why "big government" is always the path to "government by deluded rube"
when i was but a wee gatito, i really liked geometry. i liked the puzzle of it, the logic game of starting from axioms you knew to be true and seeing what else you could figure out by logical inference.
this is always a bit more difficult in the social sciences as one is left with less provably reliable base beliefs and less rigorous forms of proof as one extrapolates, but this in some ways only adds to the fun.
so let’s have some fun.
i’ve musing of late about just how it came to pass that the entirety of western governance seems to have become bereft of reality and competence and generally run by people who appear to be about as smart as a soup sandwich and yet have managed to accrue not only such intense confidence in their own planning ability and vision but in addition gained access to the levers of power to impose their addled ideas upon the rest of us while aided and abetted by a cheer-leader class that eggs them ever onward.
it’s really quite a thing.
it seems too endemic and inclusive to be a plot and calling it a result of cancel culture has never really satisfied me as that seems more like a mechanism than a root cause. i mean, how do such cultures rise in the first place?
what if this effect is something more fundamental and inherently emergent?
could the headwaters of this flood be something simple?
i’ll start with a proposition with which many of you are familiar.
“as soon as you allow politicians to determine that which is is bought or sold, the first thing bought and sold will always be politicians.”
as i have never really heard this refuted in meaningful fashion, let’s presume it to be true.
what can we derive from this?
proposition 1: if politicians are bought and sold, the sort of people attracted to politics will be grifters.
this seems a natural outcome. politics becomes a goody room and the kinds of people that excel at conning others and compromising morals will chase the gold rush.
proposition 2: grifters gonna grift
sure, this is basically tautological, but it contains a meaningful implication that ought be drawn out: grifters are con and confidence people. they need a song and dance, a schtick, a story, something to not only pack the rubes into the tent but to separate them from their wallets. they need a reason to take big actions, take your stuff, and to give it to someone else (or at least to make you do it for them). they need a malady for which to sell you their magical elixir.
proposition 3: grifting turns politics into “story time”
the story does not have to be true. in many ways it’s better if it’s not as you get a lot more optionality. but the story needs a villain and the story needs a plan. but most of all, the story needs a sucker and that sucker is the demos. the confidence conclave needs to convince the audience to go along with the grift, and they either manage to do so or, if they cannot, are rapidly replaced by more compelling carnival barkers who can. those who buy politicians pay for performance.
proposition 4: story time makes the people into rubes.
as they fall for these stories, the people become rubes. they genuinely believe the grift and clamor to pay for the shiny products on display even and especially when this is just lining the pockets of con men that they have mistaken for leaders. they become true believers. and here is where it takes a bit of a turn:
proposition 5: true believers are more believable than grifters.
people are, at subconscious levels, good at spotting lies. this makes grifts hard to keep going for long periods. it’s also why the hegemonic huckster class is wont to surround itself with zealots and activists. these people add a patina of credibility to the whole affair because their sincerity shines through. and this is how it gets out of control.
proposition 6: the demos starts to prefer true believers to grifters and elect them to office
once the “story” is sufficiently set in the public consciousness, the public starts to seek out its most devout and vivid tellers and these are nearly always of the “true believer” class. they simply have more energy, honesty, and intensity than the carnival barkers ever could. they are singing the gospel and meaning it and they come to power as a sort of trickle then a torrent that changes the crooked circus midway into something more like an old timey revival tent. and so the intensification cycle begins.
proposition 7: the more fervent new leaders tell more intense stories.
the true believer tells a more strident and demanding story. they are no longer grifting, they are evangelizing. this brings new levels of vehemence, less tolerance for any other ideas, and proselytizing zeal.
proposition 8: more intense stories make the public more committed to the story.
and this in turn further arouses the public to greater belief and commitment which in turn increases demand for stridency in leaders and round and round it goes until some sort of intensity maximization is reached, usually when the wheels start coming off. and this is a huge problem because, as we flash back to old axioms, one must realize:
proposition 9: the true believers do not know that the grift is a grift.
what began as crony corporatism and scam has become a secular religion/activism cult. its false and facile tenets designed to separate fools from their money and enrich special interests have become sincerely held ideological dogma and those who will preach it to you have been strained and selected until only the most gullible and zealous remain.
and so we arrive at gato’s postulate:
a democratic government powerful enough to dictate that which is bought and sold will inevitably devolve into rule by rube.
and this is how you wind up with government where the people running the scam not only have no conception that they are running a scam but have subsumed their entire identities into it.
and they have no idea how anything works.
they were flat out selected for not knowing how anything works.
if they did understand any of it, they’d see the scams and wise up instead of becoming some kind of final form pokemon chump rapturously selling themselves down the river.
but they don’t. and they won’t.
it’s rube upon rube upon rube.
and they lack the ability to even assess much less resolve the escalating cascades of problems they set off.
