“After decades of neoliberalism, we are at the mercy of a cluster of cartels who are lobbying politicians hard and using monopoly power to boost profits.”
Joseph Stiglitz, The Price of Inequality (2012)
- Binoy KAMPMARK
The emergence of think tanks was as much a symptom of liberal progress as it was a nervous reaction in opposition to it. In 1938, the American Enterprise Association was founded by businessmen concerned that free enterprise would suffer at the hands of those too caught up with notions of equality and egalitarianism. In 1943, it dug into the political establishment in Washington, renamed as the American Enterprise Institute which has boasted moments of some influence in the corridors of the presidential administrations.
Gatherings of the elite, self-promoted as chat shops of the privileged and monstrously well-heeled, have often garnered attention. That the rich and powerful chat together privately should not be a problem, provided the glitterati keep their harmful ideas down to small circulation. But the Bilderberg gathering, a transatlantic annual meeting convened since 1954, fuels speculation for various reasons, not least of all because of its absence of detail and off-the-record agendas. C. Gordon Tether, writing for the Financial Times in May 1975, would muse that, “If the Bilderberg Group is not a conspiracy of some sort, it is conducted in such a way as to give a remarkably good imitation of one.”
Each year, there are hushed murmurings and ponderings about the guest list. Politicians, captains of industry, and the filthy rich tend to fill out the numbers. In 2018, the Telegraph claimed that delegates would chew over such matters as “Russia, ‘post-truth’ and the leadership in the US, with AI and quantum computing also on the schedule.” This time, the Swiss town of Montreux is hosting a gathering which has, among its invitees, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and President Donald Trump’s senior adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner.
Often, the more entertaining assumptions about what happens at the Bilderberg Conference have come from outsiders keen to fantasise. The absence of a media pack, a situation often colluded with by media outlets themselves, coupled with a general holding of attendees to secrecy, have spawned a few gems. A gathering of lizard descendants hatching plans for world domination is an old favourite.
Other accounts are suitably dull, suggesting that little in the way of importance actually happens. That man of media, Marshall McLuhan, was appalled after attending a meeting in 1969 by those “uniformly nineteenth century minds pretending to the twentieth.” He was struck by an asphyxiating atmosphere of “banality and irrelevance”. …