Badtux the Snarky Penguin

In a time of chimpanzees, I was a penguin.

Religious fundamentalists are motivated by the sneaking suspicion that someone, somewhere, is having fun -- and that this must be stopped.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Emergent behaviors

Check out the Wikipedia article.

Some people ask me whether I believe there is a formal, organized conspiracy to loot the nation for the benefit of an unelected elite. My answer to this is that no such formal conspiracy is necessary, because what we are seeing here is a clear-cut example of emergence -- where a simple set of rules leads to results which could be predicted from the rules, but which are not anywhere written into the rules.

The roots of American porkocracy go deep. The early years of this nation were shaped and molded by an unelected elite who deliberately wrote the Constitution in such a way as to protect the power and influence of the porkocrats. It was seemingly obvious, back then, that the work of governing the nation could not be left to the people. Rather, it had to be placed into the hands of fine upstanding gentlemen of means, who had the education and training to properly govern the greater masses of the unwashed.

Thus Senators were not elected by the people. They were appointed by the governors of the respective states (this was true until 1913). Similarly, Presidents were not elected by the people. They were elected by the Electoral College, the members of which were appointed by the governors of the respective states.

None of this was accidental. The whole point was that the United States was *not* to be government "of the people, by the people, for the people" (as Abraham Lincoln dishonestly put it). Rather, the design, from the beginning, was that the United States government was to be "of the people, by people of means, for the people." That is, that while the government was supposed to take care of the needs of *all* of the people, only those of wealth and means need apply for participation in the government.

The problem... the problem is that this system has nothing in it to prevent those "gentlemen of means" from ignoring the last part of that trilogy of phrases and, instead, govern entirely for their own benefit. And that has been true all too often in this nation's history, with exceptions only when those pesky people were getting antsy and needed an Andrew Jackson or FDR thrown to them in order to keep them from engaging in outright rebellion.

This, in the end, is why no amount of "throw out the bums" will permanently clean up our system of government. The fundamental rules via which it operates virtually guarantee that only people of wealth and means can run. And people of wealth and means will, over time, no matter how well-intended, engage in the kind of law-making that benefits people like them. This is not because of a deliberate conspiracy by wealthy people. This is because the whole system of rules guarantees that this will happen, even though there is nothing in the Constitution that deliberately lays out that we will have "government of the people, by the porkocrats, for the porkocrats".

To say that our system of government must change, that the fundamental rules -- even our very constitution -- must change if we are to have fundamental change, that we must basically overthrow everything we ever knew and ever learned about how to govern America if we are going to have the government "of the people, by the people, for the people" that Abraham Lincoln lied to us about, is drastic. But it is the only way we can have the government that Lincoln promised us.

But I do not see it happening. I do not see it happening. The porkocrats are not going to vote to overthrow a system that serves them very well. And they have become expert in throwing the people just enough cake to keep them from revolting and overthrowing the porkocrats by force. And there is no grand "porkocrat conspiracy" to throw into jail and replace with politicians concerned about the people as a whole rather than just porkocrats... because the very system is set up to reward porkocrats for being, well, porkocrats, it invariably corrupts anybody who enters it with the best of intentions.

In short, though there is no "vast conspiracy", the way the fundamental rules are set up gives us the same basic effect. There may not be a vast conspiracy to loot America for the benefit of an Orwellian Party elite, but if that is the emergent behavior that will always happen due to the fundamental rules via which this nation's political system is organized, it doesn't matter what caused it, just that it is happening. As someone mentioned regarding the disastrous Bush Administration response to Katrina, it doesn't matter to the woman who died for lack of food and water whether it's malice, incompetence, or indifference that killed her. Either way, she's dead. And it doesn't matter whether it is emergent behavior or a vast conspiracy by an Orwellian "Party" that ends up with rule of the people, by the porkocrats, for the porkocrats. Either way, the ordinary people of the nation have their very lives strip-mined and drowned (in New Orleans) for the benefit of a Party elite.

- Badtux the Emergent Penguin

Posted by: BadTux / 9/15/2005 02:34:00 PM  


# posted by R.L. : 15/9/05 4:37 PM  

That's a pretty gloomy assessment, and one NOT borne our by history.

Every culture has it leaders and its followers - that's human nature. Some people aspire to power and leadership while many just want a steak and a cold beer. The big advantage we have is a system that allows us to change leaders without bloodshed.

And we have done that too. The Best case that comes to mind is the election of Andrew Jackson - now there was a change of elites!
# posted by Whitehall : 16/9/05 2:44 PM  

I'm curious about just what part of our history you're familiar with. Have you read actual source documents produced by actual people, or are you relying on the jingoistic propaganda that passes as "history" textbooks here in the United States?

Do you know what the Bisbee Deportation was? What about the Johnstown Flood? Do you know the origin of the American Legion? Did you know that a Presidential candidate was jailed for opposing a war that he held was illegal? Who was this Presidential candidate?

The more you hear about the REAL history of the United States, the more you realize that, for the vast majority of this history, it has been a government of the people, by a monied elite, for the benefit of a monied elite, with only short intervals where that was not true.
# posted by BadTux : 16/9/05 5:10 PM  

Hate to break it to Whitehall, but lots of countries have "a system that allows them to change leaders without bloodshed." That's not much to brag about these days. It's like boasting about an ability to read; maybe that was a big deal three hundred years ago, but not any more.
# posted by TheGreenKnight : 17/9/05 2:36 PM  

been reading you for a while. right on about emergent behaviors. i had thought this about america before, but i didn't realize that it was actually a field of study.

once upon a time, i was a lowly undergrad and I had to do a project about the Vietnam conflict for a history class. i was fortunate to go to a public university with an excellent library system. i sat down and read through more than a dozen books about the war, from every aspect from tactics to the high level of decision making. in the end, what stayed with me was the feeling that we had constructed this giant system of interlocking rules and methods that no one could control. this meant that the US stayed in Vietnam, pursuing a foolish strategy and bad tactics, even in the face of learned criticism. Learned criticism came not only from the "experts" in DC sitting in the NSC, but also from the troops on the ground. Reading and working on my project convinced me that it was as if a "ghost in the machine" was driving American foreign policy.

It pulled the wool out from in front of my eyes. When I looked around I realized that the things that drove the US into Vietnam, and kept it there in spite of everything, were still operative. We hadn't learned the lessons. Or at least, that was my hypothesis.

The events of the last 4 years since September 11th have sadly confirmed that hypothesis to me. I am not sure what it is going to take for us to change's a struggle even to get people to recognize what is happening. As you say, people do not read history, and it seems like most are not aware that we have gone through this situation already.

We barely survived Vietnam. God help us, I hope we can survive this current Iraq/Katrina situation.
# posted by Timothy : 17/9/05 10:53 PM  

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