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Letters from Downunder


Submitted by Lindsay
Melbourne Australia!

We are the facilitators of our own creative evolution. - Albert Schweitzer

(6/2015) Every living thing evolves, but the things that Homo Sapiens developed from the earliest times also evolved. Things that took on a life of their own, such as social structure, religious ceremony, clans and tribes, family and foods, technology and so on, and which have affected everyone from lonely cowherd and slave to garbage scrabbler and denizen of a great city – and everyone in between. All the facets of this set of amazing conditions have been of great interest to scholars, business, kings and so many more people down the ages. They have been studied and explored, utilized and written about until there are more texts than anyone could ever read. Today, each of these areas have evolved into complex organisms; in the process some areas died out, some were transformed, and in most cases folk from even a century ago would be hard pressed to recognize them.

Within this moving framework the role of money has been both vital and catalytic, with social structure the result and genesis of the process. A framework that was meant to be designed, but which was mostly amorphous as the ideas and practices of one farsighted individual or clan – think of the De Medici’s – were picked up and modified by someone using their ideas but in their own situation. This evolution was unlike that of organic life, even though both occur from opportunity and need, because banking was planned. Close-thought decisions were arrived at, tested, and if successful were utilized or changed. The results grew of didn’t, but no one outside the group knew about it. They only used the result for their own purposes, and were generally happy to be ignorant of the internal structure or goals.

A lizard does not see a bird and say to itself ‘Oh, I’d like to fly’, and then develop wings, or a tribe say ‘This life is silly; let’s build a city,’ and see it happen. All evolution takes time; it’s gradual, with an unknown number of forces and influences shaping and altering the metamorphosis, the result unforeseen. By contrast, just because we have progressed further than our forebears, (at least we like to think so), we believe we can see what’s coming. All that new scientific and mathematic material that has been developed enables us to see into the future. We know we will one day soon land on mars or unlock the mystery of black holes, therefore we also know that the social systems we have are predictive.

After all, feudalism came and went, communism came, and thanks to you guys, (apart from the newly evolved version in China, which you also helped bring about, went. (Aren’t you clever?). And which is now ready to spread around the world with little impedance; theocracies, long thought to be rigor mortised, are making a reappearance, and so on. Democracy, from ‘by the people for the people’ also evolved into democratic capitalism where the emphasis became ‘from the elite for the elite,’ the beginnings of which emerged some 300 years ago. This then became a particular development of the USA, and has been so gratifying you have ensured its uptake by Britannia and her once colonies, with cultural and business differences having caused resistance, distrust and even revulsion in much of the middle east who thought they were getting good old people democracy for their suffering.

So now let me fill you in on the latest evolutionary development: trans national capitalism, TNC. We are all acquainted with Blue chips, national and international companies, but I could almost guarantee you have not come across TNC’s before. The evolution of banking and commerce has speeded up so much that we can hardly see the changes happening, let alone having the time or resources to study them. Far more than the rapid development of technology, this group is a complex of top companies around the world, whose interlocking networks are so dense they have become, in fact, a new creature in the world. It has been estimated that there are some 43,000 major companies who dominate world trade, and from that number just 1320 of them qualify as TNC. They control an estimated 20% of world trade, each having direct ties to between two and twenty of their brethren. Apart from direct links, they interlock in their various areas expertise which covers virtually every area of manufacturing, commerce, and trade, and their power remains largely unheeded by governments, stock exchanges and the public.

The discovery of this development is the work of a Swiss group in Zurich at the Swiss Federal Institute, where they have combined the mathematics of complex systems with models of networked power. More alarmingly than the above, they have also discovered an even smaller echelon of this group that could be likened to Tyrannosaurus. They control about 40% of world trade, own 40 % of the world’s nett worth, and number just 147. They are not based in any one area – though quite a number are in America – and form a very exclusive club. Their weakness is instability, (remember Enron?) as they desire to maintain their hold and the status quo, and may not respond quickly to unexpected changes in the economy, and they are also more likely to be collusive, as no one member could countenance the advantage of one over another. They also are reminiscent of a colony, because unilateral decisions are out, acting in unison is in.

How much political power do they wield? Probably less than you might think, although printing money stimuli may be one of their schemes, and they surely have the IMF under control. Their strategies do not extend too far into the future because they can never be certain where the current trends will lead. The world is just too big and diverse.

So here we have a new world order, capitalism has evolved into supercap, and we can breathe a sigh of relief that we no longer have to speculate on what we think how our current version of capitalism will turn into. We know. I’d like to grow wings and have an overview of this behemoth, but am more than happy to carry on in my ignorance. As I’m sure you are too. If you are not, why are you still reading?

Is this a revolution? Well, yes, in a way, but it’s one without a shot being fired or a glimmer of publicity hitting the screens. Is it evolution? Surely, but that will continue willy-nilly, not intellectually planned but the product of desire and serendipity. Except here down under, where we are witnessing evolution in reverse. Mr. Abbott, our PM, aka The Sherriff of Nottingham. But not as clever.

Lindsay, bemused in Melbourne, Australia.

Read Past Down Under Columns by Lindsay Coker