The three branches of USG

You’ve undoubtedly heard that the US government (USG) has three branches. You’ve probably also heard that they are the executive branch, the legislative branch and the judicial branch.

It’s true that USG has three branches, but they’re not executive, legislative and judicial. At some point in the distant past, executive, legislative and judicial functions may have been meaningful, distinct and in control, but no longer.

Just for fun, let’s assume that USG still has three branches. What are they and how did they replace the old ones?

Branch 1: The Cathedral or Why John Roberts is a Giant Vagina

The Cathedral is Moldbug’s term for the combined workings of the media, universities and certain parts of USG.

Let’s try to understand the way the Cathedral works through the recent Supreme Court decision on healthcare.

Everyone knew that Obamacare was headed to the Supreme Court. Everyone knew the issues involved. As best I can tell, no one predicted the actual outcome of the case. The text of the Constitution and the various amendments is not that long and it’s been around for a while now. The issues are litigated constantly. There are thousands of law professors, court commentators and lawyers. In a functioning legal system, the result should have been quite predictable. In a moderately broken legal system, many of these interest parties should have predicted the correct outcome by mere chance. Only in a legal system that is totally FUBAR would the result be unpredictable to everyone.

It appears that 5 of the judges initially believed the healthcare law was unconstitutional as going beyond the power given (by “The People”) to Congress in the Commerce Clause. However, through some force, Judge Roberts’ mind was changed (pardon the passive for now) and an entirely unpredictable and new interpretation of the law came into being even though it was (of course) hidden in the Constitution and amendments for quite some time.

What was this force that changed Roberts mind? It appears that Roberts’ changed his mind because the Cathedral was able to exert so much pressure on him that he changed his view. Those of us on the reactionary side should thank Roberts for changing his mind in such an absurd and transparent way. The complete charade that is the modern legal system is undeniable.

In one of those links, Professor Somin notes: “it is very sad that the highest-ranking judge in the land valued reputation more than his duty to enforce the Constitution. If fear of criticism by hostile politicians and pundits can deflect the Chief Justice from doing his duty, that does not bode well for the future.”

Indeed, it’s more than sad. Criticism from hostile pundits, politicians, and law professors is effectively the force that determines what is legal and what is not. Is anything checking the power of this force? Who controls this force? To whom is it accountable? No one will ask these if we pretend the men in robes are still actually in control.

Branch 2: The Bureaucracy or Who Actually Governs

I’ve written on this topic at length, but here’s a short summary.

Many people, your humble blogger included, are permanent members of USG. Our jobs include functions typically considered to be executive, legislative and judicial. New “governments” are elected and we keep our jobs. We massively outnumber the temporary government (i.e. elected and appointed officials) and we’re effectively immune from their whims (thankfully).

Let’s again look at the healthcare bill. Where did it come from? At some point, someone must have sat down in front of a blank Word document and starting typing some stuff that turned into (at least a section of) the healthcare law. Who was this person? How did he or she get to such a powerful position? As best I can tell, no one actually knows. Behold, the genius of modern USG.

The healthcare law has been declared Constitutional, but it’s also worth remembering that we don’t really know what’s in it yet. This is, of course, true for all large pieces of legislation (it’s a bit scary that the good professor’s understanding of American government is stuck sometime in 19th Century – or earlier). Who will decide what’s really in the law?

Once the law is actually put in place, and conflicts arise, who will resolve these conflicts?

The last three paragraphs ended with questions. Here’s another one, what if there is only one answer to all those questions? That is, what if one entity writes laws, decides what the laws say later on, enforces the laws, and interprets the laws after they are implemented. Such an entity would hold all the actual power of government. What if we didn’t even know which people constituted this entity and what if we had no control over this entity? Surely, that couldn’t happen.

If it were to happen, there would be no checks and balances – at least not in the traditional sense of checks and balances that operate across executive, legislative and judicial functions. If this were the case, and if the legal system was not acting as a check on federal power (see Branch 1 above), then we’d have a government of effectively unlimited power (subject only to random Supreme Court decisions that may temporarily limit power in certain areas and not others).

Branch 3: Political Parties or Why Smart People Write Propaganda

Our Constitution, which supposedly describes how our government works, doesn’t mention political parties at all. This is odd, since the defining feature of American politics is that there are two parties and only two parties.

When you first come to DC, this is the first thing you learn. Again, there are two parties and only two parties. You have to pick one. You can get by in the bureaucracy for a while without picking one (everyone will assume you’re a Democrat), but most “non-governmental” positions require you to pick sides right away (unofficially, of course). Law firms in DC are generally allied with a party. Reporters obviously are. Etc.

