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Intro: "For 30 years big business, neoliberal thinktanks and the media have colluded to capture our political system. They're winning."

After contemplating a military coup Sir James Goldsmith went on to form the Referendum party, slogan: Let the People Decide. (photo: Jacqueline Arzt/AP)
After contemplating a military coup Sir James Goldsmith went on to form the Referendum party, slogan: Let the People Decide. (photo: Jacqueline Arzt/AP)

A Rightwing Insurrection Is Usurping Our Democracy

By George Monbiot, Guardian UK

02 October 12


For 30 years big business, neoliberal thinktanks and the media have colluded to capture our political system. They're winning

o subvert means to turn from below. We need a new word, which means to turn from above. The primary threat to the democratic state and its functions comes not from mob rule or leftwing insurrection, but from the very rich and the corporations they run.

These forces have refined their assault on democratic governance. There is no need - as Sir James Goldsmith, John Aspinall, Lord Lucan and others did in the 1970s - to discuss the possibility of launching a military coup against the British government: the plutocrats have other means of turning it.

Over the last few years I have been trying better to understand how the demands of big business and the very rich are projected into policymaking, and I have come to see the neoliberal thinktanks as central to this process. These are the groups which claim to champion the free market but whose proposals often look like a prescription for corporate power.

David Frum, formerly a fellow of one of these thinktanks - the American Enterprise Institute - argues that they "increasingly function as public relations agencies". But in this case, we don't know who the clients are. As the corporate lobbyist Jeff Judson enthuses, they are "virtually immune to retribution … the identity of donors to thinktanks is protected from involuntary disclosure". A consultant who worked for the billionaire Koch brothers claims that they see the funding of thinktanks "as a way to get things done without getting dirty themselves".

This much I knew, but over recent days I've learned a lot more. In Think Tank: the story of the Adam Smith Institute, the institute's founder, Madsen Pirie, provides an unintentional but invaluable guide to how power in Britain really works.

Soon after it was founded (in 1977), the institute approached "all the top companies". About 20 of them responded by sending cheques. Its most enthusiastic supporter was the coup plotter James Goldsmith, one of the most unscrupulous asset strippers of that time. Before making one of his donations, Pirie writes, "he listened carefully as we outlined the project, his eyes twinkling at the audacity and scale of it. Then he had his secretary hand us a cheque for £12,000 as we left".

From the beginning, senior journalists on the Telegraph, the Times and the Daily Mail volunteered their services. Every Saturday, in a wine bar called the Cork and Bottle, Margaret Thatcher's researchers and leader writers and columnists from the Times and Telegraph met staff from the Adam Smith Institute and the Institute of Economic Affairs. Over lunch, they "planned strategy for the week ahead". These meetings would "co-ordinate our activities to make us more effective collectively". The journalists would then turn the institute's proposals into leader columns while the researchers buttonholed shadow ministers.

Soon, Pirie says, the Mail began running a supportive article on the leader page every time the Adam Smith Institute published something. The paper's then editor, David English, oversaw these articles himself, and helped the institute to refine its arguments.

As Pirie's history progresses, all references to funding cease. Apart from tickets donated by British Airways, no sponsors are named beyond the early 1980s. While the institute claims to campaign on behalf of "the open society", it is secretive and unaccountable. Today it flatly refuses to say who funds it.

Pirie describes how his group devised and refined many of the headline policies implemented by Thatcher and John Major. He claims (and produces plenty of evidence to support it) either full or partial credit for the privatisation of the railways and other industries, for the contracting-out of public services to private companies, for the poll tax, the sale of council houses, the internal markets in education and health, the establishment of private prisons, GP fundholding and commissioning and, later, for George Osborne's tax policies.

Pirie also wrote the manifesto of the neoliberal wing of Thatcher's government, No Turning Back. Officially, the authors of the document - which was published by the party - were MPs such as Michael Forsyth, Peter Lilley and Michael Portillo. "Nowhere was there any mention of, or connection to, myself or the Adam Smith Institute. They paid me my £1,000 and we were all happy." Pirie's report became the central charter of the doctrine we now call Thatcherism, whose praetorian guard called itself the No Turning Back group.

