Election 2016

"The Surprising Weakness of Invincible Institutions": GOP Indiana Primary Edition

From the Roman Empire to oil-rich Venezuela to Kodak to the GOP, big things go bust all the time. And that's OK.

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Today isn't just the (likely) day that Donald Trump blows Ted Cruz and John Kasich out of the water in the Indiana GOP primary, it's likely the day that marks the modern Republican Party's zenith of power at all levels of government.

Despite holding historically high numbers of seats in Congress, state legislatures, and governors' mansions, it's clear that the Party of Lincoln is undergoing a massive transformation that may or may not actually end it but will definitely give birth to a new set of policies and priorities as different from those of the Goldwater-Reagan era version as that version was to the iteration it replaced. What's the catchphrase in Slaughterhouse Five? "And so it goes…"

In his USA Today column, Glenn Reynolds of Instapundit.com points to an interesting essay by Richard Fernandez in which the author observes what he calls "the surprising weakness of invincible institutions."

Quickmeme.com

From grandiose examples such as the western Roman Empire to less-glittering states (think Puerto Rico, Venezueala, and Illinois, all of which are in various stages of economic collapse), Fernandez notes that all these things fell apart in what seemed to be quick strokes. Look at the Washington DC Metro for another example, he writes, or the fact that, "A study by the Hoover Institution covering 97% of all state and local governments found that politicians have little or no ability to meet their pension promises" (I'd hazard even fewer have any intention of meeting those promises). "Bureaucracies don't even operate in their own sustainable interests," notes Fernandez. He's talking about public or state bureaucracies, but the same is true of private ones, too, as the countless tombstones in the corporate-elephant graveyard of super-dominant companies can attest (A&P! Kodak! AT&T! Sears! Microsoft! Apple! …)

Reynolds notes that the United States is not the Roman Empire and that we are unlikely to experience the same kind of epic fail that ended in the sacking of Rome (whew). As important, he stresses that the breakdown the status quo also often results in better things:

When the Western Roman Empire collapsed, ordinary people were often better off because they were freed from the empire's oppressive taxes and regulations (like the rules that sons of soldiers, civil servants and workers in government factories, among others, must enter the trades of their fathers). Many people in the provinces welcomed the barbarians. The new governments were actually better at what governments are for, as [Joseph A.] Tainter writes: "The smaller Germanic kingdoms that succeeded Roman rule in the West were more successful at resisting foreign incursions (e.g., Huns and Arabs). … The economic prosperity of North Africa actually rose under the Vandals, but declined again under Justinian's reconquest when Imperial taxes were reimposed." Likewise, Venezuelans will probably be better off when they eventually get a new government. They could hardly be worse.

David Deeble

As someone with no particular stake in the continuance of the current iteration of the Republican Party—a group that relentlessly and recklessly pursued truly disastrous actions during the George W. Bush years and the Obama interregnum, and continues to feature two top candidates whose top priority is to forcibly remove 12 million (their count) illegal aliens whose only known crime is coming to the country Trump and Cruz say is an irresistible magnet of greatness and wonder—I view its collapse as likely to be liberating, at least from a libertarian perspective. 

Indeed, the Democratic Party, another hidebound and ancient and seemingly invincible barnacle on the hull of the American ship of state, is undergoing its own slow-motion suicide as it moves one step closer to nominating the least-appealing politician of the past generation. Of course it is: Like the GOP, the interest groups (unions, post-Cold War and post-Iraq military contractors, heavy industry reps, suburban whites, etc.) each of these political coalitions was created to serve either no longer exist or only exist under such different circumstances that alliances created in 1945, 1964, or even 2000 no longer make sense.

Things may well have to get worse before they get better and I'm not exactly a burn-it-down-to-the-ground sort of character, but there are few things less worth doing than eking out another status-quo day knowing you really need fundamental change to move into a better future. A president from a party with which fewer than 30 percent of Americans identify who wins an election with less than 50 percent of the vote will not be much of a threat. But a Trump-Clinton election that is a live version of that South Park episode just may be the start of a newer, better America.

