Saturday, May 18, 2013

The End of Competition

The American Dream does not actually require a red, white and blue flag or a dream. What it requires is a willingness to accept messiness.

Messiness is another word for chaos. And no one likes chaos. Chaos means that in the richest country in the world some people will be illiterate, others will be homeless and some will accidentally set themselves on fire because the fireworks don't come with enough safety warnings.

Those aren't good things. They're not things that governments and the squeaky wheels who make governments what they are think should be tolerated. They're messy.

Messy is all those things that people say someone should do something about, by which they don't mean themselves. What they really mean is that we should be living in a more orderly society. And an orderly society is one where things don't just happen. You have to file eight forms, duck six committees and debate four non-profits to have any chance of getting things done. And even then you probably won't.

Orderly societies have nailed down all the loose ends. There are fewer homeless people, mainly because they are now living in sixty thousand dollar per inmate shelters designed by progressive architects, but there are also fewer errand boys becoming Andrew Carnegie. What is really being lost is social mobility. The ladder up.

Meritocracy requires chaos. An orderly society isn't chaotic, it's stratified. The power has been parceled out to all the people who should have it. And there's only so much to go around. Newness is a threat because new things are unpredictable. They're chaotic. They disrupt the power structure.

The liberal argument is largely an argument for a society consolidated around government in service to progressive ideals. It's a tidy world in which governments and non-profits consume an always increasing share of everything else until there isn't anything else because it's been consolidated. The end result of that process however isn't progressive. It's tribal.

Power naturally consolidates along personal lines, not political lines. A society may begin by consolidating power so that all the non-profits can help the homeless and the people who can't read fireworks instructions, but, in a peculiar phenomenon, the homeless never seem to get helped much and fireworks accidents keep happening.

The phenomenon isn't really peculiar at all. Humanitarian work is a job that exists to eliminate itself. The only way to keep a job dedicated to solving the problem is to perpetuate the problem. Or to redefine the problem on a larger scale. All that is familiar enough from any number of non-profits and government agencies that exist to remind people to care about a problem that they don't care about.

Redefining the problem on a larger scale means more money, more power and more control. Any problem, whether it's homelessness, illiteracy or crime is a social problem and can only be solved by taking a holistic approach to everything. A city, a country and a world become a giant puzzle that can only be solved by manipulating all the pieces into place in the right order. The only way to solve the problems that never get solved is through total control over every human being on earth.

Power can only be consolidated ideologically for so long. Both the Russian and Chinese Communist revolutions eventually collapsed into familial profiteering. China's Princes and Russia's KGB clans brought down Communism in both countries and resurrected it as profiteering oligarchies eager to live the good life.

To some measure, Capitalism beat Communism, but more accurately tribalism beat internationalism,  powerful men built systems that lock in privileges for their friends and families while tossing out the lefty ideologies that allowed their grandfathers to get close to those privileges. It's an old story and it's how the progressive experiments in the ideological consolidation of power will end here.

Power is personal. As is wealth. A system that consolidates enough power turns tribal as fathers look to pass on their privileges to their children until, like so many social services agencies, the system exists for the sake of the system.

Tribal systems are not meritocracies. They aren't interested in talent, but in a sense of order that derives from the consolidation of power. Their idea of civilization does not lie in their arts or sciences, only in the orderliness of power. Only when chaos assails them, is talent released out into the wild where unpredictable things happen. But the chaotic period passes and the old patterns assert themselves again strangling the wildness and consolidating it.

Despite the proliferation of wild communications technologies, our society is becoming more medieval. We have guilds, a secular clergy and a population too fragmented for nationalism. Republics are giving way to feudalism as people value being cared for more than opportunity. Even the old religious wars are returning with the special forces as our knights, the skyscrapers as our castles and the dole keeping the peasants on the urban voting farm.

Much of the progressive infrastructure exists to eliminate competition. Jobs and higher education are assigned by race, gender, orientation union membership and political affiliation. Starting a business grows harder each year without political connections. Success has less to do with the marketplace, than with the political picture.

