So, who runs the world? It’s a question that people have struggled with since people began to struggle. It’s certainly a question with many interpretations, and incites answers of many varied perspectives.
Often, it is relegated to the realm of “conspiracy theory,” in that, those who discuss this question or propose answers to it, are purveyors of a conspiratorial view of the world. However, it is my intention to discard the labels, which seek to disprove a position without actually proving anything to the contrary. One of these labels – “conspiracy theorist” – does just that: it’s very application to a particular perspective or viewpoint has the intention of “disproving without proof;” all that is needed is to simply apply the label.
What I intend to do is analyse the social structure of the transnational ruling class, the international elite, who together run the world. This is not a conspiratorial opinion piece, but is an examination of the socially constructed elite class of people; what is the nature of power, how does it get used, and who holds it?
A Historical Understanding of Power
In answering the question “Who Runs the World?” we must understand what positions within society hold the most power, and thus, the answer becomes clear. If we simply understand this as heads of state, the answer will be flawed and inaccurate. We must examine the globe as a whole, and the power structures of the global political economy.
The greatest position of power within the global capitalist system lies in the authority of money-creation: the central banking system. The central banking system, originating in 1694 in England, consists of an international network of central banks that are privately owned by wealthy shareholders and are granted governmental authority to print and issue a nation’s currency, and set interest rates, collecting revenue and making profit through the interest charged. Central banks give loans to both governments and industries, controlling both simultaneously. The ultimate centre of power in the central banking system is at the Bank for International Settlements (BIS), in Basle, Switzerland; which is the central bank to the world’s central banks, and is also a private bank owned by the world’s central banks.
As Georgetown University history professor Carroll Quigley wrote:
[T]he powers of financial capitalism had another far-reaching aim, nothing less than to create a world system of financial control in private hands able to dominate the political system of each country and the economy of the world as a whole. This system was to be controlled in a feudalist fashion by the central banks of the world acting in concert, by secret agreements arrived at in frequent private meetings and conferences. The apex of the system was to be the Bank for International Settlements in Basle, Switzerland, a private bank owned and controlled by the world’s central banks which were themselves private corporations.1
The central banks, and thus the central banking system as a whole, is a privately owned system in which the major shareholders are powerful international banking houses. These international banking houses emerged in tandem with the evolution of the central banking system. The central banking system first emerged in London, and expanded across Europe with time. With that expansion, the European banking houses also rose and expanded across the continent.
The French Revolution resulted with Napoleon coming to power, who granted the French bankers a central bank of France, which they privately controlled.2 It was also out of the French Revolution that one of the major banking houses of the world emerged, the Rothschilds. Emerging out of a European Jewish ghetto, the Rothschilds quickly rose to the forefront in banking, and established banking houses in London, Paris, Frankfurt, Vienna and Naples, allowing them to profit off of all sides in the Napoleonic wars.3
As Carroll Quigley wrote in his monumental Tragedy and Hope, “The merchant bankers of London had already at hand in 1810-1850 the Stock Exchange, the Bank of England, and the London money market,” and that:
In time they brought into their financial network the provincial banking centres, organised as commercial banks and savings banks, as well as insurance companies, to form all of these into a single financial system on an international scale which manipulated the quantity and flow of money so that they were able to influence, if not control, governments on one side and industries on the other.4
At the same time, in the United States, we saw the emergence of a powerful group of bankers and industrialists, such as the Morgans, Astors, Vanderbilts, Rockefellers, and Carnegies, and they created massive industrial monopolies and oligopolies throughout the 19th century.5 These banking interests were very close to and allied with the powerful European banking houses.
The European, and particularly the British elites of the time, were beginning to organise their power in an effort to properly exert their influence internationally. At this time, European empires were engaging in the Scramble for Africa, in which nearly the entire continent of Africa, save Ethiopia, was colonised and carved up by European nations. One notable imperialist was Cecil Rhodes who made his fortune from diamond and gold mining in Africa with financial support from the Rothschilds,6 and “at that time [had] the biggest concentration of financial capital in the world.”7
Cecil Rhodes was also known for his radical views regarding America, particularly in that he would “talk with total seriousness of ‘the ultimate recovery of the United States of America as an integral part of the British Empire’.”8 Rhodes saw himself not simply as a moneymaker, but primarily as an “empire builder.”
