How the Plutocrats are waging War on the Bureaucrats… #2
Tax obligations and ‘offshoring’
Besides intensely disliking bodies like the European Union due to the laws and regulations they impose on issues like consumer rights, health & safety and worker’s rights, the Plutocracy and the Elite have another very real reason to want to see such bodies severely emasculated if not actually broken up: tax.
‘Offshoring’, in the words of John Urry (2013), “involves moving resources, practices, peoples and monies from one national territory to another but hiding them within secrecy jurisdictions as they move through routes wholly or partly hidden from view. Offshoring involves evading rules, laws, taxes, regulations or norms. It is all about rule-breaking, getting around rules in ways that are illegal, or go against the spirit of the law, or which use laws in one jurisdiction to undermine laws in another. Offshore worlds are full of secrets and lies.”
Secrecy jurisdictions – or ‘treasure islands’ as Nicholas Shaxson (2011) terms them – are tax havens which provide varying degrees of secrecy – ie: freedom from disclosure. This is to attract foreign individuals who wish to hide assets or income to avoid or reduce taxes in the home tax jurisdiction. Relevant laws and approaches to the industry are created by small numbers of professional insiders in the secrecy jurisdiction in collaboration with offshore financial services interests from elsewhere. Such offshore financial services tend to be deliberately protected and insulated from domestic political opposition. Urry identifies around 70 tax havens, including Switzerland, Jersey, Manhattan, Monaco, the Cayman Islands, Luxembourg, Panama, the City of London and the American state of Delaware.
Urry estimates the amount of money hidden in offshore accounts to have grown from $1BN in 1968 to $6TRN in 1998 to $21TRN in 2010 – this last figure being roughly equivalent to a third of world income. The transnational corporations (TNCs) almost all have offshore accounts and Urry reckons more than half of world trade passes through secrecy jurisdictions.
The EU is apparently intent on tackling some of this tax avoidance. Nolan Jazimreg (2016) writes: “Brussels is to push for new disclosure requirements forcing companies operating in blacklisted tax havens to come clean about their profits and tax payments in a sign the crackdown response to the Panama Papers revelations has begun to snowball worldwide… The European Commission is preparing next week to strengthen a long-planned measure to force corporate disclosure of tax payments, profits made, and the number of employees in individual countries, so that the disclosure applies not only to activities in Europe but to those in a planned blacklist of tax havens outside the EU.”
No wonder the Plutocracy and the Elite campaign so strongly against the EU! If the planned measure were to go through, with all the resources it has at its command, the EU could probably not only expose at least some of the offshoring but be in a much stronger position to enforce tax obligations on both TNCs and wealthy individuals. The EU and similar institutions not only provide obstacles to greater profitability through compliance with laws and regulations but could pose a threat to existing wealth if they were able to tax it.
Of course, there is some double-mindedness and conflicts of interest at play here. Neither Luxembourg or the City of London, with their secrecy jurisdictions will welcome disclosure measures such as the proposed EU measure – and many leading politicians themselves are members of the Elite. Thus, it is in their interests to prevent or at least delay such measures being enacted. An example of this is David Cameron, reputedly worth some £50M. According to The Guardian’s Heather Stewart (2016), in 2013 prime minister Cameron wrote to then-president of the European Council, Herman Van Rompuy, to try to persuade him that offshore trusts should be excluded from the EU’s in-discussion disclosure measures. A couple of years after Cameron’s letter to Van Rompuy, it emerged that the Cameron family’s wealth was mostly held in Blairmore Holdings Inc, the offshore trust set up by David’s late father, the existence of which was revealed in leaked papers from the database of Panama-based law firm Mossack Fonseca. (Cameron’s half-baked assertions that his family’s wealth was “a private matter” indicates just how much RED was dominating his thinking, rendering him unable to see how this made him look in the public eye.)
If the EU and similar institutions can’t be deterred from exposing the hidden wealth of the Plutocracy and the Elite, as Cameron tried to do, then the alternative is to emasculate them or break them up. The plutocrats have ever more reason to war with the bureaucrats.
Recruiting the ‘left behind’
Since Western countries are nominally democratic, politicians need to have the support of their electorates for major strategic directions. Amongst other things, this means having control of the media or at least having favourable media coverage.
