The Road to Trumps Success Began 4,500 Years Ago

egypt-cairo-pyramids-of-giza-and-camels-2

The journey of Donald Trump from businessman to the head of the largest corporate state in the world did not as many assume start 12 months ago.  In fact, the roots of Trumps ascendancy can be traced back to at least 2,500 BCE.  Never before in history, has anyone with a business background and so little experience in either politics or military become the leader of a major state.  However, we did not see the buildup to this happening because most of the time we are focused on short-view trends and we miss entirely the long term trends that entail even more potent forces at play.

In numerous attempts to explain the election of Trump, most pundits have looked to the micro forces, such as international trade, disillusion among blue collar White males, the Affordable Care Act, distrust of Hillary Clinton, Russian interference in the election, White backlash and rising income inequality.  While these forces might explain Trump’s election they do not explain why America has now seen fit to elect a businessperson with no political experience as its 45th President.

In fact, the election of a person with a business background to run the country represents a major shift in power that has been taking place for nearly fifty years and can be linked to other power shifts since the beginning of recorded history.  In this blog, I will explain how and why we now find America being run by the elite of corporate America.  To do this, we must go back to the ancient Egyptians.

In approximately 2,500 BCE, the Pharaoh Khufu built the largest of the Pyramids known as the Great Pyramid of Giza as a burial chamber.  The Great Pyramid was the tallest man-made structure in the world for more than 3,800 years.   It was one of three large pyramids built in the Giza complex.  Then as now, humans marked their sovereignty by creating tall structures to show their power and prestige.  This phenomenon has been so consistent that it provides an insight into the sovereign powers that rule that planet and the various power shifts that have occurred throughout history.

sovereign-buildings

I mean to use the term sovereign to express the possessing of supreme or ultimate power.  For nearly 3,000 years, Kings, Pharaohs, Dictators, Emperors and those born of royal blood who were “related to Gods” were the ultimate sovereigns over most of humankind.  The early Romans and Greeks made some attempts to commute the power of their rulers by selecting some representatives of the population but these were generally of royal blood themselves and seldom of plebeian birth.  Julius Caesar who tried to be a “man of the people” was himself born into a patrician family.

Around the fall of the Roman Empire in 400 CE, sovereign power shifted from the nobility to the Catholic Church (at least in Europe).  Bear in mind that the shifts I refer to did not take place overnight.  These transitions in power took place gradually over decades and with many tug of wars between the transitioning sovereigns.  It was Pope Leo (440 CE) who first asserted Papal primacy and he was supported by the Romans because of the political chaos in the West.  Pope Gelasius I (492 CE) declared that priestly power was abpower-of-the-popesove kingly power.  The Pope was supreme and no appeals could be made for his decision.  Sovereign power had now shifted to the clergy of the Roman Catholic Church.
Throughout most of Europe, the clergy and other minions of the Catholic Church assumed roles of leadership and sovereignty.  As the power of the church grew, so did the churches, cathedrals and basilicas which they built.  Each one was larger than the last one and all were designed to be larger than any buildings of the nobility or royalty.  The Church catheldralmanifested its power in the grandeur and elegance of its buildings.

The Catholic Church remained the dominant sovereign power in Europe until the reign of Pope Boniface VIII.  The clash of the Church to remain dominant over the newly emerging nation/state rulers took place in an epic battle between Pope Boniface VIII (1294 734-conflict-church-monarchs-12-638CE) and King Phillip IV of France.  Several other skirmishes had already taken place between Popes and rulers in the decades preceding with the battles seesawing back and forth.  However, the decisive battle for sovereignty was between Pope Boniface VIII and King Phillip IV.  It was vicious and at times bloody.  It saw the end of Church sovereignty and the beginning of the
sovereignty of nation/state rulers.   Boniface was captured by forces loyal to Philip and was beaten and nearly executed.  He was released from captivity after three days and died a short time later.  His defeat marked the end of the power of the Church to rule and the rise of the power of rulers of nation/states.

There are four characteristics of a nation/state.  These are:

  • Defined territory
  • Self-Rule (Sovereignty)
  • Some form of organized government
  • A population of people sharing a national identity

versailles-and-giverny-day-trip-in-paris-115463During the period of nation/state rulers, they built some magnificent buildings such as Versailles in France, Castello Del Valentino in Italy, the Palace of Placentia in London and the Schönbrunn Palace in Vienna.  If not the largest buildings in each country, they dwarfed in overall grandeur and size the churches that had been built by the clergy.  The period of nation/state rulers lasted from about 1400 CE to the middle of the 19th century.

