He talks about Predatory capitalism, Dual Oligarchic parties, blood on the streets, socialism in capitalism, death of unions, secession of California, New England, southern parasite states, climate change, destabilizing mass migrations north, population explosion, the "Scramble" scenario,
Transcribed from the audio podcast posted here.
Thanks to Eric Forat for transcript checking/editing.
R.K.: Welcome to the Rob Kall Bottom Up Radio Show, WNJC 1360 AM out of Washington Township reaching Metro Philly and South Jersey, sponsored by opednews.com. My guest tonight is Lawrence Wilkerson. He is retired United States Army soldier and and former chief of staff to United States Secretary of State Colin Powell. Wilkerson is an adjunct professor at the College of William & Mary where he teaches courses on US national security. He also instructs a senior seminar in the Honors Department at the George Washington University entitled "National Security Decision Making." Welcome to the show. Welcome back.
L.W.: Thanks for having me, good to be back.
R.K.: So, I just wanted to kind of catch up with you and what's been on your mind. I did a little research and you were recently on the Real News and you were talking about predatory capitalism and about predators. I'm interested in that. What is that about?
L.W.: Everything Marx wrote was not wrong, you know? It's kind of like paranoids are sometimes right, too. There are people that are after them. Capitalism has within it the seeds of its own destruction. We indeed have seen those seeds sown a number of times in our fertile soil in this country. Perhaps the most egregious time really not the 1930's though that was the most debilitating time but beginning in the 1890's when Robber Barons, as Teddy Roosevelt and others called them, began to show us the real dark side of capitalism and what is, in essence, icapitalism's goal-- monopoly.
Its secondary goal is the destruction of labor, or at least the minimization of labor and its tertiary and other goals underneath that monopoly and that destruction or minimalization of labor and the cost thereof is building shoddy products at a maximum price. We have reached that stage again in this country. We reached it with a new envelope around the stage.
When we reached it in the 30's, when we reached it in the late 19th century, mid century and before we had reached it many times as I said before, each time, either the depth of our republic, which is really our exceptionalism, if we have any, three thousand miles, two oceans on either side, benign neighbors north and south and so forth, that's how exceptional we are really, we've had this incredible continental spread of resources, arable land and so forth, but each time we reach it, some of that grasps us back and brings us back to some kind of equilibrium.
In the Great Depression years in the 30's, of course, it was Franklin Roosevelt and the government, and labor to a certain extent, and I have to admit, too, it was parties like the communist party that reached out, grabbed us and slung us back into a more balanced position. And the way that happens generally is that labor rises up and objects to capitalist exploitation and at the same time government steps in and brings some balance between labor's demands and capital's demands and so you get a regulatory system within the government framework that handles capitalism-- more or less manages it.
Well what we did after World War II was dismantle, slowly but surely, starting with Nixon in the 70's and moving through Reagan and on up to George W. Bush, that regulatory mechanism at the same we were destroying the labor movement. And anybody that tells me we have a labor movement left in America, I laugh at them, we don't. We've destroyed it. So there are no balancing mechanisms now.
There is no government regulation to speak of and there's no labor movement to speak of. And capitalism is off on its ultimate goal, monopoly, destruction and minimization of labor, cheap products and shoddy products. That is essentially what capitalism's goal is and it's predatory to the maximum because it produces for a select few enormous wealth while it produces, for the many, poverty and worse.
R.K.: You're a republican.
R.K.: That doesn't sound republican, that sounds socialist.
L.W.: I'm an Eisenhower republican. Eisenhower, who despite the frantic cries and pleads and demands even of his own party, for eight years kept the tax on the wealthiest people in America above 90%. He continued the war level tax on the richest people in America, saying again and again 'to those who much is given much is expected." And I am that kind of Republican. You don't convince me that trickle-down theory works. It doesn't work.
