Bureaucracies out of control

Published online 15 May 2015.

It’s long after Herbert Marcuse warned us of technocracy in his classic (1964) One-Dimensional Man.  You know, that part (page 32 if you want to look it up) in which Marcuse says “the capitalist bosses and owners are losing their identity as responsible agents; they are assuming the function of bureaucrats in a corporate machine” and so on.   So let’s just roll this stuff out, m’kay?

The US Military Uncontained: Chaos Spread, Casualties Inflicted, Missions Unaccomplished

This great summary appeared in yesterday’s TruthOut and today’s Naked Capitalism.  I’m sure it’s been true for quite some time now that the US military has existed for the most part to keep its own gravy train going, but it’s nice to see it summarized so well here:

Once upon a time, the US military was more or less tied to continental defense and limited by strong rivals in its hegemonic designs. No longer. Today, it has uncontained ambitions across the globe and even as it continually stumbles in achieving them, whether in Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, or elsewhere, its growth is assured, as our leaders trip over one another in continuing to shower it with staggering sums of money and unconditional love.

Oh, and here’s a cute one from last October:

Vote all you want. The secret government won’t change.
The people we elect aren’t the ones calling the shots, says Tufts University’s Michael Glennon

Here’s the key passage:

Though it’s a bedrock American principle that citizens can steer their own government by electing new officials, Glennon suggests that in practice, much of our government no longer works that way. In a new book, “National Security and Double Government,” he catalogs the ways that the defense and national security apparatus is effectively self-governing, with virtually no accountability, transparency, or checks and balances of any kind. He uses the term “double government”: There’s the one we elect, and then there’s the one behind it, steering huge swaths of policy almost unchecked. Elected officials end up serving as mere cover for the real decisions made by the bureaucracy.

Both of these are reminiscent of another, slightly-less-recent study:

Study: US is an oligarchy, not a democracy

The study’s conclusion:

Americans do enjoy many features central to democratic governance, such as regular elections, freedom of speech and association and a widespread (if still contested) franchise. But we believe that if policymaking is dominated by powerful business organisations and a small number of affluent Americans, then America’s claims to being a democratic society are seriously threatened.

So who’s got power?  Rich people.  Bureaucrats.  The military.  David Graeber complains about the bureaucrats in one of his “Baffler” jeremiads.What are they doing with it?  They’re maintaining their own power.  They’re creating even more bureaucracy — “Lambert Strether” has a fun time discussing the unaccountable ISDS courts which we’ll see once the TPP is passed. Otherwise, they’re being screw-ups.

Wise leadership would have set America, and the world-society as a whole, on a different course — towards the utopia of human rights, or toward a less severe dieoff, as opposed to the continued maintenance of the society of money.  But that’s not what oligarchies are about — oligarchies are about keeping groups of people in power, and making sure the rest of us continue to work for them.

I suppose there’s always resistance.  Here’s a small-scale example.

Did any of you see the season finale of The Blacklist last night?  I’m still amused by that scene in which the character of “Raymond Reddington,” played by James Spader, is in some basement telling a bunch of journalists that there’s a global syndicate, infiltrating every level of government and business, called “The Cabal.”

I think The Blacklist scriptwriters are messing with our heads.  It’s easy enough to do.  What do you think?


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