On the Great Reset and the Hopelessly Complex Self-Propagating Cancerous Institutions Which Govern Us
Thoughts prompted by my recent epistolary debate with Daniel Miller in im1776
A few weeks ago, the internet magazine im1776 ran a dialog between Daniel Miller, their literary editor, and myself, on whether the various catastrophes of the Corona pandemic are better explained by elite conspiracy or systemic factors.
My position on this question is surely familiar to all my readers by now:
I find many conspiracy theories metaphorically accurate and enjoyable, even if I’m not persuaded, but I’ve counter-signaled the Great Reset approach because I think it makes a critical error. I work with a quasi-Burnhamian model of Western liberal democratic government. Crudely speaking, you have a political and economic elite at the top who struggle to set policy and to govern, but in general, their plans can only be implemented by the vast institutional apparatus beneath them. States act via their institutions. Policies that cannot properly engage the bureaucratic machinery may never be realized; in extreme cases, the bureaucrats can even nullify programs they don’t like. To implement policies, elites are most often reduced to indirect actions, i.e. efforts to shape the bureaucracy itself. Theories in the Great Reset genre imagine that the elite have seized control of the world under the pretense of Corona, and are somehow getting the bureaucratic machinery to dance to their tune. But I think all evidence shows it is the opposite. Corona represents a managerial or a bureaucratic coup, one in which the institutional apparatus, beginning with public health departments and extending outwards, has seized control over vast areas of public policy. The bureaucracy is powerful, and for the most part the elites have played along, although now and again they’ve tried to retake the reins. Schwab’s book, The Great Reset, was very much an attempt to pivot back towards elite-supported climate policies, for example.
Miller, for his part, offered counterpoints along these lines:
The distinction between the elites and the managers, and the relationship between them, is the key political question of our era. To help frame this question we can propose two different extremes which both must be wrong: one the one hand, the notion that elites have total control; on the other hand, the idea that elites have no control whatsoever. In other words, elites have at least some control. The question is how much.
You correctly point out the existence of a giant bureaucratic machine subject to internal conditions, inertia and frictions that limit the extent to which it can simply be wielded. Nevertheless, this machinery can be directed and influenced. You suggest that the “key western actors” in the project of imposing the lockdowns “generally weren’t the kinds of people you’d identify as ‘elite’. They were rather scientists and bureaucrats.” It seems to me that the term ‘actor’ is well-chosen. In many cases, the pro-lockdown ‘scientists’ given media coverage or algorithmic assistance to advance their agendas were little more than men and women in white coats. Others were fraudsters and charlatans with invented credentials. Almost all of these ‘scientists’ were linked financially to specific transnational bodies including the World Health Organization, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, GAVI, the Rockefeller Foundation, and the World Economic Forum. I think they were wheeled out to supply political cover. They were not the ones calling the shots.
If we are trying to generate a draw of map of global power we can also acknowledge the CCP, the Democratic Party, pharmaceutical companies, intelligence agencies, and various other enterprises. To the extent these bodies, or individuals within these bodies share overlapping interests, they can rapidly consolidate into conspiracies. But they can also plan and execute conspiracies. It seems to me this is what happened here.
Please pay im1776 a visit and read the whole thing. Here I just want to give vent to some broader thoughts on the question, as my evening train winds its way back south.
The urge to find some class of actors behind our formally acknowledged political structures is understandable. One has the impression that the most important things that happen to us—those which influence our day-to-day existence and our future the most—have their origins well beyond the world of traditional democratic politics. This is especially the case with the most vile and destructive policies. Absent mass media campaigns and other chicanery, it is hard to believe that any significant mass of people anywhere would have supported mass immigration, or wind turbines on every ridge, or mass vaccination—or that any reasonable political leader, acting in good faith, would’ve conceived of these crazy ideas in the first place. There is also the increasingly sad state of our politicians, who compare poorly to their predecessors from even twenty years ago. Why would the American Democratic Party field such candidates for office as Joe Biden and John Fetterman, if any of these men were actually supposed to govern anything?
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