Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Governing Contrary

"Meddy, Meddy, quieet contreddy, houw des uer gahdden gdreuw?

In all the hysteria over the Debt Crisis Crisis and the Deal, one thing is startlingly clear: Washington is so divorced from We, the People that it is institutionally incapable of addressing or even acknowledging the People's Will or the Public Interest -- except inversely.

The fashion is to govern exactly contrary to the People's Will and the Public Interest, and at this point in history, there is no way for governments in the United States or pretty much anywhere in the developed West to do otherwise.

This fashion for governing contrary to the People's Will and the Public Interest seemed to get going in earnest during the premiership of Maggie Thatcher in Britain, and it then became the style of the Reagan Administration in Washington (of course he'd done it to a certain extent previously as Governor of California, but it was actually somewhat subtle and much more deceptive than the Thatcher way. That's another discussion altogether, though.) By degrees, Governing Contrary became the operating theory of government throughout the West: whatever the People wanted or the Public Good needed, Government would do the opposite -- because that's what would inevitably enhance the wealth and power of the favored few.

And so it has been, relentlessly, for decades, so much so that many people have come to accept it as natural.

Since they've known nothing else their entire lives, why wouldn't they?

"Government is the problem, not the solution." And if the Government looks like it might be the Solution, then make it the Problem. Simple.

Make most people distrust government instinctively; make it harder and harder for them to participate in democracy; falsify "democracy" through media; make more and more ridiculous rules; make much more draconian punishments for more and more intrusive and incomprehensible laws; set trade policies that destroy industry and jobs at home; "liberate" the economy so that one bubble after another can be inflated and then deflated, thus providing the periodic illusion of "opportunity" for the masses, while ensuring that each time the bubble deflates, the proles are pillaged more comprehensively for the benefit of the Overclass; conduct wars of aggression overseas, institute an aggressive security apparat at home; put everything on credit.

This is what governments in the West have been doing for decades, led by the examples in the United States and Britain, under both Democratic (Labour) and Republican (Tory) administrations, one of which might be slightly less harsh in its Contrariness than the other, but both of which operate on the same principle of Governing Contrary to the People's Will and the Public Interest.

Nothing at all seems to move them from their course, and one catastrophe after another is simply an excuse to increase the level of Governing Contrariness.

So what do you do about it?

So far, nothing tried has even come close to working. No public argument, tumult, uprising or revolution has managed to alter the course of governments obsessed with operating contrary to the People's Will and the Public Interest anywhere... except, perhaps, to an extent in Latin America for a brief period after the horrors of the Reactionary/Fascist Period and its numerous civil wars wound down.

If we really want to overcome the fashion of Governing Contrary, it might help to understand what gave rise to it in the first place, and why it was adopted by both "liberal" and "conservative" governments throughout the West almost without exception as the General Rule of Government.

That will require a whole other exploration.


  1. Michael Hudson attempts to explain why this happened here:

    NeoLiberalism and the Counter-Enlightenment

    I don't know if it tracks with your own thinking on the matter, but I think it is interesting.

  2. Hudson is brilliant, but it takes a while to slog through is prose.

    Not that I'm necessarily concise...


    I'm working through the piece you cite, as well as some others.


  3. The takeaway:

    What the Chicago Boys recognized is that free market ideology requires totalitarian control of the school and university system, totalitarian control of the press, and control of the police where intellectual resistance survives against the idea that economic planning should become much more centralized – but moved out of the hands of government into those of the bankers and other financial institutions.

    Free market ideology ends up as political Doublethink in countering any freedom of thought. Its remarkable success in the United States and elsewhere thus has been achieved largely by excluding the history of economic thought – and of economic history – from the economics curriculum.

    The existence of neoliberal thought police and academic censorship that brands any revival of classical liberalism as heresy has become a major barrier to restoring the analytic distinctions drawn by classical economists and other critics of shifting planning power to the lords of high finance.

    In other words, we are on the path to inevitable totalitarianism as the remnants of the Former Era are dismantled and classical liberalism is demolished.

    And everything is going according to plan.

  4. The schools are obviously very important to them. Where they can't wreck them, they endow them.

    The amazing thing is that they are thinking on such a long term scale. That's the mark of a true believer, which I can't understand for the life of me. What ideals motivate this kind of action? Greed, even manic greed, seems like something you'd need during your lifetime but wouldn't need to see as a way of life after you were long dead. Why enshrine it as a permanent thing for centuries after your death?

    Even Hitler's Thousand Year Reich was predicated on a good life for the small section of humanity that he considered human. One has to imagine that down the line some of the Kochs' descendants will suffer from the poisoned landscape they are so Hell-bent on creating.

  5. What's motivating them?

    I go back, time and again, to the words of Noah Cross (a fictionalized version of William Mulholland) in "Chinatown (1974):"

    Jake Gittes: Why are you doing it? How much better can you eat? What could you buy that you can't already afford?

    Noah Cross: The future, Mr. Gittes! The future.

    They want ownership, control of The Future, as fully as they can manage it. As Hudson and others put it, it's a distinctly pre-Enlightenment, indeed, neo-feudal outlook.

    It's more than power, it's more than things to have. It's time itself.

    In their own minds, they are the gods who walk among us. Beyond simple kings and potentates, beyond Pharaoh...

    That's my theory, anyway.

  6. Well, I guess being Noah Cross is something to aspire to <shudder>