The latest column by Fred Reed got me thinking. It reminded me of something said by Doug Casey of Casey Research in his March newsletter, which I'd like to quote at some length.
I'm going to argue that the US government, in particular, is being overrun by the wrong kind of person ... a certain class of people – sociopaths – are now fully in control of major American institutions. Their beliefs and attitudes are insinuated throughout the economic, political, intellectual and psychological/spiritual fabric of the US.
. . .
What the ascendancy of sociopaths means isn't an academic question. Throughout history, the question has been a matter of life and death. That's one reason America grew; every American (or any ex-colonial) has forebears who confronted the issue and decided to uproot themselves to go somewhere with better prospects. The losers were those who delayed thinking about the question until the last minute.
. . .
All the institutions that made America exceptional – including a belief in capitalism, individualism, self-reliance and the restraints of the Constitution – are now only historical artifacts.
On the other hand, the distribution of sociopaths is completely uniform across both space and time. Per capita, there were no more evil people in Stalin's Russia, Hitler's Germany, Mao's China, Amin's Uganda, Ceausescu's Romania or Pol Pot's Cambodia than there are today in the US. All you need is favorable conditions for them to bloom, much as mushrooms do after a rainstorm.
Conditions for them in the US are becoming quite favorable. Have you ever wondered where the 50,000 people employed by the TSA to inspect and degrade you came from? Most of them are middle-aged. Did they have jobs before they started doing something that any normal person would consider demeaning? Most did, but they were attracted to – not repelled by – a job where they wear a costume and abuse their fellow citizens all day.
Few of them can imagine that they're shepherding in a police state as they play their roles in security theater. (A reinforced door on the pilots' cabin is probably all that's actually needed, although the most effective solution would be to hold each airline responsible for its own security and for the harm done if it fails to protect passengers and third parties.) But the 50,000 newly employed are exactly the same type of people who joined the Gestapo – eager to help in the project of controlling everyone. Nobody was drafted into the Gestapo.
What's going on here is an instance of Pareto's Law. That's the 80-20 rule that tells us, for example, that 80% of your sales come from 20% of your salesmen or that 20% of the population are responsible for 80% of the crime.
As I see it, 80% of people are basically decent; their basic instincts are to live by the Boy Scout virtues. 20% of people, however, are what you might call potential trouble sources, inclined toward doing the wrong thing when the opportunity presents itself. They might now be shoe clerks, mailmen or waitresses – they seem perfectly benign in normal times. They play baseball on weekends and pet the family dog. However, given the chance, they will sign up for the Gestapo, the Stasi, the KGB, the TSA, Homeland Security or whatever. Many are well intentioned but likely to favor force as the solution to any problem.
But it doesn't end there, because 20% of that 20% are really bad actors. They are drawn to government and other positions where they can work their will on other people and, because they're enthusiastic about government, they rise to leadership positions. They remake the culture of the organizations they run in their own image. Gradually, non-sociopaths can no longer stand being there. They leave. Soon the whole barrel is full of bad apples. That's what's happening today in the US.
It's a pity that Bush, when he was in office, made such a big deal of evil. He discredited the concept. He made Boobus americanus think it only existed in a distant axis, in places like North Korea, Iraq and Iran – which were and still are irrelevant backwaters and arbitrarily chosen enemies. Bush trivialized the concept of evil and made it seem banal because he was such a fool. All the while real evil, very immediate and powerful, was growing right around him, and he lacked the awareness to see he was fertilizing it by turning the US into a national security state after 9/11.
Now, I believe, it's out of control. The US is already in a truly major depression and on the edge of financial chaos and a currency meltdown. The sociopaths in government will react by redoubling the pace toward a police state domestically and starting a major war abroad. To me, this is completely predictable. It's what sociopaths do.
There are seven characteristics I can think of that define a sociopath, although I'm sure the list could be extended.
- Sociopaths completely lack a conscience or any capacity for real regret about hurting people. Although they pretend the opposite.
- Sociopaths put their own desires and wants on a totally different level from those of other people. Their wants are incommensurate. They truly believe their ends justify their means. Although they pretend the opposite.
- Sociopaths consider themselves superior to everyone else, because they aren't burdened by the emotions and ethics others have – they're above all that. They're arrogant. Although they pretend the opposite.
- Sociopaths never accept the slightest responsibility for anything that goes wrong, even though they're responsible for almost everything that goes wrong. You'll never hear a sincere apology from them.
- Sociopaths have a lopsided notion of property rights. What's theirs is theirs, and what's yours is theirs too. They therefore defend currency inflation and taxation as good things.