You can say you are a Democrat, or you can say Progressive, Liberal, Socialist, Centrist or a few other labels, but in DC, these all mean Democrat. Anything else means Republican. It’s almost always safe to substitute “Democrat” for “Independent” which is the generic third party term used by lobbyists, for example.

(This seems to be a lesson that libertarians stubbornly refuse to learn. They say they’re libertarian as if that means something different than Republican – which it certainly doesn’t to anyone that matters in DC. This lesson was a difficult for your humble blogger to learn when he moved to DC and considered himself a libertarian. Some of the mainstream libertarians that refer to themselves as “liberaltarians” or some such nonsense seem to have internalized this lesson without really learning it. What they want is to be considered Democrats in DC – like all the cool kids – while not being forced to identify as Democrats outside of DC. Is it possible to sell out but not sell out? Good luck with that. Anyway . . .)

The theory of checks and balances requires, for example, that the legislature checks the power of the Executive, etc. In reality, members of the legislative branch are more loyal to their party than they are to their branch. The self-limiting theory of government only works if a Congressman is more concerned with the power of Congress than with the electoral success of his party. Which do you think he’s more concerned with?

It’s easy to see that people in DC who exercise power are rabid supporters of their party above all else. Every time a new party claims the Presidency, for example, members of his party change their mind about all sorts of things (e.g. executive power). This is an odd phenomenon that I still find off-putting and confusing.

Pundits write articles that are perpetually available on the internet. Depending on which party is in power, all their arguments change. Everyone pretends not to notice that pundits’ opinions change every four years. This sort of writing is – of course! – propaganda. The average pundit is then best understood as a propagandist for a political party.

The healthcare law is another good example of this. The Heritage Foundation originally invented the idea of the individual mandate for healthcare.

Republicans duly supported the requirement while Democrats opposed it. Later things changed and everyone changed their minds.

I rather enjoy reading Democratic propagandists, like Matthew Yglesias, more than Republican ones. Frankly, the Democratic propagandists are much better at writing propaganda.

Anyway, if you’re considering a career in journalism, I bet you could rise to the top of your field quickly if you understand that you’re writing propaganda. You’d have to be careful, of course, to hide the fact that you’re writing propaganda, but be sure to write propaganda nonetheless.

Concluding Remarks

These branches interact in ways that effectively guarantee that the Republican Party loses. The Cathedral is a monolithically Democratic institution. The permanent government is at least 95% Democratic.

Again, the effect of this can be seen in the healthcare law. Judge Roberts was more swayed by the Cathedral than by his Republican allegiance. He thereby upheld a law that was written by and gives tremendous power to the bureaucracy. Even if party loyalty had won out in this case, the permanent government isn’t going anywhere. They’d take over healthcare sooner or later.

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70 Responses to The three branches of USG

  1. James_G says:

    Great analysis!

    What punishment could Senator Leahy and the Cathedral have enacted, had Chief Justice Roberts not been swayed? Or was the pressure just of moral nature, or a temptation?

  2. spandrell says:

    Don’t the Republicans have certain strongholds inside the bureaucracy? The Pentagon at least.

    If the Republicans are just there for show, perhaps the Chinese must learn and consolidate all their fake opposition in one stronger party for people to rally around.

    • Handle says:

      The news of the “Republican” nature of the Pentagon is both greatly exaggerated and, at any rate, declining. The press has a tremendous capacity to utterly fabricate false “scandals” which the military has neither any real capacity nor competency to combat (well, at least not in the realm of public ideas, if the combat were kinetic then obviously the press would fold in the first half hour, and if it were cyber, it would only take 30 seconds to cut off all their internet connections – imagine!)

      The military guards its reputation closely and is highly sensitive to “bad press” and the political pressures it generates. It also cannot claim any particular “political” position of its own, so in the fight between determined ideological advocate and “neutral”, the advocate will eventually emerge victorious.

      In terms of the way it manages its personnel, and even certain elements of doctrine, I don’t think anyone can point to any dimension where the military has not been flowing, albeit slower than any other government institution, in the direction the left wants it to go. You may say things about detention facilities and drone-warfare Paksassinations, but those have proven to be equally well-utilized by administrations of both colors, and objections are mostly just a pretentious show.

      • Vladimir says:

        Plus, it seems to me that any conspicuous right-wing bastion in the military (or any other part of the government) is an easy target for legal attack on the basis of diversity/civil rights. The precedent for this has been firmly established at least as far back as the VMI case two decades ago.

