Unless you’ve been living under a very impressive rock – like a bad Brendan Fraser movie about people stuck in a bunker for decades – you know about this George Lloyd business. I’ve seen the video. If you haven’t, you should do so. It is pretty incriminating for the officers involved. I’ve never been much of a thin blue line kind of guy, but I definitely check out here. I know two very good friends who have been screwed over by exceptionally bad police overreach. Francis, over at Bastion of Liberty, surely knows one of them – he is a friend we have in common.
Police petty tyranny has been growing worse in recent years, and we add to that a certain tendency of some urban police departments to engage in soldier-LARPing behavior, well the problem only gets worse. Add to that the condition of various inner-city black communities, the current political climate of race-baiting social justice activism, and the fact that COVID-19 lockdowns have surely driven people mad with boredom and lack of social contact, and you have a perfect storm for this rioting behavior.
It’s hard to blame it on any one thing, save that the poor behavior of the officers in question surely struck a match and stuck it firmly in a powder keg of epic proportions. Personally, I am exhausted of this repeating cycle, which has been a thing since at least the early 90s and the Rodney King riots. Questionable police behavior (sometimes not really so bad, and other times absolutely inexcusably idiotic) leads to racial animus, which results in barbaric looting behavior. We’re all spiraling toward a singularity of stupid, the gravity pulling us deep into a descending orbit, too strong for any of us to escape.
Political rhetoric has become absolutely poisonous. Sure, it was bad in 2016, but this year it grows worse, and I grow weary of it. Every discussion even coming anywhere near a political point is liable to turn into a land mine. Friendships are breaking. Families are cracking. America is burning and creaking at the seams. I don’t know how much longer this dysfunctional system is going to continue to limp along. We may be witnessing its slow death. Or maybe we’ll bounce back again, and our country will be undone at some unspecified point in the future. It’s hard to say.
With the election approaching, I think it’s only going to get worse.
Sadly, I think underneath all the nuclear-level rhetoric, the unleashed ids, the emotional appeals and post-hoc rationalization, both sides of the American political spectrum are clutching a piece of the truth. I’m not sure how many people want to hear that, but I’ve become convinced that it is true. I posted the following summary on Twitter earlier:
- In general, policing has gone very bad in many ways.
- Black communities in most major cities suck.
- At least some of the suck is self-inflicted.
- I despair of any of that changing in the near future.
- We’ll be here again. And again
- Racial profiling is almost certainly a thing.
- It is not without some rational basis.
- Both facts poison interactions between cops and blacks.
- White liberal race-baiting doesn’t help.
- Neither does ‘thin blue line’ garbage.
- No political faction wants to tell the whole truth because it will piss off constituents who don’t want to hear it.
- Both major factions possess at least some components of the truth.
- I feel like some character in Battlestar Galactica. “All of this has happened before.”
The black communities in most major cities are littered with problems. Violence, crime rates, economic depression – you name it. Rightists are right about that. Leftists want to blame white racism, but that doesn’t hold up to investigation. Surely, even if Leftists believe racism to still be bad even they must acknowledge that it is far less bad than, say, the Jim Crow era. Why do these problems continue? Why do we see so little progress? I was rereading Larry Elder’s Ten Things You Can’t Say in America today after a debate with a Leftist on this subject, and it struck me how little had changed since then on matters of race, saving that acrimony continues to worsen. The same issues from 20 years ago are little changed today. What gives?
Police officers know this as well as anyone. Let’s be real, they certainly do racially profile (the Left is right about this); stereotypes about violent crime have a basis in fact, and cops know it. And, from the other direction, blacks certainly are inclined to see cops as the enemy, the attitude leaks into police interactions all the time. Combine those two factors, and the chances of an interaction going bad increase dramatically. And when that happens, prepare for protests that, likewise escalate in severity. Riots, looting, mob interactions – all intermingling with the still-peaceful (but emotional and crazy) main element – while the cops either stay on the sidelines as Rome burns, or escalate the situation even more themselves.
