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How We Institutionalized Incompetence

Summary:
And so we face the ultimate irony: ‘bailing-out-everything’ destroys the entire rotten system. You’ve probably noticed things no longer work as well as they once did. For example, the store’s online inventory says something is in stock and when you get to the store, it’s not on the shelf. A small issue, but telling nonetheless. Or you might call a local government agency to get an explanation of how a new fee is calculated, and nobody’s ever available to explain it–or sort out your punitive late fee even though you paid on time. You’ve probably noticed services cost a lot more now, but the quality has eroded. Sure, it’s easy to blame it all on the pandemic, but quality has been eroding as costs have risen for years. You’ve

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And so we face the ultimate irony: ‘bailing-out-everything’ destroys the entire rotten system.

You’ve probably noticed things no longer work as well as they once did. For example, the store’s online inventory says something is in stock and when you get to the store, it’s not on the shelf. A small issue, but telling nonetheless.

Or you might call a local government agency to get an explanation of how a new fee is calculated, and nobody’s ever available to explain it–or sort out your punitive late fee even though you paid on time.

You’ve probably noticed services cost a lot more now, but the quality has eroded. Sure, it’s easy to blame it all on the pandemic, but quality has been eroding as costs have risen for years.

You’ve probably noticed massive cost overruns in public projects. That $1 billion bridge is now $3 billion–oh, sorry, make that $4 billion. If we ever get it finished, better estimate $5 billion.

You’ve probably noticed that enormous investments in infrastructure, education, reducing homelessness, etc. don’t actually improve the situation or fix what’s broken. Even the most basic projects take years or decades, congestion and homelessness increase, and education that’s not aligned with the real economy flounders on.

You’ve probably noticed that all the highly paid analysts, academics, think-tank gurus, private-sector hotshots, etc. are either clueless, incoherent or delusional. All their “solutions” boil down to one recommendation: keep the feeding trough filled to the brim, no matter how many hogs are gorging themselves.

Incompetence is now so ubiquitous, so embedded, so obvious and so intractable that we finally have to recognize that America has institutionalized incompetence. Why? That’s an interesting question with no one answer.

Broadly speaking, self-interest is all that matters. Every decision is made to maximize self-interest while cloaking the predation with sickly-sweet propaganda of the most transparent type.

Institutions protect insiders because every insider must mask their self-interest and the general failure of the institution. Insiders protect other insiders lest transparency reveal the insiders’ skims and scams and the failure of the institution to fulfill its purpose.

Risk is to be avoided at all costs because any failure might reveal the systemic failure of the entire organization. So as Louis-Vincent Gave recently explained, CYA Is the Guiding Principle Of Our Time. If insiders just maintain the status quo and don’t rock the boat with any risky innovations or policies, no one will look too deeply at the systemic failures or the rising risks of the whole rotten mess collapsing.

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Charles Hugh Smith
Charles Hugh Smith is an American writer and blogger. He is the chief writer for the site "Of Two Minds". Started in 2005, this site has been listed No. 7 in CNBC's top alternative financial sites. His commentary is featured on a number of sites including: Zerohedge.com., The American Conservative and Peak Prosperity. He graduated from the University of Hawaii, Manoa in Honolulu. Charles Hugh Smith currently resides in Berkeley, California and Hilo, Hawaii.

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