Today's parliamentary equivalent is the Free Enterprise Group. Five of its members have just published a similar manifesto, Britannia Unchained. Echoing the narrative developed by the neoliberal thinktanks, they blame welfare payments and the mindset of the poor for the UK's appalling record on social mobility, suggest the need for much greater cuts and hint that the answer is the comprehensive demolition of the welfare system. It is subtler than No Turning Back. There are fewer of the direct demands and terrifying plans: these movements have learned something in the past 30 years.

It is hard to think how their manifesto could have been better tailored to corporate interests. As if to reinforce the point, the cover carries a quote from Sir Terry Leahy, until recently the chief executive of Tesco: "The path is clear. We have to be brave enough to take it."

Once more the press has taken up the call. In the approach to publication, the Telegraph commissioned a series of articles called Britain Unleashed, promoting the same dreary agenda of less tax for the rich, less help for the poor and less regulation for business. Another article in the same paper, published a fortnight ago by its head of personal finance Ian Cowie, proposes that there be no representation without taxation. People who don't pay enough income tax shouldn't be allowed to vote.

I see these people as rightwing vanguardists, mobilising first to break and then to capture a political system that is meant to belong to all of us. Like Marxist insurrectionaries, they often talk about smashing things, about "creative destruction", about the breaking of chains and the slipping of leashes. But in this case they appear to be trying to free the rich from the constraints of democracy. And at the moment they are winning.

George Monbiot is the author of the bestselling books "The Age of Consent: A Manifesto for a New World Order" and "Captive State: The Corporate Takeover of Britain," as well as the investigative travel books "Poisoned Arrows," "Amazon Watershed" and "No Man's Land." His latest books are "Heat: How to Stop the Planet Burning" and "Bring on the Apocalypse." your social media marketing partner


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+19 # LeeBlack 2012-10-02 09:07
Jesus said "the poor will be with you always". It is also true that those who crave wealth and power will be with us always; they will use every tool at hand. Their avaricious behavior means that they will always be in the lead. The rest of us need to be aware so that regulations can keep pace and keep them from destroying the planet and the lives of the rest of us.
+21 # tswhiskers 2012-10-02 10:03
Monbiot is speaking here of the UK but it also applies in the US. Since Reagan in the 1980's, the Reps. have worked to pass legislation to benefit business and the wealthy and leave the middle class further and further behind. One has to ask, given the increasingly conservative and undemocratic legislative behavior of the Reps. in both state and federal politics, what is their endgame, their ultimate goal? Have they gone as far right as they can go? I haven't heard anyone in the media address this question, possibly because the answer might well be an ugly one. Why DO the Reps. persevere in increasing wealth at the top of the economy and doing as much as possible to limit income at the bottom and middle while wanting to continue giving tax cuts to the wealthy and corporations and increasing taxes on the bottom and middle and saying they would destroy Medicare/Medica id and change Soc. Security? Why? I'd like to think that many on this blog believe they have answer to this question.
+3 # X Dane 2012-10-02 14:26
I think I do. I am almost totally sure.

The republican representatives for sure, but democrats are not innocent either. They give all kinds of advantages to the big corporations and the wealthy, to ingratiate themselves.....For..

As soon as they leave office they get into lobbying ....and get rich themselves, for they know exactly whom to squeeze. They know which laws to push.
The ones wanted by their masters!!