In some ways, it almost doesn’t matter that this particular policing incident really was bad. If it had been a legitimate death, it still had the potential to flare up into what we have today. We are at the point that any police interaction with the black community has the potential of blowing up into a national orgy of combined protest-riots. This one is the worst I’ve seen in my lifetime. There is a protest scheduled down the street from where I live tomorrow – it is likely they won’t bother my neighborhood (it is known that a lot of military folks live around here), but even the potential is strange to me. There were burnings and lootings all over Tampa Bay, especially in the University Mall/Temple Terrace area.
Tampa is not exactly a city known for rioting behavior. I cannot imagine how bad it must be in other major cities.
And we’re not even halfway through 2020 yet. The election looms over us, while the COVID-19 pandemic continues (and may be exacerbated by the riots – we don’t know yet), and political rhetoric has reached levels that make 2016 look like a picnic in the park. We may solve the police overreach issue – though I really doubt it, now – but the broader issue about any police interaction with the black community potentially triggering national riots remains no matter what might be done about that. I think we’re well beyond the ability to solve this in any constructive manner.
I’d like to be wrong. I’d like for someone to pour some water on this fire, to rein in police overreach, to deal with qualified immunity, poor recruiting, travesties like civil asset forfeiture, etc… I’d also like to take us back from 5 minutes until midnight on the racial rioting clock. But I doubt either will happen anytime soon.
Like I said, I feel like it’s an episode of Battlestar Galactica, and I’m reciting the catchphrase. All of this has happened before and all of this will happen again. Again. Again. Again…
A perennial problem for the Republican party is the fact that it is almost always out-funded by the Democrats. In recent years, it hasn’t even been close. Where does all this money come from? Folks have documented Leftist agitators getting paid, bussed in, provided with professionally-created signage and messaging. Where does that money come from?
Go on Instagram, and you will see a number of quasi-whores flashing their wares in expensive mansions in exotic locations, with some token Leftist message hashtagged below. Save the whales, maybe. Or they’ll talk about the right to flush your baby down the toilet (or sell its parts for a Lamborghini). How do they afford these exotic trips and stays at million dollar plus mansions? I saw one who said that her job was working at a dog rescue. But every other pic was a vacation photo to some new destination.
Chelsea Clinton has a wedding around the time a whole lot of funding for Haiti disappears. Where did it go? Who bought Chelsea’s surely-expensive designer dress? Where did the money come from?
Tom Kratman posted on ZuckerBook about UNICEF’s party “sizzle”, where they provided a video of their high-dollar festivities. Where did the money come from? If you’re running a fund for what is, ostensibly, a children’s charity, surely the money could be put to better use? How much of the money they receive really goes to the children? The next time we hear of another child sex ring involving the UN, maybe we can infer they really mean something else when they say “children’s fund.”
Think I’m exaggerating about this ‘Louis Vuitton’ and UNICEF shit? Think again. Because nothing says “children first” like blowing $10,000 on an outfit you’re going to wear once.
I’ve mentioned it many times before, because it really was an eye-opening moment for me. A series of Socialists, with Democratic-Socialist imagery in their profiles, descended upon my Twitter to make fun of the fact that I drove a Mustang, and not a Ferrari or a Lamborghini (did they sell babies to get theirs, I wonder?). Find an Instagram whore with a Gucci outfit or a Louis Vuitton handbag, and you’ll find a raging Leftist 9 times out of 10. Who is buying them all this shit? Because I can’t even figure out what it is these people get paid to do. We know how Trump made his money. How did the body positive Instagram girl get her vacation to some fancy hyper-exclusive resort in Cancun?
Most Rightists I know don’t care much for brands or fancy designer clothing – that’s all Leftists, in their dick-measuring contests. Or, excuse me, vagina-measuring contests, since everything from hats to Leftist political slogans are based on female genitals.
Ocasio-Cortez made sure to wear a $3,500 outfit when she took her campaign photos, but then tells us that she can’t afford an apartment in DC. When confronted about her fancy clothing, she explained that a fashion magazine gave them to her. Why does a fashion magazine hand out clothes to politicians, I wonder? And what tranzi bureaucrat or bankroll man forgot to stroke the ‘I need a fancy apartment in DC’ check to Ocasio-Cortez? Come to think of it, does Ocasio-Cortez have an Instagram account? That would explain a lot.