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  1. “big things go bust all the time”

    That’s that the proverbial “she” said.

    1. Mae West doctrine.

      1. Mae West was protesting Hitler’s National Socialism when the majority were proclaiming him Germany’s Jesus Christ.

  2. Well, that’s… optimistic.

  3. …likely the day that marks the modern Republican Party’s zenith of power at all levels of government.

    Who knows? If the DNC was run by sane people I might agree.

    1. But would you be ok with it?

    2. burn-it-down-to-the-ground

  4. there are few things less worth doing than eking out another status-quo day knowing you really need fundamental change to move into a better future.

    That’s why Hillary is going to “build on” what Obama hath wrought.

  5. As someone with no particular stake in the continuance of the current iteration of the Republican Party?a group that relentlessly and recklessly pursued truly disastrous actions during the George W. Bush years and the Obama interregnum, and continues to feature two top candidates whose top priority is to forcibly remove 12 million (their count) illegal aliens whose only known crime is coming to the country Trump and Cruz say is an irresistible magnet of greatness and wonder?I view its collapse as likely to be liberating, at least from a libertarian perspective.

    There’s got to be a more concise way of saying all this, like two words at most.

    1. “Fuck ’em”?

    2. “Let’s drink”?

      1. Too long.

        “Drink!”

    3. “Hillary 2016”

    4. “Open Borders”!

    5. “Jesus wept.”

    6. burn-it-down-to-the-ground

      One compound word.

  6. but will definitely give birth to a new set of policies and priorities as different from those of the Goldwater-Reagan era version…

    Huh?

    1. Boxing up Goldwater, Nixon, Ford, and Reagan all together is . . . counterintuitive.

  7. I believe the reports of the GOP’s imminent death are greatly exaggerated. The Republicans survived the “Bull Moose” and I predict they’ll survive the “Bull Shit”.

    1. Left liberals have been telling themselves this my entire lifetime, going back to at least Watergate.

    2. He said “current iteration” of the Republican Party. If Trump represents the future of the GOP, it’s going to be pretty indistinguishable from the Tip O’Neill Democrat Party. Just win, baby. That’s what Trump is explicitly selling – McCain and Romney’s big sin wasn’t that they were unprincipled RINO’s, it’s that they lost, they sold their souls and got nothing for it. Trump promises the GOP can win – by becoming Democrats as the Democrats splinter into their inevitable little identity-politics minority groups and turn to socialism because brute force is the only way a minority can rule. That “Goldwater/Reagan” GOP shit is largely mythical, there never was anything more than a large lip-service movement toward smaller government – hell, Carter deregulated both the airlines and the trucking industry and what Republican has done more than that? – so I’m not so sure that Trump isn’t the perfect GOP establishment candidate. The GOP got where they are by attacking the rot in the D party while doing the exact same thing as them, Trump is attacking the rot in the R party while doing the exact same thing as them. It’s all a con job. Promise change and deliver the same old shit. And the rubes keep falling for it.

      1. In all fairness, if you don’t win elections, you don’t do much governing or even government shrinking. Libertarians will have noticed this.

        1. This. And the fact that pro-liberty, small government policies don’t win tells you everything you need to know about the mindset of the average voter. We’re pretty much fucked. Nothing to do bu stockpile weapons, ammo, and booze and wait for the collapse to come.

          1. Why? Because people are stupid.
            People in huge groups are hugely stupid.
            Where is a biblical flood when you need one?
            Burn it to the ground and start over.

    3. They survived the scandals blamed on Harding, the depression blamed on Hoover, Watergate and escalation of the VN War with Nixon, and even the bat-shit-insanity of the neo-cons having free rein during the Bush II Administration.

      The two major American political parties are extraordinarily resilient organizations. One reason for this is that the two major political parties are similarly corrupt and incompetent to govern, but have the wherewithal to exclude effective competition by third parties.

