Why Western elites are so keen on “free markets” and “free trade”

An ideology may have its attractions, but that does not explain why it becomes the  ideology of an elite. Innumerable ideologies, sacred and profane, have come and gone without achieving such a status.. Sometimes, as with the French and Russian Revolutions, a dramatic event catapults a group with a particular ideology into power, but in a country such as Britain with a very long tradition with representative government, the ideological capture of an elite has to be by more subtle means.  The answer lies in the self-interest of the elite which emerged after the Great Reform Act when the balance of power began to shift from the landed aristocracy to the bourgeoisie. That elite gradually evolved into a broader middle class movement which in turn is evolving into a supra-national class,  a class which is closely bound up with big business.

 “I  just  think  that  a lot of modern  corporate  capitalists  —  the managerial class basically — has no loyalty to any country anymore, or any particular values other than the bottom line.” (Pat Buchanan quoted by  Daniel  Brandt  in  his article “Class Warfare”  in  issue  13  of Namebase Newsline  -http//www.namebase.org/news13.html).

 Buchanan  is grasping a demon which he only dimly apprehends.  What is happening  is vastly more significant than simply gaining economic advantage. We are presently witnessing  the creation of an international class of plutocrats  who care for  nothing but  their  own  class.   They  have  the  potential  to  form  a  true international aristocracy.  If that happens,  the imperfect  democratic control  the  masses have been able to exert over their elites  in  the past  century  will end.  The prime tool for the creation  of  such  an international aristocracy is “free trade”.

 There are  parts of Western elites which are  reluctant  to embrace  “free markets”  and  “free trade”,  but the  general  economic trend is clear:  the internationalist, globalist creed is the  dominant philosophy  when it comes to trade and increasingly the idea  of  laissez  faire in the domestic sphere is being accepted in practice if not always in overt political policy. 

Why  have  Western   elites moved from the  socially  oriented nationalism  which dominated most of the twentieth century to laissez faire driven internationalism?  The answer is simple: internationalising politics gives them greater political control.  Laissez faire with its add-ons of  mass migration and the emasculation of the nation state provides a means to subvert the power of the masses to restrain the abuses of elites through democratic control. 

From the point of elites socially oriented nationalism was an aberration. In  most circumstances throughout history the wishes of the mass  of  a population  have  been  of little or no account in any  formal   sense. The  masses  made  their  presence  felt  through  rioting  – the historian Lewis Namier  memorably described  the government of 18th century England as “aristocracy tempered by rioting” – and  social disturbance  or as catspaws  in the service of elite members who wished  to rebel.  An elite took note only  when they were frightened enough – the creation  of  a form of national public assistance by the Poor  Law  of 1601 is a classic example of such behaviour.

Eventually,  representative government  evolved to the point where  the masses began to have a direct say in the political process through  the vote.  The elite as a group did not welcome this but felt it could  not be  resisted.  It was not democracy to be sure but elective  oligarchy, which  was  buttressed  by elite constructed devices   to  exclude  new entrants  into  the  political process  such as  first  past  the  post voting, election deposits and a very strong party system.  Nonetheless, once  the franchise was broadened the masses  were able to  exercise  a large degree of democratic control  because politics was still national and a political party had to respond to the electors’ wishes. The elite resented this control over their behaviour as all elites do and  looked around for a way to diminish democratic influence. They found the means to do it through internationalism.

 In  a  sovereign  country elected politicians cannot readily  say  this or  that cannot be done if it is practical to do the thing.   That is a considerable  block on elite misbehaviour.  So elites decided thatthe way round this  unfortunate fact was to  commit  to treaties  which would  remove the opportunity for the electorate to  exercise  control.

A most  notable  example is the Treaty of Rome  and  the  subsequent treaties which have tied  its constituent members  into the EU. Vast swathes of policy are no longer within the control of the EU members because of these treaties. Add in the treaties tying Britain to  the UN and the WTO and  the commitment of every mainstream  British party to them, and  democratic control has essentially gone.

But  internationalism  is not simply a bureaucratic  elite  device  to weaken  democratic control,  it is a sociological event in itself.   An elite thinks of itself  as a separate group,  a group which may in some circumstances   extend  beyond national boundaries  and  jurisdictions. The medieval aristocracies of Western Europe thought themselves part of a  chivalric whole.    When Charles I of England was executed  in  1649 the   monarchs of Europe were horrified because  they thought it  would set an example for other royal killings.

 The ruling elites in the First World today  have a class interest which binds  them more closely to one another than to the people  they  rule. Indeed,  there   is  arguably a greater sense  of  international  elite solidarity  than ever before.   This is because  modern  communications allow  people, goods and ideas to move with an unmatched ease. Because of  this the international class can constantly revitalise  and  extend their group solidarity.

 The  advantage to the elites of this culturally  based   international solidarity  underwritten  by many personal elite  relationships  across national  boundaries,   is that it allows them to weaken  even  further their  dependence upon their immediate  (native)  populations,  because not only does a particular national elite have a ready made excuse  for not  doing something – “Our treaty obligations will not permit it”  –  but the  personal relationships and the growing sense of  class  solidarity increases  the  confidence  and hence the willingness  of  the  various national  elites  to  act ever more in the  international  elite  class interest.  Indeed,  the more they are together and the  more  they  act together, the more  natural it will seem.

 It is important to understand that  elites are not  engaged  as a group in a conscious conspiracy against the masses.  What happens is that the psychological and sociological  forces which press upon us all push the elite to adopt policies which always lead to their retention of  power.

It is not difficult to see how this happens.  All human beings  have a powerful ability to write a narrative in their heads which will persuade them that they  act not from self-serving  or disreputable  reasons  but  honourable and socially useful  ones.   The consequence of this is that while individual members  of an elite  will consciously  comprehend   the  likely effect of  their  ideology,   the majority will simply accept their ideology at face value. This helps to bolster  and stabilise the elite’s position because no  secular elite  ideology ever  overtly  states  that the masses will  be  disadvantaged  if  the ideology  is  followed,  and in the case  of  formal  democracies,  theideology  positively  claims to materially better society as  a  whole. This  will emotionally reassure most elite members,  who  will  bolster their acceptance of the ideology through inter-elite conversations – if most  or  all those in a group are positive about something,   that  is most powerful social reinforcer.

 It is important to understand how we got  into the present mess.  Despite the widespread  ignorance of and economic theory and history amongst the elite , it wasn’t primarily an intellectual failure amongst those with power but one of character. Some failed to act rationally because of their inability to resist the laissez faire ideology, others failed because they feared the consequences of speaking out against the elite ideology, some failed because they had a vested interest in maintaining a system which paid them well.

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