When Zoe Quinn wrote a crappy Word document about depression – which, presumably, everyone who has ever interacted with her has been afflicted with – and called herself a game developer, anointing herself with the Sacred Victim’s mantle (because, you know, everyone who doesn’t want to play a “game” involving a couple of shitty questions about depression is an oppressor), she somehow wound up in front of the UN, testifying on how evil gamers were. Who paid for all that shit?
I mean, I can write a crappy game right now and people will tell me it sucks. Where is my first-class ticket to a UN lovefest? Did Zoe get to stay in a nice mansion with proper modern architectural details and one of those zero-edge pools that’s all the rage these days? Did she get her obligatory Louis Vuitton bag?
Socialists are bizarre creatures. They complain about the rich incessantly. And yet they are gross materialists, sending out the good news to the oppressed working class folks from their iPhone X phones. Excuse me. iPhone XS Max. Who would have a mere iPhone X, these days? So passe. Does it come with a Gucci case?
Apple. Think Leftist.
But remember, folks, their student loans are a terrible crime. Why, someone wants them to pay for those lectures about cisheteropatriarchal oppression of poor transethnic genderqueer mentally disabled people?
Well, yeah. I guess I would be mad if I had to pay for that too. But still.
Still, where does all the money come from? Instagram whore vacations, UN shindigs, fetus-powered Lamborghinis, an army of buses for every Leftist protest about “orange man bad’ and some Yankee tart screaming about the wonders of Socialism in her $3,500 suit right next to a bar that is shutting its doors because of wage controls… who pays for all this crap?
Perhaps more importantly… what does whoever is writing these checks expect to get as a return on this questionable investment? Or is it enough for them to say “I’m better than you plebeian scum.” How positively Socialist of them, right?
Today, I wish to discuss something that’s been on my mind off and on for a very long time. Pardon me if I stumble around it, for sometimes it is difficult to put a concept into words. I’ve discussed it on The Declination on more than one occasion, though perhaps clumsily. Nonetheless, I suspect it will be of vital importance in the days to come.
Leftists often compare Rightists to Nazis. It’s beyond cliche, these days. It is tiresome and it hinges on the most flimsy of rationalizations. Yet it begs the question: how do you know if you are becoming a tyrant? How do you know if your ideology has slid into evil?
Surely, even Nazis were once children, cared for and loved by someone. No doubt their parents had hopes for at least some of them. Dreams for them. As Tolkien explained for us in The Lord of the Rings, nothing is evil in the beginning. Not even Sauron himself. So how did they become evil? What led them there?
If you analyze tyrannical ideologies and the sort of mass mob insanity behind them, you will see a common thread: purity. Nazis obsessed over purity of race. Stalinists obsessed over purity of political beliefs. Jihadists obsess over purity of religious belief. But purity is always there. And purity can twist good into evil, or render a lesser evil into a far greater evil.
What is purity? The dictionary tells us that it is “freedom from adulteration or contamination.” For our purposes, we may use the synonym ‘perfection’ with some utility. The point of purity is to identify impurities and eradicate them. The Nazi will eradicate the racially impure, the Communist will eradicate the impure Capitalists, and so on.
The utility of quests for purity to a tyrant should be obvious. For what is more impure than man? A quest for purity is carte blanche for never ending power over others. Progressivism itself admits this even in the content of its own name. Progress toward what? Purity. Progress toward the perfect society, in which poverty, disease, war, and a thousand other such ills have been eradicated.
Never will you hear the Progressive say “this is good enough, we can stop now.” For them, there is always a new impurity to eradicate. The movement is like the terminator of movie fame:
Kyle Reese: Listen, and understand. That terminator is out there. It can’t be bargained with. It can’t be reasoned with. It doesn’t feel pity, or remorse, or fear. And it absolutely will not stop, ever, until you are dead.
