William Engdahl, Gods of Money: Wall Street and the Death of the American Century, 2009
If you want to understand who has power in the world today, and how it got that way, this book is a must-read. It is clear, concise, comprehensive, and every detail is meticulously documented with reliable references. I’ve been studying this kind of material for years, and from this book I learned quite a few things I had never come across before.
At one level, the book is about the power of finance, focusing particularly on Wall Street and the Federal Reserve. At another level, it’s about geopolitics over the past century, and how that has been related to the power of finance. At another level it’s about the Rockefeller dynasty, which has been the dominant power in the world ever since the creation of the Federal Reserve in 1913.
Even if you are already an expert on such matters, I still say read this book. You will be glad you did. Below is a more detailed review, that appeared in New Dawn magazine.
William Engdahl’s latest book is another awesome exploration and explanation of the boldness and failings of Anglo-American global strategy over most of the past century and a half. Engdahl recalls in his introduction a statement from the 1970’s attributed to then-Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, a protégé of the powerful Rockefeller circles, in which he declared, “If you control the oil, you control entire nations; if you control the food, you control the people; if you control the money, you control the entire world.”
With Gods of Money, Engdahl completes the trilogy, which with A Century of War: Anglo-American Oil Politics and the New World Order, and Seeds of Destruction: The Hidden Agenda of Genetic Manipulation explores the ways in which the Rockefellers and the people around them would appear to have sought to control oil, food and money in seeking to establish their sense of global order.
For anyone interested in the contemporary world, its politics and its tragedies, Engdahl’s books are obligatory reading. He explains the reasons for linking Abraham Lincoln’s assassination to British and European banking interests but shows how, as wealth concentrated into the hands of a few American families, notably those of the Morgans and Rockefellers, the United States developed a remarkable strategy that concentrated power through the mastery of global finance, backed by military expedience. Like a growing number of other writers, however, he leaves no doubt that this strategy has run into serious troubles, devastating Americans as much as the intended subjects of American Empire, or of a New American Century.
He highlights early the reality that “power, together with control over the nation’s economy, was being ruthlessly centralized in the hands of the wealthy few, every bit as much as it had been in the days of Imperial Rome.” In fleshing out this theme Engdahl leaves little doubt that the values of the European Enlightenment, with which America has promoted itself to the world, have simply been a useful disguise for a rapacious plutocracy.
He puts in brutally in these words:
“Some 60 families–names like Rockefeller, Morgan, Dodge, Mellon, Pratt, Harkness, Whitney, Duke, Harriman, Carnegie, Vanderbilt, DuPont, Guggenheim, Astor, Lehman, Warburg, Taft, Huntington, Baruch and Rosenwald– formed a close network of plutocratic wealth that manipulated, bribed, and bullied its way to control the destiny of the United States.”
“They operated in absolute secrecy, lest the general public understand how the banks’ money manipulated political decisions behind the scenes, including decisions to go to war or to keep the peace.”
The shock of these passages rests in the realization that these forces defined the 20th Century and are threatening various disasters for large populations at the beginning of the 21st Century, and yet remain largely unidentified in the mind of the voting electorate. Central to the story are the consequences of the legislation that established the Federal Reserve in 1913, placing it under the control of private bankers able to access the taxes of ordinary citizens
Also central to the story was the use by the United States of the challenge posed to Britain by the rise of Germany to assume the dominant role in global finance and politics. Germany’s industrial growth, its educational system and its science were already leaving England far behind. The dominant role of the City of London over the terms of world trade was lost to the United States in the two great wars of the 20th Century.
A central element of the story was the “extraordinary techniques of mass manipulation of opinion” initiated during World War I, which “greatly assisted the transformation of America into a democracy by-outward-appearance, ruled deceptively by a plutocratic elite in its own self interest”.
Engdahl draws attention to the fact that “America was to be an empire in much the same way that Great Britain had been an Empire after 1815, with one significant difference. America’s economic
imperialism would disguise itself under the rhetorical cover of ` spreading free enterprise,’ and supporting `national self-determination’ and `democracy.’ The term `empire’ was to be scrupulously avoided.”
He captures the quality of American political strategy in several paragraphs:
“The policy makers from the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) and the internationalists around the Rockefeller group engaged in seemingly paradoxical and contradictory policies. They were simultaneously financing and staffing the CFR War & Peace Studies–intended to be a detailed blueprint for a postwar US global domination, an American Century–while at the same time they were going to extraordinary lengths supporting the Third Reich’s war buildup, accruing huge profits from the sales to their `enemy’ that soared far beyond anything normal. It appeared that Rockefellers’ Standard Oil and allied companies like Dow Chemical and DuPont went to extraordinary lengths to support Hitler’s war machine.
