Saturday, August 25, 2012



This posted has been lying around in my blogger lumber yard for quite some time now.  So this gives you some insight into my thought process.  The quote and post is from Russell over at Reflexiones Finales. 

People, in general, lie a lot. When they are placed in a situation of where there is an inequality or asymmetry of information or knowledge, you tend to see a lot of lying.   For example, in construction specialists often have unique knowledge about pricing and methods.  They have an incentive, and the system tends to work toward reinforcing that incentive, to use that information to their advantage.
Since the world is a big and complicated place, and most people would rather not take the time to learn much about it, there is an advantage to feeding them dross.
I was originally going to dress up this quote with a blast against the banks and the banking industry.  Fertile ground there.  But after a while, the bile just wasn't flowing....I left it in the "drafts" folder and thought about it some more.

Then I was going to take it to Obama and the way that information trickles out of the government.  But then I got to thinking about the nature of the presidency, the structure of the separation of power, and the need to parse syllogisms a la Alcibiades in order to maintain some kind of power in a structure deliberately designed to cripple the participants.   Getting colder there.

So, a couple of cups of tea later, I lit upon the actual professional government "barony" that controls the individual departments of the government.  These aren't the political place-man that occupy the Office of the Secretary, but rather the "Senior Executive Service" of the FedGuv Ranch.  

These are the folks with their hands on the physical levers.  They fight viciously for budget, and their pay and power derive from the incremental growth of their fiefdoms.  This is where the revolving door in and out of industry lies.  This is where the bloated budget numbers and mission creep begin.  This is the area that will be last to be shown the door.

The truth about the murky nature of government is that it will always end up being a desperate clutching at power by people who are trying to rise to the top.  The ones at the top are pretty easy to monitor.  Obama, Bush, Clinton, Bush, etc are in their place to draw the eyes away from the men playing with the levers.

Do you really think that Obama chooses the drone kill targets?  No, there is a person out there with a knowledge of secrets and access to power that allows him to slide the names across the desk for signature.  

Those are the folks that do the bulk of the lying and dissimulation.  It is their one and only hold on power.




4 comments:

Craig Cavanaugh said...

Which is precisely why the entire system would have to be dismantled in order to "fix" anything.

NoHype said...

The situation you describe is the one in which King Louis XVI found himself. Fiefdoms built on fiefdoms. Entitlements, positions and special favors built upon layers of family ties and networks stretching back hundreds of years.

A culture of "protest" (in France it was the old crones who filled this niche) that seemed weak, rehearsed and neutered.

Until it didn't.

russell1200 said...

Universal for large organizations. That loyalty is the first test in political beaurocracy. So long as the silent minions have your best interests at heart (What would X want me to do?), they can act as an extention of your will.

NoHype said...

I've been thinking a lot about this. About a year ago, I read the biography of that hapless Habsburg Marie Antoinette, and was struck by the utter helplessness of her royal highness to do anything about the situation she found herself in. Ditto her mediocre husband.

Was there a grand conspiracy to throw the entirety of the French empire to the wolves? No. But there were uncounted conspiracies and dark political machinations hatched by the apparatchiks of the age who depended directly on the crown being mocked and weakened at every turn.

Then my daughter called me to ask advice on how to handle her ingrate of a nanny who refuses to continue working unless my daughter continues to provide a cell phone with unlimited everything. This was a person who my daughter rescued from homelessness after her parents kicked her out of the house. Now that Nanny has made up with Mom (and let her move into the apartment that is now possible because of my daughter's employment!) she demands ever-increasing perquisites each time she senses my daughter is too busy at work to replace her.

After offering advice and my assistance in various areas, my daughter sighed and said "You know... when you give something to someone out of the goodness of your heart, it's rarely appreciated. It just comes to be expected."

There's a vast army of apparatchiks out there. Whether 18th Century France, 20th Century Russia, or 21st Century America, they'll drain their host bloodless. Then they'll stand back, eyes blinking in shock and horror at the corpse they created and look around for someone's head to chop off because there's no more blood to be had.

And it's usually a hapless Habsburg that they land on.