Empire, Power, and People with Andrew Gavin Marshall- Episode 4

What is the Nature of Power?


How does power function? What are the effects of power? Is it necessary? This episode seeks to introduce the listener to some thoughts on the concept of power, in both the concentration of it on one hand, and the lack of it on the other. Power can be concentrated in both institutions and individuals, but if we seek to solve the big problems of our time, we cannot focus simply on changing those individuals, or abolishing specific institutions. We must, instead, come to ask questions about the nature of power, itself, and thus, how such institutions and individuals are able to exist in the first place.

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  1. A related discussion that I had today:

    Swiss banks appear to be in the cross hairs: “The end of the bank Wegelin is only the prelude to a big attack on the Swiss financial sector,” he told Der Sonntag. “A solution to the tax dispute will likely
    be very expensive for these banks.”


    An economist: An “attack” in one man’s opinion is an attempt to enforce US laws, in another’s. As you may know the US imposes income taxes (also estate and gift taxes) on it’s citizens no matter where in the world they are located. At the moment there aren’t any countries that haven’t made a formal commitment to cooperating with international law enforcement. However a formal commitment is only as good as the willingness of the local authorities to stand behind it. Generally, countries listed as “tax havens” (which actually means they offer very low tax rates to international business) are also bank secrecy havens to some degree. There are a lot of tax havens (see http://www.can-offshore.com/tax-havens/offshore-tax-havens.htm ) and the smart money keeps moving around from one to another, staying one jump ahead. I think what this article is saying is that Switzerland, which used to be a favorite bank secrecy haven, has tossed in the towel. Looks like there is no foolproof way to have bank secrecy anymore. (of course you don’t have to use a bank!)
    I’m not sure why you think this development foreshadows the collapse of the euro? There are other good reasons to expect that, but I don’t think they have anything to do with the closing out of Switzerland as a bank secrecy haven. For a good article on the prospects for the euro, I’d recommend this piece by George Soros:

    I highlighted several points that Soros makes with my own comments in parenthesis.

    “The European financial authorities rejected this plan in favor of the Long-Term Refinancing Operation (LTRO) of the European Central Bank, which provides unlimited amounts of liquidity to European banks—not to states themselves—for up to three years.
    “Instead of bringing the member countries closer together it will drive them to mutual recriminations. There is a real danger that the euro will undermine the political cohesion of the European Union.
    “The Maastricht Treaty established a monetary union without a political union.
    “The euro boasted a common central bank to provide liquidity, but it lacked a common treasury that would be able to deal with solvency risk in times of crisis. (In the case of the U.S. treasury, without Congressional reinforcement, there is no oversight.)
    ‘The tipping point was reached when a newly elected Greek government revealed that the previous government had cheated and the national deficit was much bigger than had been announced. (That con can be laid directly at the feet of Goldman-Sachs International).
    These are the defects that need to be fixed. (The FedWire, non-transparent liquidity)”

    I still am concerned that the U.S. will withdraw from the Swiss banks, which have been taking the U.S. for a ride. These are the same Swiss banks that helped Germany avoid reparations, that finance the BIS, which oversee the other central banks. Soros makes a valid point that these things are well understood, but questions whether there is the political will.

    Bringing it to terms that I can understand, I was speaking with a Ph.D. candidate in economics today whose expertise was foreclosures of homes in Florida. He did not know what the Glass-Steagall bill was, what the BIS was, and considers Milton Friedman an important authority in today’s economics. That caused me concern. In some of the conversations I have been having with my Tea Party relative after his meeting with the Republican party elite that support Newt Gingrich – the absurdity of some of his statements such as ‘oh you mean permafrost melting and release of methane is greater than human caused climate change?’ shows a basic lack of logic at the highest levels of government.
    Are these the people that we expect to implement political will to restore financial stability? With the possible exception of Ron Paul, I don’t see any of the Republican candidates that understand economics in an egalitarian model. Are the Germans any different? Will they put European interest above their own, if the U.S. stops propping up the rest of Europe?

  2. AGM
    Your expansion on concepts about power, stated goal of needing to constantly question and ideally create new conceptions and thus understandings of power, when reviewing history, is very clear. Your own reflection on past conceptions of the Kennedy presidency was a good example. The discipline of being a self responsible individual willing to do the work of reflecting critically in order to better analyze conceptions of reality is lovely to listen to.(1power) You assisted my understanding of how concepts developed, propagated through and enshrined within institutions work through us (2people). As you stated the complicated nature of power is circumstantial due to the history of its concentration within institutions and the concept of slavery’s connection to the prison (3empire) is a lucid example. In short, this episode made clear your goal to develop a comprehensive understanding of the way power functions and its relation to us.

    I’m really enjoying listening to your responsibility.


  3. Andrew,

    Thanks for the thoughtful rant, you make some very good points. I especially appreciate the statement

    “The lesson of the past is to understand that institutional power is inherently corrosive; is inherently corruptive and oppressive. And it creates the corollary of lack of power among the people, which is equally corrosive and disruptive and dehumanizing.”

    I also appreciate your remarks regarding the need for all of us to look critically at our past and present, and to be honest in our assessment.

    However, a few points:

    (1) You never defined “power.” In order to discuss the nature of power, it must be defined so that all have the same understanding of what constitutes power.

    (2) I don’t think you identified the sources of power.

    (3) You say power is never given up, at least not willingly. I have to disagree. We have all willingly given up power to our governmental institutions in the United States. These institutions only have power as long as we accede it to them. Without our cooperation, they have no power. Freedom is really a state of mind. You are not truly free unless you fear no power. One either chooses to be free, regardless of the consequences, or one accepts something less for various reasons.

    It is inevitable that at some point the expression of freedom by one person will be viewed as interfering with the freedom of another. It is for this reason that groups of human beings relinquish some degree of freedom – to reach an agreement about the limits on their freedom they are willing to accept in order to promote harmony and security among their group. Problems arise when there is disagreement between parties about these limits or the limits agreed upon are violated.

    (4) I think it is important to recognize that once a disparity in power is realized, for whatever reason, the advantaged party will attempt to extend their advantage. This process can be done in such a way that the disadvantaged parties are oblivious to the growing disparity in power (freedom) until it reaches a level at which it is impossible to reverse without the disadvantaged parties resorting to extreme measures.

    In any case, I do look forward to your next podcast.

  4. Why isn’t this available?

  5. Matthew Raymer says:

    Excellent again. I’m walking my way through all these episodes so that I can better understand, but so far, I’m loving this.

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