The illusion of government

Government is an illusion, a pretense in which everyone pretends to believe, for fear of what would be revealed should the pretense be seriously doubted. The US spent an immense amount of blood and treasure setting up a Iraqi government in its own image, and one morning that government softly and silently vanished away like the dream it always was. It seems to have been replaced by alarmingly numerous tribal, clan, and religious militias, of which ISIS is merely one of far too many.

Government is not a being like an elephant, nor a physical object like a tall building, but rather, a thought, an idea, ideas about how force shall be used. And ideas can change at the speed of thought. Ideas can change without anyone quite noticing for a time.

The patriarchal clan and tribe is the natural form of government, and any government on a larger scale has big problems for which we don’t really have any good solution, even though we have been working on this problem for thousands of years. We make synthetic clans, the church or the party. The result is apt to be a party state, one synthetic clan ruling many. It is oppressive. If the ruling clan loses cohesion, members of the ruling clan act more like mobile bandits, for example Jon Corzine, and it gets more oppressive. The rich are on the revolving door between regulators and regulated, for example Bush the second and Jon Corzine. Those capitalists that make their initial money legitimately, for example Elon Musk, then buy their way into the revolving door, becoming political activists, investing in politics with the intent that political authority will make them richer. Musk’s business plan is that car makers will be forced to buy his stuff in proportion to how many cars that they sell, which means that ultimately the ordinary car buyer will be forced to pay for Musk’s stuff regardless of whether he is using it or not, regardless of whether it is useful to anyone or not, which business plan pretty much guarantees that Musk’s stuff will not be useful to anyone. It is hard to make useful stuff. If your attention is focused elsewhere, and it really does not matter much whether the stuff you make is useful or not, it is not going to be useful.

The Iraqi government vanished when it came under attack by a few thousand competent well trained well armed men employing only personal weapons striking in areas far away from the centers of government power. Word of shots fired far away on the periphery caused government to disappear at the center without a shot fired anywhere near the centers of power. It is interesting to reflect on how much chaos Christopher Dorner caused when he launched his one man war on the Los Angeles Police Department, using hit and run tactics rather similar to those employed by ISIS in Iraq. If one competent man did that, what could half a dozen have done?

The revolving door spins scary fast. Jon Corzine, the man of many hats, regulator and regulated, the most regulated man in the world, took over MF Global, presumably on the basis that he would protect them from regulation if in charge, harm them with regulation if not in charge.

Twelve years ago, this sort of behavior would have been unthinkable. People would have screamed “conflict of interest”. There has been a quite sudden change in the political and economic culture, from typical first world to typical third world.

MF Global managed other people’s money, which Jon Corzine promptly stole. He expended the money of MF Global’s clients largely on buying political influence.

This is classic mobile bandit behavior. Instead of shearing the sheep, he skinned them. He would have made a lot more money steadily milking them over a lengthy period. His real asset was political and regulatory power. I conjecture it was slipping away, and he had to do something in a hurry.

It is difficult to see how to fix this problem. A Tsar is not a solution, due to the agent/principle problem. One needs a ruling elite with asabiyah, a harder and more subtle problem. Asabiyah is easily undermined by small amount of diversity, and I rather think that this is what happened twelve years ago – that the election of Obama is a symptom of the third worldization of our ruling elite, after the fashion of Detroit, and now Chicago. Can’t have a Tsar without an aristocracy, and Alexander the Liberator destroyed his aristocracy, replacing it with left wing bureaucrats who found that the more leftism, the more underlings the bureaucracy acquired.

Government needs to be one, which is hard, and the more government does, the harder it is to be one, and the less asabiyah it has, the harder it is to be one. Jon Corzine’s career tells us that our government is not one. Whereupon government suffers from the problems it purports to solve, prisoners dilemma, and tragedy of the commons, public funds and regulation being a commons.

20 Responses to “The illusion of government”

  1. […] describes The Illusion of Government. The question is not whether your government is an illusion, but whether the illusion is real or […]

  2. […] illusion of government. Related: Empires last about 250 years. Related: Let it […]

  3. Magus Janus says:

    Alexander III restored some normalcy and kept Russia out of foreign conflicts. One of the best Tsars. One of history’s big “what-ifs” is what would have happened had he not died at the young age of 49, as he would have kept the repression in place that his liberal son removed. This would have prevented 1905.

    He was also likely smart enough to not overplay his hand in the East leading to war with Japan) as well as steering clear of WWI (in whatever form it took). Had he done that, the ongoing industrialization of Russia (which was faster from 1895-1914 than Stalin’s much acclaimed forced industrialization later, and without millions of corpses) would have left Imperial Russia in a very advantageous position indeed.

    • jim says:

      Tsar Alexander the Liberator started forced collectivization, which never worked, and each failure of collectivization resulted in further escalation all the way to Stalin.

      At the start of his reign, the lord owned the land and owned the serfs.

