By Charles Hugh Smith
Source: Of Two Minds
It’s certainly possible to be disgusted, but being disabused of the fantasy that the system is self-correcting is the healthier perspective.
I used to be disgusted, now I’m disabused: beneath all the self-serving narratives, fad-memes and over-simplifications regurgitated as serious analysis, these are the core dynamics I see:
1. Imperial corruption of democracy and open markets. I described this in Regardless of Who’s Elected, Imperial Corruption Rules the Nation: the dynamic adaptive churn of unfettered representative democracy and open markets are anathema to insiders, vested interests and elites, each of which has gained asymmetric power by subverting democracy and markets to serve their private interests rather than the public interest / common good–phrases that are meaningless to insiders, vested interests and elites except as simulacra used for PR.
2. The Deep State, the unelected and unaccountable Administrative State. I’ve been discussing the Deep State before it entered common use–for example:
Going to War with the Political Elite You Have (May 14, 2007)
The Dollar and the Deep State (February 24, 2014)
Is the Deep State Fracturing into Disunity? (March 14, 2014)
The Administrative State has existed in some form in every nation-state / empire, but the U.S. Deep State only gained its vast global powers in World War II and the Cold War, where the lesson learned was the public may choose unwisely (for example, choosing appeasement over preparation) and so the really important decisions needed to preserve the nation cannot be left to parochial politicos in elected office–those decisions must be in the hands of those who know what has to be done.
Democracy is the rubber stamp for doing what’s necessary. Beyond that, it’s a potentially fatal hindrance. That’s the mindset of the Deep State, and if you and I were in upper-echelon positions in the Administrative State, we’d agree with this mindset when things get serious.
This mindset is a self-reinforcing group-think feedback loop: those who believe the public should set policy are weeded out, either by self-selection or via being sent to bureaucratic Siberia.
We’re protecting you. That’s all you need to know.
This opens the door to functionaries who came to do good but stayed to do well, i.e. those with the right credentials and connections to enter the Power Circle to “serve the public” but soon become insiders maximizing their own private gains. That’s the problem with the Administrative State: it’s ultimately unaccountable, not just to the public or elected officials but to itself.
3. Vested interests block adaptions that threaten their share of the spoils. Any advance that increases efficiency and productivity and furthers the public good is squelched, suppressed or co-opted by vested interests who rightly fear their share of the spoils might be diminished by advances that obsolete their particular cartel, monopoly or other embedded skim, scam, fraud, embezzlement or simply unproductive dead weight.
The status quo is thus locked into a death spiral as gatekeepers, insiders, vested interests and sold to the highest bidder politicos will protect vested interests even as the engines flood and the ship begins its long descent into the void.
How do otherwise smart people become so blind to what’s going on? They believe the status quo is so wealthy, so powerful, so clever, etc., that it will overcome any obstacles or crises because it’s always done so in the past, and so it is permanent, immutable, forever, and our supping at the trough of free money couldn’t possibly weaken such an enduring Leviathan.
This is the fatal fantasy of every empire. We’re too successful to fail and collapse. But oddly enough, faith in the permanence of success leads to the very collapse that’s deemed “impossible.”
4. Concentrations of wealth, power, capital and production fatally distort the economy and the social order. When “competition” has been reduced to two telecoms, two healthcare insurers, two pork processors, etc., the system has been stripped of adaptability and resilience.
When 10,000 small farmers each have 100 chickens, the stock of 1 million chickens is spread over a wide geography and entrepreneurial network of suppliers, wholesalers, etc. Bird flu may spread widely but it’s far more difficult to wipe out 10,000 small farms’ poultry compared to the ease of bird flu spreading in one giant factory that concentrates 1 million chickens in one facility. Supply chains stripped of network resilience are equally fragile and prone to disruption and collapse.
Concentrating any form of capital, production and power renders the system vulnerable to collapse due to the inherent weaknesses generated by replacing complex networks with vertical-integration under the control of a few cartels, monopolies, autocrats, gatekeepers or regulators–the latter two being easily influenced by political pressure and/or private gain.
It’s certainly possible to be disgusted, but being disabused of the fantasy that the system is self-correcting is the healthier perspective. Everything is forever until systemic weaknesses reveal themselves, typically at the most inopportune junctures.