        Ultimately, you can’t have real right-wingers running things if any position of authority has diversity enforcement in its job description, while the external chief diversity enforcers have unlimited ability to make your life miserable if they detect a lack of enthusiasm for it. The system will inevitably select for people who have internalized the liberal ideology, which is pretty much the only way to navigate this system safely. (As an especially clear example, the aftermath of the Fort Hood shooting and the reactions of the U.S. military leadership have shown pretty clearly that they have indeed internalized the ideology quite thoroughly.)

    • Foseti says:

      Republicans are indeed much more common in the Pentagon.

      Nevertheless, the Republican parts of the permanent government tend to be more deferential to the temporary government (they are, after all, patriotic) and they’re much less Republican (I doubt the Pentagon is any more than 60-65% Republican) than other parts of the government are Democratic (~95% Democratic).

  3. Nick B Steves says:

    So let’s say, for example, Ron Paul was (in some purely hypothetical universe) elected president… what would it take for him to clean out the permanent government? Assume he has no interest in being reelected (e.g., too old); assume he doesn’t care how many kittens die in the fire; assume that if congress sends him a budget that’s more than he wants to spend, that he’ll just friggin’ not spend it; assume there are several cabinet level posts that he would not fill, and entire departments to whom he’ll give cushy retirement benefits. Would he be shot by forces of the permanent government? Could he count on the US Armed Forces and Secret Service to back him up? Could he actually send away large chunks of the permanent government? How much blood would actually need to be spilled in order to fix this…

    • Foseti says:

      I don’t know the answers to these questions. I don’t think Paul could really do all that much.

      I don’t believe he could start firing bureaucrats. As to political appointments . . . I would, frankly, be quite content if he didn’t appoint anyone to head my agency. When we have no appointed head, we still do the same work, we just don’t have to deal with the extra political BS.

      I doubt the military would turn on him, it’s just not really clear to me what a President really does at this point, other than run for office and help his party win elections. He could work around the margins, but to do the things he’d want to do would effectively require totally replacing the government we’ve had for at least the last 80 years.

      • Handle says:

        We’ve had some success with privatization in the past. Maybe we could get ourselves a charter government, and he could outsource governing to corporations with proven, successful track-records, like Singapore, or Switzerland.

      • asdf says:

        Handle,

        In my experience privatization is just a code word for kickbacks. It’s an easier way to loot the public treasury.

      • Money’s still money, ain’t it? If RP say… were to defund say… department of education, or energy, or HUD, wouldn’t that eventually cause those departments to more or less close down? I’m not saying there isn’t inertia, but only that inertia can only take you so far, and if a president decided that money was not going to flow (and dared an hysterical congress to make him do it)… wouldn’t it all grind to a halt?

      • josh says:

        He’d be impeached for racism or something.

      • sardonic_sob says:

        The President’s function as an actual element of our system of governance is to issue executive orders which undo any legislation of which the Cathedral does not approve which somehow gets past its control mechanisms and makes it into law.

    • asdf says:

      Time.

      I can’t stress enough how slow things happen in government. Godawfully slow. It’s not uncommon to wait over six months for a simple requisition to get processed. Firing someone could take years.

      So in terms of changing things I think you need to consider the beauracracies greatest ally, stalling for time. Ron Paul would only have a four year term. Stalling four years on any real changes would be child’s play.

      That said I wouldn’t focus on this too much. The beauracrats are usually much more competent then the politicians. You don’t want them making decisions. The problem is that various forces push most beauracrats to believe certain things and act certain ways. I believe this largely happens to them before they are adults via education, media, and other pressures. If you can’t solve that process there really is no way to fix the problem. Get rid of one batch and the next will be the same.

      Rather then viewing DC as a dark heart in a pure nation, I see it as the dark heart at the center of an already rotting nation. It becomes a feedback loop between the two. DC could not be the way it is if there weren’t reinforcing trends outside of DC pushing it in that direction.

      That’s the problem with declining empires. Even if you get a good emperor he can only clean things up for awhile. The rot is still there when he’s gone.

  4. B D says:

    Do you notice that everyone seems to want to have some largely mythical creature – like Ron Paul for instance – gallop in to save them, America, our Liberties and Civilization?

    Your arms broken, dears?

  5. PA says:

    I don’t really mind the Cathedral or the 80-year-old political arrangements.There will always be an elite, and we may as well have our own. The problem is not them, but their current fashions with regards to race mostly.

  6. Brent says:

    It’s a foolish and rotten elite, though. Depressing. If only we had some hardy Saxons or Normans ready to invade.

