Saturday, February 18, 2012

The De-Evolution of Governance -- Fear of a Sustainable Future

In simple terms, nation states all over the world are facing the same problem - quality of governance.  Sure, it manifests itself in different ways - in the US it's a horrific imbalance of wealth and a grossly underfunded government, in Europe it's monetary integration without fiscal or political (or cultural, for that matter) integration.  In China it's the constant rumblings of a restive population.  It's the competing demands of ethnic, sectarian and tribal factions, it's national borders that don't reflect national populations, it's authoritarian rule, cronyism, corruption and brutality.  But at the core, it all goes to one key problem.  In the obscene, self-reinforcing scramble for personal wealth, the entire world has abandoned sustainable policies and long-term solutions for short-term patches, last minute acts of political and economic desperation and a general unwillingness to invest in the future.  Government has ceased to be about governance, and has become strictly another path to wealth an individual might choose - another entrepreneurial option for hucksters and psychopathic risk-takers.  Where politics were once a means to an end, the way one might achieve power, contribute to the success and esteem of his nation, perhaps grow to become a statesman, now it is an end unto itself.  Election campaign morphs smoothly and instantly into re-election campaign, and there is never a good time to make compromises, let alone sacrifices, to achieve a stable, sustainable future for the generations to come.

Inability to act on Climate Change, on Education, on Infrastructure, on sustainable government funding is not a passing challenge.  It is not due to "gridlock" or some kind of temporary status quo that will be erased with the next election, or in the next Congress.  Because as problematic as these issues are, they are not the problem - they are merely symptoms.  The problem is systemic - the result of massive global corruption, where absolutely NONE of the wealth of these already obscenely rich individuals can be put at risk, certainly not for "the greater good".  The systems of governance have been modified to serve the needs of the wealthy, and the individuals elected or promoted in those systems are beholden to them, serving essentially at their whim.  The Faustian agreement is mostly implicit, but do not assume it will not be made explicit when necessary.  The politicians are free to pursue their own empires, and they are free to impose whatever ideological or sectarian torments upon their constituencies they wish, but the flow of wealth to the wealthy must not be impeded in any way, and any and all necessary government resources will be brought to bear whenever that wealth is threatened.

When people rend their garments over the bank bailouts, even as the homeowners are left at their mercy, with nothing to protect them from utter destitution, they only reflect obsolete thinking.  This is not a bug, this is a carefully designed feature.  Government no longer exists to serve the people - its only purpose is to serve the wealthy, and to preserve the wealth.  When those same people shake their heads in disbelief as schools and infrastructure crumble while we build trillion dollar aircraft carriers to impose our will on other, mostly tiny and powerless nations, it is not because the people or the nation are at risk.  It is because the wealth is at risk - economies dependent on the massive daily flow of inexpensive energy require that there be no limit to the squander of national and generational wealth, just to ensure that energy continues to flow.  Dynastic families with billionaire grandchildren still demand lower taxes - the crumbling roads, declining dams and collapsing bridges are not their concern.  Wealth provides its own solutions, and the people who need the infrastructure have nothing to offer their now heartless and disinterested government to build it for them.   Increasingly, the people exist to work long hours in service jobs in order to provide the capital for the engine that drives the worlds largest economy - what we call "consumer spending".

So how does a world comprised no longer of people and their nations, but rather of owners and commodities play out?  What might the end game look like?  For the near term, we have entered a period of crisis management.  Governments will no longer act until faced with imminent catastrophe, and even then will only take the minimum steps to mitigate disaster, while doing anything necessary to preserve the wealth of the ownership class.  We saw this in the Financial collapse in '08, we're seeing it again in the Euro crisis right now.  We'll see it when an economic or geopolitical crisis reduces the supply of crude oil to below the level of demand.  We'll see it when nations are faced with default, and the banks and investors are confronted with the requirement that they "take a haircut".  It is unquestionable that we have entered a period where no significant action can be taken until it is in response to an existential crisis, so we will drift from crisis to crisis until confronted with one we are too late or too small to allay, and then big bad things will start to happen.  In the meantime, of course, the rising cost and declining quality of education will impact our ability to create a modern, competitive workforce, and our unwillingness to even maintain, let alone update, our infrastructure and physical plant will lead to a series of tragedies and events that will point the way to decline.  And all of these crises and events will ripple around our globally connected world, creating unintended consequences and black swans.

Of course, the outcome is violence.  In a perfect storm of economic collapse, ideological and sectarian hatred and intolerance, ineffective governance, starvation, drought, storms and fear, people will rise up, and unlike anytime in history, the world is awash in terribly lethal weapons.  It was pointed out to me long ago that people will suffer any indignity, any brutality on their own, but when they no longer can see a better future for their children they become willing to fight, and to die, to change that.  And that is the course we're on.  How many people can look forward to a bright, safe, fulfilling future for their children?  Is it merely a coincidence that those same people are the ones now well served by their governments?  Do they not see that their future is just as grim as ours, for not only will their wealth not survive the coming turmoil, but most of them will not, either?


  1. "I can pay half the working class to kill the other half."

    - Robber Baron Jay Gould

    We just may find out what all that money spent on the "Department of Homeland Security" is really for.

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  3. but the flow of wealth to the wealthy must not be impeded in any way, and any and all necessary government resources will be brought to bear whenever that wealth is threatened

    "The spice must flow."