Keith Mitchelson: What is wrong with western governments?

Aug 14, 2022
So many questions over the world
Image: Pixabay

The imposition of neoliberalism as the theology of state has created a world-wide orthodoxy of government. Political leaders fear excommunication, or worse.

Professor Noam Chomsky said recently, “man stands at the cross-roads in his choice between the continuation human history, or its destruction, ….. we already have appropriate technologies to prevent climate damage, ….. but (western) governments are in thrall to an international alliance of fossil fuel industries, banks, legal establishments, and the ‘military industrial complex’ which continue to drive humanity blindly towards self-destruction.”

His stark conclusion reveals the tentacles interconnecting all-powerful actors working assiduously against humanity. Western media plays a critical role too, obscuring the alliance of ‘powers’ that Chomsky describes. These global actors work in parallel to secretly replace democracy (which humanity shapes) by an unelected global kleptocracy committed to maintaining its’ status quo of untrammelled wealth and power.

Kleptocracy is defined as “government which uses its power to expropriate the wealth of the people of the land they govern.” The United Kingdom and its low-tax, secret-banking dependencies have been described as kleptocracies. As Britain’s island colonies became ‘independent’ about 60 years ago, many became low or zero tax-havens, managed by London financiers to benefit tax-avoiding corporations and oligarchs. Britain’s foresight in creating these ‘legal’ secretive bolt-holes for illegal money was visionary. It provided continuation of the financial model of slavery and captive markets for a ‘post-colonial era’, designed to maintain the flow of unimaginable wealth to the already wealthy. Their continued acceptance (with other tax-havens) by the financial world is an indication of the corruption of western neoliberal politicians, companies and nations. Recently, as the EEC, IMF and OECD instigated policies to limit tax-avoidance, Britain’s Tory MPs drove Brexit to escape EEC financial regulations and to re-energise unregulated banking in its captive dependencies.

We hear of Russia’s oligarchs, but virtually nothing of western oligarchs who work for the same outcomes. The adoption of tax-havens by the entire neoliberal capitalist system now constitutes a global kleptocracy, with the USA at its centre. It works to enrichen the few and to enslave the many, a process accelerated by recent global crises. Whistleblower leaks of documents reveal the widespread involvement of reputable banks and law firms in aiding international tax avoidance. The last decades have seen new kleptocratic players and new exploited victims. Internet-based US companies fight to dominate world trade and bleed client countries through untaxable profits.

National governments are unable/unwilling to stand up for their citizens against this overwhelming system. Under the aegis of global kleptocracy, money has become the agent for theft of power – even for the complete capture of governments. Australia for example, should be fabulously rich, without any poverty. It has abundant natural resources, a well-educated willing workforce and highly developed civil society and laws. Yet we retain only minimal minimal tax and royalties for our national benefit from export mining by a plethora of international companies. Our utility services are controlled for private profit.

Somehow, we elect politicians who willingly enact trade deals and apply laws that minimally benefit our nation and its citizens – profiteering companies are allowed to create a gas supply crisis. The past 50 years of neoliberalism has redefined political parties as a parasite class, ’controlled’ by commerce. Their adoption of one-sided global trade deals, dominated by neoliberal USA, passes national control of our destiny to overseas corporations via predatory ISDS laws.

Oligarchs and international companies have made kleptocracy integral to ‘western interests’, which are militarily supported by the major powers. Big oil, big engineering and mining have long followed western militaries into third-world lands, after ejecting rulers to allow victors exploit the resources. We tend not to hear of this aspect of our wars, conflicts are presented as police actions against madmen, dictators, revolutionaries, or communists. Yet modern wars such as in Biafa, Iraq, Falklands and Iran were each for fossil-fuels, while DCR and Ethopia were about critical minerals.

US vice president Dick Cheney revealed the 2001 military invasion of Iraq was planned years prior to ensure kleptocratic US oil companies gained access to Iraqi oil-fields. British documents reveal their participation to ensure access for Shell and BP. Each such war is claimed a pursuit of our national interest, or for ‘freedom’ of the land we invade, or as for Iraq, a search of illusionary ‘weapons of mass destruction’.

Consider also the raison-d’etre of our defensive military forces – they also seem mainly to pursue external conflicts, which end in providing access to resources – think of Australia’s military peacekeeping role in aiding Timor-Leste’s independence war and Woodside subsequent preferred access to their Timor Sea gas/oil fields.

The amount of fossil fuel consumed annually by the world’s militaries is incredible, even in peace-time about 15% of all global CO2 emissions emanates from military forces, which multiplies many-fold over during conflict. If military supply-lines are also counted, emissions increase several fold again. These facts indicate how intertwined fossil-fuel use is with national security and perceived national interest. Hence, trying to convince governments to become serious about global warming, feels to them like a threat to their conventional security thinking. And if we transition to local, carbon-free solar energy production it could imply a reduced role for our militaries – what a sphincter-clenching thought for the world’s military-industrial complexes.

The 50 year fight by international fossil-fuel companies to prevent action on global warming has reached a tipping point. Citizens are forcing governments to replace fossil fuels with solar-based power. Yet every barrier imaginable is being thrown up to prevent our advance away from carbon.

Oil majors undertake legal actions to delay or block laws designed to reduce carbon emissions, prosecuting countries in Investment to State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) actions to recover lost earnings caused by host nation laws. The threat of multi-billion dollar cases discourages poorer countries from initiating Paris Climate Accords, fearing massive reparations against them. The European Energy Charter Treaty, designed to protect oil companies working in former Soviet countries is being used by foreign corporations to sue European governments to protect profits, with litigations increasing recently.

Somehow the Russian attack on the Ukraine has caused a huge increase in the desirability of fossil fuels, despite inflated fuel prices. Central banks are boosting interest rates, which increase borrowing costs, slowing investment in new technologies (renewables and solar), while international investors, including BlackRock, are planning funding LNG projects world-wide. Although Vladimir Putin is central to our current economic chaos, both Russia and western fossil-fuel companies benefit from current windfall price inflation and available tax havens.

The theology of state – the neoliberal greed principle and tax avoidance – has overwhelmed our democracies. Consider the past nine years of our Liberal-Coalition governments, the US Republicans (Trump), and Britain’s Tories – for each government, their‘ policies’ resulted in unfettered benefits for international corporations and tax-evaders.

In a masterly analysis of Britain’s tax-havens, Nicholas Shaxson discussed the post-WWII era before neoliberalism, ‘Half a century ago, corporations were not only supposed to make profits, but also to serve employees, communities and society. Overall taxes were high …. and financial flows across borders were tightly constrained …. yet economic growth was the fastest the world has ever known’. Shaxson argues for a return of government control over rogue capitalism and unfettered markets. I would suggest control is essential to prevent catastrophic overheating of the planet, as kleptocratic companies will pursue ever greater profits selling fossil fuels.

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