Social Justice is like the terminator in other ways, too. It cloaks itself as one of us. It wears the skin of our institutions in an effort to disguise itself. But always, its mission is to eradicate us. We are the impure. We cannot be permitted to exist.
And when a round of impure are disposed of, new impure are found. Today, it is Rightists. Tomorrow, Centrists. The day after that, Trotskyite Leftists. The terminator never stops. Ever-greater demands of purity are made. Like the Third Reich, the gas chambers never stop. The ash falls from the skies, forever. At least until someone puts a stop to it all at gunpoint.
Purity spirals work so well because fault can always be found with man. Every single human being in the history of our species, save one, has done wrong; has sinned. We all deserve death. That is a fundamental tenet of Christianity. It is also true even if you are the most ardent of atheists. Man is imperfect. And so it will ever be.
Yet, is it the SJW’s responsibility to act as the judge, jury, and executioner? Shall the Nazi do it? Shall the Stalinist? The Jihadist? Not only is there no one among us who could ever make demands of purity upon us, these cretins are the worst of the worst, the most evil among us. And it is they who always lead the charge to purity. The nuts are running the nuthouse.
Rationalizations always exist for why we are bad people. Why we should be punished, why we should give up everything, why we shouldn’t even exist. ALWAYS. Here we are, in America, the most prosperous nation to have ever existed in the history of our species. This is a place where starvation is virtually unknown. Where even the poorest among us possess wonders. And yet our debate constantly shifts toward America as an unjust nation that loves reducing its citizens to poverty, as if we were like Somalia or Haiti. Similar arguments are made for racism, sexism, homophobia, etc…
There are some poor people in America (though they do better here than in most places), thus we are impure. And in the minds of the purity-seekers, this means there is no fundamental difference between us and Haiti. Disagree? You want to push granny off a cliff, you Nazi! Ironic, I think, that the Left names us the Nazis when the modern purity-seekers are almost invariably Leftists.
Purity spirals are how evil manifests itself in its most concentrated human form. It is where humans go collectively insane, where they can rationalize the most hateful and destructive things. When the SJW says that you are a racist for X, he is almost always saying you are impure. They even police their own, thusly. They are always on the lookout for manifestations of impurity even among their own. They are political cannibals, as purists necessarily must be.
Had the Third Reich been permitted to continue, it would have invariably turned its genocidal hatred upon its own, sooner or later. Indeed, we saw signs of this even during its short life. Just as the Soviet Communists ate their own, and the Maoists, and the Jihadists killing other Muslims… this is always how it goes.
The terrifying aspect of it is that before purity-seekers consume themselves in an orgy of hatred and death, they bring us down with them. At least, if they are not stopped first.
That’s what our conflict is all about, underneath it all. Purity, and those who use purity as an excuse for tyranny. Far from being the good guys, they are the most evil among us (though we all have at least some evil in us). Far from being those who will usher in an age of peace, love, and tolerance, they are those who will usher in an age of death, war, hatred, and intolerance.
It is always this way with them. When they call you a Nazi, remember that though they have little or no political connection with them, their underlying drive for purity means that, of all modern political ideologies, they (and perhaps the Jihadists) most closely resemble the behavior patterns of Nazis. For all of them are, like the Nazis and Stalinists before them, seekers of power through purity spirals.
Here’s a bit of heresy: ban nothing. Did that raise the hair on your back? Did it strike a chord? Did you find yourself thinking “but Thales, that can’t possibly work!”
One of the more bizarre news items of the day relates to a continuing fetish of American municipal governments for banning plastic straws. Now, a liberal acquaintance of mine assured me that he was not inconvenienced by the use of biodegradable paper and wax straws, and plastic straws do have various environmental consequences. In this, my liberal acquaintance is entirely correct. Yet I still disagree vociferously with these straw bans.
To illustrate why, let us go back to the days of Prohibition. Take a gander at these propaganda posters from the period:
Alcohol had then, and still possesses, a number of terrible consequences for overuse. We have drunk drivers, alcoholics, violent drunks, and to say nothing of the things I see DJing the clubs. Yet Prohibition failed and was repealed. Why?