- Sociopaths usually pick the wrong target to attack. If they lose their wallet, they kick the dog. If 16 Saudis fly planes into buildings, they attack Afghanistan.
- Sociopaths traffic in disturbing news, they love to pass on destructive rumors and they'll falsify information to damage others.
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Political elites are primarily, and sometimes exclusively, composed of sociopaths ... It's a serious problem when a society becomes highly politicized, as is now the case in the US and Europe. In normal times, a sociopath stays under the radar. Perhaps he'll commit a common crime when he thinks he can get away with it, but social mores keep him reined in. However, once the government changes its emphasis from protecting citizens from force to initiating force with laws and taxes, those social mores break down. Peer pressure, social approbation and moral opprobrium, the forces that keep a healthy society orderly, are replaced by regulations enforced by cops and funded by taxes. Sociopaths sense this, start coming out of the woodwork and are drawn to the State and its bureaucracies and regulatory agencies, where they can get licensed and paid to do what they've always wanted to do.
It's very simple, really. There are two ways people can relate to each other: voluntarily or coercively. The government is pure coercion, and sociopaths are drawn to its power and force.
There's more at the link.
Now, let's return to Fred Reed's latest column.
In short, the technology exists for a detailed, unblinking, unforgetting watchfulness of the entire population beyond anything imagined, or perhaps imaginable, a few decades ago. This is not Fred-drank-too-much-coffee. It is happening.
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People speak of the onrush of the police state. I think that many do not understand how fast it comes, or how thorough it will be.
The political framework falls rapidly into place. Few or no safeguards exist, and probably few are possible. A growing authoritarianism rapidly erodes what protections we had. The courts allow random searches of passengers of trains and subways without probable cause. Warrantless tapping of personal communications is rampant, or done with secret warrants from a secret federal judge. TSA has Viper squads that stop cars at random for searches. In many places it is against the law to video the police, who everywhere become more militarized and less accountable. For practical purposes, citizens have no recourse.
At a higher level of generality, America is no longer a democracy. If you think this a rash assertion, ask yourself whether you have the slightest influence over policies that matter to you. Suppose that you want to end the wars, shrink the military, end affirmative action, genuinely change education, or reform a hostile and unworkable bureaucracy. Who do you vote for? Important policies are made in faceless bureaucracies immune to public influence. National politics employs a sort of political price-fixing, in which you are permitted to choose among a number on indistinguishable candidates and told that you are having an election.
None of this is going to stop.
Why is it happening? Some suspect a vast conspiracy to Sovietize the country. I doubt it. Don’t look for a conspiracy when human nature is an adequate explanation. Presidents never want to suffer the restraints on constitutionality, the agonizing slowness of a congress that often has little understanding of the issues; if presidents can do things by fiat, or secretly, they will.
We have now had two consecutive presidents with less than normal respect for the constitution, one a brown Plantagenet but with little grounding in European civilization, the other a privileged rich brat of limited intellect and schooling. Such as they will take any shortcut they can get away with, and there is no longer anyone to tell them no.
Men grab power when they can. Once grabbed, it stays grabbed. A police operation like DHS will always try to grow. People in power always think they know best. When a federal department has money, industry rushes to sell it things. In the case of TSA, this means new and more advanced scanners, then upgrades, and maintenance contracts, training contracts, and then a new kind of scanner, and the process repeats.
The people doing all of this are not thinking of installing totalitarianism. They are thinking dollars, promotions, power, ego, and perks.
The FBI? NSA? Federal officials in general? They know best. They are, they think, just fighting crime, terrorism, maintaining national security, what have you, and the more power they have, they better they can do this. Further, intimidating people is pleasurable. If citizens have nothing to hide, say all these cops, they have nothing to fear. If you torture terrorists, or those you think may be terrorists, well, the real world is like that. Do you want more terrorism?
A conspiracy would be preferable. You can crush a conspiracy. Human nature, which inherently drifts toward corruption, is a far tougher nut.
What difference will it make to live in a country in which the government knows everything whatever about everybody, and few safeguards against abuse exist? For most people, at first, probably not much. At first. But for people the government doesn’t like, a lot. Reporerters, writers, whistle-blowers, activists, dissidents.
And we are all vulnerable. Knowledge, as someone said, is power.
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The mere knowledge that your email can be read is intimidating, like being closely followed by a police car even when you are doing nothing wrong. We are daily being followed by more police cars, both literal and figurative.
Again, more at the link.
It's kinda scary reading those two columns together like this, isn't it? Go read both of them in full. It's worth your time.