As Carroll Quigley explained, in 1891 three British elites met with the intent to create a secret society. The three men were Cecil Rhodes, William T. Stead, a prominent journalist of the day, and Reginald Baliol Brett, a “friend and confidant of Queen Victoria, and later to be the most influential adviser of King Edward VII and King George V.” Within this secret society, “real power was to be exercised by the leader, and a ‘Junta of Three.’ The leader was to be Rhodes, and the Junta was to be Stead, Brett, and Alfred Milner.”9
The purpose of this secret society, which was later headed by Alfred Milner, was: “The extension of British rule throughout the world, the perfecting of a system of emigration from the United Kingdom and of colonisation by British subjects of all lands wherein the means of livelihood are attainable by energy, labour, and enterprise… [with] the ultimate recovery of the United States of America as an integral part of a British Empire.” [Emphasis added]10 Essentially, it outlined a British-led cosmopolitical world order, one global system of governance under British hegemony. Among key players within this group were the Rothschilds and other banking interests.11
After the 1907 banking panic in the US, instigated by JP Morgan, pressure was placed upon the American political establishment to create a “stable” banking system. In 1910, a secret meeting of financiers was held on Jekyll Island, where they planned for the “creation of a National Reserve Association with fifteen major regions, controlled by a board of commercial bankers but empowered by the federal government to act like a central bank – creating money and lending reserves to private banks.”12
It was largely Paul M. Warburg, a Wall Street investment banker, who “had come up with a design for a single central bank [in 1910]. He called it the United Reserve Bank. From this and his later service on the first Federal Reserve Board, Warburg has, with some justice, been called the father of the System.”13 President Woodrow Wilson followed the plan almost exactly as outlined by the Wall Street financiers, and added to it the creation of a Federal Reserve Board in Washington, which the President would appoint.14
Thus, true power in the world order was held by international banking houses, which privately owned the global central banking system, allowing them to control the credit of nations, and finance and control governments and industry.
However, though the economic system was firmly in their control, allowing them to establish influence over finance, they needed to shape elite ideology accordingly. In effect, what was required was to socially construct a ruling class, internationally, which would serve their interests. To do this, these bankers set out to undertake a project of establishing think tanks to organise elites from politics, economics, academia, media, and the military into a generally cohesive and controllable ideology.
Constructing a Ruling Class: Rise of the Think Tanks
During World War I, a group of American scholars were tasked with briefing “Woodrow Wilson about options for the postwar world once the Kaiser and imperial Germany fell to defeat.” This group was called, “The Inquiry.” The group advised Wilson mostly through his trusted aide, Col. Edward M. House, who was Wilson’s “unofficial envoy to Europe during the period between the outbreak of World War I in 1914 and the intervention by the United States in 1917,” and was the prime driving force in the Wilson administration behind the establishment of the Federal Reserve System.15
“The Inquiry” laid the foundations for the creation of the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), the most powerful think tank in the US and, “The scholars of the Inquiry helped draw the borders of post World War I central Europe.” On May 30, 1919, a group of scholars and diplomats from Britain and the US met at the Hotel Majestic, where they “proposed a permanent Anglo-American Institute of International Affairs, with one branch in London, the other in New York.” When the scholars returned from Paris, they were met with open arms by New York lawyers and financiers, and together they formed the Council on Foreign Relations in 1921. The “British diplomats returning from Paris had made great headway in founding their Royal Institute of International Affairs.” The Anglo-American Institute envisioned in Paris, with two branches and combined membership was not feasible, so both the British and American branches retained national membership, however, they would cooperate closely with one another.16 They were referred to, and still are, as “Sister Institutes.”17
The Milner Group, the secret society formed by Cecil Rhodes, “dominated the British delegation to the Peace Conference of 1919; it had a great deal to do with the formation and management of the League of Nations and of the system of mandates; it founded the Royal Institute of International Affairs in 1919 and still controls it.”18
There were other groups founded in many countries representing the same interests of the secret Milner Group, and they came to be known as the Round Table Groups, preeminent among them were the Royal Institute of International Affairs (Chatham House), the Council on Foreign Relations in the United States, and parallel groups were set up in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and India.19
These were, in effect, the first international think tanks, which remain today, and are in their respective nations, among the top, if not the most prominent think tanks.
