November 25, 2009

Shadow Elite: How the World’s New Power Brokers Undermine Democracy, Government, and the Free Market

By Janine R. Wedel

This is an essential book in understanding how an elite of powerful people circulate between government, corporations, Wall Street and "K" Street and ultimately control public policy through control of Congress (through campaign contributions and appeal to fellow elites in ofice) and appointments to the Executive Branch (think Larry Summers and Timothy Geithner).

These mostly white males (and some women) view themselves as Masters of the Universe who know what's better for America and the emerging international elite class than the hoi polloi known as voters in a democracy.

What makes Wedel's book so valuable is that she doesn't indulge in conspiracy theories that can't be proven; she provides the facts and describes how this informal group of elitists is fluid in moving among the powerful institutions that control public policy, including government.

Wedel connects the dots and provides crucial insight into how the elites control policy, distribution of wealth, and acts of war, among other issues that should be decided by the citizens of the United States.

Much of this can be attributed to the globalized economy where sovereignty takes a second place to multi-national corporate and financial interests. The right wing disparages the United Nations but reveres the global corporations who really don't have any national allegiance. How tragically ironic is that for America?

Shadow Elite is a book that you won't find discussed much in the corporate media, because it reveals how the corporate world and the players who move between business and government largely control our national policies, with Congress and even the President often unable to do anything but ratify the dictates of the real decision makers, who have little interest in the welfare of the United States, but rather believe in a mythical international free market that exploits the cheapest labor and lets international financial institutions gamble assets without regulation.

"Shadow Elite is a powerful, searing work about how, over time, public and private have become blurred—three out of four people doing the work of the federal government today are actually private contractors. Self-dealing and corruption have become endemic, with those wielding political influence and getting rich at our expense becoming less and less accountable. With this book, Janine Wedel has provided a magnificent public service"
- Charles Lewis, Bestselling author and founder of the Center for Public Integrity

"We think of networks and flexibility as good and desirable, but Wedel shows their dark side. In a study as fascinating as it is disturbing, she delves into political actors and groupings where influence is not linked to accountability. This is a path-breaking exploration of a part of our world that we really need to understand."
- Robert Jervis, Adlai E. Stevenson Professor of International Politics, Columbia University

"Governments and administrations come and go, but not so a new breed of power brokers, who always seem to pop up just where the action is. Wearing different hats, they press their agendas in venue after venue. According to award-winning public policy scholar and anthropologist Janine Wedel, these are the "shadow elite," the prime movers in a vexing new system of power and influence.

Wedel charts how these players make public decisions without public input—in realms from domestic to foreign and financial policy. Maneuvering through their many spheres of influence, they challenge both governments' rules of accountability and businesses' codes of competition, ultimately answering only to each other. From the Harvard economists who helped privatize post-Soviet Russia and the neoconservatives who helped privatize American foreign policy for thirty years (culminating with the debacle that is Iraq) to many lesser-known global operators, these players flout once-sacrosanct boundaries between state and private, bureaucracy and market. This new breed, unseen by most, is steadily gaining power.

Original and eye-opening, Shadow Elite gives us the tools we need to recognize these players and understand the new system—which we ignore at our peril."

No-longer accessible on-line at BuzzFlash.

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