and it’s everywhere. can you seriously tell me you have not noticed the astonishing lack of not just competence, but even of the basic knowledge of how literally anything works that has become so globally endemic?
no one running anything seems to understand even its basic rudiments.
if you doubt me, please consider yesterday’s US house financial oversight committee meeting.
seriously, watch this video. rep tlaib struggles to complete intelligible sentences (an oddly prevalent trend in politics these days) and the wild sweep of her musings is well past incomprehensible and into “concept salad.”
she stumbles through some sort of prepared claim about banks committing to fight climate change and seems not to be familiar with the word “celsius” and then proudly demands an oath of fealty from the assembled banksters (which oddly, she claims they have already made. the reason for repetition is elusive.)
and then it goes badly wrong. JP morgan CEO jamie dimon goes first and he’s having none of it because jamie is a real guy and knows exactly how things work.
and her brain seems to freeze in some kind of divide by zero error which then starts spit out out odd, orthogonal garbage about how anyone who got student loan relief should “take out their account and close their account” from his bank. precisely what this has to do with anything or how that would serve any of those people or why just them and not others is manifestly unclear.
i’m not at all sure she understands any of this and her odd rant about how “he’s not there to relive all these people in extreme debt” comes off like some sort of non sequitur montage. these seem more like random access mouth noises from a banking mad lib than discernable logic.
she seems to simply presume that banks are some sort of public utility run by and for the state.
of course, one could make an argument that given how the same faces keep popping up in both places in a revolving door moving at blurred speed that this is an easy mistake to make…
you pretty much have to watch this to believe it.
it’s like watching a kid play “grifter” into a sesame street phone and twice as hilarious (or would be if not for the fact that this level of nepotism and incestuous entanglement does not even merit eyebrow raising, much less punishment these days.)
but seriously, imagine how stupid and venal you have to be to say this in an open hearing of banking regulators?
it’s like a mobster bragging to the cops about sending nicky the nose to sleep with the fishes.
he does not even seem to understand how anyone else might take issue here.
i think what we’re basically seeing here is that the grifter to true believer shift is fundamentally about the same for governance as the old axiom about “shirtsleeves to shirtsleeves in 3 generations” is for families.
for those unfamiliar, the basic tenet is that the first generation is driven, works hard, and gets rich. (escapes shirtsleeves) their kids get used to and expect affluence, but they are not yet so steeped in entitled culture as to become non-functional. but their kids, the 3rd generation, become so. these are the trust fund babies and wastrels who take what the grandparents built and run it into the ground because they have no idea what it took to make or sustain it. they don’t know how anything works except for bottle service at le bain. and so they return to shirtsleeves once more by having through incomprehension played the wrecker and squandered their fortune.
and this seems like plausible explanation for why government by true believer rapidly devolves to such disaster.
the grifters, at least, knew how things worked. they knew it was a scam. this both keeps them somewhat in check as they assuage their avarice and also keeps them away from pulling the really dangerous levers because this is a group that actually knows that those levers are really dangerous to pull.
but those made a rube by the grift and then elevated from the audience by the other rubes because of how strongly they conveyed devotion to a set of plunder they mistook for progress have no such check and no such knowledge.
and so they become the agents of dissolution not because they wanted to but because they really truly expect unicorns and rainbows to pop out when they push a button that anyone who knew how anything worked would immediately recognize as something altogether different.
this is not to say that there are not still grifters or plotters or conspirators. i’m sure we have more than a few rattling around but they are never really sufficient to generate this kind of damage on their own. you need a much broader base and the true believers comprise this first as the useful idiots that grifters love but later growing into the zealots that wind up burning the whole place down because they had no idea it was flammable and thought they were helping.
they literally don’t know any better and are unlikely to ever learn. they’ll deflect, deny, and dissonance their way to flaming craterdom all the while blaming the world for failing to conform to the fairy stories on which they were weaned.
perhaps once the situation gets truly dire, some of the chumps will wise up, but do you really want to live through that?
and perhaps we can vote them out and vote in better people and reset things for a time, but gato’s postulate will still be in force and that means that you’re going to live on the slipperiest of slopes and experience these calamities cyclically until you address the root cause.
that a big state will always cause this decent into ruin and that until we take this power away or at least find ways to minimize and localize it to generate pluralities of policy and allow people to vote with their feet and to join systems that suit them shall be the immutable law of the jungle.
many have pointed out that a government powerful enough to give you anything you want is also powerful enough to take everything you have, but if such a state will also inevitably be overtaken and run by the most zealous of the bumpkins and yokels, then there is no long term beneficent case or smarter people and benign technocratic stewardship that will save you.
the evolution flows the other way.
it will always be dictatorship by dangerous dullard.
and i think it’s time we made sure that this informed our sense of the trade offs inherent in governance.
i mean, consider the alternative…