It's been fascinating of late to watch Team Obama struggle to put the proper spin on the latest attempt to unburden Wall Street of its troubles at taxpayer expense. Ever wonder why all the efforts of "our" elected representatives are so focused on the travails of insolvent banks and the reckless speculators who ran them into the ground? Well this little ditty by Bernard Chazelle should answer any remaining questions you may have:
House Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank, D-Mass., said banks were acting stupid and making it harder for lawmakers to defend them.
You may wonder if it's a congressman's job to be defending banks. Shouldn't the Congress be defending "We the people," instead?
If you're wondering, it's because you don't understand the modern incarnation of representative democracy. Yes, you know your Electoral College; sure, you've mastered your chads, pregnant, dimpled, hanging or otherwise, but still, perhaps just perhaps, you're missing the point. Indirect representation works like this:
A empowers B to elect C to serve A.
With a little diagram to highlight the subtleties:
A---------> B --------> C
Now one common mistake is to think that you're A. Nope, you're B. Who's A then? Corporate America is A. Goldman Sachs, GE, WalMart, etc; they're A. You're B. They empower you (B) to elect a government (C) whose sole purpose is to serve them (A). This leads us to the fundamental equation of indirect representation:
Corporate America empowers you to elect a government to serve Corporate America.
How does Corporate America empower you? They outsource the job to an entity called "the media." The media's mission is to brainwash you so you believe you are A. But you are B. You are the empowered delegate ("empowered" in the sense of "authorized," not "made powerful.") Why are you even needed in that equation? What's wrong with
A empowers C to serve A ?
Somewhere in that loop, someone's pocket needs to be picked and that someone is you. That's why A needs you. There's a second reason for your presence, which distinguishes representative democracy from oligarchy. It's called "legitimacy," which is just a fancy way of saying "anything that keeps the people away from their pitchforks." But let's not get too technical and, mostly it's just that: a technicality.
A few days later, the liberal Barney Frank uttered stern, harsh words. I paraphrase:
The bankers won't get extra resources unless there's a radical change in their behavior.
Notice the conditionality. Let's follow Frank's logic. Suppose the bankers don't change their behavior (which behavior is left unspecified but you can be sure that does not include "being A.") Then what? If Frank denies them the money, then who is he punishing? If he is punishing the American people, then my point is proven. The guy works for the bankers. If he is punishing the bankers but not the American people, then the money was obviously not needed in the first place, except to please the bankers. In other words, if Americans don't notice the difference whether the money is given out to the banks or not, then why give it? And if they suffer from the money being withheld, then why is Frank making their happiness conditional on the bankers' behavior? He could have the bankers fired. He could have reversed the conditionality and said: "The bankers won't get a penny until a million demonstrators march down Pennsylvania Avenue demanding "More Bonuses to Bankers!"
But he did not. Why? Because Frank (hardly the worst of the bunch) was elected by you to work for them! (Go back to earlier diagram if this point hasn't sunken in yet.) Why isn't Frank working for you the people? Because you the people are the delegates, and who in the world works for delegates?
Why do we need the media? Because my observations are trivial. That's why. You need communications experts, backed by deep scientists called "economists," to convince you that 2+2=5. That's hard work. That's why those people are paid lots of money and only the brightest succeed. Take "trickle down economics" for example. That's not even 2+2=5. It's more like 2+2=36376472828363828. But they pulled it off! And this very minute they're convincing you that the only way to deal with a thief who steals your money is to reward him with more of your money.
Barney Frank had more to say:
“People really hate you,” he said, imploring banks to do everything possible to avoid offending people.
When is the last time you "implored" someone to stop being offensive by stealing money from the very people they're offending and giving it to the offenders?
— Bernard Chazelle
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