A review by Dale Wharton

Dale Wharton is a retired computer programmer who writes two-page
book reviews as a hobby. He was a seaman in the US Navy at the end of WWII.
He received his B.A. in Journalism from the University of Missouri in 1949.

Trilateralism: the Trilateral Commission and Elite Planning for World Government
ed. Holly Sklar
Black Rose Books, 1980
604 pp.

Broad human interests are being served best in economic terms where free market forces are able to transcend national boundaries." Thus spake David Trismegistus (David thrice-greatest Rockefeller: scion of the house of Exxon, chair of Chase Manhattan Bank, comptroller of birthright billions in the trusts of kinfolk by the dozen).

So saying, to extend those economic terms (and maybe augment family values?) David begot the Trilateral Commission (TC) in 1973. Today its three sides--Western Europe, North America (USA and Canada), and Japan--put forward about 310 members: "distinguished citizens with a variety of leadership responsibilities...." Of the last four US presidents-elect, three--Clinton, Bush, and Carter--are TC alumni.

In this reader 23 authors interpret origins, methods, and effects of the TC. They cast a whole new light on the American Century. After prolog and overview (including a 40-page who's who) the book breaks into eight sections. They focus on the tradition of corporate planning, the period after world war 2, TC's domestic imprint, placid governability or democracy (choose one), keeping the third world safe for business, economic nationalists v global corporations, challenges from within, and prospects. Separate chapters trace the TC's principal antecedents: the Council on Foreign Relations (at times more powerful than the Congress) and the Bilderberg Group (heard of it? It arranges policy decisions in private, offering them for national governments to ratify). The book's cover pictures planet Earth with bar code affixed.

Events of 1973 unnerved some members of the US Establishment. Their government's executive branch almost broke: Vice President Agnew felt obliged to resign, the Paris Vietnam Conference formalized the rout of US forces, Watergate began to drip on President Nixon.

The "Nixon shocks" of 1971 had ended an era that began in 1944 at Bretton Woods NH--a golden age when goods, services, and money flowed unobstructed among nations. John Connally, Nixon's Secretary of the Treasury, electrified monetary systems by quitting the gold standard overnight. Then the US upset international trade by flouting GATT and raising a tariff against US imports. This active unilateralism by western/newmoney/cowboy/prussians left eastern/oldmoney/yankee/traders cold and nervous (would trade wars ensue?). To cap it, two legislators --Vance Hartke and James Burke--did more than whimper that liberal trade practices amounted to exporting American jobs. (It seemed to matter to them that the US faced its first trade deficit since 1893.) They sponsored bills in Congress to limit imports and to lift a tax exemption on US global corporations. This was a job for Superdave!

Rockefeller liked a suggestion of Zbigniew Brzezinski (they both vacationed in Seal Harbor ME). Zbig taught at Columbia at the time. His idea was to strengthen ties among developed nations (except socialists, of course) with a series of tripartite studies. Participants would be the Brookings Institution, Japanese Economic Research Center, and European Community Institute of University Studies. In July 1972, 17 men--Brahmins, largely--gathered at Rockefeller's Pocantico Hills estate in suburban New York. They sketched the outlines of the TC. It would recruit from the usual channels of civil power (banks, corporations, governments) and influence (media, law firms, foundations, universities, think tanks). A labour component would help control popular isolationism and reduce the distance separating Trilats from the masses of ordinary folk.

The task of the first economic summit conference--Rambouillet 1975--was to put TC recommendations into effect, to implement policy at the highest level. What did (and do) they talk about? Ever the same: domestic economic policy, monetary arrangements, trade, energy, and north-south relations. G7 economic summits became a Directoire to which individual nation-states are largely subordinate. (According to a guest on CBC Newsworld, on 11 August 1992, 15 central banks intervened in currency markets to control a selloff of US dollars.)

To the TC, efforts at economic sovereignty and self-sufficiency are throwbacks--quaint obsolete customs that obstruct progress. The TC favours an international division of labour. How to explain the subtle interdependence of the industrial north with the third world? In 1991 business observer Doug Henwood tried: "...each member of the Triad has gathered under itself a handful of poor countries to act as sweatshops, plantations, and mines: the US has Latin America; the EC, Eastern and Southern Europe and Africa; and Japan, Southeast Asia."

Its spirit radiates from the pages of TC documents: "The public and leaders of most countries continue to live in a mental universe which no longer exists--a world of separate nations--and have...difficulties thinking in ... global perspectives" (p. 3). Foreign affairs generally seem beyond the grasp of the public and elective officials. Take the US Senate, as responsible a democratic legislature as one is likely to find. Did it not demonstrate opacity in rejecting first the League of Nations in 1920 and then the International Trade Organization in 1949?

"[T]here is an aspect of ... supranationalism in our program."

"The effective operation of a democratic political system usually requires some measure of apathy and noninvolvement on the part of some individuals and groups." "[S]ecrecy and deception...are...inescapable attributes of ... government." The crisis caused by an "excess of democracy" in the 1960s shows the wisdom of, for example, privatizing public entreprise and deregulating industry. How can one expect competence from hoi polloi?

Reports of the TC annual meetings carry statements from task forces, addresses, etc, some jocular in tone. Paul Volcker, past chair of the US Federal Reserve Board, says yes, he opposes regional trading blocs, but for the US-Canada Free Trade Agreement he can rise above principle. Kazuo Chiba, past ambassador to the UK, chides the US for its war dances at GATT talks and worries aloud that "...Americans and Europeans will get together [there] and stab us in the back."

"[M]aintaining the benefits of a global economy will require even more effort (after 1990) than in the past." World without end!

Composition of the Tri-Lateral Commission


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