The usual argument is that banning doesn’t work because people will get what they want regardless. There will be speakeasies and bootleggers, organized crime and street thugs. That’s partially correct. But let’s be frank. None of those things will be a problem for banning plastic straws. Certainly, I don’t see organized crime selling crates of plastic straws out of the backs of sketchy minivans. So what’s the real issue?
Freedom of choice.
If the harm of alcohol was eventually outweighed by freedom of choice, then how can we justify banning plastic straws? Many of the same Leftists arguing for banning straws are, in turn, proponents of the legalization of marijuana. Any substance, device, or creation of mankind will have costs, that is to say negative effects. This applies to every single thing man creates. Automobiles have negative effects. Cubicles have negative effects. Medicines have side effects, or can lead to addictions. Those ugly, tacky garden gnomes have negative effects (the sight of them used to drive my dog into a rage for reasons that are clear only to him).
The trick of the Left is to focus on those negative things in an arbitrary fashion. For the things they like, they speak only of the positives. Weed will save lives, reduce pain, relax people. For things they dislike, they speak only of the negatives. Straws will hurt turtles, and won’t degrade for decades. Animals might ingest them. Ban straws. Legalize weed. Ban guns. Legalize gay marriage. There is no principle here, no overriding guidance they are following, only arbitrary emotions. These are the whims of a mob. If 50% + 1 don’t like something that you like, ban it!
What a lot of people don’t realize is that the mob is not necessarily consistent. 50% + 1 may be found to ban anything and everything, because a person may like ban A, but be against ban B.
Most Leftists are essentially reacting emotionally, not rationally. However, some attempt to rationalize it by amount of harm. They attempt to weigh all of the consequences and all of the benefits, and say that if the balance is more toward harm than good, we should ban it. This presumes that all the consequences and benefits are known (or a sufficient number of them to make a reliable decision). This tries to masquerade as principle.
A common example is when they argue that guns don’t have sufficient benefit to outweigh the harm, but automobiles do. So even though automobiles kill more than guns, we should ban the guns, but keep the automobiles (some other Leftists want to ban both, there’s ban A and ban B for you, again). However, what is accepted as a benefit is not consistent between proponents and opponents of the bans. For instance, a Rightist is likely to include incidents where a thug was discouraged from attack merely by the brandishing of a firearm (such events are common), whereas the Leftist generally only wants to include incidents of a bad guy with a gun, stopped by a good guy with a gun, where the good guy is not employed by the government (far less common).
Furthermore, the Leftist generally tries to include suicides, even though many other alternate (and just as easy) suicide methods exist. Japan has a higher suicide rate than the US, despite a robust gun ban. The Left artificially reduces the perceived benefit, and magnifies the perceived harm by some subtle manipulation with regards to which statistics are accepted, and which are dismissed.
This leads us right back to the lack of principle. What the Left doesn’t like must be banned. They are quite casual with bans, too. They’ll ban guns and plastic straws, both. I heard a tale once of a town in Texas which banned inflatable gorillas. While I’m sure there is an amusing story behind the ban, it illustrates that nothing is beyond the reach of the ban hammer.
This morning, a local community page was full of demands to ban fireworks on behalf of pets, veterans with PTSD, and idiots who hurt themselves doing dumb things with fireworks. The chief proponent of the ban rattled off statistics not unlike what you see in the Prohibition propaganda. 12,000 people annually are hurt by fireworks, she said, and we can’t even count the harm to pets and veterans. They should be replaced with laser light shows, she demanded.
Once you get into debating the pros and cons of a ban, you have already implicitly conceded that bans are justified given a certain harm/benefit ratio. At that point, you are now vulnerable to the manipulation and spin of said data, which is commonplace. It’s an endless rabbit hole, and debates like that spiral into infinity. We’re all caught over the event horizon of a singularity of stupid.
So I’ll repeat the heresy: ban nothing.
