Monday, February 20, 2017

The Imperial City Disconnect, by the Numbers

I do my best to give the benefit of the doubt to my friends in academia who are thrashing about in search of why the nation is in the mood it is in right now. Poor things live in academia for goodness sake; the human intellectual terrarium. The outside world is a frightfully dangerous "other." They just don't know any better. It is what it is.

Those inside the Beltway who are still foam-flecked and thrashing around as to why everyone in the lumpenproletariat seem to be taking crazy pills? Not as much sympathy.

In many ways, we are not a normal nation (i.e. ethnic Danes mostly live in Denmark, etc). We are a republic of ideas. As such, even our capital is a bit different. Unlike London which is a financial hub of global importance, Washington DC has but one business; government. Like Brazil's capital, Washington DC is a purpose built entity whose very existence is simply as a place for our central government to call home. 

It serves then to be an indicator of who is serving whom. Does our government serve the people to help them grow and prosper, or do the people exist to serve to government and to make sure it grows and prospers?

Government at its most raw is an organization that uses the police power of the State to force wealth out of the citizens to put to the public good - "good" as the government and the people's representatives so define it.

It doesn't produce much but other people's money, access to power, and the ability to manipulate both both products in directions that may or may not be in the pursuit of the greater good - humans being human and all that.

Those who live and work within a commute of DC have a few things in common with each other that are distancing themselves and their worldview from the citizens in the provinces. 

First, is where their paycheck comes from. Always start with the money. If not directly, that are at best one to two degrees of separation away from having their livelihood directly connected to the Federal pocketbook. That bias towards a strong Federal government derives from the brain-stem need to supply food and housing to the family, and as a result, skews the mind for most. Any threat to a big government is a threat to their family and tribe.

Second, as a result of #1, they are soaking in a left-of-center ether well out of tune from the rest of the nation. Sure, there are plenty of right-of-center people and ideas in the environment, but as love of government is largely a left-of-center mindset, just not as many compared to the rest of the nation. The USA may be a 50/50 nation, but the Beltway is more of a 70/30 nation. 

As such, those of the left get lots of affirmation from peers, and those of the right are constantly second guessing themselves while trying to make friends with the bullies and Heathers that they have in their neighborhood and have to find a way to live with.

Third, they get caught up in the same information flow their neighbors are in; WaPo, NYT, and the Big-3 networks. Even in 2017, with a few exceptions, they derive their perspective about what is right, wrong, or indifferent from the same sources their grandparents did. That isn't how the rest of the country works anymore.

That outlines their problem in broad strokes. Then there is how the rest of the nation sees them. 

At the front is the economic isolation those in the Beltway experience. They did not suffer during the Great Recession. As a matter of fact, they prospered.

Here we find ourselves with four of the five most rich counties in our republic cocooned around the Washington DC. 

This isn't how it was supposed to be.

It is how things are. It is not good for the American people or its government – and it is a condition that is not good for the long term sustainability of our republic.

We have a legion of rent-seeking people focused on two things; access and power.

Access matters so much because in a large nation such as ours, as the Federal government grows in its size and degree of control, it becomes more like the late middle-ages imperial monarchies.

Access to the levers of power in the Imperial City gives those who are “at court” access to the largess of the state.

There is a dysfunction in a republic of ideas, of individual liberty, of a self-governed mercantile republic where the bureaucratic machine becomes the center of wealth.

Let’s take a little quote from G.J. Meyer’s book, “The Tudors,” and tell me this doesn’t sound a bit familiar?
Access mattered so much because the whole political system was powered by royal largess. It was the king (along with those to whom he listened) who bestowed the highest offices, the gifts of land, financial favors ranging from annuities and monopolies to exemption from the payment of tariffs, wardships like the one that had brought Plantagenet blood into the Tudor family, and pardons for virtually any kind of offense. Such gifts were the means by which the king built a following and rewarded faithful service. To be eligible for them one had to be known to the king or his most trusted friends, and there was little chance of becoming known except at court.

Admission to court as most broadly defined – to the crowds that gathered wherever the king was resident – was not difficult. It required little more than a reasonably respectable appearance (meaning the attire appropriate to a gentleman), a plausible claim to have business with the Crown (anything from wares for sale to a dispute in need of resolution), and a sufficient supply of ready cash (bribery being routine). Merely being at court, therefore, was of limited value. Men spent years, even decades, hanging around the court and angling for preferment, only to see little of the king and come away empty-handed in the end. The trick was to get lifted out of the herd; this could be accomplished through good connections, and ability to charm or to make oneself useful, simply good luck, or some combination of these things. The goal was to become one of the lucky few likely to come to the royal mind when lucrative offices needed to be filled or patronage was available to be disbursed. Getting there could take years.

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