The Global Gilded Age

The problems of the world have intensified to many crisis points which now threaten to spiral out of control, as the World Powers struggle to negotiate a new International Order to organize and soothe an anarchic International system amidst seemingly intractable problems. Never before in history have the crisis that have traditionally been the provence of Nations now affected the whole world, as the interconnectedness of the World System has truly globalized. Solving any of these crisis requires interaction, negotiation and cooperation at the global level independent of any individual nation’s ability to solve alone.

Never before in history has the World System been so chaotic. While the game remains the same, that of powerful monied interests using military & economic power to secure and exploit natural resources across the global South, the modern game has been complicated by the rise of Corporate and Institutional power rivaling that of Nations. No longer are International conflicts “simple” affairs of state, but now involve a host of Non-governmental actors competing with or co-opting traditional national powers. Now, competing corporate interests interfere in International affairs by leveraging financial clout to influence foreign leaders, conspiring with rival foreign factions to undermine foreign elected officials, utilizing corporate espionage & surveillance technology, undermining diplomatic efforts in peace deals, funding mercenary proxy armies to fight insurgencies for or against states, or even furnishing corporate mercenary services themselves, all in the name of political power, market access, and shareholder profit.

Non-state actors like Multinational corporations, quasi State-run corporate enterprises, Non-governmental Organizations, International Financial Institutions, Religious Organizations and Criminal Networks all compete in International markets, often at odds with traditional National powers. Some of these actors have grown so economically powerful that they rival or even eclipse traditional State power, as the largest have more wealth, manpower, industrial output and political clout than 2/3 of the world’s countries. Additionally, the emergence of Metanationals corporations, effectively stateless, have the added advantage of distributed locations across the globe with little accountability to any legal jurisdiction or local population, enabling them to amass fortunes by skirting National tax laws, avoiding State regulations, and escaping public scrutiny. These Metanationals also lack allegiance to any National population, allowing them to pit localities against each other in a race to decrease worker salaries & relocate production, negotiate favorable local tax deals and disregard environmental and health consequences of industrial production with impunity.

Attempts to establish a new International Order integrating traditional state and corporate power has suffered from the inability to create a coherent international business & legal framework. Attempts to establish such a framework have been ongoing for the past several decades, as powerful International Trade & Business councils such as the WTO, G10, M-20 and Bilderburg Groups have attempted to forge complex relations and agreements between nations, business leaders and industry experts. Exclusive trade deals requiring years of negotiation between nations have created additional complications and damaged local populations, whose interests barely register in deals clearly favoring corporate (private) monied interest. Additionally, traditional world power politics complicates trade deals, as East and West corporate Institutions must navigate within and outside rival national interests.

Amidst all this chaos, the complexity of conflict itself has expanded beyond traditional militaristic endeavors, branching out into economic & currency wars, cyber attacks, corporate espionage, sponsorship of terrorism & mercenary violence, and even into competition & militarism in Space. The corporate influence on affairs even works the other direction, as complex corporate social media campaigns, PR news and propaganda techniques have been co-opted by State actors to influence governments, policy networks and publics both at home and abroad. States also engage in corporate branding and advertising to resuscitate or enhance global reputation.

This brave new world of powerful Corporate & State interests mixing & competing has largely come at the expense of the poorest 2/3 of humanity, who struggle for access to the basic necessities while massive financial outflows leave their countries for the deep pockets of private wealth. The owners of Society, the Billionaires that fill the lists of Forbes and dominate across the world, accumulate & leverage financial power to such an astonishing amount, that a precious few hundred across the globe now control the wealth equivalent of all but the top 1/4 of humanity. A staggering 60 or so of the wealthiest multi-billionaires have more wealth than the poorest half of the world. And the rate of accumulation is changing and growing, as new industries and Internet technologies offer fresh opportunities to create freshly minted Billionaires in ready made monopolies.

The Gilded Age has returned and has gone global.