The predictability of bureaucratic decay, which Samo Burja asserted and I mentioned in April (followup to this post) and having quoted Pournelle's Law of Bureaucracy more than once over the last month have set me down a path of rethinking some political assumptions. If the military bureaucracy, which expanded in WWII and did not revert to isolationist attitudes as America had done before, was just naturally going to expand and get less efficient, no matter who was in charge of it and their intent, it causes us to look differently at "the military-industrial complex," whether Democrats "support" the military, the difference between invasion and nation-building competence, the integration of military intelligence with the other intelligence agencies, logistics, hardware, perfumed princes, and all our other military arguments. What if even brilliant leadership only stems the tide in most places and improves things in few others? What if complete knuckleheads do not, in the long run, make things that much worse than they were going to be on their own.
It would for openers, suggest that the complete dismantling of government agencies, even though the loss of function would be real and even temporarily dire, would be the only long-term solution. And we would have to admit that we aren't ever going to do that. Even psychotic libertarians would move what they considered essential CIA functions to other agencies, even as they took an axe to the tree and felled it. It might be that the US education system needs to be dismantled root and branch if we are to educate our young, and developing cultures starting fresh are going to surpass us, like the small mammals eating the dinosaur eggs. But we can't even dismantle the Department of Education, a new agency that theoretically only assists the primarily local and state-run systems and provides oversight for policy at best, and in practice started asserting itself as the senior authority, the Supreme Court of American Education right from the start. We can't even dent that.
If we all understood this I think we would still be angry and divided, but I think we would divide that up quite differently.
Or maybe not. We may have already divided into those people who believe the federal government is our best protector and those who believe it is a danger. We just disguise this in a hundred ways, even from ourselves calling our divisions something else. In New England, for example, we used to be very much in favor of local control but both the local and the control parts were quite real. Banned in Boston and all that. Not so much individual independence but individual ability to influence. Because local, dammit. Take that away and the independence starts to erode. Thus, low crime rates, lots of schools, public water and sewer, better paid police. Highways, ports, airports, but no big stadiums, no out-of-control college athletics.
All eroding now. It's not coming back. Every branch of every bureaucracy grows and becomes less efficient, sometimes slower, sometimes faster. It's not the Democrats' fault, or Washington's fault, or the elites' fault, or any of that. It's gravity. We can only slow it or accelerate it.