from overcoming “short termism” to mitigating Armageddon). Famed Venture Capitalist, Chamath Palihapitiya, called ESG a “complete fraud”. While serving as vague clues for naive social investors, they’re far less specific than “organic labeling” and much more poorly enforced.
Meanwhile, on the climate front, there is little significant headway being made. Furthermore, with long life of greenhouse gases and the planet preparing to belch forth a crap load more from the not so permafrost, we are probably already well past the several “no return” points. If every firm based in the Americas and Europe reduced their carbon footprint to zero tomorrow, we would still have a huge problem with India, China, and Russia. This is no excuse, however, for inactivity on Green Energy. Were it not for the complete regulatory capture by with fossil fuels industry, we would have had been burning far less polluting hydrogen (generated from water via electrolysis and as a storage medium for wind and solar power) decades ago. Unfortunately, I suspect elites, while at long last calling for climate action, will continue to perpetuate the suicidal agenda of “drill baby drill” until things get are really horrendous (e.g., mass starvation and genocidal migration wars). Only then will they attempt some damn-fool “hail Marry pass”, like Geoengineering the atmosphere of the entire planet (involving catastrophic risks). Unfortunately, when one can privatize ungodly gains and socialize voluminous loses at will, risk has little meaning.