Transnational Capitalism

The world’s epicenter of capitalism is the United States, and its reach/power/influence circumnavigates the globe. The elites of the capitalist class are no longer tied to territoriality or driven by national competition. “U.S. capitalism has expanded its reach by morphing into a Transnational Capitalist Class.”1 The driving force that binds together this elite cadre is free market capitalism; it is the heartbeat of a worldwide network of capitalists that thrive off profits and wealth creation. Their nonpareil world order is driven by money which equates to success, power, collegiality, and increasingly, as this new world order coalesces into the most formidable political entity in the history of humankind, democratic nation-states lose the legacy of the Age of Enlightenment, which played such a major role in the French Revolution (1789-99) and the American Revolution (1775-83), contributing to the Declaration of Independence (1776), and the U.S. Bill of Rights (1791) — stripping away national identities.

The notion that a company or corporate executive or wealthy entrepreneur is bound by an allegiance to their country of origin is passé. The elite capitalists of today are bound to one another, not to countries. They meet at the same conferences, like the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, or the The Bilderberg Group annual geopolitic forum, or in Asia it is the Boao Forum on China’s Hainan Island each spring, or the Aspen Institute’s Ideas Festival, or Herb Allen’s Sun Valley gathering for media moguls, or the Google Zeitgeist conference, all defining the characteristics of today’s plutocrats; they are forming a global community, and their ties to one another are increasingly closer than their ties to the multitudes back home.

They attend the same operas and polo matches, stay at the same 5-star hotels, lease the same private jets, dine at the same 5-star restaurants, meet Bono, and ceaselessly travel the globe together, with homes on every continent, residing wherever the weather is seasonally most favourable. Their allegiances extend well beyond the borders of their nation-states of origin, and they could care less about the various underling classes of society in any particular country where they do business.

This new global elite, according to Chrystia Freeland (Global Editor at Large, Reuters, who traveled with, and mingles with, the elites): “Perhaps most noteworthy, they are becoming a transglobal community of peers who have more in common with one another than with their countrymen back home. Whether they maintain primary residences in New York or Hong Kong, Moscow or Mumbai, today’s super-rich are increasingly a nation unto themselves.”2

This federation of convenience by the global elite is a lingering problem for the lower economic classes in America. The U.S.-based CEO of one of the world’s largest hedge funds told Chrystia Freeland that his firm’s investment committee often discusses the question of who wins and who loses in today’s economy. In a recent internal debate, he said, one of his senior colleagues argued that the hollowing-out of the American middle class didn’t really matter. “His point was that if the transformation of the world economy lifts four people in China and India out of poverty and into the middle class, and meanwhile means one American drops out of the middle class, that’s not such a bad trade.” Notice the CEO’s reference to “not such a bad trade” as representative of free market lingo, i.e., “trade.” Everything is measured in trade terms, like statistics, if you look in the mirror, you’ll see the reflection of a commodity.

This viewpoint is typical of how the global ruling class thinks, and proof positive of it is reflected in today’s politics in America. The right wing embodies this same viewpoint by striving to strip the federal government of public welfare services, privatizing governmental assets, and undercutting benefits to society at large, especially via manipulation of the federal tax code. This same occurrence is happening in real time right now in Greece, Spain, and Portugal as the cadre of elite technocrats out of Brussels, de facto capital of the EU, dictate nation-state policies to those three forlorn countries. The world’s elites love hard times/recessions because of the set up. It makes it easier for them to strip away government largess via austerity programs that they force upon governments, and it allows for undercutting the wages of average citizens as well as dismantling of governmental regulations. This, in turn, prompts protestors to congregate in the streets of capital cities, but over time, the capitalist class waits them out, temporarily residing in one of their homes elsewhere, away from danger, and with time on their side, the capitalists win.

Upon reading Chrystia Freeland’s article in Atlantic Magazine, one comes away with the impression the elite capitalists look down with disdain upon the masses of people, expressing a contempt for those in society who do not have the personal merit to rise to the occasion of wealth and power. Meritocracy is their biblical source, not equality and fraternity. These are hackneyed terms from ‘America of old’ and no longer applicable in the new technologically enhanced world, which itself is the major source of many of the new self-made wealthy.

This global ruling class controls the levers of an emergent trans-national state apparatus of global decision-making and orders emanate from the IMF, World Bank, the EU, and the WTO. The ruling bloc of this world order consists of chieftains of global corporations and financial conglomerates, major players in the dominant political parties of the world, media conglomerates, and technocratic elites.

Several thousand people, who all play in the same sandbox, control the world of finance and politics, similar to the faceless/nameless/shameless fictional elites in the TV series The X-Files. In that series, the ‘Smoking Man’ is the only personality from amongst the elite cadre that is recognized on an on-going basis; he is C.G.B.Spender, the public face of the “Syndicate,” which is a shadow government and highly secretive organization. As the Smoking Man says, “If people were to know of the things that I know… it would all fall apart.” Similarly, one wonders what those ‘things’ are in today’s world, and there are definitely cracks in the veneer of this new capitalistic world order.