Trickle-down theory puts billions of dollars in a few people's pockets and impoverishes the rest of us and that's precisely what happened. So the the republican party is not the party of Eisenhower anymore. It's not even the party of Roosevelt. It's not even the party of Lincoln. It's the party of the plutocrats, the oligarchs, the predatory capitalists. To a certain extent though, and this is the shame of our country right now, the democrats are of the same fabric.
We don't have the possibility of voting between one party and another and getting something different because both are essentially for the oligarchs. Chuck Schumer, Senator from New York, Barney Frank, former representative had as much to do with the debacle in 2008 that George W Bush expedited with two wars and no taxes and so forth, but they had as much to do with that as any republican did because they're all in tow to corporate interests. Big food, big energy, big insurance and real estate, big pharmacy, and most of all, the conglomeration that goes together to protect their interests.
R.K.: You spoke on Real News about Adam Smith's Wealth of Nations and the Invisible Hand and how that manifests today. Can you get into this a bit, assuming our listeners are not familiar with the details of Adam Smith's writings?
L.W.: You know, I wish I had more time, we'd have got into his theory of moral sentiments too because Adam Smith was like any one of his time, I think, who thought seriously and critically about things, was imbued with almost a religious fervor about the needs for morality within business dealings as well as the need for, as you said, this invisible hand in the market that sort of controls competition, controls prices, but does it in a way that responds to the natural exigencies of economic business rather than to some government or some corporation's interest.
When we talk about how capitalism can work, we also have to think about and talk about the positive side. And the positive side is it is probably the best economic framework that humans have devised that allows for human creativity, ingenuity, merits, skills, talent, all the good buzz words we like to use to rise to the top and to create wealth in the process. This does sometimes create winners and losers but that's the inevitable fall out that you have to accept.
However, I think Adam Smith, were he alive today and certainly John Maynard Keynes, who kind of followed in that tradition, even though John Maynard Keynes was not really, we forget this, an economist first, I think they would say yes, that's okay as long as there is something to control the more injurious, the most dangerous, excesses of capitalism which we've already referred to and those things that control that are basically two. They're labor and labor's organized interest in combating capitalism's worst tendencies and government.
Helping to maintain a balance between labor and capital and to ensure that the regulatory environment exists to sustain that balance. So I'm not against capitalism and I am not for this or that aspect otherwise of some other system. Capitalism has much socialism in it, especially as it's practiced in places like Norway and Sweden and so forth. It has socialism in this country too. Socialism is not a pejorative, it's a beautiful word really.
It talks about society. It talks about community. It talks about doing things for the global commons, if you will. Doing things for the body of people and not for just the oligarchs. So I have nothing against socialism. Communism now, is a different system altogether, a political more than economic system and people confuse these two systems all the time.
But if you're talking about capitalism and socialism, the two can coexist and indeed probably do have to coexist with this government regulatory and capitalistic tension kept in balance, in order for society to be productive and to succeed the way the United States has or the way Norway has or England has or France has or Germany has, or pick almost any country that's practiced a combination of these two economic systems and read some success through it.
So I'm not against capitalism. I'm just for the kind of capitalism and the kind of creativity and critical thinking and so forth government regulation and labor power that balances all of these otherwise very inimical and dangerous forces and keeps them aimed at the right end product.
R.K.: How is that looking in the US now?
L.W.: Very bad. It's looking as bad as it's looked in our history and that's pretty bad because I said before we've had some real dips in this process where the oligarchs, the Robber Barons, the JP Morgans of the world have almost taken over the country. We're at a point now where I think it's fair to say that much as in Ukraine, much as in Russia, much as in other places in the world where this sort of tension exists and can be exploited by the wealthy, we are turning into an oligarchy.
We are turning into a country for whom the best descriptive phrase is their central purpose in life is: defense of wealth. And not defense of wealth that is spread amongst the many, but defense of wealth that is concentrated in the hands of the very select few. That's called a plutocracy, in old Greek terms. An oligarchy is a few small, a small group of people running an entity, well plutocracy is those few small people being only the wealthy.