An opponent of this statement may attempt to bring extreme circumstances to bear. “Oh, you mean you wouldn’t ban crime? Murder? Theft? Rape?” Each of those things is a violation on the individual’s rights to life, liberty, and property. Those are the consistent principles. So what about extreme drugs like cocaine, heroin, etc… Well, never mind the notion that banning these things has objectively failed anyway, regardless of how much I might loathe them. In my heart, would I like to ban them? Sure. Do I think it’s practical to do so? No. Every attempt has failed utterly. And that circles right back to the original point. Just because I loathe something doesn’t mean it should banned. This is a truth the Left has utterly failed to grasp. To them, dislike is coextensive with “get rid of it, get it out of my sight.” It’s the mantra of tyrants.
In any event, the principle of banning nothing need not necessarily be adhered to 100%. It’s probably impractical, just as my support for limited government does not necessarily imply that I think no government whatsoever can work practically (however much I’d like that). We might say we want to get as close to that principle as is possible and practical. Certainly we do not violate the principle for something as trivial as drinking straws. If you’re going to disobey the rule, you better have a damned clear, concise, and dare I say obvious reason for doing it. And even then, be exceedingly cautious.
Ah, but am I being arbitrary, even with that small concession? Maybe. I’d at least admit that I am, instead of trying to spin the argument otherwise. However, even those things I find incredibly distasteful, I would still not ban. The principle overrules my desires in all but the most extreme of cases – and possibly not even then, if the concerns of practicality can be addressed.
Don’t get caught in circular arguments about the harm and benefits of each thing the Left desires to ban. Instead, respond to the ban demand with some heresy. Tell them you want to ban nothing, and watch their heads explode with anger. For you have just dismissed the core of their entire worldview: that their subjective like or dislike of a thing should be taken seriously and given real weight.
Francis hits one out of the ballpark today, expanding on an earlier Kurt Schlichter column. The money quote:
Prior administrations have foolishly attempted to purchase North Korean cooperation with carrots: thousands of tons of free oil, a light-water nuclear reactor, and so on. What those administrations failed to realize was that once the oil, the reactor, etc. had been delivered, their power to maintain the agreement lapsed. But a credible threat of invasion and regime decapitation has enduring influence over the mind of the satrap of a lesser power…even one with some notional nuclear capability.
Foolishly, liberals have long sought to purchase not merely cooperation, but approval also. There is a subtle difference. Satraps of lesser powers, as Francis describes them, may be made to avoid troubling us through judicious application of leverage. Stop waving around your nukes, or we’ll kill you all. However, this does not purchase likability. The enemy will resent you and hate you (not that I particularly care – he’s the enemy, after all).
Leftists often lament that America is not well-liked by various powers and peoples around the Earth. We are supposed to care about how much the French approve of us, or the Pakistanis, or even some random country in the middle of nowhere. The approval of the Muslim world is of endless importance to Leftists. And so, when dealing with tyrannical regimes, the Left requires a solution that theoretically will both work, and make the other side like us more. Bribery of the sort Francis and Kurt describe is the oft-used tactic. After all, who doesn’t like being given heaps of free shit?
Naturally, the tactic fails to achieve a long term balance of power. Foreign aid money must continue to flow to purchase cooperation and approval. Disapproval becomes leverage the other country may use against us. “Sorry, America, our people just don’t like you much anymore. Perhaps if you gave us more, they might approve of you once more.” The market price for political approval grows, the incentive to crap on America likewise grows. Few get heaping piles of money and free reactors by being our friend, after all.
Incentives are such that it is more profitable to disapprove of America. Indeed, America-hating is so profitable now that Americans themselves are agitating for a slice of that action. Yell from the rooftops that America is the worst nation since Nazi Germany, and you’re likely to get a cushy gig as a political adviser, a journalist, or as a tenured professor. On the other hand, wave an American flag, and you’re the worst bigot since Leonardo Dicaprio’s character in Django Unchained.
