A former LAPD officer turned sociologist (Cooper 1991) observed that the overwhelming majority of those beaten by police turn out not to be guilty of any crime. “Cops don’t beat up burglars”, he observed. The reason, he explained, is simple: the one thing most guaranteed to evoke a violent reaction from police is to challenge their right to “define the situation.” If what I’ve been saying is true this is just what we’d expect. The police truncheon is precisely the point where the state’s bureaucratic imperative for imposing simple administrative schema, and its monopoly of coercive force, come together. It only makes sense then that bureaucratic violence should consist first and foremost of attacks on those who insist on alternative schemas or interpretations. At the same time, if one accepts Piaget’s famous definition of mature intelligence as the ability to coordinate between multiple perspectives (or possible perspectives) one can see, here, precisely how bureaucratic power, at the moment it turns to violence, becomes literally a form of infantile stupidity.
Our society constantly proclaims that anyone can make it if they just try hard enough, all the while reinforcing privilege and putting increasing pressure on its overstretched and exhausted citizens. An increasing number of people fail, feeling humiliated, guilty and ashamed. We are forever told that we are freer to choose the course of our lives than ever before, but the freedom to choose outside the success narrative is limited. Furthermore, those who fail are deemed to be losers or scroungers, taking advantage of our social security system.
A neoliberal meritocracy would have us believe that success depends on individual effort and talents, meaning responsibility lies entirely with the individual and authorities should give people as much freedom as possible to achieve this goal. For those who believe in the fairytale of unrestricted choice, self-government and self-management are the pre-eminent political messages, especially if they appear to promise freedom. Along with the idea of the perfectible individual, the freedom we perceive ourselves as having in the west is the greatest untruth of this day and age.
The sociologist Zygmunt Bauman neatly summarised the paradox of our era as: “Never have we been so free. Never have we felt so powerless.” We are indeed freer than before, in the sense that we can criticise religion, take advantage of the new laissez-faire attitude to sex and support any political movement we like. We can do all these things because they no longer have any significance – freedom of this kind is prompted by indifference. Yet, on the other hand, our daily lives have become a constant battle against a bureaucracy that would make Kafka weak at the knees. There are regulations about everything, from the salt content of bread to urban poultry-keeping.
Our presumed freedom is tied to one central condition: we must be successful – that is, “make” something of ourselves. You don’t need to look far for examples. A highly skilled individual who puts parenting before their career comes in for criticism. A person with a good job who turns down a promotion to invest more time in other things is seen as crazy – unless those other things ensure success. A young woman who wants to become a primary school teacher is told by her parents that she should start off by getting a master’s degree in economics – a primary school teacher, whatever can she be thinking of?
There are constant laments about the so-called loss of norms and values in our culture. Yet our norms and values make up an integral and essential part of our identity. So they cannot be lost, only changed. And that is precisely what has happened: a changed economy reflects changed ethics and brings about changed identity. The current economic system is bringing out the worst in us.
Hi, i love your blog. I generally agree with all of your ideas and opinions and i was wondering if you were able to redo the entire government system how would you have it?
In all seriousness, I would return this place back to the way it was when the founders established it. No more bureaucracy. No more pages and pages of laws and regulations. No more federal reserve. No more income tax. Just a small federal government that oversees national defense, foreign relations, trade, immigration, and interstate affairs. You can read some of the my suggestions for the Republican platform here and parts of the federal government I’d cut here.
They wouldn’t even lift a finger to save their own grandmothers from the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal without an order, signed in triplicate, sent in, sent back, queried, lost, found, subjected to public enquiry, lost again, and finally buried in soft peat for three months and recycled as firelighters.
Hi! I'm a premed student in my freshmen year and I'm really nervous about the path to becoming a doctor. It was my first choice for so long, but the fact that there's so much schooling and so much stress and so much more bureaucratic protocol than in the past makes it seem so daunting. And then the competition of just getting into med school is so overwhelming (esp. since my calc grade is low) I look to other professions, but the only other one I found that appeals to me is PA. Any advice?