    • AC says:

      Waiting for China seems to be the best option…not for “invasion” but for demonstrating a superior alternative.

  7. samsonsjawbone says:

    Indeed, it’s more than sad. Criticism from hostile pundits, politicians, and law professors is effectively the force that determines what is legal and what is not. Is anything checking the power of this force? Who controls this force? To whom is it accountable? No one will ask these if we pretend the men in robes are still actually in control.

    It seems as though the best way for most people to make political change is to lobby the lobby groups, who seem to have more power than elected officials.

    • Vladimir says:

      You can do that with the ordinary lobbying groups representing venal interests and unofficial groups. But these are pitiful and unimportant compared to the official Cathedral organs through which the government lobbies itself under a pretense of enlightened expert guidance. And you can’t influence these to any significant degree as an outsider, no matter how rich you are.

  8. idealart says:

    I agree with most of the ideas expressed here but I’m not so sure the term Cathedral is a good name for them. Cathedral implies a steadfast belief in an eternal and unchanging god and that the universe and human life make sense. This is the exact opposite of modern liberalism. I prefer the term “entertainment software.”

    Entertainment software takes into account the utter emptiness at the center of modern life. Spiritual life which sustained humanity for thousands of years has receded to the sidelines and so has a sense of grandeur (also wrongly implied in the term Cathedral). Cathedrals soared to the heavens in aspiration towards the mystery of creation. Heroic materialism of New York and the skyscraper only refer to the acquisition of things and the infinite complications of promiscuous sex.

    Entertainment software also implies the manipulation of human beings by clever men in the absence of free will. And that external contingencies constantly influence and alter their programs.

    So, the term “cathedral” is very misleading and confusing. Only someone with a deep hatred of Christianity could come up with it as a description of the modern power structure, which, oddly enough, also shares the same unquenchable fear and loathing towards what used to be called Christendom.

    • Foseti says:

      A religious term is necessary though. It has to be clear that it’s a continuation of hyper-Protestantism. There’s a nice, straight line from the Puritans to the modern day Cathedral.

      • Naw… it’s the Joos. </sarc>

      • idealart says:

        Thanks for responding. I’ve seen this line of thinking where modern liberalism is felt to begin with Christianity or Puritanism. There are problems in my view:

        For one thing Greece, Italy, Spain, Germany, France, etc. had no Puritans. How could these countries produce modern liberalism?

      • Foseti says:

        The short is that they’re basically satellites of the US.

        Think of places that were hostile to liberalism. The American South, Austria, Germany, Japan, south Africa. They have a tendency to . . . shall we say . . . have their minds’ changed for them.

      • More Anon says:

        idealart,

        One favored explanation in these parts is that the “Cathedral” conquered Europe during WWII and installed its clients and partisans there. Thus the post-Puritan Harvard liberal consensus heavily contributed to the liberal European consensus.

        See

        http://unqualified-reservations.blogspot.com/2007/08/secret-of-anti-americanism.html

      • fnn says:

        Straight line? Puritans surrendered to the South on negro civil rights in 1876. Little progress on race from that point until after WWII. Also see Lothrop Stoddard and Madison Grant in the 1920’s. Both were major public figures.

        And how common were Yankees like Kingman Brewster Sr.? :

        http://racehist.blogspot.com/2009/08/paul-gottfried-hates-wasp-people.html

        [. . .] Brewster [Sr.], described by one acquaintance as “a crustacean McKinleyite Republican,” entertained many members of Congress at his Catoctin retreat. [. . .] Brewster’s politics, however, were too extreme to be openly expressed in the mainstream GOP. His anti-Communism was so rabid and sweeping that his son remembered that “if I were considerate enough to visit him in Washington with a friend whose parents were somehow associated with the Roosevelt administration, it was natural that he should refer quite regularly to my ‘Communist friends.'” [. . .] Brewster’s political opinions and his business contacts with Germany led the FBI to start a file on him. While various information testified that he admired the Nazi system and claimed to have met personally with Hitler on visits to Germany, the FBI’s investigation revealed little aside from the fact that “BREWSTER possessed a great hatred for Jews and regarded them with suspicion at all times.”

        Brewster’s views on race and religion were perhaps most fully expressed in the works of his good friend the eugenicist Lothrop Stoddard, who believed that Anglo-Saxon civilization and America’s ancestral purity were under threat from inferior races. Stoddard was, like Brewster, a Harvard Law School graduate and sometime resident of Brookline, Massachusetts. (Brookline was, not coincidentally, the location of the nation’s first country club.) Stoddard’s works included evocative titles such as The Rising Tide of Color Against White World Supremacy and The Revolt Against Civilization: The Menace of the Under-Man.

