Tuesday, September 6, 2005

The Incompetence of Tyranny

A theme that is often overlooked by both historians and newspeople is that of the fundamental incompetence of tyrants, such as those currently in power in Washington. Yet from Nero and Caligula, all the way to the various Communist emperors of the 20th century and the Saddams and Bushes of the 21st, the defining mark of tyranny—its solipsistic arrogance—has made for bumbling, stupid, destructive, and inevitably self-destructive, government.

Industrial age and contemporary corporations bear the same mark: the incompetence that derives from the petty self-absorption of imperialists. Their obsession with the veneer of self-imagery and the drab array of the superficial creates a myopia that increasingly blinds itself, until there is only vision for what is no longer there. Thus, tyrants will always miss the sickening effects of their depredations, until some event or combination of events so disrupts the tower of ashes upon which their power rests, that even they will be forced to take notice.

For George W. Bush, the moment has come. To borrow a metaphor from a wonderful parable on tyranny by Dr. Seuss, -, the little fellow at the bottom—after years of patient support and groaning oppression—has burped.

And the rest of us are ready to throw up. It doesn't matter what color state you're from anymore, or what animal's silhouette appears on your voter registration card, or who you voted for last year, two years ago, or in 2000. None of that makes a difference anymore: as I indicated -, America is not as divided as the pundits recently thought. Mack the turtle, having suffered for some five years the forced division, oppression, haughty contempt, and arrogant duplicity of its so-called leaders, has burped. And now it's time for a little Constitutional Maalox—Article II, Section 4 style. Even the media are starting to catch on; but we will have to lead the way for them, as long accustomed as they have been to serving as the slavish mouthpiece for tyranny. Let us once again show the world, and ourselves, how a free people flexes its muscles—in a Daily Revolution upon tyrants and their reptilian blindness.

Mr. Terence McKenna rejoins us now with a few thoughts on recent events. As you read, notice that Terry has independently arrived at the same insight that the sage New York Times columnist, Paul Krugman, expressed (Terry e-mailed me his piece the day before the Krugman column appeared).

Hurricane Katrina has reduced New Orleans to third world squalor, and coastal Mississippi is not far behind. The disaster is so widespread that Alabama, which was also hard hit, has gotten almost no news coverage.

What amuses me, though, is to find out that after all of the rhetoric about the free market as a problem solver, everyone is expecting the Federal Government to solve this crisis. Not just Democrats, but everyone. Of course they are right, the free market has no useful role here (except to make gasoline prices spike) but all the same, despite years of saying we want smaller government, here we are asking for a big helping of federal aid.

Yet the Bush administration (which, after all hates and fears effective government) has not been equal to the task. The under funded levies failed. And FEMA, which was supposed to have contingency plans for every possible disaster also failed. It has taken four days to rescue people stranded in New Orleans - how is that possible. And what about the information age? In an era where people are accustomed to getting news on cable TV and the internet, those in need have been reduced to bull horns and rumor.

The President remains an embarrassment. He finally toured the disaster area today (Friday). But there is nothing he can do that will take away what is a big shiner. This failure will become part of his legacy.

But let's go back to the private sector - the free market. The free market is not of much use now. Nor for that matter are tax cuts. What is needed now are firm decisions and cash. And cash equals tax revenue. But after a series of aggressive tax cuts, the taxes that will rescue us are coming not from corporations or the wealthy but from the likes of regular folks - middle class wage earners.

It is clear that the only institution capable of managing during a major disaster is government - and a government made up of well staffed agencies that stand at the ready for every contingency. However weak the current government is (crippled by budget cuts, and stifled by anti government Bush appointees) nonetheless, the recovery will be driven and funded by government. Highways, local roads and all manner of damaged infrastructure will be rebuilt. We also need to rethink our approach to flood control. Over the past 40 years, environmentalists have warned us that rivers should not be contained, but be allowed to flood - that development along rivers (and along the seashore) needs to be controlled. Perhaps now we will listen - though for Bush to do so would alienate his Republican base. Still, don't look to the free market for wise decisions. Given an opportunity to control the agenda, it would build on any and all available land - and to hell with the consequences.
And what about the poor souls who were trapped in New Orleans. The free market doesn't give a tinker's damn about them. I would hazard a guess that their lot has not improved much despite the improved GDP. And if you asked them, I bet they'd rather have a job in manufacturing than the benefit of cheap goods from China (that we traded manufacturing jobs for).

In an earlier era (the 40's, 50's and 60's) we looked to government to solve everything. We were wrong, but now we've come to an entirely different conclusion, that societies function best with very limited government. That turns out to be wrong too. Now that time has come to move back to the reasonable middle.

—Terence McKenna

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