In Retrospect

Enigma of global governance

The world we live in is governed by subtle entities, and the consent we hold is manufactured at their behest — a future, though dubious, may emerge out from the grey area

Enigma of global governance

In his famous book, Propaganda (1928), Edward L Bernays, considered as the father of public relations, argued that "engineering consent" of the masses would be vital for the survival of democracy. He wrote; "The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in a democratic society. Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country. We are governed, our minds are moulded, our tastes formed and our ideas suggested, largely by men we have never heard of." Way back in 1928, ten years after the end of World War 1, in which he was deeply engaged in the manipulation of American public opinion in favour of joining the War, Bernays revealed to the world, how an 'invisible government' works.

It may be recalled that till early 1917, the United States had remained outside the war. Although supportive of the Allied Powers, President Woodrow Wilson urged Americans to be neutral in thought and action. Public opinion in the US was solidly behind him and Wilson had been re-elected in November 1916 on the slogan "he kept us out of war." Five months later, the president had a change of heart due to various strategic reasons. On April 6, 1917, America joined the war. Within days of the declaration, the president authorized the creation of the Committee on Public Information (CPI). The Committee was tasked with winning the war at home by firing up a reluctant American population into "the white-hot mass of patriotism," and spreading the good news about America and its democratic values throughout the world.

The CPI brought together many of the brightest minds (including Bernays) in advertising, journalism, graphic design, academia, and a relatively new industry called public relations. By the end of the war, more than 1,00,000 Americans had contributed to the CPI's efforts. They created Uncle Sam and other iconic recruiting images. They churned out millions of press releases, bulletins, photographs and posters, and produced silent movies with names like Pershing's Crusaders and America's Answer. And 75,000 local notables, known as Four-Minute Men, signed up to deliver carefully crafted four-minute inspirational orations in church halls, movie theatres, and anywhere else that Americans gathered. It all worked spectacularly well. Within months, Americans had shed their initial war reluctance. CBC reported that young men were flocking to recruiting offices, and millions were giving money to support the "Liberty Loan" programme to help finance the war effort.

Writing ten years after the war, Bernays noted that World War 1 had, "opened the eyes of the intelligent few, in all departments of life, to the possibilities of regimenting the public mind." The outcome of that realisation was his famous book, Propaganda.

Unfortunately, in the 1920s, Joseph Goebbels became an avid admirer of Bernays and his writings – despite the fact that Bernays was a Jew. When Goebbels became the minister of propaganda for the Third Reich, he sought to exploit Bernays' ideas to the fullest extent possible. For example, he created a "Fuhrer cult" around Adolph Hitler. An article in The Conversation stated that even though Bernays saw the power of propaganda during the war and used it to sell products during peacetime, he couldn't have imagined that his writings on public relations would become a tool of the Third Reich!

Idea of a global state

The idea of controlling the whole world is not new. In the 16th century, the Spanish philosopher Francisco De Vitoria (1483-1546) conceived of the "republic of the whole world". International organisations started forming in the late 19th century – the International Committee of the Red Cross in 1863, the Telegraphic Union in 1865 and the Universal Postal Union in 1874. The increase in international trade at the turn of the 20th century accelerated the formation of international organisations. By the start of World War I, in 1914, there were quite a large number of international organisations that were engaged in regulating different aspects of trade and business. World War II further hastened the need for multilateral glob-al organisations for a better and peaceful world. This led to the formation of UNO, IMF, ILO, WHO, FAO, and many such organisations. All these institutions were formed with the undeclared objective of forming an invisible global state.

A global agenda

De-industrialisation and de-population emerged as major issues in the 1960s when the Club of Rome was formed in a villa, owned by D Rockefeller, in the city of Rome in 1968. Since July 2008, the organisation has been based in Winterthur, Switzerland. The club is composed of "scientists, economists, businessmen, international civil servants, heads of state, and former heads of state from all five continents who are convinced that the future of humankind is not determined once and for all and that each human being can contribute to the improvement of our societies." Its main focus is upon global problems associated with population and economic growth. It espouses a neo-Malthusian agenda of limiting population growth and promoting sustainable economic development in order to address perceived problems of environmental degradation. Arguably, it is one of the most influential global think tanks which shape the agenda for a global state.

