- Director of Institute for Policy Studies
- Opponent of globalization and capitalism
- Attributed the 2003 War in Iraq to the “Bush Administration’s reckless drive for empire and power”
- Board member of Interhemispheric Resource Center
- Co-founder of the Campaign for America’s Future
- Supported the anti-captalist Occupy Wall Street movement
Holding a BA from Dartmouth College and an MA from Princeton University, John Cavanagh was a founding fellow of the Amsterdam-based, anti-corporate Transnational Institute in 1974. He subsequently served as an economist for the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (1978-81) and the World Health Organization (1981-82), and then as director of the Institute for Policy Studies‘s (IPS) Global Economy Project from 1983-97. Since 1998 he has been the director of IPS as a whole. Cavanagh is also a board of directors member with the International Forum on Globalization, (IFG), which “provid[es] analysis and critiques on the [negative] cultural, social, political, and environmental impacts of economic globalization.”
In 1994 Cavanagh was one of the 100+ activists who helped “build” the pro-socialist New Party, which counted among its members a young, aspiring state senator named Barack Obama. To view a list of additional key players in the New Party’s formation, click here.
Lamenting that “much of the world is now suffering because there are no checks and balances on the global financial market,” Cavanagh in 1999 declared that “the United Nations should act as a check on global corporations.” Just one year later, however, he found his faith in the UN sorely tested when that intergovernmental organization, angling to obtain supplemental funding, entered into partnerships with several multinational corporations under an agreement called the Global Compact. Incensed by this UN-corporate alliance, Cavanagh led his IFG colleagues in a teach-in denouncing the Compact. “For the UN to mimic the free-trade model that motivates the WTO, IMF, and World Bank undermines the potential to serve the needs of the global poor,” he declared at the time.
Notwithstanding his angst over that matter, Cavanagh nevertheless continued to champion the UN as an effective bulwark against the principal object of his animosity—the United States. In an April 2003 article that he and Phyllis Bennis co-authored for The Nation, Cavanagh affirmed his wish to promote “_the global mobilization for peace” by “working to empower the UN as the legitimate replacement for the United States empire we seek to disempower.” Against the backdrop of America’s recent invasion of Saddam Hussein‘s Iraq, Cavanagh resolutely denied any possibility that the Bush administration’s decision to topple the Iraqi government was the product of anything other than its “reckless drive for empire and power.”
Cavanagh also served on the board of the Interhemispheric Resource Center (IRC), a progressive think tank that produced research and publications on U.S. foreign policy, Latin America, and the U.S.-Mexico border region. He trumpeted the IRC’s vision of a “progressive” foreign policy when he called, in 2003, for “shifting national priorities from the bloated military to meet domestic needs.”
In October 2011 Cavanagh expressed support for the anti-captalist Occupy Wall Street (OWS) movement, likening it to a 1979 protest—in which he himself had participated—against corporate funding of the nuclear power industry. He also drew parallels between OWS and the movements that had previously been carried out on behalf of civil rights, world peace, women’s liberation, environmentalism, global justice (anti- “corporate greed” and anti-globalization), indigenous peoples, and immigrant rights. Also drawing an analogy to the budding Arab Spring phenomenon in the Middle East, he speculated that if “the great peoples’ historian Howard Zinn” had still been alive, “he would be busy writing a new chapter at this very moment” about “the millions of Egyptians who said: enough.” (This reference was to the Egyptian people’s recent toppling of longtime president Hosni Mubarak, who had been a reliable ally to both the United States and Israel.)
By Cavanagh’s telling, OWS served as a welcome reminder that even though “a part of our [American] history is one of war, racism, genocide, and violent inequality,” “an equally important part … is the history of people coming together, fighting back, and creating a more decent and humane union.”
Citing an IPS study titled “America is Not Broke,” Cavanagh in 2012 proposed seven specific suggestions that, if implemented, would purportedy solve “the so-called deficit crisis.” These recommendations included the imposition of a tax on all stock and derivatives transactions; additional taxes on corporations; higher taxes on “the wealthy” who exploit “our rigged tax code”; a tax on “the carbon content of fossil fuels”; the termination of “fossil fuel subsidies”; $109 billion in annual cuts to the American military budget; and the closure of one-third of all U.S. overseas military bases.
Cavanagh often contributes articles to such publications as The Nation and Foreign Policy in Focus.