Skip to main content

The shadowy think tanks that run the world

JOHN GREEN shines a light on the powerful neoliberal groups pushing the global free market agenda

IN THE establishment media it is invariably communists and international socialists who are accused of being part of an international conspiracy.

Whereas the real conspiracies set up by the right-wing capitalist elite are kept well-camouflaged by academic and media collusion. 

You may perhaps have heard of the Bilderberg Group, but do you know about the Mont Pelerin Society? If you don’t, you should, because it is one of the most powerful and influential semi-covert right-wing organisations in the world today.

It was set up in 1947, in the wake of the second world war, by Professor Friedrich Hayek (author of the right-wing economists’ bible: The Road to Serfdom). 

At its first meeting he invited 39 scholars — mostly economists, with some historians and philosophers — to discuss “the state, and possible fate of classical liberalism.” 

The organisation’s aim was to promote what its founders saw as the imperilled values of Western civilisation and to discuss how to combat the “ascendancy of the state and Marxist or Keynesian planning that was sweeping the globe.” In the early years the society focused on the “problems” of “communism and collectivism.” The group first met at Mont Pelerin in Switzerland, thus the name. 

Alongside Hayek, the founders and early members included the neoliberal economist Milton Friedman, British philosopher Karl Popper (a vigorous defender of “liberal democracy” and a vocal opponent of Marxism), the conservative Peruvian author Mario Vargas Llosa and the late James Buchanan (Nobel prize-winner, author of Public Choice Theory and founder of the Virginia school of political economy). 

Members are hand-picked mainly from US and western European countries, and include high government officials, Nobel prize-winners, journalists, economic and financial experts, academics and legal scholars from all over the world, who come regularly together “to discuss current analyses of ideas, trends and events.”

Members of the society have been brought into government think tanks and become instrumental in forming the economic policies of many countries. 

They are the invisible puppet-masters, pulling the strings behind governments. The society sees an acute danger in the expansion of government, not least in state welfare and in the power of trade unions. 

It is not only conservative on economic and political issues, but is also home to leading pushers of climate science denial.

Still very much active today, the Mont Pelerin Society now boasts a membership of over 500 from over 40 nations. It meets on an annual basis and its members hold powerful and influential positions in academia and as advisers to governments throughout the world. 

But while the Mont Pelerin Society is one of the most significant and influential right-wing organisations in the world, it is only one of many, all interlinked and working closely with each other.

These organisations play an insidious role in not only influencing, but largely determining the political and economic decision-making processes in many countries. They do this by bringing on board leading politicians, academics and media figures. 

Most of them are lavishly funded by transnational corporations, which allows them to “buy” leading academics and prominent public figures, who help to endow their agendas with a patina of respectability. 

Through grants, funding, fellowships, sponsorships, publishing ventures and internships, they are also able to purchase access to institutes of higher education and the media. 

Alongside the Pelerin Society is the Trilateral Commission, “a non-governmental, non-partisan discussion group” founded by David Rockefeller in 1973 “to foster closer co-operation” between North America, western Europe and Japan.” 

Its current chairmen are former US assistant secretary of defence for international security affairs Joseph S Nye Jnr, the former head of the European Central Bank Jean-Claude Trichet and chairman of the board of the Takeda Pharmaceutical Company Yasuchika Hasegawa. 

He joined Takeda’s board of directors in 1999, became president in 2003 and is a member of the Abe government’s Industrial Competitiveness Council. 

Another of these interlinked groups is the Heritage Foundation, a Washington-based lobby organisation, playing a powerful role in the US. 

Since its founding in 1973, its mission has been “to formulate and promote conservative public policies based on the principles of free enterprise, limited government, individual freedom, traditional American values, and a strong national defence.”

The Heritage Foundation boasts among its so-called successes the defeat of the ABM Treaty under George W Bush in 2002. 

This paved the way for a massive expansion of US missile defence systems: “After a 20-year effort by Heritage in laying the legal, technical, and policy groundwork, President Bush repeals the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, clearing the way for deployment of missile defences,” it says on its website.

More recently, it said that “Donald Trump drew his list of potential Supreme Court nominees from Heritage recommendations” as well as “many of his policy recommendations.” 

It continues to give big support to Trump. Its website calls on everyone to “join the fight to drain the swamp” and says it is there “to help them do just that! … Ramping up efforts to get the administration to adopt conservative policy solutions that will shrink the size of government, reform the tax code, dismantle Obamacare and secure our borders. Become a Heritage member and force the change you want to see in Washington.”

Britain’s own Adam Smith Institute is also an integral part of the same worldwide network, as it grandiloquently states in its own publicity: “Using free markets to create a richer, freer, happier world.”

Founded in 1977, it is one of the world’s leading think tanks, with significant influence in the media and academia, and frequently quoted as a source of information. 

It was, in its own words, “one of the key drivers behind the privatisation revolutions in the 1980s and 1990s.”

On its recommended top 10 “to read” books, which have contributed to or reinforce libertarian ideas, it includes those by founding members of the Mont Pelerin Society, such as Friedman’s Capitalism and Freedom, Hayek’s Constitution of Liberty and Road to Serfdom, and Popper’s Open Society and its Enemies.

The Next Generation (TNG) is the Adam Smith Institute’s “network for classical liberals and libertarians under the age of 30.” It meets in Westminster most months of the year.

Its gatherings, it says, “are welcoming, informal and fun, generally taking the form of a drinks reception followed by a 10-minute talk by whoever interesting is in town.” 

Recent speakers have included blogger Guido Fawkes, historian Tim Stanley, campaigner Peter Tatchell, MPs Liz Truss, David Davis and Douglas Carswell, Yaron Brook of the Ayn Rand Institute and strip-club owner Peter Stringfellow. 

The institute also has close ties to a large and complex network of think tanks co-ordinated by the Atlas Network, based in Washington DC. The latter’s declared aim is “strengthening the worldwide freedom movement.”

Atlas Network is a non-profit organisation connecting a global network of hundreds of free market organisations throughout the world to “advance the cause of liberty.” 

In its directory it includes 486 partners in 93 countries — think tanks and right-wing organisations. It argues that it and its partners “have created some of the world’s greatest improvements in freedom.”

It sponsors awards with lavish cash prizes, funded by, among others, the Charles Koch Institute (set up by Kansas-based oil billionaire Charles, brother of David Koch, and both avid supporters of right-wing causes). 

The Kochs have used their charitable foundations to funnel tens of millions of dollars into free market think tanks which fight environmental protection and deny the dangers of human-caused climate change. 

The Bilderberg Group holds annual private conferences of 120 to 150 people invited from the European and North American political elite, including experts from industry, finance, academia and the media. It was established in 1954 by Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands.

Labour chancellor of the Exchequer Denis Healey was a Bilderberg Group founder and a steering committee member for 30 years.

The only way of countering such opaque and dangerous organisations as those listed above is to continue to highlight their activities, show where their funding comes from and expose their undemocratic ways of operating.


We're a reader-owned co-operative, which means you can become part of the paper too by buying shares in the People’s Press Printing Society.

Become a supporter

Fighting fund

You've Raised:£ 8,728
We need:£ 9,272
21 Days remaining
Donate today