About our institutions, trust in leadership, and keeping the scope of each mission limited and targeted.
‘Somewhere….o-ver the pan-de-mick….’
It seems we’ve reached the Kum-ba-yah stage of the disease. Maybe God gets mentioned around the digital campfire, maybe not.
‘Go out there and give ’em the good stuff, Francis. From the heart.’
Perhaps we’re not all in a ‘camp,’ nor should we desire to be. Perhaps, Dear Reader, we are fellow citizens, which defines our duties in law.
But, we’ve got so many laws these days, and competing factions with incentives to selectively enforce those laws. Whom can you trust?
Perhaps our other, deeper, beliefs unite/divide us and our politics merely reflect these deeper schisms (political leaders like Newsom and DeSantis are making decisions as they see fit, given their incentives).
There’s still a virus: I don’t doubt we’ve got some good, and smart, people able to track the current disease and maybe the next one. Some work at the NHS, but that’s not so much what this is about…
Between the competing interests (skulduggery) of global politics, the lightning-fast bureaucratic response, and the vacillation between authoritarian mandates and we’re-all-in-this-together public-service supplication, I hadn’t noticed any problems myself.
Jerry Pournelle’s (R.I.P.) Iron Law of Bureaucracy:
‘Pournelle’s Iron Law of Bureaucracy states that in any bureaucratic organization there will be two kinds of people”:
First, there will be those who are devoted to the goals of the organization. Examples are dedicated classroom teachers in an educational bureaucracy, many of the engineers and launch technicians and scientists at NASA, even some agricultural scientists and advisors in the former Soviet Union collective farming administration.
Secondly, there will be those dedicated to the organization itself. Examples are many of the administrators in the education system, many professors of education, many teachers union officials, much of the NASA headquarters staff, etc.
The Iron Law states that in every case the second group will gain and keep control of the organization. It will write the rules, and control promotions within the organization.’
It seems many variants of pride, vanity and (S)elf Idealism, are wafting, no doubt, above the pews at the (C)hurch of (M)ankind.
“The purpose of bureaucracy is to devise a standard operating procedure which can cope effectively with most problems. A bureaucracy is efficient if the matters which it handles routinely are, in fact, the most frequent and if its procedures are relevant to their solution. If those criteria are met, the energies of the top leadership are freed to deal creatively with the unexpected occurrence or with the need for innovation. Bureaucracy becomes an obstacle when what it defines as routine does not address the most significant range of issues or when its prescribed mode of action proves irrelevant to the problem.”
“Moreover, the reputation, indeed the political survival, of most leaders depends on their ability to realize their goals, however these may have been arrived at. Whether these goals are desireable is relatively less crucial.”
Kissinger, Henry. American Foreign Policy: Three Essays. New York: W.W. Norton & Company Inc. 1969.
One theory: Many Boomers, Gen Xers, and all of us, to some extent, have been leaning on stronger institutions of better design (always with some rot in them), now receding to weaker institutions, possibly headed for much worse design (with more rot in them as they run bad code). Many trend lines, from my limited perspective, don’t look good.
Clive James revisits many quite original, quite accomplished works of Joseph Conrad.
‘They are, in fact, idealists: and idealism is a cast of mind that Conrad questions even more than he questions radicalism. The logical end of radicalism, in his view, is terrorism; but idealism is the mental aberration that allows terrorism to be brought about. Conrad’s originality was to see that a new tyranny could be generated by people who thought that their rebellion against the old tyranny was rational. Thus his writings seem prescient about what was to happen in the Soviet Union. He didn’t predict the Nazi tyranny because he had underestimated the power of the irrational to organise itself into a state. But then, nobody predicted that except its perpetrators; and anyway, mere prediction was not his business. His business was the psychological analysis made possible by an acute historical awareness. Under Western Eyes is valuable not because it came true but because it rang true even at the time, only now we can better hear the deep, sad note.’