    4. The Bull Moose bellowed loudest for the Manifesto Plank 2 progressive income tax.

  8. …likely the day that marks the modern Republican Party’s zenith of power at all levels of government.

    Yeah, partly right, but mostly bullshit.

    That the electoral college makes it increasingly hard for them to win the Presidency doesn’t mean that they’ll start losing legislative positions over the long term. That said, given the way that the GOP is run-ruling Democrats all over the place other than the White House, it’s not unreasonable to expect some pulling back from the high-water mark at some point.

    1. That the electoral college makes it increasingly hard for them to win the Presidency doesn’t mean that they’ll start losing legislative positions over the long term.

      Unfortunately the increasing imperial-ness of the presidency makes legislators increasingly irrelevant. About the only they can do at this point is block the worst of a Democrap president’s SCOTUS nominations, but they’ll let enough through that it won’t matter in the end.

      1. The legislators are irrelevant only to the extent they want to be. They’ve been informally sliding toward parliamentary governance, looking for patronage from the administration and hence willingly deferring to it in terms of power and responsibility. So, for instance, administering the ACA in a way contrary to statute but in a way both the supporters & opponents of Obamacare in Congress have been comfortable with.

        Look at the effective federalism as concerns cannabis. Neither the administration nor Congress want responsibility (although they both have it) for changing its legal status at the federal level, so they just look the other way.

        Anyway, if they want to assert their authority over issues, they will. Remember that SCOTUS can’t legislate, they can only take cases brought to them. They can’t rule unconstitutional statutes that don’t exist, or administrative actions that aren’t taken.

  9. I find the comparison to Rome really, really dumb. It’s one political party we’re talking about here (the Dems aren’t going to implode, regardless of what Bernie Sanders does. They’ll all fall in line behind the closest thing they can find to a Socialist). The US has been and will continue to be in slow decline to more government/socialism, with the usual caveats of technology and hope for educating people about freedom. But, losing the GOP will not bring about the collapse of the government. It’s merely a short-term boost to Democrats until a new GOP is formed (likely with even more stupidity, if the support for Trump is any indication).

    I guess I’m not sure I see the hope, nor do I see Rome.

    1. “The GOP” will survive, if you accept that it’s just a name and even when they become socialists and deny every single principle the GOP currently espouses they’ll still call it the GOP.

      It’s kind of like the metaphor of taking a ship and replacing it plank by plank – once you’ve replaced all the planks, is it still the same ship? I think there’s a name for that metaphor but I forget right offhand what they call it.

    2. Never fear. There is a diff. eq. for calculating market share trends. The inputs are current share and rate of change. If the rate of change is negative, as for God’s Own Prohibitionists after the asset-forfeiture-looting-cum-subprime crash, the share collapses; if positive, like the LP vote tallies rolling in, the share expands. The Prohibition and Income tax Amendments were foisted on These States by parties that typically got less than 2% of the vote. We are now in a position to repeal those disastrous mistakes and push for an Atlas Shrugged Amendment. The tipping point is here, the bandwagon is accelerating and Americans are realizing that the initiation of force is a good way to get killed, maimed or enslaved. The only thing that can ruin us now are dogmatic rats swimming away from the wallowing hulks, looking to spread their disease in a Big Tent and again become the unproductive hands that Adam Smith identified as the Ruin of Nations.

  10. The End of Power: From Boardrooms to Battlefields and Churches to States, Why Being In Charge Isn’t What It Used to Be

  11. Unlike Nick, I am a burn it to the ground kind of guy. Clark from Popehat got it right in 2013: Burn the Fucking System to the Ground

    The system is not fixable because it is not broken. It is working, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, to give the insiders their royal prerogatives, and to shove the regulations, the laws, and the debt up the asses of everyone else.

