The Status Quo is dysfunctional because its model of how the world works is broken.
Much has been written about the dysfunction in Washington D.C. Pundits have been wringing their hands for years over the rise of bitter partisan politics and the resulting gridlock. The impact of this–what I have termed profound political disunity–extends beyond the narrow confines of domestic politics, a reality reflected in Foreign Affairs new survey of our winter of political discontent, Dysfunction Junction.
But all these discussions of our dysfunctional politics ignore the larger truth, which is the entire model of the Status Quo is broken. Even if reformers succeeded in ridding the political system of cronyism and favors-for-campaign-contributions–two essentially impossible reforms, given the legalistic cover provided for cronyism and bought and paid for representatives, the basic model of “how the world works” that dominates the world-view of leaders across the political spectrum would remain broken.
There are only three alternatives:
1. The current gridlock continues, and the policies in place grind on with minor tweaks.
2. The Democrats win a sweeping victory and are able to unilaterally impose their reforms.
3. The Republicans win a sweeping victory and are able to unilaterally impose their reforms.
Why do we know the entire model is broken? Because all three alternatives lead to a continuation of the same ruinous model of “how the world works”:
1. A continued reliance on Keynesian Cargo Cult “stimulus,” i.e. borrowing and blowing trillions of dollars to prop up inefficient, bloated, corrupt, wasteful crony-capitalist cartels and politically untouchable fiefdoms.
2. The continued destruction of open, transparent markets via intervention by the central state and bank.
3. The continued expansion of the Welfare State, i.e. entitlements such as Medicaid and ObamaCare subsidies and implicit entitlements such as farm price supports, corporate tax breaks, mortgage interest deductions, etc.
4. The continued expansion of the National Security State, whose premises are A) everyone on the planet is guilty until proven innocent and B) only Total Information can protect “us” (i.e. the National Security State itself) from threats.
5. The continued erosion of civil liberties via death by a thousand cuts.
6. The rising dependence on borrowed money to fund standard government services.
7. The rising dependence on manipulated/gamed statistics to manage perceptions that the Status Quo is eternal, powerful and improving everyone’s lives, even as it serves the narrow interests of self-serving Elites and insiders.
8. The expansion of a Permanent War State that recognizes no boundaries between domestic and international threats, hence the militarization of local police forces and the rise of private mercenaries in the guise of for-profit domestic prisons and police forces.
9. A central bank (the Federal Reserve) that will continue to support the most rapacious, opaque and self-serving financial Elites with free money for financiers.
10. The continuing purchase of political favors by monied Elites via lobbying and campaign contributions.
11. An ever-rising dependence on generating the appearance of stability, transparency, competence and expertise as a substitute for actual stability, transparency, competence and expertise. In other words, an expanding reliance on gaming dysfunctional systems rather than actually repairing dysfunctional systems.
12. An increasing reliance on zero-interest rates, debt and free money for financiers as the “fix” for every economic ill.
The Status Quo is dysfunctional because its model of how the world works is broken. It won’t matter if gridlock remains in place or one of the parties gets to impose its “brand” of policy-tweaks; since no one on the political spectrum has any concept that the current model described in these 12 points is broken, fixing the political dysfunction won’t fix the systemic dysfunction.