The power of most of these nation/state rulers (usually with some pedigree of nobility) began to wane as the people in each country demanded more and more input into economic and political decisions.  Eventually, the nobility in most European countries were forced to make concessions to the idea of democratic or at least some form of republican rule.  The transition from rulers to republics was insured by the rise of a new class which we today call politicians or bureaucrats.  In time, these professional politicians became sovereign and replaced the old style rulers by virtue of a concept called elections or voting.  No one voted for Henry the VIII of England or Czar Nicholas II of Germany or King Ferdinand of Spain, but with the emergence of State governments, politicians and bureaucrats would become the new sovereigns.

how-bureaucrats-captured-government

The rise of most modern states started about the mid seventieth century.  Increasingly, although rulers in many nations could still be very powerful and even dictators, there was now some agency in every country that attempted to provide a balance to the ruler’s power.  In England, they established a parliament in 1706 that was later characterized by a House of Lords and a House of Commons.  In France, they created a National Assembly in 1791.  In Germany, they established a parliament in the 1870’s.  By the beginning of the 20th Century, although many nations had still kept their nobility as a form of tradition, most of the reins of government were in the hands of bureaucrats or elected officials.  Prime Ministers and Presidents had replaced Kings and Queens in the political decision making process.

national-capitolThe new sovereigns started building.  No more castles or palaces were built to house the new rulers.  Instead, capitals, state houses and mansions would be the new domiciles for politicians and bureaucrats.  Government leaders were no different though than Kings and Clergy when it came to siting their residences.  They also sought the high ground to place their buildings on.  The tallest buildings in the land now belonged to the Government.  This situation would not last very long.  Even more changes were taking place.  In a few short years, nations would no longer have an exclusive on sovereignty.  A new challenger was rapidly emerging.

capitalists

The new challenger started to emerge with the first corporations which began over a thousand years ago.  However, until the power of mercantilism started to become critical to state and military power in the late 16th century, the early corporations were rather toothless.  An excellent book titled Power Inc. covers the rise of the modern corporation in much more detail than I shall go into here.  The book by David Rothkopf is fittingly subtitled:  “The Epic Rivalry between Big Business and Government–and the Reckoning That Lies Ahead.”   

“In his new book, Power, Inc., David Rothkopf sounds an alarm.  He argues that thousands of private actors who he calls “super citizens” now hold greater power than most countries in the world.  He notes, for instance, that corporations have grown to the point where roughly the richest two thousand are more influential than 70-80 percent of the world’s nations. Walmart, for example, has revenues higher than the GDP of all but 25 nations.” — Roy Ulrich, the Huffington Post

The capitalistic industries wasted no time in starting to construct new buildings that would soon dwarf all of the previous tombs, castles, cathedrals and capitals throughout the world.  These buildings are so tall that they have been labeled as “skyscrapers.”  The world’s first skyscraper was the Home Insurance Building in Chicago, erected in 1884-1885.  Its 138 foot peak would be dwarfed by skyscrapers today.  The Flatiron Building in NYC was built in 1902 and is twenty floors high and 307 feet to its peak.  The Empire State Building was built in 1931 in NYC and for many years it was the tallest building in the world standing over 100 stories and 1400 feet in height.

With the rapid economic development of many former third world countries there has been a proliferation of corporate skyscrapers with many countries vying for the honor of having the tallest building in the world.  Searching on Google for the “tallest buildings in the world” one finds the following information for buildings over 300 meters tall:

“As of 2016, this list includes all 135 buildings (completed and architecturally topped out) which reach a height of 300 meters (984 ft.) or more as assessed by their highest architectural feature.”Wikipedia

skyscrapersThe list includes skyscrapers built in China, United Arab Emirates, Dubai, South Korea, Taiwan, Malaysia, Russia and several other nations.   Perhaps presaging the emergence of China and Asia as the dominant world economies, Asia is already assuming the role of having many of the largest buildings in the world.  What we are witnessing is a contest of global economies vying for supremacy in terms of world economic sovereignty.  An interesting aside is that the world currency is considered a reflection of the nation that is the most powerful in this arena.  To date, the United States still holds that distinction but many are predicting the demise of the US dollar as the standard for world currency.

tpp-free-trade

But what does this have to do with Trump you may be starting to ask?  What does commercial sovereignty have to do with political sovereignty?  The answer to the second question is everything.  The major reason for the success of the Allied powers in both WWI and WWII was the economic might of the United States.  Economic power translates into military power and military power translates into political power.  This fact has been recognized for over 500 years now.  Spain’s ascendancy to a world power was built on its confiscation of wealth in the New World.  Hitler recognized that Germany could not be a dominant world power without confiscating the wealth of Jewish citizens and also of its neighboring countries.