In the UK left-wing commentator Owen Jones (2014) talks about the the ‘Establishment’ being an alliance of unaccountable powerful groups “bound together by common economic interests and a shared set of mentalities” – in other words, the Plutocracy and the Elite. For Jones, “the British media is an integral part of the British Establishment; its owners share the same underlying assumptions and mantras”. Clearly, not all British media is quite as deeply interwoven with the ‘Establishment’ as Jones states . The Daily Mirror, The Guardian and The Independent are all ‘left of centre’ but their sales and their reach are relatively small in comparison to The Sun or The Daily Mail. ‘Hard left’ papers like the Socialist Worker have only a tiny audience by comparison. Jones’ point broadly, though, is valid. The mainstream media is largely-owned by very wealthy individuals or TNCs and unsurprisingly reflect their owners’ priorities.
This applies right around the world. Ben Bagdikian (2004) chronicles how mainstream media in the US is concentrated in 6 TNCs: Comcast, Disney, 21st Century Fox/News Corp, Time Warner and CBS Corporation – all of which have many different outlets in many different countries. For example, Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp owns hundreds of different types of media company across Asia, Europe and North America.
Murdoch is an epitome of an agenda-setting media mogul. According to James Curran (2003), Murdoch reads proofs, writes leaders and changes content and layout when it comes to issues he considers critical. Moreover, he appoints compliant editors and managing directors; and he sacks those who oppose his ideological position.
The question then is: how do the plutocrats and those working for them persuade the white working classes to support their nominated nationalistic populists in undertaking strategies, such as Brexit or the repeal of ‘Obamacare’, which the majority of experts agree are contrary to the interests of those same white working classes? Strategies which are advantageous to the plutocrats and the Elite and at best do nothing for the interests of the white working classes.
From a Gravesian perspective, the answer lies clearly in values. The memes the mainstream media puts out on such issues are designed to appeal to the values of their target audiences. One of the most effective messages put out by both Donald Trump’s presidential campaign and the Brexiteers in 2016 was that immigration and immigrants are to be feared. The clip below, from Trump’s campaign launch, is a virtual litany of the evils perpetuated by illegal Mexican immigrants….
Equally manipulative was UKIP’s use of the Syrian refugee crisis on the EU’s borders during the referendum campaign – especially with the notorious ‘Breaking Point’ poster and its clear implication that the UK wold be invaded by such refugees (see below). Immigration has been widely acknowledged – eg: Anushka Asthana (2016) in The Guardian – as being a key factor in swinging the vote the Brexiteers’ way.
What Trump and UKIP’s Nigel Farage were exploiting was the PURPLE vMEME’s fear of ‘others’. PURPLE, in its drive to find safety by belonging, is naturally tribalistic. It seeks safety from ‘others’ by belonging to its tribe, clan, family, group, etc, etc. This creates an in-group/out-group effect, as Henri Tajfel & John Turner’s (1979) Social Identity Theory demonstrates. PURPLE needs to know who is of its tribe and who is not and is naturally prejudiced against those who are not. These prejudices can usually be managed – more or less – by GREEN’s appeals to respect diversity and treat people decently and/or through BLUE’s application of the laws against explicit discrimination. However, as Donald Campbell (1965) demonstrated with Realistic Conflict Theory, competition for resources – eg: jobs, access to education and healthcare, etc – and fear of violence from the others can increase prejudice & discrimination exponentially. Thus, RED-driven charismatic demagogues like Trump and Farage were able to incite the white working classes to vote for them and unwittingly against their own interests – all in the service of the Plutocracy and the Elite.
They also exploited PURPLE’s other fears – eg: of being exploited by untrustworthy politician, faceless bureaucrats and mysterious ‘experts’. Thus, Trump’s talk of “draining the swamp” and Michael Gove’s infamous telling Sky News: “…people in this country have had enough of experts”.
Once such memes have been accommodated into people’s schemas, they become ‘the truth’. PURPLE places little value in literacy but favours the oral tradition and people it feels are either part of the ‘tribe’ or clearly have the tribe’s best interests at heart. It is what Susan Fiske & Shelly Taylor (1991) call a ‘cognitive miser’ and would rather accept a ‘trustworthy’ person’s word than carry out its own analysis. In terms of Richard Petty & John Cacioppo’s (1981) Elaboration Likelihood Model – see below – it tends to take the ‘peripheral route’ to being persuaded.