All the things you are saying are true. Getting into med school is hard. It should be. Managing peoples’ health is a privilege and something we have to have a healthy fear and respect of, and thus it shouldn’t be done by just any wacko on the street (or tv).
Yeah, there’s tons of paperwork and red tape and bureaucracy. Of course there is. Money is involved. Show me a career that doesn’t have stress and politics involved. The point is not how hard it is or how much BS you have to wade through to get there.
The point is this: Do you want to practice medicine? Do you want to help make people healthier? Can you be happy doing anything else? You don’t do it because it’s easy or all happy smiles all the time. You do it because you love it despite all the crap.
So you have one bad grade. So do many of the people applying to medical school. Don’t let one bad grade scare you into not trying to reach your goals.
Lastly, if being a PA sounds interesting to you, then pursue that. But realize that the paperwork and bureaucracy and stress and the competition will be essentially the same as it would be if you were pursuing med school. You will still be dealing with insurance companies and the government and protocols and flaming hoops to jump through. Med school is hard. So is PA school. There is just as much competition —and usually more prerequisites—for admission to PA school as there is for med school. And to some degree, being a PA is harder (especially in the beginning) because the training is shorter and you are sometimes thrown into the fire in your first job out of graduation. So don’t be a PA just because you think it might be an easier path.
The biggest problem with the wait times across the country is a staffing problem that has been neglected for years - and that is a mismanagement of the agency.
But the real problem is there is no real accountability. Rather than waiting on Congress - rather than waiting on bureaucracy, why don’t airports like Hartsfield-Jackson stop threatening the TSA and just take over security themselves?
Is there a better way to get passengers safely through security? Almost definitely. Does that better way include holding someone or some company accountable? Absolutely.
I believe Dan Bongino also had some great points on this same subject on his podcast the other day that I had to share:
This points to a bigger theme which is the absolute failures of government because of information problems. And even when they have the information there’s no motivation to do anything about it because there is no revenue incentive.
So, the TSA is just another example of this. A government entity really that has a monopoly on their services. So, outside of some complaining from the public, legitimately so - because you’re missing your flights and the major hassle for your lives, outside of long lines and complaining, what are you going to do?
You know, this is the problem I have with socialists and these big government types who are constantly talking about the benevolent big government, the philanthropic big government, how business is greedy, and how government is not greedy at all. ‘Big government is always going to do the right thing.’
What’s your success story? The DMV? The Post Office? This is not a knock on the people that work there; this is a knock on the model. Again, is your model of success public education? What is your model of success?
Folks, airport security is really not that difficult. I’m sorry. I was in the security arena. So, I don’t speak about this from a sense of naivete or ignorance. Having been a Secret Service Agent and New York City Police Officer for almost 20 years, I understand how this stuff works. How is it that the government cannot figure this out?
The answer is they don’t want to. There is no revenue motive at all for them. If their lines are long or if you miss your flight, answer me this, what does the government care? Why would they care? What penalty is there for the government if you miss your flight at the airport? There is no penalty. What are you going to do - fire the government?
Because there is no competition. There is no ‘Security Company B’ to compete with the government to say, “hey folks, we can do this better. We’ll guarantee you’ll make your flight.”
The player is challenged to confront a long and complicated series of bureaucratic hurdles resulting from a recent change of address. Mail isn’t being delivered, bank accounts are inaccessible, and nothing is as it should be. The game includes a measure of simulated blood pressure which rises when “frustrating” events happen and lowers after a period of no annoying events. Once a certain blood pressure level is reached, the player suffers an aneurysm and the game ends.
While undertaking the seemingly simple task of retrieving misdirected mail, the player encounters a number of bizarre characters, including an antisocial hacker, a paranoid weapons enthusiast, and a tribe of Zalagasan cannibals. At the same time, they must deal with impersonal corporations, counterintuitive airport logic, and a hungry llama.