Preemptive Offenses

Friday, March 22, 2013

Conspiratorialism Never Dies

Here's an interesting take on recent trends in political economy:

... in an effort to save TBTF [i.e., "too big to fail"] banks, the government crashed interest rates into negative numbers (adjusting for inflation) which destroyed the incomes of millions of retirees and others, forcing them to depend entirely on government payments of one kind or another.

At which point the government noticed how dangerous the savings and investment environment had become for older folks, thanks to the government’s own actions – and so it arrogated to itself the necessity of taking over the management of retirement savings for the saver’s own good.

Folks who continue to be utterly clueless about what is actually going on in America today act as if pointing out that government actions are hurting, not helping, the very people who are supposed to benefit is a hard-hitting critique. What they miss, of course, is that this outcome is precisely the point of the governmental actions.

Never let a good crisis go to waste. And if you don’t have a good crisis, create one!

The writer has cast his observations in such a manner as to imply, virtually without any other possibility, that the above is the outline of a conspiracy. Now, conspiracies are the easiest thing in the world to suspect and the hardest to disprove. When they arise, they involve common motives of an unsavory sort -- and no one can prove anything about a man's motives, including the man himself. The supposition of a conspiracy rests on inference and is supported (when it is supported) by teleology. The usual formulation is "If he wanted to bring about X, what would he do differently?"

But many a seeming conspiracy arises, in a quite natural fashion, from the proliferation of common incentives. Consider:

  • Liberals predominate in government employment.
  • The liberal mindset holds that government is directly and primarily responsible for the relief of material need.
  • The bureaucratic mindset holds (implicitly, as such things are seldom discussed out loud) that what grows the bureaucracy and increases its scope for action is inherently good.
  • The manager of a bureaucratic enterprise derives his status, relative to other managers, from the size of his budget and the number of his subordinates.
  • Liberals in high elective office are predisposed to support all the above ab initio.

So the train of events in the cited post don't necessarily have to arise from a top-down command structure informed by a conspiracy, even though such a conspiracy would produce identical consequences. Indeed, where conspirators might value the indicated outcome -- i.e., an ever-growing class of government dependents -- it's not necessarily the case that the elected liberals in high office feel the same way. The consequence arises from the pre-existent inclinations of the persons involved and the institutional incentives they face, independently of their motives, whatever they might be.

So while it could be fueled by conspiratorial malice, it could also be the fruit of misguided notions of what government can and should do. Finally, it could be an "invisible hand" effect: the aggregate of thousands upon thousands of bureaucrats' interests in advancing their personal interests coupled to the proclivities of the current regime. Determining which of these is the real culprit is beyond anyone but God -- and He reserves His verdicts for a different phase of existence. Which, incidentally, is one reason a common response to a fancied conspiracy is dismissal as a "devil theory." Food for thought.

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