Taking Over Lives and States

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By George Handlery

About the helpers, the help, and the victims

In the manner of condors that hover over cadavers, flocks of helpers are congregating over the landscape. Their purpose is to save forcibly even those that might have failed to ask for succor. The circumstances under which the rescuers are helped happen in ways that undo us.

Unlike ice cream, help comes not in 32 flavors but in 2 versions. One justification of relief is of use. It lends a hand so that predicaments are overcome by enabling the fallen to stand again on his hind legs. If we ignore the motives of the helper –more about that later- this works if the party in trouble is the victim of an unavoidable misfortune. Life can produce tragic predicaments without our doing. Those impaired deserve help and, therefore, a good society will have mechanisms to allocate it without causing addictive dependency.

Beyond the depicted and legitimizing case, the quarrel with institutionalized support issues from the decent principle’s knowingly corrupting practical application.

Once help is institutionalized, it will develop two characteristics. First, it will become a right to be enjoyed by the “smart”. Striving to regain self-sufficiency will become a lost trait. Second, an organization will be created to administer support. The two factors will tend to merge through a mechanism moved by a self-interest that seeks the maximal return for the least output.

Government departments that are independent of those that create the wealth that they distribute, tend to expand. The interest of such institutions is not to create a wider economic basis to support the organs they run. The interest of such organizations is not to develop a new ice-cream flavor and to induce independent consumers to consume it voluntarily. Being independent of the wealth injected into their fundaments, such associations become, transcending their original purpose, an end in itself. While society might have created organs to help its misfortunate members to recover, these will tend to become not only self-serving but will also pursue insider goals at the expense those that pay for them. A generalization is possible. A tendency to become self-serving, at the expense of those for whose service they have been created, is unrelated to function, the venue and the time. The German General Staff’s handling the aftermath of World War 1, demonstrates how society’s interest, can be subordinated to the advantage of an institution, which is in theory dedicated to the general good.

In time, the thriving of the organization heads the hierarchy of its goals and is expressed by the protection its activities. This is the case even if the assigned task is to solve a problem and thereby to reduce the need for the institution. Firemen that become arsonists are examples of the phenomena. Bureaucratic survival as a goal will invent expanded areas for intervention. Through that, the institution’s significance will be underscored by bolstering its ranks with more personnel. Therefore, the intent and the justification at the creation are overridden. Meanwhile, those recruited will enlarge their agency and make its task eternal. In this process, the problem that society wishes to overcome becomes a life-sustaining cause for its administrators. As the result of growth, the social, political, and economic power of the institution will expand.

There are countries in which the state’s share of the economy is above 50%. That makes the state sector into the “majority shareholder” in the nation’s business. This power has nothing to do with the creation of the wealth that is shared, consumed, and reallocated. Similarly, in their aggregate, the “offices” can become a major “business”. As seen in Greece, the state sectors’ beneficiaries can, as demonstrators, fill streets and tip elections. If provoked, they can also paralyze the normal economy. That is done by withholding the required permits that allow the real world to operate in an artificial universe created to shackle it in the service of the regulating functionaries.

Putting normal lives on a leash will be given an ideological aspect. Thanks to the opinion makers, the helpers will occupy the moral high ground. Earthly material interests mute into moralizing excuses. Stipulated justifications will exploit the original purpose of the regulating bureaucracy and thus protect it from criticism because of its claimed service of a higher purpose. Helping the poor might be virtuous. The institutions that fight poverty and thrive as a result, are not quite as noble as is their original goal. Existing values can also be hitched in front of bureaucratic carts. The values that preach helping and solidarity are enlisted to bless whatever the “office“ does. Accordingly, the critics are accused of lacking solidarity, of egoism, or to abuse the environment if, for instance, they dare to articulate the waste of some ecological regulations.

Here we may leave theoretical generalizations in favor of the real moment of our time. Bureaucratic organizations, albeit created to solve problems, make reforms hard to implement and “possibly impossible”. Regulatory agencies have the tendency to slip from the role of service into that of dominance.

With the help of the moral club they yield and the strike of public’s servants against cutbacks, society is “surrounded”, checkmated and thus held captive by officials that staff institutions to their advantage. This power to strangulate hinders reform. The Euro-zone’s “South”, whose rescue from bankruptcy is an imperative, serves us with an example. To balance means and expenditures, the ranks of the state’s “servants “ need to be cut. The same applies to the salaries of a thirteenth and a fourteenth month of the year. The privileges defended are sizeable. At the same time, the percentage of the population that “receives” in exchange for accepting regulation is huge. Among the impediments of reform is that the “directed” come to like the comforts of security and the reduced responsibility for their protected fate. Will the consent for a cutback’s sacrifices be forthcoming? Alternatively, will the last € of the Germans be spent to decorate the torpedoed ship? The outcome, regardless of the ability to print money and to transform by voodoo unpayable debt obligations into “investments”, is open.

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