Sunday, June 17, 2018

Emergent order rather than Deep State conspiracy.

An interesting observation from The Deep State Is an Organism, not a Conspiracy by Charlie Martin. I think he is more right than wrong but still not quite right. The Deep State is not a conspiracy. The Deep State is not an organism, The Deep State is a manifestation of emergent order, arising from systemic biases unconstrained by oversight or checks and balances.
Of course, this notion of a single grand conspiracy is overblown, but it leads to counter-arguments, like Erick Erickson's recent tweet about the FBI inspector general's report:
There is no coup. There is no sinister deep state. There is no dark conspiratorial force. It’s incompetence, idiocy, bureaucratic self-aggrandizement, and partisan hackery all the way down.
Since there are no risible meetings of a Secret Cabal, it follows (for people like Erickson) that there's no Deep State at all. This is a fallacy that is so widespread it's endemic, part of the popular wisdom: a complicated system has to have a Boss, someone to wave the baton and a bureaucracy to follow the Boss's orders, or it won't work at all.

But this is a fallacy. There are plenty of systems we look at every day that have no boss: there is no tree sprite telling each tree how to grow, no homunculus in our head tripping switches and turning knobs with wild abandon trying to keep our bodies working. Instead, there are complicated feedbacks that respond to changing conditions more or less automatically. Blood pressure regulation, body weight, blood glucose concentration, sexual arousal, all happen through stimulus and response, impulse and regulatory counter-impulse.

One fascinating example is the body's response to wounds. You cut yourself, and platelets flow to the wound site with the blood flow, rupture, and cause clotting and then scabbing. They're followed quickly by white blood cells that excrete other chemicals that cause the wound to close and then heal. But there is no "manager" orchestrating this -- it's just chemical responses.
The biological is a good counter-example to the fact that there does not have to be a command-and-control hierarchy in place for there to be a conspiracy. But biological functions (including wound response) are an evolved and predictable response to an organism in an evolving world. I don't think there is much in the Deep State phenomenon that is pre-programmed.

I think what is happening is in some ways much easier to understand and does not necessarily involved command-and-control or even conspiracy. What we see, and what some attribute to conspiracy, is, I think, a spontaneous and emergent order.

Our system of governance is structured to ensure that there are checks and balances and that ultimately, all government functions are accountable to the citizens of the nation. The theoretical simplicity of the original model with three levels (local, state, federal) and three branches (executive, legislative and judicial) has been eroded over the years as our economy and our modern society becomes more complicated. The legislative cedes power to the executive. The judiciary tries to reinterpret the legislative. The executive delegates to independent agencies. None of it is done explicitly but wide swaths of government now functions with no clear or transparent linkage to the wishes and needs of the citizenry.

This is exacerbated by the fact that the clerisy and policy setting class within the government who manage the whole process no longer look like or experience life as the typical American citizen. The bureaucratic clerisy is localized in a few geographic locations, with educations from a few selective schools, with world views dramatically deviant from the norm, career experiences different in degree and kind from most Americans. They are making unsupervised decisions for Americans with whom they are unfamiliar about lifestyles with which they are unfamiliar and are often anathema to their own prejudices and preferences.

As the citizenry rises up against the sheltered clerisy in America, Britain, Germany, Hungary, Sweden, Italy, Spain, France,
the EU, etc., I suspect they are not so much rising up against the established political parties (though there is an element of that). I think they are rising up against the State interests who act independent of the interests and oversight of the citizenry.

So when outsiders campaigning against the establishment are elected in America, France, Hungary, Germany, Italy, etc., the State itself is in some ways more threatened than the establishment parties themselves. Political parties at least nominally compete with one another. Hidden agencies twelve layers deep in a bureaucracy are not accustomed to the sunshine sought by the citizenry. No wonder they flinch.

I think much what we are seeing with the IRS, and the FBI, and the CIA, and the EPA, and the NSA, and the DOJ, and the (insert preferred three letter agency) is mostly a defensive retaliation against unexpected and undesired oversight. Because it is happening across agencies and because there are common patterns of response, doesn't mean that they are coordinated. It is a spontaneous order not a conspiracy. I suspect.

Sure, there are occasionally micro-conspiracies of one sort or another among individuals with shared interests and goals - as there are in any complex enterprise of any magnitude.

There is a Deep State but it is not a controlled entity but an emergent order of unconstrained special interests usurping the authority and function of the State.

When you think about the fundamental lessons we have learned from the shock of the modern (500 years ago) and the dawn of the Age of Enlightenment (250 years ago), we pretty much know what are required of the state, the community and the individual in order for there to be productivity growth, innovation and prosperity.
At the state level - light taxes, low regulation, rule of law, property rights, natural rights of speech, assembly, religion, etc., narrow but consistent enforcement of the law, representative/participatory democracy, etc.

At the community level - social norms which emphasize tolerance, laissez faire, respect and trust, etc.

At the personal level - Bourgeoise values which emphasize saving, low time discount, valuing education, competition, encourage trust and openness, etc..
We know these elements work for everyone, everywhere and they work best when all elements are present at the same time.

The irony and the paradox is that the prosperity which arises from combining these golden elements also require larger government and, more critically, more complex governance. And when you get more complex governance, you end up with government entities, individuals, and agencies dissociated from the citizenry and self-anointing themselves as better or more knowledgeable than the citizens who are in fact their bosses. When the citizenry call them to account, it looks like an attack on government and the special interests respond in predictable defensive fashion. Because it is a shared, predictable and common response, it is easy to see it as a conspiracy by the "Deep State" and/or see it in political terms.

I suspect that for the most part, that is incorrect. The "Deep State" is really a term for the unbalanced state or the unconstrained state. This unconstrained state has interests which subsist through the coercive power of government and which are not constrained and experience little oversight, control, regulation, or public authorization. That the public desire that governance delegated to special interests should at least be transparent if not also constrained by checks and balances as originally intended is not a rejection of the State. It is a rejection of the Hidden State, the Unconstrained State, the Unaccountable State.

While it might appear anarchic if you are a special interest, or an attack if you are within the Deep State, or a conspiracy if you are the citizenry, it is not quite anything of those things. It is an unbalanced system of governance requiring greater transparency and more checks and balances, and that is not a bad thing.


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