    1. burn-it-down-to-the-ground

    2. I’m coming around more and more to the “burn it to the ground” point of view. This shitshow can’t be saved at this point. The Democrap Party will soon be a socialist party, while the Republicunt Party will be a mercantilist, fascist, nationalist party. Neither one is any good from a libertarian perspective.

      So, yeah, fuck it: burn it all down.

      1. The longer it takes a leveraged system to fail, the more damage it does on the way down.

        The faster we hit the tipping point, the better off we’ll be in the long run.

        I’ve been a Burner for probably about a year or so, now.

      2. Thousands of yrs. from now, in every country, they’ll be saying the same thing. It’s always like this, everywhere, with everyone.

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  13. Both parties hell-bent on nominating essentially unelectable candidates, and yet there is no viable third party candidate either. If ever there was a time….

    Instead we have Bloomberg skulking about with a campaign machine ready to go. And we have a semi-plausible candidate for the Libertarian party – but certainly not charismatic enough to carry the day. The Greens have Jill Stein again. No threat there.

    I can’t even think of a single charismatic leader who would be worthy of the task. Elon Musk certainly would be able to muster a passionate core, but he’s not even eligible, let alone interested.

    Trump has shown us that the people are hungry for a charismatic populist leader. If that idiot can get as much support as he has, a real charismatic leader could clean up. But I can’t think of anyone out there who has the potential.

    1. the people are hungry for a charismatic populist leader. […] a real charismatic leader could clean up.

      I’ll bite: which charismatic populist leader made a net positive contribution to the people’s lives?

      1. Probably Napoleon. Set in train a sequence that made empires obsolete, although it took a century or 2. No matter how much you dislike nationalism, it beat empire.

    2. It seems that the issue at hand is that if all it takes to win is charisma then you’re already fucked Cyto.

    3. Candidates aren’t important to any but morons. Platforms are what the people with money and/or brains go for, and platforms are what we write and other parties ignore at their peril. Incidentally, everything The Don has advocated is in the 50-odd page frothingly angry platform recently published by God’s Own Prohibitionists. All he did was distort and caricature the planks somewhat.

  14. “as the countless tombstones in the corporate-elephant graveyard of super-dominant companies can attest (A&P! Kodak! AT&T! Sears!”

    I would hardly put AT&T in the same category as A&P, Kodak and Sears.

    1. AT&T in its original incarnation actually disappeared in late 2005 when it was bought by one of the former “baby bells” SBC. After the merger the combined companies took the name AT&T.

    2. Seriously. AT&T was broken up to form the “baby bells”. So today what was AT&T is Verizon, AT&T and Alcatel-Lucent (recently acquired by Nokia), among others.

      AT&T turned a profit of over $13 billion last year on about 150 billion in revenue. Verizon made about $4 billion on $130 billion in revenue.

      Hardly a graveyard, IMHO.

      1. I wondered at that inclusion as well.

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  19. Another status-quo day might be preferable considering that equal portions of voters seem to have diametrically opposed views on what type of fundamental change is needed to move into a better future.

  20. Can someone clear something up for me? These theories on why societies and civilizations collapse all seem to have the same thesis, that societies solve the easy problems first, and as they work into the more complex problems, the marginal benefits decrease until the return on investment is negative, and voila — collapse.

    But the few books I have read on this, and the few more reviews and summaries, all seem to conflate government and society. When they say societies solve problems, they really mean governments, and it seems to be such a core assumption that none of them can imagine individual people spontaneously and voluntarily organizing to solve their own subset of society’s problems. I have always taken it as a given that the primary benefit of not having a strong central monopoly government is that its collapse is just another bankruptcy, similar to the corner store going out of business and something else popping up in its place.

    Am I right about this conflation of government and society as far as these collapse theories go? Or is it just that I hate government so much that it clouds my imagination?

    1. Am I right about this conflation of government and society as far as these collapse theories go? Or is it just that I hate government so much that it clouds my imagination?