The Club of Rome believed that the possibilities of continuous growth have been exhausted and timely action is essential in order to avert a planetary collapse. It chose its initial theme "The Predicament of Mankind" in June 1970 and commissioned research by four MIT scientists led by Donald Meadows which was published (1972) by the Club of Rome as 'The Limits to Growth'. The second report titled 'Beyond Limits' was published in 1992 which gave fresh pieces of evidence as to how mankind has crossed beyond the limits.

Their first report, The Limits to Growth, translated in thirty-seven languages, had a tremendous influence on academia, policymakers, and environmental activists across the globe. It predicted that by the year 2000, the world would face an environmental holocaust due to overpopulation and other environmental problems. Since then, the concepts of sustainable development through de-growth and population control emerged in the development discourse. In 1987, the Brundtland Report, Our Common Future, was published by the United Nations. The report defined 'sustainable development' as "development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs". It placed environmental issues firmly on the political agenda as it argued to discuss the environment and development as one single issue. In the same year, the Montreal Protocol to protect the ozone layer of the Earth was agreed upon by all the major economies of the world. And in 1988, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was established under the United Nations. Thus, environment management ascended an important global governance subject.

The Brundtland Commission Report recognised that human resource development in the form of poverty reduction, gender equity and wealth redistribution was crucial to formulating strategies for environmental conservation, and it also recognised that environmental limits to economic growth in industrialised and industrialising societies existed. The Brundtland Report claimed that poverty reduces sustainability and accelerates environmental pressures – creating a need for balancing between economy and ecology. The publication of Our Common Future and the work of the World Commission on Environment and Development laid the groundwork for the convening of the 1992 Earth Summit, the adoption of Agenda 21 and the Rio Declaration, and the establishment of the Commission on Sustainable Development.

The Limits to Growth report of the Club of Rome had immensely influenced Henry Kissinger, the US Secretary of State. In 1974, he submitted a highly confidential (got declassified after a few decades) report to the US government, titled, 'National Security Study Memorandum 200: Implications for Worldwide Population Growth for US Security and Overseas Interest (NSSM-200). The objective of the strategy was to drastically control the population of the developing and least-developed countries. The draconian population control programme (Nasbandi), initiated in India during the emergency period (mid-1970s) was the outcome of this US policy.

The infamous NSSM-200 recommended, among others:

 The United States needs wide access to the mineral resources of the less-developed nations (LDCs).

 The smooth flow of resources to the United States could be jeopardised by LDC government actions, labour conflicts, sabotage or civil disturbances, which are much more likely if the population pressure is a factor.

 Young populations are also much more likely to challenge imperialism and the world's power structure, so their numbers should be kept down if possible.

 The United States of America must develop a commitment to population control among key LDC leaders while bypassing the will of their people.

 Critical elements of implementation include (among others): identifying primary targets—13 nations that represent nearly half of the population growth, investigating the desirability of the mandatory population control programme, considering the use of coercion in other forms such as with-holding disaster and food aid unless an LDC implements population control programme.

 Throughout the implementation process, the US must hide its tracks and disguise its programme as altruistic. Otherwise, there could be a serious backlash. The US must convince the leaders and the people of LDCs that population reduction is in their best interests, hiding the fact that the US wants access to their natural resources.

Since then, funding for development and health programmes has steadily shrunk, while that for population control programmes continued to grow. This is another glaring example of how 'consent' for population control was 'engineered' among LDCs.

In 2012, in the 40th year of its first publication, the Club of Rome had published '2052 - a Global Forecast for the Next Forty Years'. This report al-so predicts, like first report (The Limits of Growth) in 1972, that the current economic development could soon tip over. It predicts an end to growth by around 2050. The stagnation followed by a global recession would then lead to a shrinking of world population. If we apply this logic in the pre-sent pandemic-induced global recession, then it may be feared that pandemic will lead to shrinking of the population, not only due to COVID-19 but also death by starvation.