They want to get rid of the poor, for they their opinion... just costing money, which rightfully should go to the wealthy. We are on the way back to the law of the jungle. ARE YOU GOD'S SON?.......HELP YOURSELF
+17 # reiverpacific 2012-10-02 11:13
to "tswhiskers"
Because all they want is everything; One-party totalitarianism , absolute and hereditary power as in a Monarchy and untrammeled access to all and any available extractive resources without regard to the consequences for the planet and it's inhabitants, backed by a military monster to put down any sign of resistance.
You don't hear about it in the owner media because they are part of it and sugar-coat everything with constant images and soundbytes depicting flag-freedom-de mocracy, much as the run up to the Third Reich, it's forerunner Corporate State as promulgated by Il Duce and swollen to a coalition of darkness by Franco.
But shopping is fine; just don't ask for any human rights. Just like "Brave New World" in fact.
0 # tswhiskers 2012-10-03 08:21
Thank you, reiverpacific and Xdane. I don't know about hereditary power, but with that possible exception, I agree with you. Yes, Republicans and some Democrats want wealth and power at the expense of American democracy. The only thing we the public have is our vote.
+7 # dick 2012-10-02 11:49
The successful get fat, lazy, sloppy. The corporate right created the FDR backlash. The union led center-left eventually opened the door for a right-wing counter attack buoyed by enraged reaction to expanding Civil Rights, Personal Liberation, & anti-Imperialis m Movements. Global corporate elites capitalized on reactionary rage, authoritarianis m, tribalism, & the fact that the stupid are always with us. Not to mention the expensive winey "victimized" rich, a classic psychiatric perverse inversion.
However, when compassionate & reasonable Americans outnumber the Karl Rove patrons & dupes by TENS & TENS of millions, the jerks do only what WE LET THEM DO. Modern personal communications out to be able to render Citizens United NOTHING but a BIG WASTE of $$. Get to WORK building egalitarian democracy; kick their ill gotten riches asses. Send $$ to Liz; she didn't issue Nixon Pardon to Wall St. criminals.
+8 # X Dane 2012-10-02 14:43
You are right about the modern communication. The Egyptians did it. Got millions involved in protest...and removed a hated dictator. We should also be able to neutralize Rove and his billionaires, and Citizens United!!

They should NOT be able to BUY THE WHITE HOUSE AND CONGRESS. We should be able to stop them.

All the young people need to call or text their friends, that NOW is the time to stop the evil Rovians, and save their own future.

Of course it should not ONLY be the young, but it most often starts with them. And they sure know how to take full advantage of all the new ways to communicate.
+3 # Evolouie 2012-10-02 12:02
"We need a new word, which means to turn from above"
That word would be "survert".
+7 # X Dane 2012-10-02 12:36
Unfortunately it is all TOO CLEAR. Thatcher and Reagan adored each other....DUH they had the same agenda. Help the rich get richer, and to hell with the middle class and the poor.

The article is about England, but it is EXACTLY the same hear. Most of the press is owned by and promote the interest of the wealthy and big corporations.

Remember the "NO representation Without taxation"???? CHECK!! Already in full swing. The young, the minorities, and the working poor are being SQUEEZED OUT OF VOTING by the difficulty and cost of obtaining Picture ID.

New obstacles and rules are put in place and if that is not enough, they have bogus companies registering people. They SIMPLY THROW OUT REGISTRATION for democrats. There is NO length they will NOT go to in order to win.

The right wingers HAVE to win in order to finally STEAL IT ALL. When they get their representatives and senators in office they MAKE THE LAWS, CHOOSE the SUPREME COURT JUSTICES and GOVERNORS.



+6 # X Dane 2012-10-02 12:40
There may be SOME light ahead. A judge in Pennsylvania has just stopped the demand of voter ID. As he said, it is impossible for people to be able to comply with that law in time for the election.

GREAT not ALL judges have been bought.
+3 # X Dane 2012-10-02 19:37
OH FRIENDS THERE IS NOT JUST A LIGHT, THERE IS A BRIGHT LIGHTNING FLASH. I just saw on the Rachel Maddow program that they have videos of Ryan complaining that 30% THAT IS THIRTY PERCENT of Americans only want to be on welfare.

They do not believe in the "American dream". What a wonderful gift for Biden for the debate 11 October. I can hardly wait. I know just how well he will use that!!! It is in clips fro last November. I am sure Ryan still feel the same.

So Romney has had it with 47% of our people and Ryan is fed up with 30 %.
The two of them are so desparaging of unfortunate Americans.
+1 # Feral Dogz 2012-10-03 10:46
That 30% must include big oil and big Ag, not to mention the auto industry and banking.
+2 # John Steinsvold 2012-10-02 13:41
An Alternative to Capitalism (since we cannot legislate morality)

Several decades ago, Margaret Thatcher claimed: "There is no alternative".
She was referring to capitalism. Today, this negative attitude still persists.

I would like to offer an alternative to capitalism for the American people to consider. Please click on the following link. It will take you to an essay titled: "Home of the Brave?" which was published by the Athenaeum Library of Philosophy:

John Steinsvold

“Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result."~ Albert Einstein
0 # Jimmy 2012-10-02 19:20
One of the best places to start to understand this whole phenomenon is with the work of Glenn Feldman. Feldman is a historian in the U.S. and has done extensive work on this topic in a number of books. I recommend highly!

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