Well that's really what we are today. We're a plutocracy. The wealthy have far too much power. They have far too much control over the rest of our lives and they have far too much control over what's supposed to be a democratic government but which hasn't been a democratic government for a long, long time.
R.K.: Do you see any ways that we're going to change this course that we're on?
L.W.: I see it changing with blood in the streets. I mean that's the only way I see it changing. The only way you get out of the mess we've created for ourselves is for at least a goodly portion of the three hundred million people in this country, those who are deprived of what they should have by their birthright, that is the chance for the pursuit of happiness, freedom, liberty, all of the things we pontificate about all of the time.
Only when they realize what is happening to them and take concrete action to turn that around, and I don't mean going to the ballot box because that's become a fruitless exercise, but I mean actually taking action locally, state-wise, and then nation-wide to turn this around to change the whole situation, I don't think we're going to see any improvement. I just think we're going to slide slowly off the cliff and we're going to wind up just like every empire before us, writhing in a sea of pain and agony and breaking up and falling apart as the rest of the world marches on laughing at us.
R.K.: Wow. How would that look? I mean, are there signs of this happening already?
L.W.: I think there are signs of it happening already and people with whom I converse seriously about these matters sometimes scoff at the idea that this could happen but I mentioned the other day, the possibility of California becoming an independent country and of the usual derision was offered and I simply stated, California, by whatever measurement you want to use, is at least a tenth and some would say the seventh or the eighth largest economy in the world.
California could prosper without the rest of the United States. California transfers through tax and other redistribution of wealth, money that it makes every year to basket cases like Mississippi, Alabama, South Carolina, and other states who haven't made a profit, so to speak, in thirty years. And who are living off the hard work and effort and entrepreneurship and so forth of places like California. So I could easily see California becoming an independent state.
I could see New England becoming an independent entity and I could see other division, there was a book about twenty five years ago called The Nine Nations of North America, very persuasive book about how the United States could dismember itself. We had a Welsh Parliamentarian at William and Mary recently. I think he said he had twenty six years in the Welsh Parliament and he told us to the astonishment of some government professors who were in the room, that there was a t least a 50/50 chance the United Kingdom would not be the United Kingdom in twenty years. That Scotland would be independent, Wales would be independent, England would be independent, Northern Ireland would be reunited with Ireland and be an independent republic.
Well that's pretty shocking to think of the United Kingdom being just that little tiny parcel called England and every body else being independent but that's history! That's the way the world works. That's the way life goes.
R.K.: Now you're talking as the Chief of Staff to the former Secretary of State so when you talk about nations, you know what you're talking about. Do you see big changes in other places? Like Europe or Russia or Africa or China? Or India?
L.W.: I see some tremendous changes coming and at one point as I was telling two of my grandchildren the other day, who are getting old enough to understand, I thought they would be the ones who would be, however you want to say it, reaping the havoc or the rewards, whatever it turns out to be for their particular cases of this massive change that's coming but I am no longer convinced of that. I've been to enough briefings of late that I am convinced I, if I live another ten or fifteen years which I hope I do, I'm going to see some of this.
And what I'm talking about, of course, is the massive change that's going to brought about and it's just cyclical but that cycle is being aided and abetted by fossil fuel burning, by climate change. Climate change is going to present Africa with a desert from the northern rim of the Sahara all the way down to South Africa probably in the next seventy five to a hundred years. It's going to force massive migrations.
Why do we really think we created Africa Command? The military command in the Unified Command Plan that finally after fifty years of arguing over this and everything got done. That is to say we now have a military man, a four star general in charge of the region of Africa. We fought that in the military, we didn't want to do that, it's not the right approach to Africa and so forth but there are three reasons why that change came about.
The first reason, I won't rank these reasons, I'll just say they're equal. The first reason is the massive migrations that are going to take place, indeed are already taking place if you've watched Israel lately and seen them, how cruelly they are dealing with the black refugees that are flowing in the Sinai, this is a first.
