Dienstag, September 20, 2011

Betrayal, Deceit and Danger...

This spurred me to post in the middle of my forecasting season.

Read the article and think about this:

Betrayal is one of the most dangerous things to do. More often than not it backfires, creating a result exactly opposite what was intended. This applies to the personal and the political: betrayal destroys trust and removes any reason for continuing a relationship. Betraying your spouse (even without getting caught) will end a marriage; betraying a political party or a country will lead to extreme sanctions being placed against you. Betrayal is the breaking of a presumptive contract, resulting in moral and psychological conflict that cannot be easily resolved, if at all. It matters not if the contract is explicit or merely implied: the turnaround, the inversion of the relationship, is what is so damaging.

When you are betrayed you cannot count on the other to be what they represent: it makes it effectively impossible to reconcile what is said with what is actually meant. It destroys the fabric of relationships: a soldier sent to war cannot be expected to continue to fight when his political leadership betrays him; a spouse cannot believe that their husband or wife would betray them in the most intimate of relationships.

Betrayal, of course, relies on deceit to achieve its goals: the betrayer has their reasons for breaking the trust, ruining the relationship and abandoning principles for others. However, a simple change of mind is not betrayal, but rather continuing to act as if one believed in the relationship. That is why betrayal is so difficult, why it is so hard to reconcile once a betrayal is discovered.

As Brett Stephens puts it in the link above:

When the history of the rise and fall of postwar Western Europe is someday written, it will come in three volumes. Title them "Hard Facts," "Convenient Fictions" and—the volume still being written—"Fraud."

This corresponds to truths, deceits and betrayal: the convenient fictions of Mr. Stephens were deceptions, where the truth was hidden, covered up by those unwilling and unable to admit to reality. The accumulated deceptions - the web of lies that make up our modern societies - lead directly and without any chance of redemption to the the betrayal, the fraud that has led to the disillusionment of so many.

This is what is so dangerous: disillusionment. The welfare state, for whom so many have sacrificed so that almost as many could lead lives of leisured discontent, is and has always been what the Germans call a "Lebenslüge", a lie that forms the basis for living. The pay-as-you-go system of pensions is another one. These are deceits of the body politic that have endured and extended themselves such that they can't be avoided: it doesn't change the fact that without changing history (such that demographics that are needed for the functioning of the system could be brought into line) or without changing the promises made, that these systems are fundamentally untenable.

Rather than have solid, dependable social welfare institutions that we could all rely on to do what was promised, we have an increasingly rotten edifice that resembles nothing less than a Potemkin village, designed from the get-go as a fraud and lie.

The reality is that the modern welfare state cannot continue as it has. Pretending anything else is not merely in error, it is a mistake. Just as with all types of rollover schemes that depend on new entrants to maintain the system, it is starting to fail.

This is what is dangerous: disillusionment that the political process can bring change is part of what is called a pre-revolutionary society. Pre-revolutionary in the sense that there is no critical mass for a major rebellion, that a single incident cannot and will not bring massive changes.

Are we in a prer-evolutionary state? Are we facing long-term disillusionment, what the Germans call Politikverdrossenheit" or political apathy? The danger is when so many become political apathetic, no longer caring what is done by politicians because they can't believe that anything that can be done will actually make a difference, the number of people needed to instigate change shrinks. When the vast majority of citizens in a country struggle to continue to live their promised life-styles and fail to notice that politicians are running things into the ground to make even their best attempts moot, that is when things can turn from a pre-revolutionary society to one that is ripe for revolution, for fundamental change that tears away the deceits and lies and goes back to fundamental truths (before, perhaps, the cycle slowly starts up again).

The problem today with revolutions is that the alternatives have all been tested, multiple times, We know that public ownership of the means of production ends, invariably, in the dictatorship of the revolutionary elite (aka "The Party"), leaving people vastly worse off than they were otherwise. There are no real alternatives to modern capitalism if you are interested in achieving some sort of Pareto optimums for society (where the greatest amount of good happens with the least amount of bad). Revolutions, in our connected and interdependent economies and societies, can't improve on things, but only change those who can and do profit from the exploitation of man by his fellow men.

So, in the immortal words of Lenin, what is to be done?

Right now: nothing. The betrayal must out, the truth will indeed make you free. Keeping up the charade, pretending that the economic problems facing us are merely business-cycle related and not part of a great structural slump, cannot be maintained unless they are true.

Which they demonstrably are not.

The modern welfare state is unsustainable and doomed to failure, and appears to be designed to provide the inverse of the Pareto optimum: here the greatest bad occurs with the least amount of good. The modern welfare state fought a war against poverty, but poverty won. Recognizing that the poor will always be with us and that you can't legislate equality of capabilities (as opposed to legal barriers and the like) would be a first step towards facing reality. Understanding that distribution of talents and abilities is and always will be unequal, that markets always abide, despite the best attempts to deny them, would be another step towards facing reality and starting to mend the damage that the body of lies, the deception, the outright fraud committed in the name of social justice and equality, has done to society.

A revolution isn't needed since it only changes the guilty. There are so many out there who have dedicated so much time and effort to undermining modern-day capitalism: they are the deceivers, the betrayers of what really is and what really works. The danger is that things become much, much worse: that seems to be the only sensible explanation of at least some politician's policies.

This is not going to be much fun. Neither is bankruptcy or getting out of financial trouble.

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