Complexity is a subsidy

More from this week’s G-file, this time on the subject of our crumbling faith in our institutions:

Complexity is a subsidy. The more complex you make the rules, the more you reward people with the cognitive, material, or social resources necessary to get around them. Big corporations tend not to object to more burdensome regulations because they can afford to comply with them…

But you’ve been hearing this stuff from me for years. Let’s get back to the arrogance thing. It seems to me a big part of the problem with progressive elites these days is that they lack self-awareness. That elites arrange affairs for their own self-interest is an insight that was already ancient when Robert Michels penned his Iron Law of Oligarchy. But ever since the progressives concocted their theories of “disinterestedness,” they’ve convinced themselves that they are not in fact a self-serving elite. Give feudal aristocrats their due: They were a self-dealing crop of rent-seekers and exploiters, but at least they were open about the fact that they believed they had a divine right to sit atop the social pyramid. Today’s progressive aristocracy is largely blind to the fact that their cult of expertise isn’t really about expertise; it’s about organizing society in a way that reinforces their status and power.

Well, most of them are blind to it. Occasionally the mask slips. Jonathan Gruber, one of the chief architects and financial beneficiaries of the health-care “reform,” told audiences that Obamacare was designed “in a tortured way” to hide the fact that “healthy people pay in and sick people get money.” They had to do it this way to get around the inconvenient “stupidity of the American voter.” A feudal lord who talked this way about his serfs wouldn’t get any grief for it. But in America such honesty gets you rendered an un-person.


This is a much larger phenomenon than health-care policy. It manifests itself throughout the media and the New Class generally…

I’ve written about the media’s cry-wolf problem before. The relevance here is that I don’t think most of the reporters and editors who carried water for every Democratic presidential candidate for the last 50 years believe that’s what they were doing. They convinced themselves that they were being objective or “disinterested.” They served as praetorian guards for the progressive elite without understanding just how many buckets of water they schlepped up from the river bank. This is why I shed so few tears for the dying of the myth of the “objective media.” Partisan newspapers are as old as newspapers. What was new — and now dying — is this warmed over Lippmannesque B.S. that there’s some kind of science to journalism that immunizes it from partisanship. At least 19th-century newspapers were honest with their readers about where they were coming from. Newspapers like the New York Times suffer from the same delusions that blind the progressive elites generally. They think they’re just telling the hard truths, when in fact they are telling the truths (and occasional lies) that support their own self-serving narrative.

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One Response to Complexity is a subsidy

  1. Paul Marks says:

    A “feudal aristocracy” was a military necessity against raiders – Islamic, Viking, Magyar…….. all very real and all could (and often did) reduce whole areas to ashes and dried blood. The state could not be everywhere – and that meant that local landholders had to organise (and pay for) heavy cavalry to respond quickly (and hard) to raiders, and had to have strong points (castles) to base such response forces from. To mistake a political and military system (which is what “feudalism” actually was) for an economic system (“exploitative” or otherwise) is a hang over from Marxism.

    Serfdom is a another matter – one can have serfdom without feudalism (for example the late Roman Empire after Diocletian) and one can have feudalism without serfdom (there are many examples – and even the society which Americans tend to think was full of France, pre Revolutionary France, actually had few if any serfs).

    In later times the English “feudal” aristocracy (even in the 18th century,indeed up to 1832, Britain was know a Confederation of Country Houses – in Aristotelian terms more of an aristocracy than a monarchy) transformed agricultural – the changes that fed the world after the population explosion) stated in England (specifically England and Wales – rather than Scotland and Ireland). And the profits from the agricultural revolution (NOT from the Empire) are what funded the investments that created the industrial revolution that created the modern world.

    Sure the above was NOT what the post was about (it was about the leftist media – and I agree they are evil), however, you did mention the “feudal aristocracy” and the creators of modern farming, modern industry (the money invested in industry came from the gentry and aristoracy – the profits of their domestic estates) and good culture (everything from landscape gardening to interior design) deserve a defence.

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