The entire "You Didn't Build That" platform is about the end of competition. Policy statements like that lay out the proper place of the individual. Success doesn't come from competition, but from the decisions made by the government. If the decisions are wise, then competition is unnecessary. If they are unwise, then competition is futile.

The merit in meritocracy doesn't come from individual striving tested against the real world, but from the decision making process of political leaders. Merit is redefined, not in terms relevant to the field, but to the bigger political picture. It's not a matter of the best engineer, businessman or architect, but the engineer, businessman or architect whose identity and vision are harmonious with the big picture.

Holistic think global and act local politics of that nature is very orderly, in that it has no room for the individual. It is too concerned with the forest to care about a tree, let alone the lumberjack or the family that needs an affordable home. And the outcome of that mass dehumanization is a politics in which only the people in the inner circle of power are truly human and truly matter.

China and the Soviet Union killed millions for ideas and then finally for personal power. The end of a system that dehumanizes millions for a collective is a system that dehumanizes millions for the few who run it, the few who really matter and the few whose decisions build everything. Once you reduce the worth of a society to the few philosopher-kings, the commissars of correctness and the technocratic czars, then it becomes very easy to dump all the ideas that got them there and fall back on the old notions that some people are better than others.

Progressivism is about the management of chaos through the impersonal means of government authority. Eliminate enough of the chaos and what remains is a stultifying order that is not based on reason, but on power. The more power is consolidated in the name of something, the more institutions are mobilized to achieve its goals and the more every aspect of life is centralized, the less room there is for the wild creative chaos that moves societies forward through great leaps and bounds.

Civilization is haunted by the old industrial utopian idea that a rational society will be completely managed from the top down. Every progressive goal depends on a rigid system of authority that answers to calls from some civilian non-profits run by community organizers playing the role of the old soviets. The soviets were an illusion. A country was never going to be run by them. It was going to be run by powerful men like Lenin or Stalin who took control of the revolutionary chaos and imposed their own murderous order.

The progressive state is not going to be run by people who want more homeless shelters or more illegal immigration or more abortions. Those people are useful for putting the system into place by giving it the illusion of popular will, but they are unwanted once that has taken place. Once the power has been consolidated, the flimsy coalitions of activists who got it there quickly become a nuisance.

The trouble with all this isn't humanitarianism. It's not wrong to care about others. It is wrong to pass that caring off to an impersonal bureaucracy or to set up a system of mandatory caring or to disrupt the lives of others on a massive scale out of spiteful self-righteousness because they don't care enough. That is why studies show that while conservatives give charity, liberals give government.

A rational view of society begins with accepting an imperfect world. A demand for a rational society however is the irrational belief that government can perfect people. But how can government perfect people when it is made up of imperfect people? Consolidate power under a small number of people and their ranks will grow smaller and they will act no differently than every pharaoh, king and czar throughout history.

Worse than the tyranny is the death of so much of the energy that makes the next step possible. The managed chaos, the thin line between government intervention and anarchy based on a few documents, common sense and a national ethos is what made the American Dream possible. That dream is being strangled by the bureaucratic collectivism of liberal technocrats who imagine that piling one more institution, one more level of regulation and one more set of rules will produce only pros without the cons, product without pollution, wealth without poverty and good without evil.

The progressive consolidation imagines that organization can contain the messier side of man. Mostly it cannot. Instead organizations consolidate power in the hands of men who are worse than average in the name of improving mankind.

The end of competition is the beginning of tyranny.


mindRider said...

There are a few meritocratic yet bureaucratic societies: Those in which a general conscription still exists which I think is the connection, being Israel, Switzerland and Finland. The level of bureaucracy in those countries varies with Israel as a leftover from socialist times the worst yet messy and Switzerland has a strict but extremely efficient one but run like a private enterprise with individual accountability. The small size of those countries might be a factor, with Finland large in landmass but small in population.

Edward Cline said...