“Great Britain was once a dominant military force in the World while it had a dominant economy.  At the start of the First World War, it devalued its exchange rate.  By the end of the War, owing to its military expenditure, it had large trade deficits and falling gold reserves.” — Buoyant Economies

The question of Trump brings a larger issue to the fore.  Generally, we have seen that as the dominant world power shifts, the leadership shifts along with it.  The features of buildings as a representation of power has followed these shifts.  However, in terms of the new power of corporations, it would seem that the buildings have been created before the shift in leadership.  That is until Trump became President of the United States of America.

a-corporate-worldIs Trump’s election an anomaly or does it truly represent the emergence of corporate power into the political arena?  My view on this is that Trump’s election is merely the tip of the iceberg.  For over 20 years now the United States has been electing more and more political leaders who are not politicians.  I am considering someone as not a politician if they are people who have not made a career of politics.

Many business people are jumping right into the political arena without experience in either local, state or federal government.  The founder of Electronic Data Systems, Ross Perot may be remembered by many voters as the ultimate tycoon-turned-politician.  Perot ran for president in 1992 and 1996 as a third-party candidate.

An article written in 2010 before Trump had become a candidate stated the following concerning the election of corporate people to public office:

“Whoever believes politics is big business must have seen this coming. The high levels of accountability from running a corporation and high expectations of seeking a seat in government have many parallels.  Amid this confluence of business and political streams, Chief Executive magazine dubbed 2010 “a high-water mark for the CEO as candidate.”

More than 40 business magnates – the presidents and founders of banks, restaurants and tech giants – are running for seats on Capitol Hill or for governor’s offices in 25 states. And looking ahead Donald Trump says he is “absolutely thinking about” a 2012 presidential bid.” — Ten Business Leaders with Politics in their Blood, by Bill Briggs

During the Republican runoff to the nomination of Trump, we saw Carly Fiorina who was a former CEO also emerge as a potential candidate.  We now have ten governors with no former elected government service.  Seven former US presidents with business experience have all been elected in the 20th or 21st century.  The following chart shows the net worth of the wealthiest senators in the US. Congress as of 2012.senator-net-worth

The next chart shows the average net worth of 90 incoming freshman representatives to the 113th US Congress

January 3, 2013 to January 3, 2015

Year Number of Freshmen Reports Average Net Worth Change from previous year
2011 90 $7,835,242 —-

More data can be found at Ballotpedia at https://ballotpedia.org/Main_Page

the-50-richest-people-on-earthMy point here is that most millionaires make their money in business.  On the 2016 Forbes lists of richest 400 people in the world, richest billionaires in the world and richest people in the world, the majority (about 2/3) have made their money in business.  Furthermore, they are self-made in that they did not inherit their fortunes.  Perusing Forbes, it is clear that the dominant path to becoming rich is to sell something that people want at a price they can afford.

It is clear that wealth accumulated to a business background has increasingly become a stepping stone to politics and political leadership.  Trumps presidency is the crown on the new sovereignty.  Business leaders are now rapidly replacing politicians and bureaucrats in the area of political leadership.  Already Trump’s nominees include the chief executive of Exxon Corporation; the chief executive of CKE Restaurants; the former chief executive of the World Wrestling Entertainment; a former Goldman Sachs executive; a billionaire investor; a right wing media executive and a former chief executive of Nucor Corporation.  These are only a few of the still to come appointments that Trump will make.

corporate-powerIt is my prediction that business leaders will continue to make the transition to political leadership.  The business model is now the sovereign model for world power.  The power of the state has been usurped by the power of big business.  Global power is corporate power.  The public is sick of career politicians.  The common people bring a (perhaps unfounded) belief in the power of business to save the world.  Considering that we have tried the power of academia, the power of science and the power of big government to save the world, perhaps the power of business can do better.  One might argue that they can at least do no worst.

Conclusion:

From Khufu to Trump, we have now briefly (my apologies for many simplifications and no doubt omissions in history) covered 4,500 years of political and economic history in a short seven or so pages.  I can see the great historians and economists of the world having fits at my narrative. Nevertheless, my thesis remains.  Simply put Trump is now the successor to Khufu, Caesar, Pope Boniface, Henry the VIII, Bismarck, Churchill and Roosevelt.  Big business is now the dominant sovereign power in the world.  How long will it last?  How long will it take all politicians to be replaced by business people?  I have no answers to these questions; but one must assume that somewhere down the road, another sovereign power will emerge or may already be emerging.  Until then, be prepared for most decisions to have a “let’s make a deal” flavor to them.