“The resolution to the paradox lay in appreciating American geopolitical strategy as formulated by people like Isaiah Bowman of the CFR and Yale University’s geopolitical strategist, Nicholas Spykman. They had developed a uniquely American synthesis of Halford Mackinder’s British geopolitics -identifying the most vital, `pivotal’ nations needed for the support of an American postwar global domination, an American Empire.
“For the influential US elites grouped around the CFR, war was merely an instrument through which to extend their financial power in the postwar world and create an American imperium, one displacing not only the British Empire, but also the German Reich and any other potential European competitor.”
As Engdahl’s account progresses, it becomes clear that America repeated Britain’s mistake in neglecting to develop a leadership role in industry, education and science. This left it vulnerable, of course, not to Germany but to the economies of East Asia, beginning with Japan and concluding with China. Engdahl shows how American strategists focused on financial manipulation and how they neglected any concern with American decline in industrial, educational and scientific competitiveness. This made inevitable and predictable the off-shoring of American industry, something that remains poorly, if at all, understood in America. It is, of course well understood in Japan, China and elsewhere in Asia.
Engdhal recounts how Americans believed propaganda that asserted America’s God-given `Manifest Destiny’ and `Divine Right” to expand its frontiers and plunder other countries. He notes how for “the Rockefellers, the most prominent proponent of the Manifest Destiny idea in the post-war period, the entire world was considered their `frontier.'” The Cold War was fought by `American democracy’ against `Godless Communism’ and gave the advance of American interests “a messianic religious cover that was astonishingly effective for decades.”
Paired with this propaganda mechanism was the construction of new International Financial Institutions after the Second World War, where the IMF become the global financial `policeman,’ under the control of America and, to a lesser degree, Britain. This was used to enforce the payment of “usurious debts through imposition of the most draconian austerity in history.” The IMF became an arm of “a de facto Anglo-American neo-colonial monetary and economic dictatorship”. `Free trade’ and a `level playing field’ continued to be “the rallying cry of the strongest, most advanced economies, seeking to open up less developed markets for their goods.”
The price was, however, America’s industrial base went into terminal decline and the nation’s most talented scientific minds were drawn into Wall Street. The consequence of all this is today all too clear to see. Over forty years, the financial sector’s share of total profits has grown from 2% to 40%, as industrial output has declined, education has deteriorated, technology has stagnated and indebtedness has exploded.
The system was maintained by Wall Street expenditure of at least $5 billion from 1998 to 2008 “buying the votes of the US Congress through campaign contributions and `lobbying’ expenses.”
A former US bank regulator, William Black, noted that
“Corporate stock repurchases and grants of stock to officers have exceeded new capital raised by the US capital markets this decade. That means that the capital markets decapitalize the real economy. Too often, they do so in order to enrich corrupt corporate insiders through accounting fraud or backdated stock options….The US real economy suffers from critical shortages of employees with strong mathematical, engineering, and scientific backgrounds. Graduates in these three fields all too frequently choose careers in finance rather than the real economy because the financial sector provides far greater executive compensation…. The financial sector’s fixation on accounting earnings leads it to pressure US manufacturing and service firms to export jobs abroad, to deny capital to firms that are unionized, and to encourage firms to use foreign tax havens to evade paying US taxes.”
Yet, between 2000 and 2007 American consumption made up one third of growth in global consumption. This highlights the manner in which American abuse of its global power in organizations like the IMF harmed the United States as much as anyone, although in a unique manner. Indeed, by 2009, one estimate put America’s annual deficit at more than $5 trillion.
Engdahl concludes with a review of the decline of the Roman Empire, a process that took much longer than now seems likely with American Empire. He remarks pertinently on paid professional career soldiers, on unpopular distant wars, on gaining citizenship in exchange for military service, and on an increasingly degenerate oligarchy.
He recalls that the American Century had been based as had Rome on a system of looting and plunder of foreign lands. It took a different form, of course, in using the supranational technocrats of the IMF to plunder the wealth of countries from Latin America to Africa while simultaneously exploiting the world’s reserve currency. Being an unchallenged military superpower, it has enjoyed consumption far beyond what its internal economy could have sustained and has used a “free-floating dollar and virtual money in the form of financial derivatives to maintain a facade of solvency.”
— REG LITTLE was an Australian diplomat for over 25 years. He is the author of A Confucian-Daoist Millennium? This review appeared in New Dawn 121 (Jul-Aug 2010), www.newdawnmagazine.com
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