Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Whose Efficiency?


1.

One party says small government, another says government of the people, another says end the grave danger threatening from without, another says take care of the threat coming from within. There is never any attempt to tell a more comprehensive story.

There is a good reason for this.

As long as there is a story, any story, every political action can be seen as a means to the end of making the story real. The story smallest in scope becomes total in scope when all of life is adapted to realize it.

For example, Marxism is a theory relating economic relations and quality of life. Once we set out to make a Marxist state, however, not just economics, but all social, political, and money matters came under control of the state.

A story gives a criteria of judgement: will this act under consideration lead faster or slower to achieving a small government, safety from invasion, the right human relation to property? Efficiency and power become decisive, when previously there was only the question, will this act lead to good or bad? To more justice, equality, fraternity, or less? To less violence, or more? But now anything, good or bad, is permitted in the cause of efficiency.

Telling little stories in politics leads to totalitarianism, a very big result.*

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* On not making human arrangements your ultimate goal: Aldous Huxley, Ends And Means


2.

- I heard an new one last night.
- A new story?
- Political story. Two guys were on stage at the Hammer Museum to talk about failed diplomacy. A former U.S. Ambassador to Saudi Arabia covered modern diplomacy: the failed war on terror, the failed war on poverty, the failed war on drugs, failed relations with Russia, failed wars in Vietnam, in Iraq, in Pakistan, failed attempts at resolution of the Israel-Palestinian dispute. American diplomacy was wrong headed, moralistic, presenting ultimatums, either do what we say is right or we won't talk to you and when we get around to it we'll bomb you. Parallels with the failed diplomacy in World War I were presented by the other speaker who'd written a new book. Like our times there was recently intensified globalization and application of technology. And like in our times diplomacy failed to prevent embarking on an unreasonable course of action, prevent Austro-Hungary going to war despite every possible reason not to, despite knowing it very well could lead to the empire's destruction.
- And what would you call this story?
- Efficiency.
- Not what we're to be efficient going about getting, but efficiency pure and simple. A democratic society getting efficiency from its government need not ask for more. Hasn't this political story has been going around Europe for while*?
- Now it's reached our shores. The claim of the diplomat on stage at the Hammer was that if only we'd let the experts like him do their jobs everything would go well. But we've filled the diplomatic service with donors to politicians' campaign funds, with Harvard and Yale graduates, relations of the corporate managers who fund the politicians. We get what you'd expect.
- And your view?
- You're letting me talk today?
- It's your story.
- It's their story. The same list of failures, even the failure of Austro-Hungary and Germany in World War I, can be easily transformed into a history of success.
- Go on.
- All you have to do is ask, Is Austro-Hungary identical with the people of Austria and Hungary? Is The United States identical with the people of The United States?
- Do governments act in the interests of the people as a whole, or in the interests of the wealthy, lobbies, special interests, or of the aristocracy as in the case of World War I?
- Yes. The aristocrats and wealthy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and Germany wanted honor and profits for their industries and were willing to face political destruction, looking ahead to family and corporate wealth surviving that destruction, as they in fact did, and did again a couple decades later in the Second World War. In the American story, in almost every case the diplomatic failures cited were occasions of immediate profit for the corporations and interests funding the politicians responsible for the supposed failures.
- So the diplomat and the historian of diplomacy on stage are liars. The diplomats are already operating at maximum efficiency.
- Lying is traditional diplomatic behavior and they are lying at maximum efficiency.
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* The European Union recently commissioned a study to evaluate its "austerity" policies of forcing debtor nations to cut pensions, employment, and social services in order to repay in full their debt plus interest. With over 50 years experience with policies of economic efficiency enforced on dozens of nations, the results showed that the policies "failed", the debtor nations became more and more incapable of repaying their debt. The European Union nevertheless continued to enforce its austerity measures.