      You’re not wrong. It’s something Bastiat noticed too:

      “Socialism, like the ancient ideas from which it springs, confuses the distinction between government and society. As a result of this, every time we object to a thing being done by government, the socialists conclude that we object to its being done at all. We disapprove of state education. Then the socialists say that we are opposed to any education. We object to a state religion. Then the socialists say that we want no religion at all. We object to a state-enforced equality. Then they say that we are against equality. And so on, and so on. It is as if the socialists were to accuse us of not wanting persons to eat because we do not want the state to raise grain.”
      ? Fr?d?ric Bastiat, The Law

      1. Oh, I knew about Bastiat exposing the conflation in general. But I wonder about it particularly as regards these collapse theories, and because I know I am biased towards redundancy and flexibility and against monolithic organizations and bureaucracy, I wonder if I am just seeing my own bias in what little I know of them, or if it is their general hidden assumption that society == government.

    2. When they say societies solve problems, they really mean governments,

      I think the real root cause is when government gets to be seen as the Universal Cure-All for all society’s ills. That’s what sets up the easy-problems-first dynamic. Without government, when the ROI on a particular solution goes negative, that solution is dropped. With government, that solution is reinforced, so the ROI gets worse, and eventually the whole thing augurs in.

      1. Being a self-enforced monopoly doesn’t help. If a business pursues some pipe dream and runs out of money, society doesn’t fall apart. When governments pursue pipe dreams, they refuse to go out of business, by printing more money or starting wars of distraction or compounding the oppression with false stories of substance abuse, loose morals, or other nannyisms.

  21. This is one of those articles I’m going to save a link to. It’ll be useful for pointing out Mr. Gillespie’s skills at prognostication. People have been breathlessly declaring the Death of Conservatism or the Death of the GOP for at least the last 25 years. Yet, it never actually seems to come about.

    1. It’s simply wishful thinking on Gillespie’s part, that’s all. He’s pretty much like every left-liberal I’ve known my entire life, except that he’s a dishonest jerk pretending to be something else. He’s the kind of guy who thought that Jimmy Carter was going to get re-elected in 1980.

  22. We will be stuck with a two-party duopoly for some time, since we are required to have politicians represent us. It is like being forced to own a car and having to choose between 1970s GM or AMC, both pieces of shit that will suck you dry with repair bills.

    The only thing that could help open it up to competition is to get rid of the electoral college, it would take time but there would eventually be a third party president.

    1. It depends on what you replace it with. Besides, the entire GOP primary is an example of what happens when you don’t have a two party race. We’ve had a dozen candidates and it’s been a real shit show.

    2. Electoral College isn’t the cause of the two party system, if we turned it over to a popular vote it would be largely the same. There are 2 major theoretical approaches to predicting the number of parties in a system. I’m personally going to stick with a institutional argument:
      N+1; N is the amount of seats available in an election. It’s not an even system as you get to wider Proportional Representation approaches, but generally speaking a single member district First Past the Post approach will cause a pair of coalition parties. As long as senators/congressmen are being elected in a single member district via plurality you’ll see two major parties. Moving to a run off format might change things some. However, so long as you have SMD at all levels expect 2 parties (generally).

    3. There is no need for a third party victory. And it would be counterproductive. The big kleptocracy pretends to be two parties but the jobs are held by individual looters and megalomaniacs. Every time Ram Johnston loses because some pro-choice libertarian got the 2% of the vote he needed to fasten like a lamprey onto the public flesh, he goes to his party’s platform committee and pistol-whips the bastards until they drop the offending plank. This has happened for enslaving teenagers for Vietnam, kidnapping teenage potheads for bondsmen and lawyers, bullying pregnant girls to squeeze out Hitlerjugend, shaking down dirty bookstores and rolling queers for cash. By repeal or through the DemoGOP’s own courts, laws change to steal our thunder. The same happened in furtherance of coercion as of 1848, when communism and religious prohibition laws prophesied a glorious utopia achievable through the initiation of force. With 2% of the vote, bomb-throwing communists and cross-burning prohibitionists changed the constitution and began mass-producing “convicted felons.” Today, we are the 2%!

