I have been surprised and disappointed by how much I got sucked into the partisan politics of the election. I think I’ve done a decent job of disconnecting from the endless yammering about inside-DC palace intrigue. DC is what it is because it rewards the people who make it what it is, and that’s not changing anytime soon. I never really held out any hope that Barr and Durham would do anything about the manifest corruption of the federal law enforcement and intelligence communities, because why would they?
Nonetheless, I found myself getting agitated and anxious about the outcome of the election. I think this means that I lost the perspective, the context, that I wanted to be able to hold onto. As ever, one of the Iron Laws provide a touchstone for regaining that perspective.
Note: this was written on Saturday, November 7. The Presidential election and a handful of other national races are still undecided, but whatever the final outcome is, it won’t change my thinking on this topic.
Meaning comes from context.
This election was held in the context of a nation that is ruled (not governed, ruled) mostly by an unaccountable and left-biased administrative state. As an aside, I would be interested to read a knowledgable comparison of present-day America rule with the Chinese mandarinate – I suspect there are substantial parallels. Regardless, the national legislature has largely abdicated its responsibilities to the administrative state. The judiciary has a long-standing doctrine of deferring to the administrative state, and let’s not overlook that its not at all clear that a federal judiciary made up of tenured federal employees is really distinguishable from a civil service made up largely of tenured federal employees.
And Trump has shown that the administrative state has slipped the leash of its nominal immediate supervisor. The administrative state proudly and openly #Resisted the President when they disagreed with him. And, perhaps most disturbingly, so did the military. After four years, the swamp remains.
The election was going to change none of that. The whole point of being governed by a mandarinate administrative state, reinforced by a complicit academic/media entertainment complex, is that it doesn’t answer to or change direction based on who is nominally in charge.
Another context is the growth of government power and scope, and in particular spending. We are on a path to a totipotent federal government, and to currency collapse. Despite a little trimming by Trump around the edges of the administrative state, the growth of government continues unabated, and our spending problem has gotten much worse. The election was going to change none of that.
Yet another context is the urbanization of America. Current American politics heavily favor Democrats in urban areas; whether this is the result of an inherent advantage for leftism in urban areas, I really couldn’t say. Regardless of whether the Democrats are stealing the election in urban areas (which could well be an example of You get more of what you reward, and less of what you punish), they are on the right side of this trend. If not this election, then likely the next one. A four year reprieve isn’t nothing, but it’s not all that much, either.
The final context is that politics is downstream of culture, as a failed dissident once pointed out. Just because he failed doesn’t mean he was wrong. The coronavirus has shown that our culture welcomes micromanagement from our rulers, even to the point of dictating how our family gatherings should be conducted. It is now routine to wear a mask whenever in public, as demanded by our rulers, and a large segment of the public enthusiastically enforces this demand. The election won’t change this cultural shift.
Since the election won’t affect the larger context of rule by the administrative state, the growth of government, a culture of safetyism and demand for government protection from previously tolerated and ordinary risks, or the urbanization of America, why get agitated about it?
Other Iron Laws, I think, only add to the conclusion that this election is really not anything to get our panties bunched up over. I’ll point to one:
Money and power will always find each other.
Money, these days, resides with the Tech Lords, by which I mean the social media quasi-monopolies and the GooglePlex. I’ll admit I was surprised by the speed and enthusiasm with which the Tech Lords joined hands with the legacy media, and amplified and reinforced its control over the information available to the public to favor the Democrats.
Why? The Republicans are making noises about reforming Section 320 of the CDA to expose the Tech Lords to liability for defamation, and to bring anti-trust actions to break up their quasi-monopolies. The Democrats offer continued protection from competition (any antitrust actions against the Tech Lords will die in a Biden administration) and defamation (there will be no Section 230 reform as long as the Democrats can block it). For the Tech Lords, this was an insurance policy; I doubt they had much to worry about from the administrative state anyway, but having demonstrated their power and usefulness, who knows what further deals might be struck? If you are looking around for the cronyism of this Iron Law, look no further.
And I really don’t think the election was going change any of that. So why get agitated about the election?
Where does that leave me?
This election, however it turns out, won’t change much. So I am going to try to regain the amused detachment from most of the political to-and-fro. Its mostly a distraction, bread and circuses for the news and social media addicts.
The real question, which should be occupying my mental space, is how do I navigate the context I describe above? Some of this context I have already laid plans for; our assets are as insulated as I think they can be from the ruinous taxation heading our way. Weathering the currency collapse, I need to give some more thought to. Also, for the moment, I am going to lay plans to emigrate as a search for a context that I find more congenial.
What I won’t be doing is devoting much energy to American politics, whether supporting any party or politician (pointless, in context), any movement for a national divorce (a fantasy, in my view, which if it were to happen would be so catastrophic I would emigrate anyway), or any movement that attempts to fundamentally restructure our government, electoral processes or anything else (they are what they are because of a context which is what it is, and won’t change absent some catastrophic shock).
Finally, I have been interested in some of the references to Stoicism here; I’m going to follow up on that.