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 It seems to have been replaced by alarmingly numerous tribal, clan, and religious militias, of which ISIS is merely one of far too many.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.