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Hullabaloo


Monday, November 15, 2010

 
Complexity And Institutional Failure

by digby


Alternet has excerpted a piece of Matt Taibbi's new book in which he talks about the Know-Nothingism of the tea party, in particular, Michelle Bachman, who is evidently so dumb that even the GOP couldn't allow her into the leadership. And that's saying something considering who is already in the leadership. It's a vastly entertaining look at the woman who thought that when the Chinese suggested replacing the dollar as the international reserve currency it meant that we'd all be forced to use Yuan for our Happy Meals so she proposed a bill to ensure the dollar could never be replaced as the American currency.

But Taibbi makes an interesting point at the end of it, which I partially agree with and partially don't. He says this:

Our world isn’t about ideology anymore. It’s about complexity. We live in a complex bureaucratic state with complex laws and complex business practices, and the few organizations with the corporate will power to master these complexities will inevitably own the political power. On the other hand, movements like the Tea Party more than anything else reflect a widespread longing for simpler times and simple solutions -- just throw the U.S. Constitution at the whole mess and everything will be jake. For immigration, build a big fence. Abolish the Federal Reserve, the Department of Commerce, the Department of Education. At times the overt longing for simple answers that you get from Tea Party leaders is so earnest and touching, it almost makes you forget how insane most of them are
.

I think he's right that the world is about complexity and that the Tea Party is yearning for simpler times. (Conservatism usually is...) But the answers about how to deal with the complexity aren't simply technocratic, they're philosophical and ideological. And the combination of the three are what people are, in the end, voting for. The average voter can no more be expected to master the details of credit default swaps and collateralized debt obligations any more that they should be expected to master particle physics or brain surgery. There is always going to be a need to entrust certain things to experts and elites, whom they charge with mastering the details on their behalf. Not everyone can be conversant in the arcane workings of high finance and they shouldn't have to be. That's supposedly what we have government for.

Our core American belief systems are still struggling along, fighting it out. They aren't especially useful, but they aren't where the problem is. What's broken down is down is the institutional system that forced elites to work at least somewhat on behalf of the people. Government, clergy, journalism, high finance, the legal system, the military, all of it, has stopped functioning properly. I don't know what the reasons are for all of this (although I know someone who's writing a book on the topic which I can't wait to read.)

The ideological question for the people simply comes down to whether or not you believe that society is better off with a government mitigating the sharp edges of capitalism or whether you think society is better off without it. The practical question is what to do about the fact that however you come down on that question, the elites who are running the institutions you depend on and believe in are corrupt.

Basically, everyone's confused and agitated because both capitalism and government are failing the common people. And nobody really knows what to do about that.


Update: The professional left may be a pain in the ass, but get a load of the Know Nothing Tea partiers.

And they have a whole lot more clout than the left has ever had.


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