In 2008, a major study was done by the University of Philadelphia’s International Relations Program – the Think Tanks and Civil Societies Program – which sought to analyse and examine the most powerful and influential think tanks in the world. While it is a useful resource to understanding the influence of think tanks, there is a flaw in its analysis. It failed to take into account the international origins of the Round Table Group think tanks, particularly the Council on Foreign Relations in the United States; Chatham House or the Royal Institute of International Affairs in London; the Canadian Institute of International Affairs, now renamed the Canadian International Council; and their respective sister organisations in India, South Africa, New Zealand and Australia. Further nations have since added to this group of related think tanks, including Germany, and a recently established European Council on Foreign Relations. The report, while putting focus on the international nature of think tanks, analysed these ones as separate institutions without being related or affiliated. This has, in effect, skewed the results of the study. However, it is still useful to examine.
The top think tanks in the United States include the Council on Foreign Relations, (which was put at number 2, however, should be placed at the number 1 spot), the Brookings Institution, (which was inaccurately given the position of number one), the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, RAND Corporation, Heritage Foundation, Woodrow Wilson International Centre for Scholars, the Center for Strategic and International Studies, and the American Enterprise Institute, among others.
The top think tanks in the world, outside of the United States, are Chatham House (sitting at number one), the International Institute for Strategic Studies in the UK, the German Council on Foreign Relations, the French Institute of International Relations, the Adam Smith Institute in the UK, the Fraser Institute in Canada, the European Council on Foreign Relations, the International Crisis Group in Belgium, and the Canadian Institute of International Affairs.20
In 1954, the Bilderberg Group was founded in the Netherlands. Every year since then the group holds a secretive meeting, drawing roughly 130 of the political-financial-military-academic-media elites from North America and Western Europe as “an informal network of influential people who could consult each other privately and confidentially.”21
Regular participants include the CEOs or Chairmen of some of the largest corporations in the world, oil companies such as Royal Dutch Shell, British Petroleum, and Total SA, as well as various European monarchs, international bankers such as David Rockefeller, major politicians, presidents, prime ministers, and central bankers of the world.22 The Bilderberg Group acts as a “secretive global think-tank,” with an original intent “to link governments and economies in Europe and North America amid the Cold War.”23
In 1970, David Rockefeller became Chairman of the Council on Foreign Relations, while also being Chairman and CEO of Chase Manhattan. In 1970, an academic who joined the Council on Foreign Relations in 1965 wrote a book called Between Two Ages: America’s Role in the Technetronic Era. The author, Zbigniew Brzezinski, called for the formation of “A Community of the Developed Nations,” consisting of Western Europe, the United States and Japan. Brzezinski wrote about how “the traditional sovereignty of nation states is becoming increasingly unglued as transnational forces such as multinational corporations, banks, and international organisations play a larger and larger role in shaping global politics.”
So, in 1972, David Rockefeller and Brzezinski “presented the idea of a trilateral grouping at the annual Bilderberg meeting.” In July of 1972, seventeen powerful people met at David Rockefeller’s estate in New York to plan for the creation of another grouping. Also at the meeting was Brzezinski, McGeorge Bundy, the President of the Ford Foundation, (brother of William Bundy, editor of Foreign Affairs) and Bayless Manning, President of the Council on Foreign Relations.24 In 1973, these people formed the Trilateral Commission, which acted as a sister organisation to Bilderberg, linking the elites of Western Europe, North America, and Japan into a transnational ruling class.