Time for Questions:

How long will the reign of big business last?  How long will it take politicians to all be replaced by business people?  Will business succeed in making the world a better place?  Why or why not?

Life is just beginning.

“I spent 33 years and 4 months in active military service . . . And during that period I spent most of my time as a high-class muscle man for Big Business, for Wall Street and the bankers. In short, I was a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism.

Thus, I helped make Mexico and especially Tampico safe for American oil interests in 1914. I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City Bank boys to collect revenues in. I helped in the raping of half a dozen Central American republics for the benefit of Wall Street.

I helped purify Nicaragua for the international banking house of Brown Brothers in 1902–1912. I brought light to the Dominican Republic for American sugar interests in 1916. I helped make Honduras right for American fruit companies in 1903. In China in 1927, I helped see to it that Standard Oil went on its way unmolested.

Our boys were sent off to die with beautiful ideals painted in front of them. No one told them that dollars and cents were the real reason they were marching off to kill and die.”
― General Smedley Butler

“Our aim is not to do away with corporations; on the contrary, these big aggregations are an inevitable development of modern industrialism, and the effort to destroy them would be futile unless accomplished in ways that would work the utmost mischief to the entire body politic. We can do nothing of good in the way of regulating and supervising these corporations until we fix clearly in our minds that we are not attacking the corporations, but endeavoring to do away with any evil in them. We are not hostile to them; we are merely determined that they shall be so handled as to serve the public good. We draw the line against misconduct, not against wealth.”
― Theodore Roosevelt

 

 

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5 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. jeanine
    Jan 13, 2017 @ 15:35:06

    Great blog!! It surely gave me some good points to ponder. I did not want to voice an opinion without first doing a little research. I found that history proves that businessmen made the worst presidents. One such example was Warren Harding who was very successful in business but is consistently rated as one of the worst presidents, so one of the most successful businessmen was a conspicuous failure as president. The number of highly successful businessmen who became highly successful presidents? None. Or conversely, the number of successful presidents who were successful businessmen? None. The number of successful businessmen who failed as president? Three. Truman, a very successful president, failed in business. The best model the Republicans can offer is Poppy Bush, successful businessman and a respectable president. But even he ranks below Carter, who the Republicans always disparaged as a failed president, on the presidential success meter. Can Trump be any different? I personally do not think so.

    Reply

  2. jeanine
    Jan 13, 2017 @ 17:25:19

    Great blog!! It surely gave me some good points to ponder. I did not want to voice an opinion without first doing a little research. Most of the reports I read stated that businessmen made bad presidents. Warren Harding was very successful in business but is consistently rated as one of the worst presidents, so one of the most successful businessmen was a conspicuous failure as president. So the number of highly successful businessmen who became highly successful presidents? None. Or conversely, the number of successful presidents who were successful businessmen? None. The number of successful businessmen who failed as president? Three. Truman, a very successful president, failed in business. The best model the Republicans can offer is Poppy Bush, successful businessman and a respectable president. But even he ranks below Carter, who the Republicans always disparaged as a failed president, on the presidential success meter.

    Reply

  3. jeanine
    Jan 13, 2017 @ 17:40:18

    Sorry, I did not mean to repost the above twice. I just wanted to add that I believe it was Trump’s wealth and promises to make a change in the pockets of the people that basically won him the election. The general thought seemed to be that they had tried the politicians, now let’s try a man of the people. Of course we know that Trump is not a man of the people, he is much too narcissistic. I would have to believe that politicians will prevail even if they fade into the minority and that we may be closer to what is going to be the norm in future years to go. I will be more cognizant of the trend thanks to your blog. Who knows, maybe the next president will be Brad Pitt.

    Reply

  4. johnpersico
    Jan 13, 2017 @ 20:13:05

    HI Jeanine, You can repost as often as you like. 🙂 I am glad you added the comments about failed business people who became President. It is obvious that there were more Presidents with a business background than I noted. Maybe celebrities are the trend of the future. You point out a “trend” that may yet to come. Certainly there are many celebrities who have already crossed over. Maybe that is what helped Trump.

    Reply

  5. jeanine
    Jan 13, 2017 @ 21:07:30

    Thanks John. I am now looking forward to playing “Whack-A-Mole!! 🙂

    Reply

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