The mass migrations are going to take place because of the disappearing water, the disappearing arable land, and so forth and the military needs to be there to control that because those people are going to go where those people need to go to find water to drink, food to eat, and so forth.
The second reason is because that movement is going to be predominantly south to north and it's going to destabilize, massively so eventually. Everything from Morocco over to Egypt and that's not what we want. It's going to destabilize the southern rim of Europe too as they flow out of Algeria and Libya and Egypt and into Marseilles and Genoa and other places on the southern framework of Europe on the northern rim of the Mediterranean
And then the third reason is the massive amount of resources that still remain, especially esoteric resources in Africa. Principally in the central part where the Belgians made such a mess of what used to be the Congo, the Central African Republic and so forth. So that's why we have suddenly decided that the military is the main instrument of policy vis-a-vis Africa for the United States. We want those resources, we want to stop that migration or control it as much as possible, stop the destabilization of the north.
All of these things are humongous challenges that basically, other than the lip service President Obama gave to it recently, no one is really taking a hard look at and they're going to eat our lunch and they're going to eat China's lunch and India's lunch and Germany's lunch, everybody's lunch.
And we're all going to be sitting on the other side of them, if we survive and there's going to be I think few of us that do, wondering why the hell we didn't take it more seriously and do something about it in time to at least mitigate, adapt, rather than accelerate and extenuate and deepen these problems that are coming.
R.K.: Who is going to eat our lunch? Who is going to eat China's lunch? Who?
L.W.: Well China is going to eat its own lunch. China has a tremendous problem with potable water right now. It has a tremendous problem with pollution that it doesn't seem to be able to do anything about. I mean, every summer I've been in Beijing it's been worse. People wear masks. Millions of people with masks on because of the pollution is so bad.
China has a problem environmentally, ecologically, has a problem resource-wise. Let's just look at one aspect of this. If the UN projections are right, and I have no reason to question them about population increase, by 2040, 2050 certainly, we're going to add another two to three billion people to this planet. That's going to require at present rate of resource consumption, six more planets in order to support them.
Well you say, we just won't consume at quite that rate. Well these people are coming into the middle class, predominantly in India and China. That's where the major population increase is going to occur that is going to be demanding middle class standards of living. Are we going to have enough plastic water bottles? Just think about it for a moment, what that means in terms of the Earth already beleaguered in its ability to support the human population that's already on it.
What the Earth is going to do when there's another two, three billion people? I'll tell you what the Earth is going to do-- all you have to do is study the geologic history of the Earth. The Earth casts things off when they become untenable to its sustainability and its productivity and its health. It's like a human being. There are too many people on my surface, I'm going to get rid of some of them. And that's what's going to happen. And it's going to happen through a number of mechanisms but the most threatening right now, to me is acidification of the oceans, sea rise in general, and the warming temperatures and the melting ice and the new ice age which is going to make it really untenable for human life.
We forget sometimes that the last millennium has been, look at the geologic record, which we can do fairly accurately now. Back a hundred thousand years, back even 4.5 billion years, but at least a hundred thousand years, you look at the geologic record and you can see that the last millennium has been extraordinarily conducive to human life. Extraordinarily so.
That's one reason why we put, since 1900 more people on the face of this Earth than were on it in the previous five millennia. So we have had a really good time. We, being human life. We're getting ready to go into a period where we're going to have a really bad time.
And not dealing with the challenges that that presents early on, and we're already behind the power curve, and by the way, I don't give a damn whether you believe humans are contributing to this change or not, it's irrelevant, the change is occurring.
I happen to believe humans are contributing and causing some of the accelerated effects and that we could find a way to probably attenuate some of these effects if we believed that and did something about it, but even if we don't believe that, it's going to happen. It's going to happen and we're going to have to deal with it.
I firmly believe right now there are people thinking in the oligarchy, whether it's the oligarchy in Moscow, or here in Washington, or in Beijing, there are people thinking seriously about how they are going to protect their wealth, their lives, and their family's lives when this begins to happen in such a serious way that blood in the streets becomes a metaphor for the day. The Royal Dutch Shell did a couple of scenarios a few years ago that they made partly public.
