Monday, July 18, 2016

Crisis And Politics

     Remember this golden oldie from Rahm Emanuel?

     For those allergic to videos, here’s the complete transcript:

     "You never want a serious crisis to go to waste. And what I mean by that it’s an opportunity to do things you think you could not do before."

     To the best of my knowledge, no one has publicly analyzed the subject of that political mantra for its internal mechanisms. Given the sudden rash of crises and events being styled crises, both here in America and elsewhere in the world, I’d say the time has come.


     Crisis, like many other dramatic words, is often employed idiosyncratically or interpreted tendentiously. Let’s take a hard look at what sort of event would constitute a crisis in the social, economic, or political order.

     First and foremost, crisis is a matter of scale. The number of persons affected must be large enough to be significant in the surrounding context. Shouting “Crisis!” over an event that affects only one person or family is disallowed.

     Second, there must be either ongoing damage or a serious threat of damage to the affected persons. Moreover, the damage must be significant. A hangnail or the loss of a quarter in a vending machine won’t make the cut.

     Third, and most important for political reasons, the event being styled as a crisis must appear to call for a centralized, authoritarian response. The “spontaneous order” coalescence of privately motivated healing forces must appear, or be made to appear, too slow or too weak to meet the needs of the affected.

     Fourth, it helps greatly to justify the categorization of crisis if the event features swift acceleration: a sharp crescendo away from normality. An effect that’s been building up gradually and gently over a long period of time is likely to become embedded in the general notion of the normal order of things. In contrast, a swift acceleration of damage throws people “off their stride,” and makes them more amenable to the arrogations of authority and its assertions of mastery.

     In summary, a true crisis must be:

  1. Large;
  2. Painful;
  3. Disordering;
  4. And preferably Quick to hit.

     Several events of recent years that would not qualify as crises according to the criteria above were nevertheless made to seem crises by the skillful withholding of information and manipulation of news coverage. Sometimes such pseudo-crises can be seen more clearly in retrospect as relatively minor matters which politicians and their hangers-on, eager to claim authority and garner public acclaim, seized upon for their own purposes.


     Just now, the United States is afflicted in several directions. It has a massive illegal immigration problem. It’s sprouted a number of racial, ethnic, and religious exclaves. Interracial, inter-ethnic, and inter-religious tensions have come to constitute a serious threat to social cohesion and the rule of law. Its economy is staggering under an unprecedented weight of laws, taxes, and regulations. Its federal government is in deficit every year, has amassed a debt greater than the Gross Domestic Product, and appears not to be reformable. Two enormous programs, Social Security and Medicare, are crumbling fiscally owing to changes in American demographics. Its military, overstretched for fifteen years, is no longer equal to the demands being placed on it. A steadily increasing fraction of its populace regards its governments as enemies rather than protectors. Those in that fraction have largely elevated their personal ethics over the laws of the land.

     In each case, the number of persons affected is in the millions. In each case, the damage or threat thereof is general and significant. In each case, the appearance of the thing suggests that only a centralized response can stem the tide. However, these conditions did not have swift onsets; they built up over the decades.

     Each of these phenomena has become a marching tune for some breed of social parasite: politicians, public figures, opinion mongers, and organizers of various sorts. Some want high (or higher) office, some want increased power and prestige, some want money, and some merely crave the limelight.

     These parasites have contrived both the crisis-like conditions mentioned above. Each of them was brought upon us by government: either by making bad laws with pernicious effects, or by failing to enforce good ones. However, to make it appear that increased government power is the proper response to the crises, they secured the cooperation of the news media at depicting them as having come upon us suddenly. Their success, while not complete, has been impressive.

     Anyone who’s been watching the important metrics would have known about the steady onset of these problems long before politicians et cetera mounted their soap boxes to pronounce them crises. Some pundits told us what was coming long before it reached its present magnitude. As is usually the case these days, not enough of us listened.

     There’s nothing more useful to the power seeker than a crisis. He’ll mount any that’s handy, and he’ll ride it until he gets what he wants or is shot off his steed. In the latter case, the fatal bullet is usually the penetration of the “official” news by “unofficial” voices with facts at their command. Consider the nicely debunked “man-caused global warming” fad as a prime example.

     Keep abreast of the news.
     Access a variety of sources, and remain skeptical.
     Remember the inherent dynamics of power and the power seeker.
     And though it might seem an “of course” matter, protect freedom on the Internet.

     We don’t need any more “crises” or politicians to ride them over our backs.

3 comments:

  1. I think it goes beyond just taking advantage of crisis, I think the progressive left actually creates then promotes crisis. They are the ones who benefit. Race mongers Sharpton and Jackson are examples.

    ReplyDelete
  2. That was sort of the point of this paragraph:

    -- Anyone who’s been watching the important metrics would have known about the steady onset of these problems long before politicians et cetera mounted their soap boxes to pronounce them crises. Some pundits told us what was coming long before it reached its present magnitude. As is usually the case these days, not enough of us listened. --

    ReplyDelete
  3. To keep from despairing, and to inject some FUN! into this campaign season, I started a Timing Contest - Guess the Date of the Launch of the October Surprise!

    http://rightasusual.blogspot.com/2016/07/guess-launch-date-for-october-surprise.html

    ReplyDelete

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