Wednesday, October 6, 2021

"Gradually, then suddenly". It applies to nations as well as people


In his novel "The Sun Also Rises", Ernest Hemingway famously wrote this dialog:

“How did you go bankrupt?”

“Two ways. Gradually, then suddenly.”

I've been thinking about those words in the context of all the problems we're seeing in the world economy right now.  They're more than just economic in origin, of course.

Winston Churchill said several things about democracy that once ruled our expectations, but have increasingly been undermined.

  • "Democracy is a very bad form of government ... but all the others are so much worse."
  • "Democracy is an awful way to run a country, but it's the best system we have."
  • "Democracy is the best form of the worst type of government."
  • "At the bottom of all the tributes paid to democracy is the little man, walking into the little booth, with a little pencil, making a little cross on a little bit of paper - no amount of rhetoric or voluminous discussion can possibly diminish the overwhelming importance of the point."
However, during the 20th century (particularly its latter half), oligarchs, academics and political theorists increasingly turned against such sentiments, blaming "the common man" for all the evils of World Wars I and II and what had ensued.  They began to work towards a government of those who "know better":  people who (they imagined) can manage the system that is a nation, and on a broader scale continents and the entire world, because they are better equipped to do so than the average voter, who doesn't understand world affairs and isn't competent to manage them.  Thus we saw the emergence of the Council on Foreign Relations, and the Bilderberg Group, and Chatham House, and the Trilateral Commission, and the World Economic Forum, and others.  These groups have inspired the formation of smaller non-governmental organizations and private foundations, all of whom pursue more limited policy objectives, but often align themselves with the focus and activities of larger pressure groups.

In the decades since World War II, we've seen these groups, and the politicians they influenced (and who eagerly sought their endorsement), slowly but surely change the focus of national governments.  Instead of putting their own countries first, they increasingly began to align their national interests with those of international bodies such as the United Nations, or the European Union, or ASEAN, or some other entity.  Other entities such as the World Health Organization, or the International Labor Organization, or UNESCO, were made into arbiters of what was or was not acceptable and "politically correct" in their spheres of influence.  National governments were pressured to rewrite local laws to conform to these "norms", and treat national interests as secondary to international priorities.

The organizations mentioned above, and their political puppets, have managed the economies of their nations and the organizations to which they belong as a tool of political and social policy.  Instead of managing them for economic purposes, they've tried to restructure and reorient them to serve political purposes.  This has ranged from taxing areas they wanted to restrict, to subsidizing areas they wanted to support, to nationalizing areas they wanted to control, to imposing onerous standards, norms and restrictions on businesses wishing to trade with government entities such as armed forces, etc.  Through coercive measures such as these, business and commerce gradually were forced into line, until it became almost impossible for businesses to survive if they resisted government pressure.

In the process, businesses themselves were forced to reorient their activities as they grew.  A small business could still be flexible enough to adhere to its objectives and work towards achieving them;  but a larger organization had to devote more and more time, attention and resources to complying with government standards.  It became more and more difficult to make money while doing so.  Therefore, it's no wonder that businesses began to seek ways to save money (i.e. cut down on their input costs) in order to maximize the profits they could make, since government was absorbing more and more of their operating income.

Hence, moving production offshore to cheaper manufacturing environments made eminently good sense.  They didn't care about the impact on their workers.  After all, workers didn't hold a whip hand over them like governments did.  Workers were a cost, not a benefit, as far as big business was concerned.  In times past, workers could use their political power at the ballot box to elect politicians and governments who would stand up for them;  but increasingly, political parties were also subverted by "experts" and pressure groups.  They might say one thing at polling time, but their actions (speaking a lot louder than their words, to those who were listening) were directed by outsiders who had different priorities to the electorate.  Even trades unions became more political, with their leadership cutting deals with politicians rather than listening to their grassroots members and working for their interests.  The influence of Churchill's "little man, walking into the little booth, with a little pencil, making a little cross on a little bit of paper" became less and less.  Voters were no longer as important.

That's what has led us to today's mess.  "Experts" who "know better" have led to a situation where a permanent government bureaucracy (known to some as the "Deep State") is convinced that it knows better than the electorate what the country needs.  It's focused on making the country conform to what it sees as the right way forward, whether or not its views are correct (it never questions them), and whether or not the voters want what it wants.  Our political parties are aligned with the Deep State to a greater or lesser extent, both using it to promote their interests and being used by it to entrench its power, influence and control over the country.

Because the interests of the Deep State and the political parties are ideologically driven, they've largely let business go unmanaged and uncontrolled from an economic perspective (because that perspective is not their priority).  As a result, oligarchs have arisen (particularly in the technology sector) who use their money, power and influence to manipulate the Deep State and the political parties.  It's an unholy alliance that completely ignores the will of the people, and is about as anti-democratic as you can get.

In the process, those running the system - all of the above elements - have enriched themselves to a previously unimaginable degree.  The self-appointed leaders of our society - political, social, economic and cultural - have amassed wealth beyond the wildest dreams of the kings, emperors and noblemen of the past.  They revel in it.  They flaunt it in our faces.  They aren't concerned with economic fluctuations, because at their level of income, even a complete economic meltdown would be no more than a minor inconvenience.  When you have a few million dollars, even if ninety percent of them were lost, you'd still have a few hundred thousand - and you'd still be living pretty comfortably.  The richer you are, the more true that is.