Thus, PURPLE prefers the simpler but emotive text and dramatic headlines and pictures of The Sun and the Daily Star to the dense blocks of considered text in the The Guardian and The Independent.
Nigel Farage appears to understand this to a degree in the construction of his ‘common man’ persona, getting himself frequently photographed “down the pub with a pint and a fag”. So too does Donald Trump whose delighting in ‘political incorrectness’ is enthusiastically redefined as “saying what ordinary people really think”.
The ability to manipulate PURPLE in these kinds of way implies something more than a straight-forward RED/ORANGE vMEME harmonic. To show sufficient empathy with a completely different way of thinking to exploit it implies there is something of YELLOW in the vMEME stacks of at least some in the Plutocracy and the Elite. As Spiral Dynamics co-developer Don Beck (2004) describes it, “YELLOW surfs the spine of the Spiral”, speaking to the 1st Tier vMEMES in their own values. If YELLOW really is facilitating this manipulation of whole sections of society, then Gravesians may have to rethink some of their notions of what 2nd Tier is like; it may not always be as beneficent as some claim.
Balancing out the conflict
As a credible post-Capitalist economic theory has yet to be developed, the earth is saddled with the world capitalist system. This is driven primarily by ORANGE wealth creators – either entrepreneurial individuals or shareholder-focused TNCs. As such, wealth is generated through the few exploiting the many. (Karl Marx‘ 1867 economic and social analysis, while being oversimplistic in its assumptions of relative class homogeneity, is still broadly correct today in its allocation of economic roles to social class.) A vMEME harmonic of BLUE and GREEN, as embodied in more moderate Labour Party strategies in the UK, can partially redistribute wealth, provide public services – eg: education and healthcare – for those who can’t afford them from their own means and provide a degree of protection from over-exploitation.
That means some degree of regulation on how far the wealth creators can go but not so much that it discourages them from wealth creation. In a globalised world, that means a globalised system of control. At the time of writing, the nearest to that are trade-based international organisations – mostly desperately non-political and region-limited. The exception is the European Union, struggling within itself to define a coherent political identity but with such economic clout it can take on the TNCs – as Anthony Hilton has stated.
No wonder the EU is in the targets of those in the Plutocracy and the Elite who are dominated by the RED/ORANGE vMEME harmonic!
Conflict between groups of people with different value systems needs to be managed, to be balanced. Ichak Adizes (1999), to a degree reflecting Durkheim, argues that lack of conflict will lead to stagnation and decline. Thus, if RED/ORANGE is allowed to dominate, society will largely collapse into individualism. An unsustainable quasi-Victorian scenario of a few extremely wealthy individuals constantly needing to suppress a deeply-impoverished and unhealthy proletariat would very likely emerge. If ORANGE were to be severely restricted, the loss of individual drive, innovation and wealth-producing technology could well lead to a Stalinist Soviet-type of existence where mediocrity was the norm and there was no flexibility in the economic and political systems to cope with the unforeseen. (Millions starved in Joseph Stalin’s USSR in the 1930s due to adherence to rigid dogma and the denial of harsh reality.)
To borrow again from Adizes, conflicts such as those between RED/ORANGE and BLUE/GREEN are normal and, to some extent, desirable. What is critical is to manage those conflicts so they do not become dysfunctional.
With the Elite’s control of a very large part of the mass media, RED/ORANGE has a distinct advantage. However, it hasn’t yet gained control of such alternative forms of communication as the internet.
The mainstream media largely ignored the remarkable emergence of Jeremy Corbyn as a barnstorming speaker at public rallies during the 2017 UK election. Even the BBC was accused of this – eg: Des Freedman & Justin Schlosberg in the New Statesman – as was The Guardian; although as the election progressed, the latter became a little more Corbyn-friendly, according to Ben Norton on FAIR. It was word of mouth, personal communications (phone and email) and especially the internet which spread the news of Corbyn’s remarkable rallies – until in the last week or so of the campaign the main television news programmes did start to carry fuller coverage.
It is therefore critical to managing the conflict between RED/ORANGE and BLUE/GREEN that the internet remains independent of control by the Plutocracy and the Elite.
Michael Itzoe (1995) describes the internet as “a loose and anarchic confederation of millions of users around the world who communicate in perhaps the freest forum of speech in history”. Jean Seaton (2003) comments on the practical power of the internet to spread memes: “Internet technology converts the desk into a printing press, broadcasting station and place of assembly. This enables ‘many-to-many communication, which…is changing the way we do politics. In this view the net is rejuvenating civil society, generating political activism…. Established centres of power and monopolies of communication are being bypassed…and a progressive mobilisation is under way that will empower the people.”