Genesis of the global state

After the disintegration of the Soviet Union in 1987, the cold war came to an end, and the need for a huge defence budget for national security had been reduced considerably. In this transition phase, again, the Club of Rome came out with a new prescription in their widely-read book, the First Global Revolution (1991). It read: "With the disappearance of the traditional enemy, the temptation is to use religious or ethnic minorities as scapegoats, especially those, whose differences from the majority are disturbing. Can we live without enemies?". The authors further write: "Every state has been so used to classifying its neighbours as friend or foe, that the sudden absence of traditional adversaries has left governments and public opinion makers with a great void to fill. New enemies have to be identified, new strategies imagined and new weapons devised. The new examples are different in their nature and location, but they are no less real. They threaten the whole human race, and their names are pollution, water shortage, famine, malnutrition, illiteracy, and unemployment. However, it appears that awareness of the new enemies is, as yet, insufficient for bringing about world cohesion and solidarity for the fight" (p 70). Then they wrote; "In searching for a common enemy against which we can unite, we came up with the idea that pollution, the threat of global warming, water shortages, famine, and the like, would fit the bill. In their totality and their interactions, these phenomena do constitute a common threat that must be confronted by everyone together." The authors then caution the readers saying: "But in designing these dangers as the enemy, we fall into the trap, namely mistaking symptoms for causes. All these dangers are caused by human intervention in natural process and it is only through changed attitudes and behaviour that they can be overcome." (p 75)

To implement their prescriptions, the first Earth Summit (1992) in Rio, where 191 countries participated, was held. It came out with many important decisions like Agenda 21, Convention of Bio-diversity (CBD), Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), formation of United Nations Frame-work Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). After the formation of WTO in 1995, the global state has started to function in full gusto.

It must be pointed out that the IPCC and UNFCCC differ in their definition of climate change. Climate change in IPCC usage refers to any change in climate over time, whether due to natural variability or as a result of human activity. This usage differs from that in the UNFCCC where climate change refers to a change in climate that is attributed directly or indirectly to human activities that alter the composition of the global atmosphere; and that is in addition to natural climate variability observed over comparable time periods. In this new definition, the cause of climate change is primarily put on human (anthropogenic) activities, as advised by the Club of Rome!

The global economy is getting integrated rapidly and new modes of production relations are emerging. In this transition process, national institutions like parliaments are becoming increasingly redundant as many of the vital decisions are now being taken at the multilateral bodies where transnational corporations (TNCs) play a dominant role in the formulation of various agreements. New multilateral institutions like the World Trade Organisation, UNFCCC et al are facilitating this transition process.

Political economy of apprehension

Few global initiatives have been taken in the recent past to build innovative space for the expansion and creation of the world market by engineering a new 'economy of apprehensions' (Dey 2009). International consensus has been developed to wage wars against various apprehensions like (i) climate change (ii) terrorism and (iii) deadly viruses like AIDS. There are widespread apprehensions about the possible rise in sea level, occurrence of 'drought-like situations' due to climate change, possible losses of innocent lives due to a terrorist attacks, and the possibility of getting infected with the HIV virus due to the AIDS epidemic. Preventive measures against these apprehensions have created a huge new economy of its own and it is growing very fast. The new Coronavirus pandemic has also created a huge market for preventive medicines and healthcare products. Though a global alliance against hunger is badly needed and various such initiatives have been tried over the last few decades, no serious efforts have been made to make 'hunger a history'.


In 1928, when Bernays talked about an 'invisible government' which was the true ruling power of his country, he meant the USA, the country he lived in. At present, an invisible government of a 'global state' rules the people. We are now "governed, our minds are moulded, our tastes formed, and our ideas suggested, largely by men we have never heard of." This 'invisible government' is constantly 'engineering' our 'consent' for a new digitised world and preparing the structure for the Fourth Industrial Revolution, the roadmap of which had been prepared in 2016 by Klaus Schwab for the World Economic Forum. However, everything may not work as planned. Discontent in different parts of the world against the homogenisation process of socio-political and cultural identities of the people is growing. Peoples' resistance across the globe is growing. Religious and racial conflicts are on the rise. The ongoing conflict between the people of Palestine and Zionist Israel is a case in point.

Views expressed are personal

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