  23. The economic prosperity of North Africa actually rose under the Vandals

    Broken windows fallacy?

  24. Why is deportation portrayed here as so unreasonable? It’s the perfect example of the punishment fitting the crime.

    1. Actual feasibility, for a start.

      1. I’ve worked on thousands of deportation cases. Average court time is about fifteen minutes, but they do soak up your taxes paying prisons to feed and clothe the poor creatures better than they can manage back home in their antichoice looter satrapies. The US major parties export fanatical religious prohibition laws to corrupt governments that thrive on torture, looting, murder and blackmail. By fighting those exports of fascism, Bernie would reduce incentives for fleeing thither. And since communism is known by all but him and teenagers to be bankrupt, there is no danger of a Bernie-sparked commie renaissance. What is dangerous is the GOP’s National Socialism expanding into the communist ecological niche. Oh, did I mention the asset-forfeiture crash of 2007 and ensuing depression?

  25. Kodak went belly up because Kay Whitmore refused to take the advice of Chris Steffen, the CFO he brought in to turn things around. Steffen was VP and Controller for Chrysler during it’s turnaround in the mid-eighties and Honeywell’s turnaround in the late-eighties. He told Whitmore to lay people off, but Whitmore refused because the company had a history of no layoffs. Moron.

    1. He was CFO at Honeywell. Nice guy.

    2. Don’t forget that they were so slow in switching to the digital revolution that by the time they did, they were already forgotten. Laying people off may or may not have saved them, but their technology was late to the market.

  26. it’s clear that the Party of Lincoln is undergoing a massive transformation that may or may not actually end it but will definitely give birth to a new set of policies and priorities as different from those of the Goldwater-Reagan era version as that version was to the iteration it replaced.

    You write of this “Goldwater-Reagan era” as if it were of a piece. The GOP underwent a fundamental change in the late 1970s with the insurgence of the Religious Right. It then took about another decade to squeeze out the Rockefeller Republicans from anything close to leadership, along with the rise of neoconservative influence. And thru it all, the GOP gained power on avg. nationwide.

    1. Lincoln was swept to victory by a high-tariff looter party when Britain’s opium wars were draining capital out of These States. Slavery was a side issue–a symptom of the South’s role in a metropolis-colony mercantilist economic engine. When the yankees elbowed out the Brits and took over their ecological niche as the metropolis, the colonial South was back in much the same shackles, just different masters. Hence the muttering in Democratic circles about Shay’s Rebellion, Nullification, tariffs (payable in specie) and mortgage interest. Reagan’s religious fascism did cut off practically all sources of revenue for the Soviet bloc. Till finally there in only one dangerous form of totalitarianism left standing, but crumbling of its own economy-destroying excesses as we watch.

  27. the Democratic Party, another hidebound and ancient and seemingly invincible barnacle on the hull of the American ship of state, is undergoing its own slow-motion suicide as it moves one step closer to nominating the least-appealing politician of the past generation.

    That may be, but how many actually liked Al Gore, Sr.? Yet he won the popular vote for prez over somebody who was intrinsically much more likeable. Not much different from Nixon’s beating Humphrey. The only difference is that Hillary’s more manifestly criminal & venal.

  28. I meant Al Gore, Jr. His father was more likeable, though his politics were as lousy or worse.

  29. Remember when Nick Gillespie actually wrote pieces here that were interesting in their own right, rather than just vapid bits to serve as a scaffold for commenting on? No, seriously, NG used to write pieces that were G rather than NG. What happened? It’s been several years now.

  30. RE: “The Surprising Weakness of Invincible Institutions”: GOP Indiana Primary Edition

    Not to worry.
    The State, run by either the fascist Trump the Grump or socialist slavers like Heil Hitler or Comrade Sanders will have our country running in no time.
    Probably into the ground.

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