These think tanks have effectively socially constructed an ideologically cohesive ruling class in each nation and fostered the expansion of international ideological alignment among national elites, allowing for the development of a transnational ruling class sharing a dominant ideology.
These same interests, controlled by the international banking houses, had to socially construct society itself. To do this, they created a massive network of tax-exempt foundations and non-profit organisations, which shaped civil society according to their designs. Among the most prominent of these are the Carnegie Corporation, the Ford Foundation, and the Rockefeller Foundation.
The “Foundations” of Civil Society
These foundations shaped civil society by financing research projects and initiatives into major social projects, creating both a dominant world-view for the elite classes, as well as managing the other classes.
These foundations, since their establishment, played a large part in the funding and organising of the eugenics movement, which helped facilitate this racist, elitist ideology to having enormous growth and influence, ultimately culminating in the Nazi Holocaust. From then, the word “eugenics” had to be dropped from the ideology and philanthropy of elites, and was replaced with new forms of eugenics policies and concepts. Among them, genetics, population control and environmentalism.
These foundations also funded seemingly progressive and alternative media sources in an effort to control the opposition, and manage the resistance to their world order, essentially making it ineffective and misguided.
The Rockefeller Foundation was established in 1912, and immediately began giving money to eugenics research organisations.25 Eugenics was a pseudo-scientific and social science movement that emerged in the late 19th century, and gained significant traction in the first half of the 20th century. One of the founding ideologues of eugenics, Sir Francis Galton, an anthropologist and cousin to Charles Darwin, wrote that eugenics “is the study of all agencies under social control which can improve or impair the racial quality of future generations.”26 Ultimately, it was about the “sound” breeding of people and maintaining “purity” and “superiority” of the blood. It was an inherently racist ideology, which saw all non-white racial categories of people as inherently and naturally inferior, and sought to ground these racist theories in “science.”
The vast wealth and fortunes of the major industrialists and bankers in the United States flowed heavily into the eugenics organisations, promoting and expanding this racist and elitist ideology. Money from the Harriman railroad fortune, with millions given by the Rockefeller and Carnegie family fortunes were subsequently “devoted to sterilisation of several hundred thousands of American ‘defectives’ annually, as a matter of eugenics.”27
In the United States, 27 states passed eugenics based sterilisation laws of the “unfit,” which ultimately led to the sterilisation of over 60,000 people. Throughout the 1920s and 30s, the Carnegie and especially the Rockefeller Foundation, funded eugenics research in Germany, directly financing the Nazi scientists who perpetrated some of the greatest crimes of the Holocaust.28
Following the Holocaust, the word “eugenics” was highly discredited. Thus, these elites who wanted to continue with the implementation of their racist and elitist ideology desperately needed a new name for it. In 1939, the Eugenics Records Office became known as the Genetics Record Office.29 However, tens of thousands of Americans continued to be sterilised throughout the 40s, 50s and 60s, the majority of which were women.30
Edwin Black analysed how the pseudoscience of eugenics transformed into what we know as the science of genetics. In a 1943 edition of Eugenical News, an article titled “Eugenics After the War,” cited Charles Davenport, a major founder of eugenics, in his vision of “a new mankind of biological castes with master races in control and slave races serving them.”31
A 1946 article in Eugenical News stated that, “Population, genetics, [and] psychology, are the three sciences to which the eugenicist must look for the factual material on which to build an acceptable philosophy of eugenics and to develop and defend practical eugenics proposals.” As Black explained, “the incremental effort to transform eugenics into human genetics forged an entire worldwide infrastructure,” with the founding of the Institute for Human Genetics in Copenhagen in 1938, led by Tage Kemp, a Rockefeller Foundation eugenicist, and was financed with money from the Rockefeller Foundation.32
Today, much of civil society and major social projects are a product of these foundations, and align with various new forms of eugenics. The areas of population control and environmentalism are closely aligned and span a broad range of intellectual avenues. The major population control organisations emerged with funding from these various foundations, particularly the Rockefeller foundations and philanthropies.
