How the World's New Power Brokers Undermine Democracy, Government, and the Free Market
It can feel like we're swimming in a sea of corruption. It's unclear who exactly is in charge and what role they play. The same influential people seem to reappear time after time in different professional guises, pressing their own agendas in one venue after another. According to award-winning public policy scholar and anthropologist Janine Wedel, these are the powerful "shadow elite," the main players in a vexing new system of power and influence.
In this groundbreaking book, Wedel charts how this shadow elite, loyal only to their own, challenge both governments'; rules of accountability and business codes of competition to accomplish their own goals. From the Harvard economists who helped privatize post-Soviet Russia and the neoconservatives who have helped privatize American foreign policy (culminating with the debacle that is Iraq) to the many private players who daily make public decisions without public input, these manipulators both grace the front pages and operate behind the scenes. Wherever they maneuver, they flout once-sacrosanct boundaries between state and private.
Profoundly original, Shadow Elite gives us the tools we need to recognize these powerful yet elusive players and comprehend the new system. Nothing less than our ability for self-government and our freedom are at stake.
Using her expertise in Eastern European communist governments, author and public policy professor Wedel (Collision and Collusion) has pulled together a shocking expose of those dismantling U.S. democracy from the inside. Labeling the new breed of U.S. political operators "flexions," she finds individual roles as lobbyists, government insiders or elected officials converging into a single network "snaking through official and private organizations, creating a loop that is closed to democratic processes." Wedel shows how a core group of flexions (neo-conservative cold-warrior Richard Perle, retired four-star army general Barry R. McCaffrey, Obama financial advisor Larry Summers, etc.) have risen to power on an unprecedented confluence of four transformational 20th and 21st century developments: government outsourcing and deregulation, the end of the Cold War, the growth of information technologies, and "the embrace of 'truthiness.'" By wearing several hats simultaneously (think tanker, retired military or government official, corporate representative, "objective" expert), Wedel shows how a flexion can gain extraordinary insider knowledge and influence in order to custom-tailor a version of the "truth" benefitting the highest bidder. In this way, they not only "co-opt public policy agendas" but "craft policy with their benefactors' purposes in mind." This fascinating, authoritative wake-up call should satisfy any American who wants a handle on the republic's most successful agents of corruption.