While such views fail to anticipate the dark and manipulative tactics of the likes of Cambridge Analytica, it also fails to anticipate the emergence of Anonymous, the secretive loose network of anti-Capitalist web anarchists. Given the dramatic denial of service attacks Anonymous hackers have committed against such well-protected sites as the FBI and the US Department of Justice, it might be more 2nd Tier thinking to let Anonymous sort out far right data miners like Cambridge Analytica than impose the kind of crude internet controls Theresa May proposed in the June 2017 Queen’s Speech. While ostensibly, the proposed measures are to limit ‘chatter’ between terrorists and would-be terrorists and their funders and to limit online opportunities for radicalisation and the promotion of terrorist ideologies, a number of commentators are concerned that May will use the proposed powers to restrict anti-Establishment free speech. For example, Scott Shackford of Reason.com writes: “May believes the problem is you and your silly insistence that you be permitted to speak your mind and to look at whatever you want on the internet. And she means to stop you…. May and the Tories really want to propose much broader censorship of the internet, and they know it. May is using fear of terrorism to sell government control over private online speech. The Tories’ manifesto for the upcoming election makes it pretty clear they’re looking to control communication on the internet in ways that have absolutely nothing to do with fighting terrorism.”
Attempts in the US to force through legislative controls on the internet have so far foundered in Congress as limiting free speech is in violation of the 2nd Amendment to the Constitution. It is to be hoped that position is held for the foreseeable future. Clearly there are huge problems with freedom on the internet – child pornography, fiscal fraud, the promotion of terrorist ideologies, etc, etc – and they do need to be tackled. Anonymous themselves are very much a double-edged sword, considering the disruption they have caused to many innocent lives. However, the internet being under the control of the Plutocracy and the Elite would severely imbalance the fragile and ever-changing equilibrium between the plutocrats and the bureaucrats.
ORANGE wealth creation most assuredly has its place in the world; but so do BLUE laws and regulations and so do GREEN’S concerns for the wellbeing of people and the planet. And it’s critical these worldviews are balanced.
Why does the EU resist the far right?
Finally, amongst these considerations, it is worth asking why electorates in the EU have so far resisted the seduction of the far right in a way the British and the Americans haven’t. After a dangerous flirtation with his Freiheitliche Partei Österreichs (Freedom Party) in 2016, the Austrians denied Norbert Hofer a second crack at the presidency. In Spring 2017 in The Netherlands Mark Rutte held on against a very determined and concerning attempt by Geert Wilders and his Partij voor de Vrijheid (Party for Freedom) in the Dutch elections. The big victory against the far right though was Emmanuel Macron taking 70% of the presidential vote against Marine Le Pen. France has suffered more attacks from UnIslamic State and other hardline Islamist groups than any other Western country and very obviously has major problems in integrating its immigrant Muslim communities. Additionally, France has lots of it white working class ‘left behind’. It also has lots of ORANGE entrepreneuralism – particularly in its forward-thinking and highly-successful energy and automotive sectors. Yet France voted for progressive centralism. Perhaps it says something for the French cultural tradition of liberté, égalité, fraternité – memes derived from GREEN thinking – that the French people so strongly rejected the far right.
Of course, as Angelique Chrisafis (2017) has pointed out in The Guardian, the far right are far from finished in France – or elsewhere in Europe for that matter. Yet, for the time being at least, their advance is halted in Europe.
It could be that there is something in the monolithic and often wasteful structures of the European Union that, despite all the serious flaws in its institution, does give people a sense of security. Something that facilitates the PURPLE vMEME’s drive to find safety in belonging; something in a beneficent bureaucratic order regulated by BLUE and GREEN?
After all, many young voters in Western Europe will still have grandparents alive who can remember the hell of World War II. Film archives show them mutilated corpses and ruined buildings on, recognisably, the streets they walk down every day – making the cost of armed conflict more real to them than many in the UK or the US could possibly appreciate. As argued in The REAL Reason for staying in the EU, peace amongst its members is the most successful product of the European Union – and the electorates of the EU, thankfully, seem remarkably reluctant to let the plutocrats and the Elite endanger that.