Thursday, August 1, 2013

The Long Game

I had another topic to write about this morning until a conversation with the CSO -- for those of you unfamiliar with that designation, it refers to my beloved wife Beth -- got me thinking about time horizons: specifically, their overwhelming importance to human thought and social structures.

Beth and I were exchanging observations, drawn from our divergent paths through life and commerce, about the shortsightedness of so much managerial thinking. The problem appears to be worst in the middle layers of management: above the front-line supervisors but below the corporate officers. If you've got a boatload of similar stories to tell, Gentle Reader, rest assured that you're not alone; virtually everyone I've ever chatted with about management practices and pitfalls could say the same. More, the perils are just as much moral and ethical as they are pecuniary. I once wrote in a short story that:

    Everyone who ever works for a sizable company eventually faces an ethical dilemma. Ethical dilemmas are created by middle managers; a company whose top bosses were in direct contact with the peones and knew what they were doing could never have one.
    There’s really only one ethical dilemma for an employee: a middle manager tempts you to suppress something you know you ought to broadcast. He’s invariably trying to advance at the expense of his equals in the organization. Deny him, and he’ll vow revenge. Accede to him, and he’ll own your soul.

Yet shortsightedness in the private sector is as nothing compared to the phenomenon in government and government-affiliated institutions.

Government is inherently a parasite upon the private efforts and enterprises of ordinary persons and their voluntary associations. To function, it must draw sustenance from the private sector: in the usual case, through taxation backed by the threat of punishment for noncompliance. (The phrase "voluntary compliance" has always made me want to lock, load, and draw a bead on the utterer.) This is so obvious that it embarrasses me somewhat to state it explicitly...yet persons in government, far more often than not, behave as if it were not so.

A successful parasite, bred for the optimal exploitation of its host and habitat, must contrive to keep the host alive and well. It must function, if not symbiotically, at the very least non-destructively toward its host. This, too, should be utterly obvious, for if the host dies, the parasite will need a new host if it's not to die shortly thereafter. Parasites that "rape" their hosts rely upon a huge supply of nearby, easily exploitable alternate hosts...a strategy that works only until the ratio of parasites to hosts reaches 1:1.

One government: one jurisdiction. The government that rapes its jurisdiction has nowhere to go for a new why do nearly all governments do it?

You know as well as I.

If we confine the discussion to politicians in elected office, our focus can be made painfully sharp. Such persons must forever concentrate on their electoral health: i.e., their prospects for being returned to their seats at the next election. That compels them to "serve their constituencies," which usually means attempting to rape the larger polity for swag to be distributed to "the folks at home." (We shall pass in silence over the irony implicit in that phrase.)

In a system such as ours, only two elected officials have any reason to regard the entire nation as their constituency. In these latter days of the Republic That Was, even the president feels compelled to serve a partial constituency: first for his shot at a second term; later for the health and future prospects of his party, whose viability rests on a regionalized "base." So even he is not immune to the pressure to pander, which recent developments should make quite clear.

The original design, wherein popular votes only elected the members of the House of Representatives, was an attempt to prevent the emergence of politically powerful factions, in which category the Founding Fathers included political parties of the sort we suffer today. Madison and the rest understood that factions give rise to squabbles and pandering. Those were among "the dangers of democracy" they were determined to avert.

Politicians being what they are, from the earliest they strove mightily to "correct" that aspect of the Constitution. The effort culminated with the Seventeenth Amendment. After that, parties, factions, and pandering became the Unwritten Supreme Law of the Land, trumping even the Constitution's clear constraints on the scope of the federal government.

The contraction of the politician's time horizon was completed.

"As above, so below," say the ceremonial magicians. As power has been sucked out of the county, municipal, and state governments and into Washington, those smaller governments have reproduced the predatory patterns above them, in service to the careerism of those at their helms. And so we have come to a point where everyone, at every level of government, is playing beggar-thy-neighbor in service to his own aims. "An honest politician is one who stays bought," runs the cant cynicism. The notion that there might be honest men somewhere in the corridors of power is sneered away far more often than not.

And why not? Haven't the 88,000 governments of these United States made it quite plain that they're "in business for themselves" -- ? Haven't the discrepancies between promise and performance made it plain that they're not to be trusted -- that they'll say anything to gain the support of 50%-plus-1, but having done so will do whatever is in their electoral interests? It's simple good sense that when a seemingly good and principled man, a Rand Paul or a Ted Cruz, appears on the scene, our first impulse should be to ask "What's he hiding from us? What's his real agenda?"

They all face the same political dynamic, and the same schedule of elections -- and most would rather roast in the fires of Hell than lose the positions they fought and pandered so hard to attain.

Many years ago, G. Harry Stine, then the editor of Analog magazine, wrote a brilliantly perceptive article in which he noted that "you can get away with anything," provided you can change The System swiftly enough to prevent it from recognizing and penalizing your transgression. This observation, as blindingly pure as it is critical, vaults us from the "short game" of electoral viability to the "long game," played for the ultimate political stakes: power made permanent.

Consider the late Hugo Chavez as a case for study. Chavez rose to power over Venezuela through relatively ordinary electoral processes. Once installed, he immediately began to alter Venezuela's political and economic infrastructure, every move aimed at solidifying his grip on power and weakening or destroying any forces that might rise to oppose him. When all was accomplished, Chavez had become The System: the law was what he said it was, and no one entertained any serious notions about displacing him from hegemony.

Franklin D. Roosevelt did much the same, albeit behind a better facade of "public service."

Just now, Barack Hussein Obama and the machine that raised him to the presidency are maneuvering toward a similar bloodless coup. Some fear that Obama, the quintessential self-worshipping malignant narcissist, might attempt to set aside the term limits imposed by the Twenty-Second Amendment, on the grounds that the nation's "ongoing economic crisis" demands continuity in the White House. Even without that prospect, the Obama regime's many moves have all squinted toward permanent power for the Democrats: by creating an ever-larger population eager for Washington to redistribute the earnings of producers into the pockets of loyal Democrat voters; and by weakening and vilifying those forces that might rise to thwart that outcome.

Obama's partisans on Capitol Hill are all aligned behind those efforts, few of them unwillingly. They're aware, one and all, that their futures are indissolubly tied to the overall program...and that the Obamunists would happily destroy any of them for daring to diverge from it. Those who realize they'll never move to the front of the pack can nevertheless aspire to a place of safety and privilege in the nomenklatura to come.

Which is why I don't laugh at the sight of a "Hillary Clinton / Michelle Obama 2016" bumper sticker.

Ultimately, the thing must crash. The State has developed so great an appetite for the wealth and freedom of its host that the host will soon cease to struggle for life. For a short time thereafter, the United States will most resemble the terminal stages of the nation portrayed in Atlas Shrugged: It will be hagridden by openly thuggish rulers, beneath which will swarm a second tier of parasites:

These were the men whom official speeches described as "the progressive businessmen of our dynamic age," but whom people called "the pull peddlers"—the species included many breeds, those of "transportation pull," and of "steel pull" and "oil pull" and "wage-raise pull" and "suspended sentence pull"—men who were dynamic, who kept darting all over the country while no one else could move, men who were active and mindless, active, not like animals, but like that which breeds, feeds and moves upon the stillness of a corpse.

Their long game is our death sentence.
The time has come to fight.
Are you ready?

1 comment:

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