These organisations, such as the Rockefeller and Ford foundations, funded major civil society movements, such as the Civil Rights movement, in an effort to “create a wedge between social movement activists and their unpaid grassroots constituents, thereby facilitating professionalisation and institutionalisation within the movement,” ultimately facilitating a “narrowing and taming of the potential for broad dissent,” with an aim of limiting goals to “ameliorative rather than radical change.”33
Two major organisations in the development of the environmental movement were the Conservation Foundation and Resources for the Future, which were founded and funded with money from the Rockefeller and Ford Foundations, and helped “launch an explicitly pro-corporate approach to resource conservation.”34 Even the World Wildlife Fund was founded in the early 1960s by the former president of the British Eugenics Society, and its first President was Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands, a founding member of the Bilderberg Group.
While the environmental movement positions people as the major problem for the earth, relating humanity to a cancer, population control becomes a significant factor in proposing environmental solutions.
In May of 2009, a secret meeting of billionaire philanthropists took place in which they sought to coordinate how to “address” the world’s environmental, social, and industrial threats. Each billionaire at the meeting was given 15 minutes to discuss their “preferred” cause, and then they deliberated to create an “umbrella” cause to harness all their interests. The end result was that the umbrella cause for which the billionaires would aim to “give to” was population control, which “would be tackled as a potentially disastrous environmental, social and industrial threat.” Among those present at the meeting were David Rockefeller, Jr., George Soros, Warren Buffet, Michael Bloomberg, Ted Turner, Bill Gates, and even Oprah Winfrey.35
At the top of the list of those who run the world, we have the major international banking houses, which control the global central banking system. From there, these dynastic banking families created an international network of think tanks, which socialised the ruling elites of each nation and the international community as a whole, into a cohesive transnational elite class. The foundations they established helped shape civil society both nationally and internationally, playing a major part in the funding – and thus coordinating and co-opting – of major social-political movements.
An excellent example of one member of the top of the hierarchy of the global elite is David Rockefeller, patriarch of the Rockefeller family. Long serving as Chairman and CEO of Chase Manhattan bank, he revolutionised the notion of building a truly global bank. He was also Chairman of the Council on Foreign Relations, a founding member of Bilderberg and the Trilateral Commission, heavily involved in the family philanthropies, and sits atop a vast number of boards and foundations. Even Alan Greenspan, in a speech to the Council on Foreign Relations, said that David Rockefeller and the CFR have, “in many respects, formulated the foreign policy of this country.”36
In another speech to the Council on Foreign Relations, then World Bank President James Wolfesohn, said in 2005, in honour of David Rockefeller’s 90th birthday, that, “the person who had perhaps the greatest influence on my life professionally in this country, and I’m very happy to say personally there afterwards, is David Rockefeller.” He then said, “In fact, it’s fair to say that there has been no other single family influence greater than the Rockefeller’s in the whole issue of globalisation and in the whole issue of addressing the questions which, in some ways, are still before us today. And for that David, we’re deeply grateful to you and for your own contribution in carrying these forward in the way that you did.”37
David Rockefeller, himself, wrote, “For more than a century ideological extremists at either end of the political spectrum have seized upon well-publicised incidents such as my encounter with Castro to attack the Rockefeller family for the inordinate influence they claim we wield over American political and economic institutions. Some even believe we are part of a secret cabal working against the best interests of the United States, characterising my family and me as ‘internationalists’ and of conspiring with others around the world to build a more integrated global political and economic structure – one world, if you will. If that’s the charge, I stand guilty, and I am proud of it.”38
