In a capitalist society, money is directly linked to power. The more money you own, the greater influence you can exert.
Particularly, purchasing power may become political power when those with wealth utilize their money to secure positions within the corridors of power through attending elite private schools or exclusive social clubs or even networking events where they are able to establish connections with other monied interests.
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Control of the political system is also possible through the wealthy through a financial investment that provides those in positions of power who have favorable views, by using marketing and PR strategies to change public perceptions in their favor, or by creating pressure groups to influence politicians directly.
There are a myriad of names used to describe this phenomenon including corporate lobbying, nepotism, corporate lobbying corruption, cronyism “the old boys’ club” and sleaze, bribery and lots more, but all of these terms are a reference to the same kind of behavior.
For instance, those who have substantial amounts of wealth are able to leverage their wealth to influence society according to their own interests.
An excellent example is the case of the Koch brothers and the Mercer family.
Charles and David Koch, American billionaires, are the primary owners of America’s second largest privately owned company.
They, their families and a number of other wealthy donors have spent hundreds of millions (probably hundreds of billions) to create committees and think tanks to support the agenda of the Koch brothers that includes low taxes, deregulation, and less environmental protections.
In addition, the Mercer family have also been major contributors to right-wing magazines and think tanks in the USA including Breitbart News and the Heritage Foundation, and the Cato Institute – among scores of others.
On the other side of the political spectrum, the Hungarian billionaire George Soros founded the Open Societies Foundation and is believed to have contributed more than $32 billion to the foundation since its founding. Because of the Open Society Foundation’s support and aid for refugees seeking asylum in Western countries, as well as its efforts to secure citizenship for illegal immigrants from the USA and in other nations, George Soros has become a villainous figure for much of the European and American right-wing.
“The The Strong Will Do Anything They Can Do, and the Weak Accept Anything They Have to Accept” – Thucydides. The Melian Dialogue
The concept of those who have financial power using it politically to advance their own goals is often paired with military power.
Consider the example of the United Fruit Company. The rulers of Latin America ensured that the United Fruit Company had a favorable business environment. This allowed the company to set up profitable operations in Latin America before World War II.
Then, in 1944 United Fruit began experiencing difficulties in Guatemala which is one of their most important bases. The Guatemalan President, Jorge Ubico, a leader closely aligned to US interests and an enthusiastic fan of the United Fruit Company, was deposed in a popular uprising.
In the ten years following Many of the presidents who were following Ubico took land reform measures that returned large areas of land owned by United Fruit to the Guatemalan people.
In 1954 it was clear that the United Fruit Company had seen enough and had heavily lobbied the American government to act. A large part of this was due to the fact that several of US President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s staff members had ties with United Fruit, they were just too eager to help.
As a result, the CIA orchestrated a successful coup in Guatemala that overthrew the President who was elected and replaced with an additional dictator, who was more open to American interests. The result was four years of civil war among Guatemala’s most disadvantaged and a succession of United States-backed dictators which left more than thousands of people dead.
In March 1999, US President Bill Clinton finally apologized to the Guatemalan government for the crimes committed by the dictatorships that were backed by American in the country, stating that ‘for United States it is important I state clearly that the assistance provided to military forces and intelligence units that engaged in violence and widespread repression was wrong.’
But, Guatemala was by no means an isolated case. The trail of bloodshed and destruction that the United Fruit Company – together with their powerful allies in the government and in the military – left behind across a variety of Latin American states is almost astonishing in its scope.
Not That Long Ago, But Not Far Away From Home
The examples of corporate interests turning into political and military interests too aren’t limited to the largely ignored Latin American states in long-gone years.
For instance, over several years between the late 1960s and the mid-1970s, individuals from the British security services, senior levels of the military and well-connected political circles conspired to overthrow Harold Wilson, the elected Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, and install at his place an unelected coalition government of their choosing.
For most people, a conspiracy sounds extraordinary, but confirmation came from MI5 whistleblower Peter Wright, who outlined the scheme in his book Spycatcher that, upon its publication in 1987 was barred from being published in England.
Hugh Cudlipp (ex-editor of the Daily Mirror) and Brian Crozier (ex-intelligence officer) are two more people who have confirmed the plot of Wilson.
The conspiracy theory is that they planned to choose the person they wanted to head the unelected government. This was Lord Mountbatten, a close relative of Queen Elizabeth as well as Prince Phillip.
As Patrick Sawer, a Senior News Reporter for the Daily Telegraph has written:
Lord Mountbatten was in danger of leading an industrialist cabal, generals and tycoons planning a coup against a Labour government. The 1968 plot was designed to replace Prime Minister Harold Wilson with a coalition government that would bring the nation together, during what Mountbatten and his conspirators regarded as a time of national crisis.
These episodes were part of Season 3 Episode 5 on the TV series The Crown. The episode was appropriately named “Coup”.
In the USA the United States, a similar plot was developed in the year 1933.
Following the election of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who had pledged to abandon the gold standard, and to implement a raft of left-wing economic policies which became known as the ‘New Deal’ the powerful corporate magnates, like Chase Bank, Standard Oil, General Motors, Goodyear, Dupont, Heinz, and many others, conspired to create an elite army of as much as half a million veterans from the military to take over the government of Roosevelt and install a fascist leadership to replace him.
This was known as the “Business Plot” and the conspirators approached Major Gen. Smedley Butler, a 34-year veteran of the US Marine Corps who was at the time the most decorated Marine in US history and was appointed to head their private army.
But Butler was unhappy with his experience in the US military, and not only did he not participate in the plot, he also testified in front of the United States House of Representatives in 1934.
Even though Congress concluding that they could verify the accuracy of all statements made by General Butler and his staff, nobody was ever prosecuted, nor did any of the key individuals accused of having been involved in the plot called to testify before Congress.
Then, in 1935, Smedley Butler released a book titled War Is A Racket – the summary of which says:
War is an act of racket. It’s always been. It’s the most enduring one, and arguably the most profitable and certainly the most vicious. It is the sole international version. It is the only one that the profits are determined in dollars, as are the lives lost in life. A racket can be described, I believe, as something that isn’t what it appears to the majority of the people. Only a small , inside segment of the population knows what it’s about. It is conducted for the benefit of a very few, at the expense of the very many. In the aftermath of war, a few people make huge fortunes.