        American society, according to Brewster and Stoddard, was a racial aristocracy under threat [. . .] Many upper-class East Coast gentlemen shared the view that snobbery and racial exclusion were necessary to preserve their elite culture, even if they stopped short of Stoddard’s conclusion that “race cleansing is the obvious starting-point for race betterment.” Although Brewster’s virulent racial opinions were welcome in polite society, most of his peers expressed themselves in more decorous terms. [. . .]

        Kingman Sr.s paranoid racism, extreme anticommunism, and unbridled hatred of Franklin Roosevelt reflected an entire class’s inability to cope with drastic change.

      • Nick B Steves says:

        No one said the Puritans haven’t evolved. On the contrary, they evolve better than anyone else… THAT’S WHY they’re in charge.

      • Foseti says:

        Indeed. Perhaps it would help if I clarified that Puritanical opinion is (IMHO) identical to the opinion of the faculty of Harvard.

        No doubt, this opinion has changed a lot over time. Nevertheless, it’s basically always been on top and always been expanding its influence.

    • asdf says:

      It’s quite the opposite really. The Cathedral is highly religious. I believe this is partially because they have so little of meaning in the world they have built that they need to have spiritual liberal causes (say, gay rights) to crusade for in order to satisfy their own natural religious impulses.

      Understand that the Cathedral commits the most basic of sins, pride. Pride is what drives the cathedrals actions. It is pride that turns the natural impulse for religious action into zealotry and sin.

      • idealart says:

        What is spiritual about gay rights? My Merriam Webster says spiritual is nonmaterial. How is a sexual identity group nonmaterial?

      • josh says:

        equality.

      • idealart says:

        Equality. No, equality is a political and very much an earthly desire. It might be called envy in some circles.

      • asdf says:

        It feels spiritual to these people. That’s all the matters. Remember all that stuff about worshiping idols. There are ways to placate the natural religious need in all of us without being religious. People are very good at tricking themselves.

      • idealart says:

        You are taking a word “cathedral”, “spiritual” or “religious” and twisting any meaning out of it. Look these words up in a dictionary. That is what they mean.

        Moldbug is like a magician using words as magic wands to entrance credulous followers. Talk about pride! Magic is associative not cause and effect. He builds castles in the air that have little to do with the real world and real ideas.

      • josh says:

        Material /= “earthly desire”. “Gay rights” is clearly an appeal to a “higher law” as Lincoln might say. The origin of this law is not made explicit, but it isn’t considered arbitrary, and leftists believe people can be right and wrong with respect to it.

        Obviously, when liberals demand “equality” they are saying that it is “good” for some particular thing to be equal in the particular respect they mean. The claim that “equal” is “good” has nothing to do with materialism unless (even if?) you claim it is an arbitrary personal preference, which liberals do not (at least when they are arguing).

      • idealart says:

        Homosexuals exploit a core belief of liberalism wihich is the endorsement of unrestrained individual autonomy. Unrestrained by traditional morality in this case. They have no interest in paying for the enormous personal and social costs involved, similar to the suicidal tribalism of race and feminist political agitation.

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  10. idealart says:

    I’ve tried slogging through Mouldbug’s Universalism, Progressivism as a Christian Sect but it doesn’t make much sense. He starts out by saying progressivism is a “pure product of science and reason.” But the biggest progressives around were Dadaists and Surrealists. Progressivism isn’t about reason or science. The Marquis de Sade was a “progressive.”

    Also, besides using a Wikipedia article as a reference for universalism Mouldbug never seems to understand that Christians believe in a god and progressives don’t.

    He also doesn’t explain why universalism became popular in the 19th cent. Could it be it was influenced by liberalism? Could it be that liberalism is a politicized form of gnosticsm which predates Christianity? These possibilities are never discussed.

    • PA says:

      Progressivism promotes beauty, order, technology. In contrast, liberals do everything to destroy any those things. Moldbug is wrong about one fundamental thing: Optimates still rule – they just went global. And Brahmins are their sellout-propagandists.

      • idealart says:

        Now I’m really confused. What’s the difference between a progressive and a liberal?

      • Good question. I don’t know what PA is getting here. I’d say that progressive “liberal” propaganda promotes good things and progressive “liberal” behavior destroys them. PA can explain for himself though.

      • PA says:

        I was using “progressive” and “liberal” interchangeably — same thing. My point was that those people are the exact opposite of progressive, because everythign they touch turns to chaos and ugliness rather than into order and beauty (AKA progress), despite the fact that that “progressives” is what they are called.