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1. Carroll Quigley, Tragedy and Hope: A History of the World in Our Time, New York: Macmillan Company, 1966, 324
2. Carroll Quigley, op.cit., 515; Robert Elgie and Helen Thompson, ed., The Politics of Central Banks, New York: Routledge, 1998, 97-98
3. Sylvia Nasar, ‘Masters of the Universe’, The New York Times: January 23, 2000; ‘The Family That Bankrolled Europe’, BBC News: July 9, 1999, http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/389053.stm
4. Carroll Quigley, op.cit., 51
5. Howard Zinn, A People’s History of the United States, Harper Perennial: New York, 2003, 323
6. Carroll Quigley, op.cit., 130
7. Niall Ferguson, Empire: The Rise and Demise of the British World Order and the Lessons for Global Power, New York: Basic Books, 2004, 186
8. Ibid, 190
9. Carroll Quigley, The Anglo-American Establishment, GSG & Associates, 1981, 3
10. Ibid, 33
11. Ibid, 34
12. William Greider, Secrets of the Temple: How the Federal Reserve Runs the Country, New York: Simon and Schuster, 1987, 276
13. John Kenneth Galbraith, Money: Whence it Came, Where it Went, Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston, 1975, 121-122
14. William Greider, op.cit., 277
15. H.W. Brands, ‘He Is My Independent Self’, The Washington Post: June 11, 2006: www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/06/08/AR2006060801104.html
16. CFR, ‘Continuing the Inquiry. History of CFR’: www.cfr.org/about/history/cfr/inquiry.html
17. Chatham House, ‘CHATHAM HOUSE (The Royal Institute of International Affairs): Background’, Chatham House History: www.chathamhouse.org.uk/about/history/
18. Carroll Quigley, The Anglo-American Establishment, op.cit., 5
19. Carroll Quigley, Tragedy and Hope, op.cit., 132-133
20. James G. McGann, Ph.D., The Global “Go-To Think Tanks”: The Leading Public Policy Research Organizations In The World, The Think Tanks and Civil Societies Program: University of Pennsylvania, International Relations Program, 2008, 26-28
21. CBC, ‘Informal forum or global conspiracy?’, CBC News Online: June 13, 2006: www.cbc.ca/news/background/bilderberg-group/
22. Holly Sklar, ed., Trilateralism: The Trilateral Commission and Elite Planning for World Management, South End Press: 1980, 161-171
23. Glen McGregor, ‘Secretive power brokers meeting coming to Ottawa?’, Ottawa Citizen: May 24, 2006
24. Holly Sklar, ed., op.cit., 76-78
25. Edwin Black, War Against the Weak: Eugenics and America’s Campaign to Create a Master Race, New York: Thunders’s Mouth Press, 2004, 93
26. Ibid, 18
27. Ibid, 101-102
28. Edwin Black, ‘Eugenics and the Nazis – the California connection’, The San Francisco Chronicle: November 9, 2003
29. Edwin Black, War Against the Weak, op.cit., 396
30. Ibid, 398
31. Ibid, 416
32. Ibid, 418
33. Michael Barker, The Liberal Foundations of Environmentalism: Revisiting the Rockefeller-Ford Connection, Capitalism Nature Socialism: 19, (2), June 2008, 18
34. Ibid, 19-20
35. John Harlow, ‘Billionaire club in bid to curb overpopulation’, Times Online: May 24, 2009
36. CFR, Remarks at the Council on Foreign Relations Annual Corporate Conference, Transcripts: March 10, 2005: www.cfr.org/publication/7908/remarks_at_the_council_on_foreign_relations_annual_corporate_conference.html
37. CFR, Council on Foreign Relations Special Symposium in honor of David Rockefeller’s 90th Birthday, Transcript: May 23, 2005: www.cfr.org/publication/8133/council_on_foreign_relations_special_symposium_in_honor_of_david_rockefellers_90th_birthday.html
38. David Rockefeller, Memoirs, New York: Random House: 2002, 405
ANDREW G. MARSHALL is a Research Associate with the Centre for Research on Globalization based out of Montreal, Canada (www.globalresearch.ca). He has written extensively on issues imperialism in the Middle East and Africa, the environment, Homeland Security, war, terrorism and the global economy. He is currently studying Global Political Economy and the History of the Middle East and Africa at Simon Fraser University (Canada).
The above article appeared in New Dawn No. 118 (Jan-Feb 2010).
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