There’s only one small problem with relying on artifice: we haven’t actually fixed what’s broken in the real world.
As I noted yesterday, we now game dysfunctional systems rather than actually repair them. Rather than fix the dysfunctional system of higher education, for example (as I proposed in my book The Nearly Free University and The Emerging Economy), students and their parents go to extraordinary lengths to game the Ivy league university admissions system.
Rather than actually address the structural causes of unemployment, we lower interest rates to zero and reckon the resulting financial bubble will fix unemployment (and everything else).
To avoid having to deal with unemployment as an issue, the unemployment rate is heavily gamed by counting marginal jobs (working 1 hour a week–you’re employed!) and removing tens of millions of unemployed people from the work-force.
The primary tool of increasing prosperity is the expansion of asset bubbles that supposedly boost the wealth effect, an internalized belief that one is wealthier. This internal belief is presumed to encourage more borrowing and spending which is then presumed to lift all boats in the economy.
This is of course all artifice: the elaborately choreographed applications to the Ivy League, the massaged statistics designed to manage our perceptions of reality rather than address reality itself, and the selling offree money for financiers as a policy that magically helps everyone, even those far from the money spigots of the Federal Reserve.
How did we arrive at a systemic dependence on contrivance and artifice to manage problems? We have no choice. Why do we have no choice?
Because any attempt to actually fix dysfunctional systems necessarily steps on the toes of deeply entrenched vested interests that profit from the dysfunctional Status Quo— interests who will devote every resource in their command to water down, co-opt, divert or defeat any reforms that lessen their share of the national income or their political power.
As a result, true reform of hopelessly dysfunctional systems is politically impossible. Since politicians are elected to give everyone more of what they want, politicos have no choice to but to game the dysfunctional systems via perception management and statistical sleight of hand to make them appear to give everyone more of what they want. Meanwhile, the politicos collect personal fortunes from the Elites and insiders benefiting from the dysfunctional Status Quo.
Artifice and perception management appear to be win-win: everybody seems to win if they see dysfunction as not just “the way the world works,” but as a positive approach that benefits everyone in some fashion.
There’s only one small problem with relying on artifice: we haven’t actually fixed what’s broken in the real world, and those dysfunctions continue to fester beneath the glossy surface of gamed statistics and happy stories we tell ourselves about how well everything is working.
At some point–the actual date is unpredictable, but 2021-2025 is as good a guess as any–the dysfunctional systems will break down and no amount of artifice, bogus statistics or perception management will mask the rot.
Once reality crashes through the thick constructs of artifice, faith in the Status Quo will be lost. At that fragile juncture of destiny, the opportunity to fix what is broken will finally emerge.
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Get a Job, Build a Real Career and Defy a Bewildering Economy,
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