    • Very interesting. We have Vogelin blaming crypto-gnostics, Moldbug blaming post-Puritans, and various alt-rightists blaming Jews. It seems like the quasi-religious fervor of the racial Marxist left inspires people to assign blame to a regular religious group from history.

      The arguments are interesting to me though I have little opinion on them other than that any of them, read in isolation, is moderately convincing.

      I personally prefer to see modern leftism (racial Marxism) as a pseudo-gnostic, hyper-racialist, syncretic reconciliation between Arminian and Calvinist ideas of free will* and sin. Leftists love nothing more than switching between non-theological Calvinist ideas (as a whitey, you were condemned to hell before you were born and will live your life in racial sin) and non-theological Arminian ideas (i.e., that you can wash yourself free of racial sin as soon as you accept that the god of anti-racism is your personal savior). And back, spontaneously, rapidly, repeatedly.

      So the judgements are mixture of incompatible Prostestant ideas, the theology is non-existent, the propaganda and word-choice are French-rationalist and Freudian, the world-view is Marxian, the thought-patterns are surrealist and existentialist, the fashion and style are Hollywood/rock-and-roll, the talking points are Boasian and Gouldian, and the political strategy is Gramscian.

      Is that about right?

      * One interesting thing about Protestantism is that they wear their free-will disagreements with other Protestants on their sleeve. To this die I have no clue of the Catholic, Orthodox, or Mormon views on free will. The problem here is my laziness, nothing more.

      • idealart says:

        Sounds good to me! P.S. All Christians are supposed to believe in free will or there can’t be any day of judgment, hell or heaven, or pugatory for that matter.

      • idealart says:

        Myself, I don’t think liberals, progressives or whatever they call themselves believe in anything at all. Other than their careers (race is now a career choice), or what’s between their legs. All that fraternité, egalité, liberté and pursuit of happiness stuff they gave up on.

      • I myself have often doubted that Calvinists are really Christians. It seems that they regard Jesus as a designer rather than a savior. Just MHO.

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  12. The chances that a Ron Paul presidency could help, to me, are slight, and not nearly as interesting as the scenario that he wins without much ideological ticket-splitting, i.e., his philosophical allies win Congress.

    It seems like it would take a whole lot less than four years to defund NPR, defund universities that employ racial preferences (or just stop Federal funding for education entirely), and, most importantly, enact the Obvious Middle Course on civil service hiring:
    Abolish the rule of three.
    Replace “meritocratic” resume-comparison “exams” with meritocratic standardized tests not unlike the MCAT, LSAT, and GRE.
    Allow a civil servant to be fired with two signatures on a “Declaration of Insubordination”–one from the immediate supervisor and one from anyone above in the chain-of-command whose appointment has been approved by the Senate.
    Allow a civil servant fired in this way to retake the exam the next time it is offered.

    Result:
    No partisan spoils system.
    Only absolute genius civil servants would dare to disobey political orders, or even drag their feet, in any way the politicals could detect. This would do nothing to stop subtle foot-dragging the politicals are likely to miss, but at least it would be an improvement. (I would also try to increase average time-in-position by politicals by docking their pay sharply if they resign after less than two years in office, but that is a whole ‘nother tangent.)

    Civil service tenure is a matter of statute. Statutes are hard to repeal because Congress is laden with their supporters. Ron Paul lost, and that is final, but it’s hardly interesting to construct only counter-factual scenarios where his enemies win Congress. There are lots of rank-and-file small-L libertarians.

    It’s conceivable, though not plausible, that liberals could vote on marijuana, indefinite detention, military intervention, and PATRIOT, while conservatives vote on taxes, foreign aid, Federal education intervention, and affirmative action. That’s your Paulista landslide right there.

    • Vladimir says:

      What puts this scenario outside the realm of the possible is that nobody can be elected to any relevant position if the media decide to portray him as a creepy extremist. This automatically implies that in order to get elected, you must pass a certain threshold of ideological conformity with the establishment. Even to get to the position where Ron Paul presently is — a hopeless outsider who however still gets some not entirely derisory media coverage — you have to compromise a whole lot. The Ron Paul of 2008-2012 is a very different (and far more PC) persona from the Ron Paul of the old paleo-libertarian times some decades ago — as witnessed by those old newsletters that have been haunting him so badly.

      Also, liberals will never support principled constitutional limitations on the power of the federal government, even when the issue at hand is marijuana or some other lefty cause to which the federal laws are opposed. They are smart enough to understand that their ideological hegemony critically depends on the federal government having all the power necessary to enforce it, and sacrificing an occasional marginal lefty cause is a small price to pay to maintain the absolute extent of this power. (Just remember the left wing of SCOTUS voting unanimously in favor of federal marijuana laws in Raich.)