      Tsar Alexander the liberator gave the serfs the land collectively while keeping them bound to the land. If he had freed them from the Lord and from the land and made them landless agricultural laborers, that would have been great. If he had freed them from the lord and individually given land to individual serfs that showed competence in farming, that would have been great.

      But, freeing them from the Lord, while the land continued to own them, meant that they had to make collective decisions about farming. It is hard enough for an individual to make individual decisions about farming, and the typical serf was not well suited even for that. So there was an endless series of government measures to govern the collectively owned land.

      Which measures never worked and only became more and more drastic.

  4. Jim, somewhere in your archives you posted (as I recall) suggesting that CA legal system let blacks and hispanics get away with stuff, basically only enforced law against whites. I didn’t think you offered much evidence at the time, but I saw this which might interest you.
    Hanson doesn’t draw your conclusion, perhaps you should send him the link to yours.

    • jim says:

      Would have come down on a white guy like a ton of bricks. Even if he was completely sober, would not have been able to get away with driving without a license. She was drunk and driving without a license. It simply policy that the ruling majority have the right drive, license or no license. For people on welfare, an ultra libertarian state, for the productive, socialism.

      just 11 days after she pleaded guilty to her second DUI, the California Highway Patrol caught Vazquez driving 120 mph on a local highway. Her breath smelled of alcohol, her speech was slurred, and she did poorly on a sobriety test, so the officer arrested her, Wright said. But she was never charged.

  5. Preston S. Brooks says:

    A fine example about how we’ve become a banana republic, and why the entire liberal weltanschauung must be overthrown to fix it.

  6. tgmoderator says:

    An excellent post that sums up a lot of important issues in a tidy package. Critics of reaction might say, “You guys just want a King, or benvevolent dictator.” Yep. But it is not so simple. Even a King requires a bit of that asabiyah Jim refers to. Since most people don’t believe in divine right of kings anymore I suspect that a successful king would require more asabiyah than ever before. But that whole line of thought brings us to that Lockian concept of rule by the consent of the governed and reactionaries might consider that demotic. Societies function best when they share a common culture. Reactionaries complain that the problem with our society is democracy and at the same time complain that we are ruled by elites. It is a bit hard for many people to understand that both observations are correct. We are ruled by elites who are not accountable and yet they pander to the masses. If our elites only needed to govern Vermont and Connecticut they would find matters much easier, at least for a while. So socialism might not be so bad for that little nation of Vermoneticut since they share a common culture and nation with their rulers. So socialism + nationalism is good? Eeeek! National socialism is bad. Even Vermoneticut would fail since the little nation would have open immigration and lose its asabiyah. If this whole post seems incoherant that may because most political science is incoherant the more you think about it. We need a ruling heirarchy that is smart and accountable. How we get there is tricky.

  7. Red says:

    Does the Bundy ranch thing tied into the lack of cohesion with the elites?

    • jim says:

      Probably, but I don’t have any direct evidence of that. The BLM is returning vast areas to wilderness. This is not popular, and I don’t think the rest of the elite feel either like backing them, nor restraining them.

      • Steve Johnson says:

        I’ve heard speculation that Senator Reid was pushing for the BLM to push ranchers off the land so that in some way he could personally benefit from a deal that would assign the land to Chinese solar power companies.

        That would fit perfectly with Jim’s thesis – long term, the USG is better off shearing the ranchers. Short term they make more from skinning them and selling the land to the Chinese – which doesn’t seem to be in their long term interest.

  8. peppermint says:

    On the heels of AmRen’s series of articles about race relations, Jim is here to tell us what our real problem is and why it can’t be solved by simply taking out the trash.

    • Steve Johnson says:

      There are three levels here.

      The problem is NAMs – Mexican invasion and high black birth rates (higher than non-NAMs anyway).

      The problem is that the elites push for Mexican invasion and pay the lower classes to breed as much as possible so they have clients.

      Jim’s point – the problem is that the elites pushing for diversity have killed the host with diversity because elite membership isn’t fixed or static and when your membership in the elite isn’t secure you will grab as much as you can as fast as you can ignoring the long term.

      Beyond diversity I think that the idea of meritocracy is a very dangerous and destructive one. If you’re ultra rich and powerful and your children aren’t up to your own standards then they won’t be rich and powerful – people will do anything for their children. On the less destructive side they’ll try to get them into the elites anyway. On the more destructive side they’ll abuse their position for a large enough short term gain to ensure the future of their children isn’t dependent on being valuable but on passive income.

      • bub says:

        I think that the idea of meritocracy is a very dangerous and destructive one. If you’re ultra rich and powerful and your children aren’t up to your own standards then they won’t be rich and powerful

        Singapore repeatedly claims to be a meritocracy. And yet the current Prime Minister is Lee Hsien Loong, the son of Lee Kuan Yew. His salary is 2.2 million USD.

        Pious claims about meritocracy are rarely followed.

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