And Royal Dutch Shell by the way has one of the best strategic think tanks in the world embedded in its executive leadership and they call these alternative futures that they were forecasting, scramble and blueprint. As you might imagine, blueprint was where world leaders in the G-20, the G-8 whatever actually got together and made some meaningful changes to the way they did business and the way their business did business so that we attenuated and mitigated and adapted to some of these changes that are coming.
And we did it in a more or less programmed, process-oriented way that is reasonable and rational. That was called Blueprint. The other scenario was called Scramble, and in that, each nation more or less tried to save itself. There was very little cooperation, very little international attempt to meet challenges like climate change, environmental degradation and so forth, it was all every nation for itself.
And in this scramble Shell predicted there will be a lot of conflict. Conflict over dwindling resources like potable water, oil and gas and so forth, and conflict over arable land because there won't be a whole lot of it and guess which one Shell predicted would be the eventual outcome, the eventual alternative that would match more or less the future? Scramble.
R.K.: Yeah it figures.
L.W.: Even began to put together, I'm told, private security companies and money to pay those private security companies to protect its own oil, pipeline and so forth facilities around the world because it didn't believe governments would be capable of doing so. And here is one of the largest corporations in the world and it's telling you that the future is fraught with problems and it doesn't believe that the governments of the world are going to get together and deal with those problems.
R.K.: Well corporations have really become trans-national entities in their own right with resources bigger than most governments, so in a sense-
L.W.: You're absolutely right. Exxon Mobile-
R.K.: You're describing an army.
L.W.: Exxon Mobile's profits last year were bigger than what 60% of the world's countries' GDPs. They are. They are entities in and of themselves. You get a guy like Rex Tillerson, CEO of Exxon Mobil who gives a speech in Kazakhstan where in essence he said he would rather live in Kazakhstan because they have a better environment for energy development. I mean, these guys have no national loyalty. They have no feeling of fealty to a particular country, their fealty is to their fiduciary responsibility and their own wealth. That's it. Period.
R.K.: Well let's talk a little bit about that. Recently I had on the author of the book and the producer of the movie, The Corporation, have you seen that movie?
L.W.: No, I've heard about it, I haven't seen it.
R.K.: It basically goes through describing just how many ways corporations are like psychopaths.
R.K.: And I'm really, I have really gotten interested in understanding psychopaths because I think they play so big a role in our culture, not the ones who get caught and go to jail but the smart ones who don't. And I think of them as, if there's one word I use for a psychopath, it's predator. And that's how we started this conversation.
L.W.: Yes. That's a good metaphor.
R.K.: So, can you throw together some thoughts about what we have talked about so far and psychopaths and predators of that nature?
this three part transcript will continue tomorrow.
Rob Kall has spent his adult life as an awakener and empowerer-- first in the field of biofeedback, inventing products, developing software and a music recording label, MuPsych, within the company he founded in 1978-- Futurehealth, and founding, organizing and running 3 conferences: Winter Brain, on Neurofeedback and consciousness, Optimal Functioning and Positive Psychology (a pioneer in the field of Positive Psychology, first presenting workshops on it in 1985) and Storycon Summit Meeting on the Art Science and Application of Story-- each the first of their kind. Then, when he found the process of raising people's consciousness and empowering them to take more control of their lives one person at a time was too slow, he founded Opednews.com-- which has been the top search result on Google for the terms liberal news and progressive opinion for several years. Rob began his Bottom-up Radio show, broadcast on WNJC 1360 AM to Metro Philly, also available on iTunes, covering the transition of our culture, business and world from predominantly Top-down (hierarchical, centralized, authoritarian, patriarchal, big) to bottom-up (egalitarian, local, interdependent, grassroots, archetypal feminine and small.) Recent long-term projects include a book, Bottom-up-- The Connection Revolution, debillionairizing the planet and the Psychopathy Defense and Optimization Project.
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