The last time I was in Portugal I got to witness (actually the time before last, while running through the Lisbon airport) something I’d only previously read about as being normal in the soviet union: structures that were being built and decaying, simultaneously, which seems impossible, but I assure you it’s not.
As the idiots on both sides try to hurry us into war, and the custard heads try to side with Russia and cite as a reason “But Ukraine is corrupt” I stare at the mind-boggling staggering amounts of corruption necessary to bring Russia to the level of incompetence on display in the battlefields of Ukraine, and I think “If that’s a reason for Russia to invade a country, they’re going to invade all of the world, and the US only escapes on a “relative” scale. (Mind you, that is precisely what Putin wants, but that’s something else.)
The question is: competence has existed, and had high marks. We know it existed at various times, because their works survive: the landscape of Europe is still littered with Roman bridges and aqueducts, not to mention Roman roads. Cathedrals and monuments abound. Our own country has marvels of engineering and construction still standing and you don’t have to fix daily.
So, where did that competence go? And why does no one seem to know how to do anything. (Here as an aside, almost everything I learned to do competently had to be learned on my own, and often against massive resistance.)
Well, for about a hundred years now, we’ve been under the ideological ascent of socialism. And socialism — international socialism, to be precise — is only good for creating picturesque ruins. (The romantics would have loved them.)
Note that I’m not defending national socialism. As I’ve pointed out before, when the government takes over the economic life of a country, and directs what the companies can or cannot do, the tendency is to quash innovation, and as a rule everyone becomes very poor.
It’s just that it depends. Like empires (which to an extent they are) national socialist regimes can do okay under an extraordinary ruler. I had a mini-dispute with Herb in the comments on whether Franco was or was not Fascist. He absolutely was, both in the economic, and in the repressive, take over every minutia of life aspect. He was also better than the average bear at directing the economic life of the country which is why before his death we used to go shop in Spain, where more and better goods were available than in Portugal.
Relatively speaking, Salazar was a softer leader. Or at least, he stomped less on the opposition (while making more noises about stomping. It’s the Portuguese way.) But as an economic leader (director of the economic life. Fuhrer if you will. Or where did you think that came from?) he sucked. He sucked upside down and sideways and with his head in a sack. And that’s because he was raised by Jesuits, and got his economic theories from them. Which pretty much tells you everything you need to know. So over his rule, everyone became increasingly poorer. But weirdly not incompetent. (In fact, as a person who — there and here — likes to follow craftsmen around watching how they do things, the average craftsman who learned his trade under national socialism, was probably way better than anyone else.)
Which brings us to: how does international socialism/communism not only destroy competency but introduce incompetency and corruption to the degree it is enforced/implemented.
At first I thought it was due to enforcement/non enforcement of laws. But that dog won’t hunt. Laws in Portugal at least were as inconsistently enforced under one as under the other. And of course the darlings of the regime had, if not carte blanche, at least a certain amount of immunity.
So what does it?
Some people will of course jump to its being the egalitarian ethos of international socialism, the fact that it’s supposed to be a dictatorship of the proletariat, and that nothing can be enforced.
But that’s actually buying the propaganda of the international socialists, and their propaganda has absolutely nothing to do with reality. You are free to believe this is true, but you are also free to believe the Easter bunny is saddling up his egg distribution system.
No, the international socialists are just as totalitarian as the international socialists. In fact, they are usually more so, since they require you to believe– Oh.
Look, the national socialists — other than the Germans, and yes, that is a huge “other” but truly, everywhere else they gained hold wasn’t QUITE that insane and neurotic, let alone murderous — are evil thugs who gain control and rule from above with a heavy hand. Even if one or two exceptions fail to immiserate their populations quite so much, they do in general clamp down on innovation and enforce whatever their strange idea of economics might be, with predictable consequences.
But the totalitarian rule they do enforce is usually in tune with their people. So, Franco encouraged and endorsed the Catholic church, and FDR made noises about good, midwestern values and how “decent” people should live.
It stomps on anyone even mildly different, of course, but the rule it enforces is what most of the native custard heads would think is right and just at least externally. (Yes, I do realize what that says about the Germans of the 20th century.)
So while — in general — it impoverishes the populace and destroys industry and innovation, not to mention free trade, it brings with it an ethos of “poor but honest” and “I take pride in what I do because I belong, and this nation I belong to is the best in the world.”
