Sunday, April 21, 2013


The practical consequences of the Administrative State are limited not only by legal and constitutional considerations, but by less arbitrary ones as well. Bureaucracies quite simply, and as a general rule, get worse the longer they exist. This is because they are subject to corrupting incentives that cannot be changed by “law”:

- Everyone likes things that make their jobs easier; give bureaucrats discretion and they will use it to make their jobs easier, even if it frustrates the purposes of those jobs in the first place.

- Turf guarding. Bureaucracies have survival instincts, and these affect their operation. Give bureaucracies discretion and they will expand as a matter of self-preservation and self-perpetuation, regardless of the public benefit or detriment.

- Insularity. Stuff a bureaucrat into a life tenure and his or her world gradually shrinks to the limits of the bureaucratic fiefdom. The external becomes the extraneous, and bureaucracies become unmoored from the common interest.

- Loss of proportion. Bureaucracies breed petty tyrants, for whom authority becomes a substitute for common sense.

-Risk aversion. Bureaucracies become more and more intolerant of risk as they age, to the point that obscuring responsibility, dodging accountability and suppressing any activity that may require a tough decision eventually become the guiding principles.

These influences arise from common psychology, rather than any particular ideology or political philosophy. All “administrative states” eventually become inefficient, sclerotic, senseless, abusive and obsolete. The more authority that is delegated to them, the faster they become so.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Common thread

Psychologists, criminologists, historians and those who are simply curious will expend a great deal of effort trying to find a common threat that links the perpetrators of spectacle crimes. Surely, there must be some relatively simple and indeed common element that connects Eric Harris, Seung-Hui Cho, Anders Brevik, Mohammed Atta, James Holmes, Adam Lanza, Jared Loughner and Tamerlan Tzarnaev; and indeed there is. Some of these were psychotic, some ideological, some reigious fanatics. There is a great deal of heterogeneity in the motives, and cognitive processing of these individuals, but there is one thing common to them all: fantasy. Each of theme had a fantastic notion of how his crime related to some goal, with such relationship reinforced not by rational analysis but by emotional compulsion.

It is assumed that each had a pathological lack of empathy, and this is true, but one of the things that fantasy provides is a mechianism that makes empathy unnecessary. Movie villains and video game characters can be killed wantonly without moral qualm because they are acknowledged to be only part of a fantasy. this mechanism also works the other way, however. Not only can reality be projected onto fantasy, but real people can be perceived as the characters in a fantastic episode, in which everything; the motive, the outcome, the emotional satisfaction, is ultimately a figment of imagination.

Social media

The biggest benefit to the emergence of social media is not that it will help keep people more informed, but that it should make them more skeptical.