Originally published at Sultan Knish.
Few myths are as beloved among liberals as the idea that wars could be put down to a conspiracy of defense contractors. Throw together Haliburton, Northrop Grumman and GE along with some retired generals and you have the makings of your next war.
The fabled military-industrial complex was a dimwitted descendant of the WW1 era Socialist notion
that wars were the product of industrialists and without them, the working peoples of every country would naturally get along. Then came WW2, which was fought between a Communist empire, a National Socialist oligarchy, a Socialist American government and a Britain that would kick out Churchill as soon as the war was over and swap him out for Labour and the Socialist dream.
None of these Socialist or aspiring Socialist systems could get along. The Nazis and Commies had started out by looting their own citizens, the Nazis based on religion and ethnicity, and the Commies, based on these things and a thousand others, and the mere existence of wealth, and when all that money was gone, and the paintings were sold and the only hope lay in sending tanks across the border, went to war.
WWII was arguably the first Socialist world war in which two countries committed to ridiculously unworkable economic and political ideas set off on a massive looting and killing spree across Western and Eastern Europe. The Nazis shipped the loot back home, practicing a familiar form of wealth redistribution by turning over stolen property from conquered countries to their own people as the spoils of war while funneling much of the rest into the corrupt machinery of the Nazi Party. The Communists were less generous with their people, but plenty of Russian soldiers still brought home unknown luxuries from the formerly prosperous capitals of captured countries.
The Soviet Union bought a little more time with an empire that stretched all the way to Germany, but the economic collapse still came. With no more territories to seize and no more wealth to steal, the Socialist Motherland became a pitiful backwater full of secondhand copies of Western technology and buildings where KGB trolls thought up increasingly nasty schemes that could damage the West, but could not destroy it or salvage the Bolshevik experiment. And eventually they just gave up.
The West learned nothing from these experiences as the infamous military-industrial complex learned to take a backseat to the social-welfare complex which was a good deal bigger and more ambitious. There’s only so much money that any country can spend on weapons. And weapons, unlike social welfare programs, can be scrapped.
The big idea of the Twentieth, the militarization and industrialization of every aspect of society proceeded with grim regularity with no regard for the myths of the 50s as conformist or of the succeeding decades as countercultural. No matter what the kids were wearing in their hair, the massive bureaucracies continued expanding, grinding on and recruiting those same kids to come up with great new ways to solve all the problems of society with an even bigger bureaucracy.
The military-industrial complex had its ups and downs, but the social-welfare complex kept getting bigger and bigger. Every aspect of life was industrialized, regulated and militarized, but it wasn’t the fictional militarization that frenzied pacifists imagine, but real life militarization, which means being subjected to a ridiculously incompetent bureaucracy incapable of getting anything right. There was a plan for everything, but like the Five Year Plans in Mother Russia, they never actually worked.
The difference, most reasonable people would point out, is that we were still democracies, which is to say that we voted for things. And the thing we voted for was rule by politician-lawyers whom we knew that we couldn’t trust even before we voted for them. But voting was one of those perverse rituals that reminded us that we were free. We might have very little ability to get the bureaucratic monkey off our backs, but once every few years we could could vote in a different politician-lawyer.
Not that it made that much of a difference.
The Supreme Court recently decided that the Defense of Marriage Act was illegitimate because a majority of the unelected lawyer-judges on the bench decided that they didn’t like it. A number of State Attorney Generals then announced that they weren’t going to defend state laws on gay marriage, even though that is their job, because they didn’t like them.
And there was no reason to be surprised by any of that. Federal judges had been invalidating referendums, elections and bills for a while on the grounds that they didn’t like them. For all the empty legalisms, it rarely came down to more than a political disagreement with the balance of power resting firmly with a handful of political appointees.
The idea that the country ought to be run by the people, rather than by the people who know best, lasted somewhere from Andrew Jackson and until shortly after the Civil War. It was buried in an unmarked grave with the political career of Theodore Roosevelt, whose ideas frightened the hell out of both parties.
We still have elections and we still have presidents and like referendums, these are things that we’re allowed to have so long as we don’t step too far out of line. In Europe, where third parties and fourth and fifth parties, are easier to organize, dangerously populist political movements are disqualified from public office. It would be nice to think that it couldn’t happen here, but it could and would.
For now the current system makes that a minimal risk scenario, but if the political elites woke up tomorrow morning to polling that showed that Congress and the White House were about to be claimed by a new third party committed to closing the border, ending all international agreements, ending Federal control over interstate commerce and shutting down the EPA; there would within short order be a whole bundle of rulings removing the party and its candidates from contention.
We’re allowed to have elections because we vote for Democrats or Republicans. The ballot box is a toy that we’re allowed to play with because we’ve shown that despite some scary moments, we won’t use it to burn down the system. If we ever did go rogue, the ballot box would be taken away from us, the bad names would get scrubbed off the lists and the administrators of the nanny state would then give it back to us with a stern warning to mend our ways.
This isn’t North Korea or Iran. Our elections are real for the most part. But so is gambling in Vegas. Just because the game is reasonably honest, doesn’t mean that it still isn’t rigged. The officials we elect and the officials they select, for the most part, follow the game plan of the social-welfare complex. They do what they are told and they make us do what we are told. That is their job. Electing them gives them influence over us. It doesn’t give us influence over them.
There’s no tyranny. No men with guns in dark rooms. Just a massive sprawling government whose scale and complexity no one can even begin to encompass. Each part of it is another bureaucratic fiefdom whose employees have long since learned to justify its existence and need for expansion. And the people we elect surround themselves with those employees and get their information from them. The framework of their worldview comes from that same bureaucratic empire.
A president can defy one arm of the social-welfare complex. He can take it on in a pitched battle, appoint a close ally to run it, purge its members and twist and turn it around to doing his bidding. And after that exhausting battle, not only will the department or agency eventually revert to form, but he will doubtfully have the energy and popularity to do it to more than a few departments or agencies. The social-welfare complex is just too big. It’s a deep state that runs the country pursuing liberal policies regardless of who is in office. While the military-industrial complex is regularly purged by liberals in the White House (the current one has wrecked the military and even space exploration while turning the military into a promoter of Green Energy and gay rights) the social-welfare complex hardly ever is. For one thing it’s too complex and is woven too deep into everything. When the radicals announced that they were going to switch from trying to blow up the system to working within the system, this is the system that they meant. It’s where government really happens, at that intersection between private think tanks and government agencies where the planning takes place and the proposals become policies and the policies are presented to whoever won the next election accompanied by spreadsheets and pie charts which explain that it’s the only answer, and if whoever it is dismisses it, they implement it anyway.
The American Deep State consists of that deep fried and congealed mass of bureaucratic collectivism which despite its inertia is constantly growing. It’s not a state within a state. That would be a better description of our elected officials. It is the state.
About the Author: Daniel Greenfield is an Israeli born blogger and columnist, and a Shillman Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center. His work covers American, European and Israeli politics as well as the War on Terror. His writing can be found at http://sultanknish.blogspot.com/. The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not represent the views of The Jewish Press.
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