May 8, 2016
Tom Dispatch

Who Rules The World?

by Noam Chomsky

When we ask "Who rules the world?" we commonly adopt the standard convention that the actors in world affairs are states, primarily the great powers, and we consider their decisions and the relations among them. That is not wrong. But we would do well to keep in mind that this level of abstraction can also be highly misleading.

States of course have complex internal structures, and the choices and decisions of the political leadership are heavily influenced by internal concentrations of power, while the general population is often marginalized. That is true even for the more democratic societies, and obviously for others. We cannot gain a realistic understanding of who rules the world while ignoring the "masters of mankind," as Adam Smith called them: in his day, the merchants and manufacturers of England; in ours, multinational conglomerates, huge financial institutions, retail empires, and the like. Still following Smith, it is also wise to attend to the "vile maxim" to which the "masters of mankind" are dedicated: "All for ourselves and nothing for other people" -- a doctrine known otherwise as bitter and incessant class war, often one-sided, much to the detriment of the people of the home country and the world.

In the contemporary global order, the institutions of the masters hold enormous power, not only in the international arena but also within their home states, on which they rely to protect their power and to provide economic support by a wide variety of means. When we consider the role of the masters of mankind, we turn to such state policy priorities of the moment as the Trans-Pacific Partnership, one of the investor-rights agreements mislabeled "free-trade agreements" in propaganda and commentary. They are negotiated in secret, apart from the hundreds of corporate lawyers and lobbyists writing the crucial details. The intention is to have them adopted in good Stalinist style with "fast track" procedures designed to block discussion and allow only the choice of yes or no (hence yes). The designers regularly do quite well, not surprisingly. People are incidental, with the consequences one might anticipate. . . .

FULL TEXT Part 1, Part 2

Chalmers Johnson, "America's Empire of Bases," Nation Institute, January 15, 2004

John Pilger, "The Warlords of America," New Statesman, August 23, 2004

Enver Masud, "The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power," The Wisdom Fund, May 25, 2009

Michael Hudson, "The American Empire is Bankrupt," Financial Times, June 14, 2009

Martin Jacques, "The Beginning of a New World Order," New Statesman, April 18, 2012

Ralph Nader, "Trans-Pacific Partnership: Free Trade Scam?,", April 27, 2015

Chris Hedges, "The American Empire: Murder Inc,", January 3, 2016

Chas W. Freeman, Jr., "The End of the American Empire,", April 4, 2016

Chuck Spinney, "New Nukes for a New Cold War,", May 28, 2016

[A third of the members of the United Nations have felt Washington's boot, overturning governments, subverting democracy, imposing blockades and boycotts. Most of the presidents responsible have been liberal - Truman, Kennedy, Johnson, Carter, Clinton, Obama.--John Pilger, "Eerie Silence About a New World War,", May 28, 2016]

[This CIA was radically different from other Western secret services, especially those of Great Britain, widely considered the world's best. Those services were shaped around the principle that intelligence gathering and analysis must be kept strictly separate from covert action, to avoid the temptation of skewing intelligence reports so they would lead to the conclusion that covert action was necessary. The CIA was created without this rewall. Indeed, Dulles conceived it as an agency designed not to help American leaders understand the world, but to help them change it - by any means necessary.--Stephen Kinzer, "The CIA's Holy War,", June 2016]

"The Destruction of an Independent Press," On Contact, April 16, 2018

Martin Jacques, "What China Will Be Like As A Great Power," March 26, 2019

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