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State of the World 2013: Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky (well.com)
50 points by msh 1543 days ago | hide | past | web | 12 comments | favorite



"Why these canny subversives have let idiots like the Koch Brothers buy the American government, I just dunno. The Stacks could buy the Republican Party, lock stock and barrel, with their pocket change."

I'm sort of flabbergasted that the person who wrote Distraction could say something so simplistic and naive about how money and political influence work. I guess he just isn't thinking of "the Rebpulican Party" as being composed of human beings?

Still, there were a lot of gems in there.


"Naive" is right. Don't these guys remember 1995 and Newt Gingrich and the new Republican majority "stealing Christmas"? Right before they negotiated with Bill Clinton major entitlement and tax cuts that put the U.S. on the soundest fiscal footing it had seen in decades.

It's always the last generation's Republicans that were the reasonable guys and this year's that are bought and paid for radical nutjobs. I'm not old enough to remember the political 1980's that well, but my impression is that Reagan, the guy who "couldn't be nominated by today's Republican party", also caught a lot of flak as a radical who was going to start WWIII.

With a four year interruption during two unpopular wars and an economic meltdown, a strongly anti-tax majority has been elected to the U.S. House for almost two decades, well before anyone had heard of the "Tea Party" or the Koch brothers. One could argue that they've been fairly consistently anti-entitlement growth as well, given the contortions Boehner and Hastert had to go through to get Medicare Part D passed.

It's not a conspiracy, it's what American voters apparently want in the house of Congress that most directly controls the purse.


Like with a business, you could probably buy the party - the name, the branding, and anyone happy with your new policies or too lazy to leave. But the best and the brightest would probably go off and start a new one of their own.


I expect that most of the people in charge of the Republican Party are emotionally committed to the idea that they're the "good guys" in an important fight. That doesn't mean that they don't have a price, just that it would tend to be very high. And since the Republicans is a voluntary association I'd expect that any rapid shift in policy big enough to be worth the investment would see the collapse and replacement of the Republican party.

Exerting the kind of influence that the Kochs do doesn't just require money, it also requires decades of hard and patient work. You've got to create institutions that attract people to work and publish on those issues where they happen to agree with you rather than where they disagree with you. You've got to make politicians feel that you're on their side and that listening to your spiel is just a matter of friendship, and you have to have a mountain of one sided evidence that lets them believe (and if you're their friend they'll be wanting to believe) that your proposition is Best For America.

But just buying a political party? I honestly think that if you're trying to accomplish a bunch of stuff quickly a coup would be cheaper and more realistic.


"Exerting the kind of influence that the Kochs do doesn't just require money, it also requires decades of hard and patient work."

You can see the origins of the current Republican party in the 1970's. And further back in the Birchers.


>I expect that most of the people in charge of the Republican Party are emotionally committed to the idea that they're the "good guys" in an important fight. That doesn't mean that they don't have a price, just that it would tend to be very high

Huh? I expect the very opposite. That the scum of the earth is what gets involved into politics AND reaches the higher echelons of both parties. Greedy, power-hungry, amoralistic people. If they had those kinds of "ideals" they left them behind far before they progressed into the party ranks.

It's not like congressmen historically gave us any reason to think otherwise...


The scum of the earth are often the same people as those who deeply emotionally feel they are good guys, I suspect, hard enough as it is to believe for people who try to avoid cognitive dissonance. Human behavior is more complex than Hollywood would have you believe.


>The scum of the earth are often the same people as those who deeply emotionally feel they are good guys,

Sure, but more often than not they are just scum. Thinking of most of Bush's cabinet.


Power hungry certainly, but if they were really greedy they could satisfy that far more easily in private industry for the same amount of talent and work.

As for morality, well, I think there are two factors at play there. Powerful people tend to become less moral in their treatment of people below them, but that isn't the same as being willing to compromise their ideals. Also, people seem to have a finite desire to be moral, and you can find studies about people being less likely to hold doors for others if they've recently donated to charity, for instance.[1] So if this hypothetical Republican leader feels that his political work is Defending Civilization from Barbarity[2] I imagine that they'd feel more free to be amoral in other aspects of their life. But that doesn't mean they'd be willing to sell out their cause itself!

[1] Different people can have very different base desires here, and habit is also a force to consider. [2] See second to last paragraph in this very good post: http://www.arnoldkling.com/blog/being-uncharitable-to-those-...


>Power hungry certainly, but if they were really greedy they could satisfy that far more easily in private industry for the same amount of talent and work.

Not really. The private industry takes far more effort.

A guy like George Bush Jr. (family aside) could never had made it anywhere except maybe in a used car dealership in Odessa, TX, or as a McDonalds manager at Boise, ID. The same applies for most good at nothing, silver spoon fed, sons and daughters of statesmen, politicians and the like.

And it's not like what they make is their salary at the government or GOP. It's the under the table and side deals that make up most of it. Corporate contributions rarely stop at the party level.


Yeah you have to read Sterling in his entirety to get some of his comments. They are not all claims of truth but rather angles on observations IMHO.


I can never read the well because I can never tell where anything's beginning or ending. Can someone explain the format? Are the two authors writing asynchronously adding to the bottom over some period of time?




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