That's not how the rest of us experience life, of course.  We're watching the economy melt down around our ears, as we discussed yesterday.  We can see our future vanishing before our eyes.  Some of us don't know for sure whether we'll be able to afford to eat, or have a roof over our heads, if this goes on.  We're wondering how the powers that be could have been so blind as to let that happen, and why they aren't fixing it.  The answer is that they didn't care that it was happening - their priorities were elsewhere - and they don't know how to fix it.  Instead, they want to use it to cement, and consolidate, and reinforce the control over us that they've illegitimately and undemocratically seized.

Remember Abraham Maslow's famous dictum?

"I suppose it is tempting, if the only tool you have is a hammer, to treat everything as if it were a nail."

That's precisely what our rulers are doing right now.  Their "hammer" is control, dominance, authority:  and they're using anything and everything else around them to increase the size, and dominance, and authority they already wield.  If that means trashing our economy in the process . . . well, in their view, you can't make an omelette without breaking eggs.  The fact that we're the eggs in question doesn't bother them at all.

It wasn't always this way.  The authority of our present rulers has been accrued slowly, deviously, subtly, under the noses of democratic electorates everywhere.  They came to power "gradually, then suddenly".  Like the fabled camel's nose, they snuck into the political "tent" a little way under the guise of "expertise", and then kept pushing, until before we knew it, the entire camel was in the tent and there was no room left for the rest of us.

Therefore, in dealing with the realities that confront us, we have to see them from this perspective.  Those currently in power did not attain control through democratic means, but through gradual, insidious ideological subversion of our government:  through "experts" and "informed opinion" and "international cooperation" and academic theory.  They don't regard themselves as accountable to us.  We're nothing more than the democratic fig-leaf that they pull out every few years to cloak their oligarchy with a mantle of respectability.  They identify with Stalin's sentiment:

"The people who cast the votes decide nothing. The people who count the votes decide everything."

The electoral fraud perpetrated in 2020 wasn't the first time it had happened - it was merely the most widespread and most blatant it had ever been.  Unless and until we remove the current powers that be, we will not have another free and fair national election in these United States.

We should therefore expect that the powers that be don't care about what happens to our economy.  Their priorities are elsewhere.  The economy is just another nail to be pounded into submission under the hammer of their illegitimate authority.  They'll "decree" what the economy should do, and accuse us of disobedience and rebellion when that doesn't happen.  They'll use their illegitimate authority to pass "infrastructure spending" that's nothing more than stealing taxpayer money to subsidize their ideological interests and favored supporters.  They know we know that - and they don't care.  They're going to do it whether we like it or not, because they don't regard themselves as accountable to us.  In the same way, they'll offer us carrots like "stimulus" payments that don't actually fix the underlying problem - they just give back to us taxpayer money we've already given the government, and/or borrow money to give to us that we, as taxpayers, will one day have to pay back.  It's all a sham, and a fake, and a public lie.

Our government not only won't help us, they can't help us, because they don't know what they're doing.  They don't care what happens - they only care that, whatever it is, it should lead to greater control for them over us.

Therefore, disbelieve any politician, from any party or ideology, who promises to fix things.  They can't, and they won't.

We're on our own.  Plan accordingly.



DansBlog said...

The problem is that 'democracy' allows for one adult citizen = one vote. This should change. We need one adult citizen with a bit of knowledge and logic = one vote.
How would we do that? Each vote should be preceded by a 5 min session in which you do a set of abc questions. A simple questionnaire with questions like:

Dem Party is a) Right b) Left c) Center
Repb Party is a) Left b) Extreme Center c) Right
Progressive Taxation is a) when you're taxed by progressive gov b) tax rate increases as the taxable amount increases c) when tax is towards a progressive future

2 + 3 X 4 = ? a)23.4 b) 14 c) 9


From 10 such questions you get a score 0 to 10. And you get to the actual vote. Well, the actual vote will weigh exactly that: if you answered to 3 questions, your vote will be multiplied with .3 and so on. This way, you keep your right to vote but your vote will weigh in as much as you know.

The Balloonatic said...

I wish that I could share this with my family, but they are already too indoctrinated. They believe that the government is there to help them and improve their lives. The blinkers are glued on, and they're in for some painful moments when they are ripped off.

Stephen St. Onge said...

        IMAO, the real "problem" with government is much more basic.  It's the fact that we don't considered questions like "What are our goals?"  "What is the desirable trade-off between goals?"  "What are we willing to pay to achieve said goals?"

        The question of what we wish to achieve is seldom asked, and the answers offered are usually assumptions that don't correspond to reality.  It's as if people got on a bus here in Minneapolis with some of them wishing to go downtown, some wanting to go to Florida, others to Mexico, and some to Duluth.

        Until we're clear about what we want, debate about the best way to obtain it is futile.

Paul, Dammit! said...

Dansblog has a point. I wish we had not abandoned limiting the right to vote to citizens who hold property, requiring voters to have bought in.

In re: to the hammer in the toolbox saying, I was just talking with my kid about TX's neocon senator Dan Crenshaw, who I somewhat like but who is pretty deeply embedded in the swamp already... I used the same metaphor about Crenshaw and his hammer being the use of military force overseas. Dude's way to quick to make the logic jump to preemptively attack for the sake of foreign adventurism, even when I find myself agreeing with his stance on Afghanistan. He's spent too much time with Raytheon-paid lunches for my taste.

Unknown said...

I'm always astounded when someine thinks like this. As if the problem hadn't already been solved by our intellectual and moral betters -- the Founders. When the Constitution was adopted, only property holders could vote, because they understood that the only responsible folks with real "skin in the game" are the people who pay the cost of government. The ignorant have always been with us, and always will be. The answer is what the Founders gave us - the productive vote, the parasites don't. And if you collect money -- any money -- from the government, you're not part of the productive class.