For example, “Market capitalism has proven to be a remarkable engine of wealth creation, but if it continues to function in the next 25 years as it has in the past 25, we are in for a violent ride or, worse, a serious breakdown in the system itself. That sounds dire, and it is.”3 This article, co-written by three professors at Harvard University, pinpoints a festering problem that may be impossible to address because, as the article goes on to relate: “The leaders we talked to identified various forces that could severely disrupt the global market system in the decades ahead… these forces arise from multiple sources. Some are fueled by negative consequences of the market system and feedback into it in disruptive ways. Others arise from sources external to the system. Still others relate to….” Frankly, the multiplicity of the financial problem is the problem! The world of finance is a mind-boggling complexity of derivatives overlying derivatives superimposed upon CMOs interlocking with CDSs and residing within the depths of major brokerages and banks, deep in their vaults for nobody to see in full living color. The legendary investor Sir John Templeton summed up the financial monster in two words, writing a memorandum to close friends and family before his death, as he anticipated the future, “Financial Chaos.” World banking/finance is a multi-headed hydra monster of global proportions that may bring the world of capitalism down to its knees, prompting police state intervention to maintain social order. The early stages of this phenomenon have already appeared, and historians may one day earmark the summer of 2007 as the start of the Age of Financial Calamity!

According to William Robinson: Transnational capital has been able to break free of nation-state constraints to shift the correlation of class and social forces worldwide sharply in its favour and to undercut the strength of popular and working class movements around the world. One new structural dimension of 21st century global capitalism is a dramatic expansion of the global superfluous population or that portion marginalized and locked out of productive participation … constituting some one-third of humanity. The need to assure the social control of this mass of humanity living in slums gives a powerful impetus to neo-fascist projects and facilitates the transition from social welfare to social control, otherwise known as police states. Over time, this system becomes ever more violent and the ability of economic power to determine electoral outcomes opens the door for 21st century fascism to emerge without a rupture in electoral cycles and/or a constitutional change.

The door for 21st century fascism has more than opened. It has been blown off the hinges starting with the U.S. Patriot Act, which act violates the U.S. Constitution and which act was rammed down the throats of the U.S. Congress, whose members did not even read the document, by the Bush Administration, implying that any members who voted against the hurried-bill would be blamed for any further attacks at a time when the nation was braced for a second attack.

Another example of impending fascism occurred when President Obama signed the National Defense Authorization Act, which act negates the writ of habeas corpus, the most powerful cornerstone of civil rights since the Magna Carta. Subsequently, May 2012, U.S. District Judge Katherine B. Forrest overruled the domestic military detention provisions of the act, an act that was roundly supported by Democrats and Republicans.

This is a clear, and extremely troubling, clarion call for how far legislators will go to strip U.S. citizens of their rights. According to Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul, “American individual liberties are being stripped away.” The elites contend the negation of individual rights is foisted upon the government in order to maintain civil order, and their lackeys in Congress take bait with open-arms.

As transnational capitalism gains momentum, the chieftains of major U.S. international corporations feel less and less empathy towards their homeland and more akin to a world-state wherein the entire planet is their haunt. Their quest for profits dictates a worldly view that brushes aside nation-state regulations that interfere with profits, and their disdain for the peoples of any given nation-state leads to statist political leanings, meaning a concentration of economic controls and planning in the hands of a centralized government for control of individual nation-states whilst worldwide trade is subjected to free market capitalism. This course of action is already evident in Europe where nation-states like Portugal are being dictated to by a centralized body of technocrats, the EU. Likewise, this is happening in America where the Central Bank has become dictator of the markets whilst the global corporations on the Dow Jones Industrial Average carry on in their own markets around the world, splashing strong profits, in part, because of neoliberal tendencies that discriminate between which nation-states offer the cheapest labor and the weakest regulations. The common denominator of global corporations is cheap labor; they hover like bees around the queen wherever cheap labor is to be found.

As a result of an assortment of extremely powerful economic and political forces intertwined within transnational capitalism, it is reasonable to assume the various classes in American society will continue to experience a significant downgrade of lifestyle as the transnational capitalists comb the world for the cheapest labor and the loosest regulations.

In time, America itself will become a target for transnational capitalists’ manufacturing plants & facilities as American wages and benefits continue to stagnate and as right-wingers attack governmental regulations and privatize government assets.

  1. According to William Robinson (Univ. of Calif.) “Global Capitalism and 21st Century Fascism,” Aljazeera, May 2011. []
  2. The Rise of the New Global Elite,” Atlantic Magazine, Jan./Feb. 2011 []
  3. Global Capitalism at Risk. What are you Doing About it?” by Joseph L. Bower, Herman B. Leonard, and Lynn S. Paine, Harvard Business Review, Sept. 2011. []

Robert Hunziker (MA, economic history, DePaul University) is a freelance writer and environmental journalist whose articles have been translated into foreign languages and appeared in over 50 journals, magazines, and sites worldwide, like Z magazine, European Project on Ocean Acidification, Ecosocialism Canada, Climate Himalaya, Counterpunch, Dissident Voice, Comite Valmy, and UK Progressive. He has been interviewed about climate change on Pacifica Radio, KPFK, FM90.7, Indymedia On Air and World View Show/UK. He can be contacted at: rlhunziker@gmail.com. Read other articles by Robert.