There are two glaring phenomena that illustrate Sultan Knish's point. One is the fact that the taxes imposed on the sale of cigarettes in New York State by the feds, the state, and the city, have created a new crime syndicate, the Muslim Mafia. Mr. Greenfield has written about this in his Front Page column. The taxes have a dual but contradictory purpose: to punish smokers and discourage smoking; and to raise revenue. The regulators and tax imposers don’t really wish to extinguish smoking; they wish to perpetuate a "sin" or an "anti-social" behavior but also cash in on it. If the policy really succeeded and everyone stopped smoking, they would think of something else to punish and tax. Like sugary drinks, or obesity, or perfume. By virtually criminalizing smoking, the policy has created and encouraged crime.

But then syllogisms have never been the Progressives' best forte.

Then there is the federal DEA which fights a never-ending war against mammoth drug cartels in Mexico, South America, and the Far East. Billions have been spent on tracking down drug kingpins and their armies and go-between dealers, spraying suspected poppy fields and the like in Colombia and Pakistan and Afghanistan, and finding and raiding poppy greenhouses and fields in the U.S. All to no effect, because the campaign to quash drug-dealing, marketing and smuggling is self-defeating, it really doesn’t intend to quash the trade or the usage. If it did, thousands of federally equipped gunmen would suddenly be unemployed and would need to be employed elsewhere, such as going after private gun-owners in concert with the ATF or with the DOJ after "Islamophobic" bloggers. Not that they haven't cooperated before. The DEA, and the federal government, have a vested interest in perpetuating the crime and the campaign against it.

Doug Mayfield said...

"It's not wrong to care about others. It is wrong to pass that caring off to an impersonal bureaucracy or to set up a system of mandatory caring or to disrupt the lives of others on a massive scale out of spiteful self-righteousness because they don't care enough."

As DG points out, the problem is not charity. Americans are the most charitable people on earth because they have the wealth with which to be charitable. (As someone said, 'the best way to help the poor is not to be one of them.')

But how did they accumulate that wealth?

Somebody, some individual human being, had an original idea and put it into action while making a lot of mistakes along the way.

In a free society, one can recover from mistakes. Henry Ford went bankrupt twice before he became one of the wealthiest men in the world. As Mr. Ford said, 'Failure is merely the opportunity to start over better informed.'

But the life of a Henry Ford who brought work and wealth to millions is becoming more and more improbable in a society which is increasingly authoritarian. In a communist or Islamic country, he probably would have been executed. In modern America, he might have looked around at our culture and walked away.

The problem is not charity. It's so-called 'charity' imposed at gun point.

guitta Dabe said...

This article provides a great prism to help understand public education and very soon, Obamacare. Public education allows everybody to be educated. The lack of competition however, is making it more and more useless to more and more people. At the end of the day, public education becomes so bad that only the rich kids get educated as they are taken out of that environment.

You won't find the kids of politicians in public school as they are part of the new powerful elite mentioned in the article.

The same thing is happening in healthcare. The whole system was taken over by government using the pretext of the uninsured. Now that it's done, who talks anymore about the uninsured? The law makes small doctor practices practically impossible with such high bureaucratic burdens. This is no accident. Obamacare wants the industry to consolidate into big hospitals. It is much easier to control them compared to controlling hundreds of thousands of small practitioners. Fewer big care giver means less competition. We are already seeing fewer people going to medical school, and especially fewer of the smartest people. The quality of healthcare will decrease. Waiting times for surgeries will increase.

Obamacare does not apply to the nation's top politicians. They have their own system. This after all is the new elite.

Daniel Greenfield @ the Sultan Knish blog said...

mindRider, also Israel has few options. Being under siege forces a certain amount of internal meritocracy, with the alternative being death.

Edward, indeed. Sin taxes become a paradox.

Doug, individual initiative. No room for it in a society that believes that individual mistakes add up to social problems, instead of a trial and error process that produces fundamental social improvements.

Dabe, which is how college became the new high school and soon the process will repeat itself with MAs

Anonymous said...

I must say I'm surprised to read that ObamaCare is an issue. I thought it was already struck down. Well, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to see how ill informed I am on political matters.