It slots into the portion of the head that wants to belong to something. And it it gives an appearance of working just long enough that people tend to think of it as right, just and “the natural order of things.”
Which is why so many conservatives– may G-d have mercy on their souls — think of the FDR rule as “the way America should be.”
Meanwhile international socialism (which for a large part of the 20th century was actually Russian nationalism projected outward) while as intrusive and crazy cakes comes with a set of shibboleths that self-admittedly are impossible. And are impossible from the beginning.
Because the international cult dictates that you not only believe but endorse principles that are obviously idiotic, even to the most idiotic of human beings. In fact, it takes years of expensive education to be able to say these things with a straight face. (See the current nominee for Supreme court who is unable to define “woman” because she’s not a biologist.)
In the early stages of this international insanity, it was all about the workers being naturally better than the managers, and therefore if the workers were in control marvelous things would ensue.
Only even the workers know they’re not qualified to manage (No, seriously. I’ve been a worker several times. I suck as a manager.) And the manager seriously know it. And given the workforce of the early 20th (or late nineteenth) century was often illiterate and more provincial than someone born and raised in NYC now, it was obvious they couldn’t manage anything.
Which was okay, because — in an also obvious move — intellectuals took over from the beginning, and managed the “worker’s” revolution, in fact ordering the workers around as the managers never had.
What was even more obvious is that these persons were crazy and had absolutely no clue how anything worked. They were “experts” on everything, on paper, and completely unable to figure out the simplest things in reality. So once they took control things went wrong very very fast.
Which is where incompetence and insanity came in.
Look, it’s like this: When you look at the virtual destruction of the country and the economy, and you like to eat, and perhaps remain clothed, in self-defense, you start making side deals, compromises and side-pacts.
So, that cement for that stack-a-prol building? Well, obviously it can’t go there, because the guys building the sea wall that the government doesn’t think is needed, need it. So the cement takes a walk, and sand is used to make up the difference.
That’s how it starts. And then it expands, until the entire economy is a vast network of lies, arrangements, side deals, mordida and bullshit.
Because there is no real central coordinating authority. There is a crazy person at the top who depending on their particular time in the line of insanity, says — and heaven help us, some of them believe it — that they are ruling in the name of workers, oppressed races, the poor, the gay, the transgender, but who in fact can find his/her/its own ass with two hands, a seeing eye dog and sonar.
And under it there are atomized individuals who can’t trust anyone, because anyone at all could turn them in.
There is no family, no friendship, nothing in which the crazy people won’t intrude.
Now imagine doing business under a regime like that (And all socialist regimes, from euro-socialism, now ruled by an unelected bureaucracy from Brussels, to the hard communism of the USSR are like that. The only question is how hard it comes down on you when you come under its notice. Will you simply lose your job and be made unemployable, will you be thrown in jail,or will you go to Gulag?)
Well, all business is corruption. The only thing that works is the black market, and that doesn’t work very well. It’s all pass the buck, cheat the next guy and cover your own ass.
And for those who will say that Putin has more in common with the old style national socialism than this. No, not really. He too claims a sort of divine right of kings to know what is right and wrong, even if he does pay lip service to old Russian society. From what I understand in Russia it is obvious it is only lip service. (Though the poor bastages are grateful for even that, after what that society has been through.)
More importantly, the bureaucracy, the mobs, everything he inherited are from the old structure. And he didn’t change them. So, yeah, they are also plagued with corruption and inefficiency. In fact, all the old Eastern block countries are, from what I understand including East Germany. (And it tells you something that the crazy-cakes regime managed to make Germans inefficient and slovenly.)
Socialism is not just lethal. It is a force that — by enshrining the rule of “experts” and “scientists” who are neither — makes it necessary to become an inefficient anarchist and a scammer to survive.
If you’re looking around and saying “Uh oh” yep.
We are already well on our way there, and have been for oh, thirty or forty years.
But there is still time. It starts with cleaning up our governance and getting rid of the masses of unelected bureaucracy that make mere survival almost impossible.
Can we get there from here?
I don’t know. The bridge is out, and from that roar, I think there is a fire coming.
What it leaves behind, G-d only knows. But if we can take from it nothing else, take this: Self governance works. Rule by “experts” doesn’t. You’re the only expert in being you. And humans, trading freely, survive and thrive.
As long as you remove the boot from their necks.