The obsession with approval runs deep in Leftist circles. Tolerance of homosexuality, for instance, was a good and decent thing to ask for. After all, it is not us who are inclined to exterminate gays by throwing them off of buildings (see the people Leftists want to suck up to for examples of that behavior). Yet tolerance was insufficient for the Left. They required approval also, a wholly different affair. To tolerate you means that I must merely leave you alone to do as you will so far as you likewise leave me alone. Quid pro quo still applies. Smoke the sausage if you want, but do not cause trouble for me because I do not share your proclivities, nor have any particular wish to be involved in them. Yet the “bake the cake” and “cater the pizza” examples show us that tolerance was not their game. Approve of it, they demand. Participate in it or you are a bigot and we will ruin you.
Approval is everything to them, because approval is the high; the aphrodisiac of politics. One is made to feel popular, loved, and worshiped by such. Feelings like those reinforce a notion of superiority, the idea that one is better than everyone else. In reality, it merely makes the narcissistic wimp vulnerable to sucker tactics. Power flows the other way. The person expressing disapproval controls the entire situation, and once the great big pile of free shit is accepted, the disapproval begins anew. Bake the cake, they will say. Next it might be “gays should get an oppression discount on the cake.”
It is no different from the Oppression Olympics in our domestic politics. The offended person possesses all the power. Thus we get more offended people, not less. Similarly in international politics, we get more posturing assholes demanding free shit from America, not less.
Trump, at the very least, has restored some level of balance to this. He is willing to brandish the Stick, long covered in cobwebs and dust. And what’s more, his enemies know well his willingness to use it. They will grumble, they will not approve of us. But what does that matter? Toleration is all that is required. That Kim II ding-dong whatever doesn’t love us certainly doesn’t bother me. That China is probably irritated with Trump’s trade negotiation tactics is irrelevant. I don’t even care if NATO members like us. I’m not losing any sleep over any of this.
Remember your Machiavelli:
It is better to be feared than loved, if you cannot be both.
Nassim Nicholas Taleb summed up in a simple aphorism what most of us instinctively know about bureaucracies:
Bureaucracy is a construction designed to maximize the distance between a decision-maker and the risks of the decision.
When something goes wrong, the bureaucrats play the blame-shifting game. Musical chairs will begin, and some poor fool will be stuck without a chair. When something goes right, of course, executive management will take credit. Your job as a bureaucrat is to be an implicitly political creature; to make your boss look good and, for yourself, to evade blame.
Bureaucracies become much worse when they are divorced from the profit motive. At least a large corporation must theoretically serve its customers in some positive manner, or they won’t remain in business for long. So while the internal politics of a large corporation are likely to suck like a Hoover, the external face of the company is often still somewhat pleasant for the customer.
With government bureaucracy, even that small consolation is lost. Go to the DMV, or any large government bureau. Long lines, smelly ‘customers’, and agents with extremely unpleasant attitudes abound. The motive is not to serve citizens well, or even to serve them quickly, but rather to meet the bare minimum necessary to avoid blame – and sometimes not even that.
Blame games now extend to the customer. You can offload risk to the average citizen. If you run out of money, it’s not because anybody in the government did anything wrong, it’s because the citizens did not part with enough of their wealth.
Within most bureaucracies, there are a few hard-working, talented people who keep the machine limping along. A committee of two dozen people will decide what that one poor productive person is actually going to do. Naturally, if he does not perfectly satisfy all two dozen, the blame is on him.
This is why I’ve long distrusted top-down approaches to almost anything. Beyond the waste; the useless people drawing down salaries, the incentives are all wrong. Decision makers are insulated from the consequences of their decisions. Productive people are commanded by committee. Political considerations outweigh results. As Taleb would say, none of these people have skin in the game.
We are frequently told that bureaucracies are wiser than us; that they understand better than we do how our lives should be lived. Indeed, we must ask them permission for various activities. We must explain ourselves to them, justify our needs and desires. Yet wisdom is not their trade. Knowledge is not their purpose.
Risk management and blame shifting is why they exist. And Leftists wonder why we are skeptical of their claims of wisdom. I see them as tools; political shields, only. Otherwise they have little use.
I submit that no man is free if he must explain himself to a bureaucrat.