Floored though when I found out that the IRS will play a role in ObamaCare.


IgorR said...

Even if philosopher kings were well-meaning they couldn't handle the messiness. Prices are a lot better indicators of what people want than even the wisest thoughts of philosopher kings.

On top of that, the philosopher kings usually turn out to be mass murderers or turn into them when the messiness gets too much. But the left responds the same way as they do to the evidence of horrific failure in this or that leftist regimes: these guys were not real Communists or real progressives, the next batch (as in "we") will do it correctly. They never learn.

Gould K.L. Brownlee said...

Well said. It's interesting in a grim sort of way to live in a time of decline, and to see the end of an era in such an obvious way. The Left has left a band of completely scorched earth between us as we are now and the way we were when we were actually a successful civilization. All continuity has been destroyed.

It keeps occurring to me that the two world wars may have been both a symptom and a cause of our current destruction, but it nags at me too that perhaps Leftism is a built-in pathology that comes with a modern, scientific, industrial society that from the very beginning was tempted to replace God with the, admittedly very impressive, works of White men.

After all it is the original sin of the Left that they insist on replacing God with Man. The Left always denies God, or distorts Him to their own usage, and the Leftist elite constructs an extremely tawdry and dishonest secular religion based on a flawed faith in science. The result is that the Left mistakenly believes that the lives of men can be ordered along strict scientific principles even to the point of transforming men into something altogether more acceptable to the Left.

Of course the end result of this fantasy is a brutal tyranny in which the Leftist elite treat the masses as their lab rats and guinea pigs. And we know what happens to them.

Anonymous said...

It took me 5 attempts but I eventually quit smoking. I would lapse, feel guilty, try again in a couple of months, and repeat the cycle. But I got it. My mini-struggle with cigarettes is almost a metaphor for what humanity progressed through, culminating in the brilliant document called the Constitution. What's frustrating to me is that, despite obvious parallels in history, the progressives in the country don't get it. One would think that self-preservation alone would lead to scrutiny and the conclusion that the current direction leads to tyranny, but it doesn't.

This article, "the Road to Serfdom" and probably a hundred other books, lays it out plainly. But you really can't lead a horse to water and force it to drink.

The rest of us that do get it will have to protect ourselves as best we can, and hope a few states still believe in Federalism. But the virtue that was once America is gone; all that's left is the carcass to pick over. What a shame.

Gould K.L. Brownlee said...

The Leftists are like other types of criminals in that they don't think of themselves as criminals. They are masters at rationalizing their self-destructive behavior. They have built a massive edifice of lies and fantasies that they call a "nuanced", "sophisticated" body of "thought." Only other "brights" can understand this insanity. The Leftist is a pathological criminal who has no interest in logic or facts or self-preservation. Like the spoiled brats that they are, they think they are immune to the consequences of their hubris.

Roxanne said...

"The trouble with all this isn't humanitarianism. It's not wrong to care about others."

It is wrong to care about other adults as a primary concern. (Doesn’t apply to caring for children.) .

It presupposes that I know what’s best for someone else (I don’t) and that it’s moral to have one’s own life’s purpose as making sure other people are “ok”. It isn’t.

I cannot know what’s best for another, as others don’t and can’t know what’s best for me. To try to take care of others is to interpose one’s own judgment/reason over another’s and that’s immoral. Doing that as one’s purpose in life is to take another’s sovereignty away, to make that individual powerless, infantilize them, take away, in effect, their right to live. No matter how seemingly benign or “good” such intentions are, it’s immoral to make saving adults from their own mistakes, as a way of life. It violates the “saver’s” right to live for him or herself, as well as that of the person being “saved”.

A person’s right to their life is sacred. If an adult can’t eventually find his or her way, keeping them alive or from suffering a bad result, by someone else’s effort, is a lie that will eventually collapse. Everyone has to choose to live; it’s not automatic and no one can make you have it.

Edward Cline said...

Amen to that, Roxanne.

Rod Freeman said...

I wish I could thumbs up your comment Roxanne :)

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