Blowhard, Esq. writes:
Thanks to Callowman for alerting me to this. Lots and lots to chew on here, here’s just one (very lengthy, but hey, it’s Moldbug we’re talking about) example:
…do you see the actual organizational structure of Washington, DC as in any way corresponding to the narrative either (a) explained in the literal in the Constitution, (b) matching the narrative you see on CNN, (c) both (a) and (b)?
Because if so, like, wow, man. I mean, if that narrative was true, you should definitely be worried. I mean, if you actually thought the President controlled the executive branch and could make it do whatever he wants. Do you know anything about how DC works?
Basically, under normal circumstances, the President is not in any remote sense in charge of the executive branch of USG, in the way a CEO is in charge of a company. The whole thing is a complete fraud — or at least, has been since FDR died. Not only would DC run perfectly well without a White House at all, it would run better. In fact, that’s pretty much what you elect if you elect a Democrat.
I know that I know what I’m talking about, because both my parents were career civil servants in core DC agencies. Look, don’t trust me. Trust some other dude who sounds like he knows what he’s talking about:
To put it very simply, the difference between a President and a CEO is that the CEO can change the personnel, structures, and procedures of the institution.
The President can’t fire civil servants, all of whom belong to the other party. He can’t change budgets. He can’t change org charts. He can appoint people, but the people he appoints can’t do any of these things internally. And they are strictly prohibited from any contact with the personnel records or hiring procedures of the civil servants.
They do have to share an office with these people, though. It’s insane. And it can have no possible positive outcome. Honestly, Hillary was probably a better vote for anyone who wants to just replace this whole institution. Trump is just going to annoy it a lot, creating a ton of bullshit media both right and left. Probably a good time to invest in clicks.
There are levers that can be turned, but nothing terribly serious. Remember the line-segment example? Redefining the power position of the White House over USG, to make it much weaker, would be hard. Redefining it to make it exponentially harder (for instance, the power of a CEO) would be incredibly easy. (I mean, of course, to contemplate mentally — not to actually accomplish.)
There are only two possible impacts of a Trump presidency: some kind of insane auto-coup (see below), or a giant nothingburger like the Nixon and Reagan administrations. You might notice that “populism” (or, to those of us less afflicted by No True Scotsman syndrome, “democracy”) elected Nixon and Reagan.
What impact did these hostile “populist” administrations have on the actual USG? Well.. some. Not none. I don’t know – what impact does a storm have on a coral reef? There is certainly more sloshing around, way up at the surface.
You certainly didn’t need to worry about Nixon. I think there were a few budget cuts under Reagan. Being a Schedule C is hazardous, of course, as is being a Hill staffer in a weak / junior district. But this is a very small number of people compared to the total size of DC.
Otherwise… you are being shown the exception to the rule. This illusion is just taking advantage of your instinctive innumeracy. The USG is a huge, gigantic, immense thing. It did 10,000 things on December 30 and another 10,000 on January 30. 9,999 of them are exactly the same as they would have been had Hillary won.
Control of the White House is relevant and has real consequences for real people, sure. But… adjust your eyes, because the rule is always more important than the exception. If the rule looked at all like it was actually changing, don’t you think I’d let you know?
Here’s one way to think about the state of democracy in America. It’s undergoing a common political transition: moving from a functioning power center to a non-functioning one.
This has hilarious linguistic consequences, like a political language in which “democracy” is maximally positive, but “populism” and still worse “politics” carry a severely negative charge. Uh, last time I checked, “democracy” is a property for which it is both necessary and sufficient to put the election winner in charge of the government.
Historically, the transition from a functioning power center to a ceremonial one is common. Think of the difference between Elizabeth I and Elizabeth II.
A simple test is whether we can devise a substantively trivial transformation that removes the suspect institution. If Elizabeth II had passed away at any point in her not-very-useful life, the impact on both Britain and its government would have been minimal. The same cannot be said for Elizabeth I.
Therefore the Tudor Elizabeth is a functioning organ and the Windsor Elizabeth is a non-functioning organ. This doesn’t mean the organ has no use or purpose — ceremonial monarchy is by far the best way to preclude a real monarch. Elizabeth II’s ancestors have served this function since the glorious events of 1688. It just means you don’t intervene substantially in actual governance.
There’s a trivial way to show that Washington is already a non-democracy. Can we construct a nearly-equivalent Washington, which operates under exactly the same rules, but with elected officials who are purely ceremonial? Well, for one thing, Brussels already works this way. So we know it’s possible.
But let’s make a minimal change to Washington, while eliminating elections entirely. We’ll just eliminate all elected officials. Everything else will be the same.
No new “laws,” or rather, giant collections of vaguely-related patches like a Debian update gone terribly awry. So we don’t need a Congress, or any of the army of lobbyists and activists that attends it. The perfect labor force, they’ll build the best north wall. The Supreme Court can appoint its own new members, like Israel’s. I love Israel. They’re the best. They have the best wall.
As for the Presidency, all the agencies can run perfectly well or even better without any sched Cs. The White House is needed in some cases to resolve actual interagency conflicts. These can be handled by a device readily available for $6.99, the Magic 8-Ball.
All three branches eliminated, no enormous impact on reality or even on DC. Ergo: elected officials are a fraud. Ergo: democracy itself is a fraud. And inherently in today’s real world can’t be anything else.
It’s true that the regime (like all regimes, regardless of “democracy”) still has to maintain its popularity; but only its popularity relative to any competitor. It has no competitors. The closest thing is Trump, but Trump is just the President.
So this is a basically useless and nearly ceremonial office to which we’ve in our great wisdom elected Trump. Of course, if he substantially changes the real-world nature of the office, that’s totally different. I don’t see much sign of that yet. And it’s hard to even imagine. Is it even possible?
If Trump or any President can essentially change the quasi-legal form of government, perhaps acting in a Jacksonian way, that would be a true auto-coup in the Alberto Fujimori tradition. He would have no choice but to continue across the Rubicon, and simply govern by EO indefinitely.
Perhaps this would come after some kind of enabling legislation. Perhaps it would just mean ignoring Congress, which after all has a popularity of 10% and consists of a collection of crooks, flacks and hacks with the collective charisma of a senile banana slug. It might even mean defying the much more attractively-dressed judicial branch. Whose popularity is much higher, surpassing that of investment bankers and approaching the common raccoon.
I just don’t think Trump would do it, though. Also — I forget the source of the quote, but it is an actual quote from someone who was somehow connected to DC — “Trump has no people.”
You can’t have regime change without some kind of alternate government, and there is no such thing. There’s nothing within three orders of magnitude of being ready to become the next regime. I mean, is there? If there is, I don’t know about it. Not that I would, obviously.
And again you’re just not looking at this kind of operator here, I think. If it was Elon Musk… he’s not eligible, of course. But perhaps, in the 21st century, that’s just a technicality.
Even Trump 20 years younger might be something different. But really he’s this strange, amazing, wonderful creature from the ’50s. Honestly, I think you should just relax and enjoy the show.
Actual participation in the governance process, should that become genuinely available to you, is one thing. Political doomsaying is another.
You may not believe any of this other stuff, but I really don’t think you should be worrying about Donald Trump at all. I would be super surprised to see any real change in Washington as a result of his administration, and my predictions are often accurate.