      • All very true, and I wish this were recognized more. I also wish it were not asserted so often that “Congress can’t do anything about bureaucratic domination”. They’ve chosen not to do it because they are leftist ideologues.

      • Foseti says:

        Congress’ inactivity has nothing to do with leftist ideology. It’s a function of democracy. If you’re democratically elected and you can buy off a few votes here and there and avoid having to take responsibility for any decisions, you do it (regardless of your ideology). If you understand a congressman’s job as getting re-elected, they’re remarkably good at their job. It’s almost like they know what they’re doing!!

        Conservatives desperately need to recognize this. Electing the “right” people (pun intended) won’t make any difference.

      • If the right people controlled Congress, they’d keep funding NPR and protecting the tenure of mostly-leftist civil servants? And it wouldn’t be because they’re fake rightists who are leftists deep down? And NPR and federally-funded schools would keep teaching that the right people are evil and wicked…?

        I understand that there is definite self-defeating behavior on the part of RINOs and centrists and liberaltarians and all that. It may be based on self-defeating and/or self-loathing thought patterns. It’s harder for me to accept that it exists much among Paulists, paleo-whatevers, traditionalists, etc. I’m not trying to “no true Scotsmen” here, I’m just saying, surely someone who is hated by NPR is rational enough to hate back.

        Foreign aid is a different story. It hurts the US taxpayer very little, and mainly hurts the people in the target countries. I’m just wondering why self-interest has so little traction.

        You’re the one with the experience on the inside. I had a brief internship with the General Accounting Office (dating myself there), but beyond that my firsthand experience is nil. I’ll agree that democracy is the heart of the problem but I can’t build an understanding of the problem without recourse to leftist ideology.

      • Foseti says:

        The problem with this idea is that there’s only one in all of the temporary government (the jury’s still out on the junior Paul). His particular case doesn’t seem replicable for other house districts let alone for state-level or national-level elections. It also requires the sort of person that’s: 1) very hard to come by and 2) very unlikely to seek elected office.

        Even if I were to grant that an Congress full of Ron Paul’s would do everything you want, you still have to find 434 more House Reps, 100 more Senators and people to appoint to run all the agencies.

        Meanwhile, all the force of the press and the existing government and the university system will oppose you.

  13. Vladimir says:

    Olave —

    That’s one way of putting it, but don’t forget that causation runs in both directions. The leftist ideologues in the media, working in alliance with those from the permanent government, have the power to destroy reputations and careers of politicians, and thus effectively get to screen and veto prospective politicians.

    Foseti —

    Without the fear of censure from the leftist media establishment, politicians running on right-wing populist platforms would probably outcompete the currently dominant sort you describe. (What would be the ultimate outcome of that is another question, of course.) The current politicians indeed know what they’re doing, but an important element of that knowledge are the historical lessons of the fate of right-wing populist politicians who provoked serious hostility from the media and the permanent government (like Joe McCarthy).

    • spandrell says:

      Well if the media is the enforcer of the creed, i.e. the inquisition, it does give some weight to the jewish conspiracy theory.

      • Vladimir says:

        How exactly? I don’t think there’s anything like a real conspiracy going on, either in the media or elsewhere. The coordination happens in decentralised and spontaneous ways, with ideological views naturally flowing down the status hierarchy, and conformity at each level enforced by the usual human grouping mechanisms. Conspiracies exist only insofar as you could say that the whole word is run by conspiracies. (In any business, the insiders will be speaking in very different ways to the outsiders and to each other behind closed doors. Similarly, high-status leftists are often dishonest about how extreme they really are when speaking in public, and take care not to talk about their aims that are still too far outside the current Overton window, except among themselves.)

        That said, I really don’t see anything except the ideology of the media preventing a surge of right-wing populism. It’s an immensely powerful platform for attracting votes if you can pull it off without the media going into hate mode against you. (Of course, having right-wing populists in charge would lead to problems of its own.)

    • spandrell says:

      Seen as a whole, the Jewish component of the Cathedral isn’t that big, but if one sees only the media, it’s really overwhelming, at least in the US.
      If they decide the bounds of public discourse and have the power of ostracising the enemies, as Sailer believes, well then they’re arguably in charge, and everything else is accessory.

      • Vladimir says:

        Are they really overrepresented in the media much more than in academia, law, business in general, etc.?

        In any case, it doesn’t seem to me that there is a “Jewish component” that operates as a separate and internally coherent subset of the Cathedral. The influence of individual Jews, given their overrepresentation, certainly adds up to a significant factor, and it’s clear that, with the peculiar background and outlook they’ve brought, they have contributed some elements of the Universalist canon that would otherwise be absent or at least nowhere as prominent. But I don’t see any indication that they’re acting in concert beyond the Cathedral’s regular social networks and mechanisms of ideological discipline.

      • James_G says:

        Spandrell, Ashkenazim have unusually high intelligence. High intelligence in humans is correlated with a more “leftist” cognitive style, i.e.relatively great responsiveness to new information, and egalitarianism.

        Go figure. No conspiracy theory required, no need to distinguish substantively between Ashkenazi Jews and high-IQ Europeans as vessels of Universalism.

  14. spandrell says:

    I don’t want to hijack the thread to talk about joos, but please, let’s tone down the reductionism. If it were all exclusively about IQ we wouldn’t be where we are. The ordeal of civility, anyone?

    Hey, if leftism is an epiphenomenon of high IQ, dysgenics is to be celebrated, huh? Who knew, I feel smarter already. Oh wait.

    • James_G says:

      (You mean reductivism.)

      Phenomenon to be explained: Ashkenazim are overrepresented in leftist movements.

      James’s hypothesis: Ashkenazim are known to be unusually intelligent. Intelligent humans are thought to be relatively biased towards egalitarianism and openness.

      Therefore, one should expect Ashkenazim to be overrepresented in intellectual endeavours, and to be particularly overrepresented in leftist movements.

      Controlling for IQ, Ashkenazim are still a little more likely than smart Europeans to be leftist-Idealists due to cultural factors, e.g. because a rightist-Idealist regime murdered 6 million of them recently.

      Spandrell’s hypothesis: Ashkenazim are overrepresented in leftist movements because of a conspiracy theory.

      Both are consistent with the facts of Jewish overrepresentation, but my hypothesis is preferred by Occam’s razor. Conspiracy theories have a lot of burdensome details. And my hypothesis doesn’t preclude the general explanatory importance of things other than neuroscience – it just happens to be parsimonious in this particular case.

      • Foseti says:

        That’s a good summary of the issue. As I’ve said before, I’m in the former camp. I see no reason to believe in a conspiracy.

      • spandrell says:

        I don’t think there’s a conspiracy as in a central council of old smoking men planning ahead how to screw everyone else.

        But please, read the Ordeal of Civility. Lesswrong is cool but one has to read some other stuff once in a while.

        Irish aren’t unusually intelligent and they also tend leftist. Outsider groups will want to do things that weaken the majority. Conscious and unconsciously.

        PS: http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?search=reductivism&title=Special%3ASearch

      • James_G says:

        >I don’t think there’s a conspiracy as in a central council of old smoking men planning ahead how to screw everyone else.

        Well, that’s pretty much what “conspiracy theory” denotes.

        So you must agree with Vladimir: “I don’t see any indication that they’re acting in concert beyond the Cathedral’s regular social networks and mechanisms of ideological discipline.”

        >Irish aren’t unusually intelligent and they also tend leftist. Outsider groups will want to do things that weaken the majority. Conscious and unconsciously.

        True. Being an ethnic minority is a cultural factor influencing Jewish political beliefs. This doesn’t imply a Jewish conspiracy theory.

      • josh says:

        True fact: all politics is ethnic. Ethnicity is more or less a community by virtue of its essential relationship to kinship and procreation. Since its impossible to separate kinship and courtship from other aspects of our lives, just about any social network that matters to people will be ethnic. When this is not the case, the ethnicity ceases to be an ethnicity at all. So long as Jews remain an ethnic group they will be over-represented (even relative to their IQs) in whatever it is they pursue simply due to the fact that they will cohere as a group (though at this point, Jews are probably bust understood as a less coherent subgroup of a larger “Brahmin” ethnicity which is itself quite coherent. No Gentile brahmin family would say beans about there daughter bringing home a Brahmin Jew, yet there would be some amount of bean-saying in the converse situation). Coherence means nepotism. There is ~100% Brahmin nepotism in the highest places, and a substantial amount of Jewish-Brahmin nepotism, though not Jewish qua Jewish in most cases, just who-knows-who (though as I have a Jewish sounding name, I could tell you a couple of strange stories).

  15. [...] retains a legacy of constitutionalism. Pedantic minds must also grapple with new political science. But Nicola Green illuminates a third facet, which is unrelated to anything so tedious as policy or [...]

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