Monday, February 24, 2014

The Deep State

If you're like most, you've probably wondered what to make of America's dysfunctional, gridlocked government.  Mike Lofgren offers a disturbing explanation of the apparent madness in a terrific essay entitled, "Anatomy of the Deep State."  What he maintains is that what we're witnessing is simply a concluding step in the transfer of power to a parallel state, a plutocracy that now both runs the country and controls the destiny of the American people.

Lofgren is not some conspiracy theorist.  With the facts and conclusions he presents, there's really no need for theories.  The Deep State is shadow government, operating independently of the ballot box in a world where political and corporate power merge seamlessly.

The Deep State is the big story of our time. It is the red thread that runs through the war on terrorism, the financialization and deindustrialization of the American economy, the rise of a plutocratic social structure and political dysfunction. Washington is the headquarters of the Deep State, and its time in the sun as a rival to Rome, Constantinople or London may be term-limited by its overweening sense of self-importance and its habit, as Winwood Reade said of Rome, to “live upon its principal till ruin stared it in the face.” “Living upon its principal,” in this case, means that the Deep State has been extracting value from the American people in vampire-like fashion.

We are faced with two disagreeable implications. First, that the Deep State is so heavily entrenched, so well protected by surveillance, firepower, money and its ability to co-opt resistance that it is almost impervious to change. Second, that just as in so many previous empires, the Deep State is populated with those whose instinctive reaction to the failure of their policies is to double down on those very policies in the future.

To the extent that America directs influences so much of what occurs in Canada, it is vital that we understand what is going on in the Deep State that floats freely above Pennsylvania Avenue.


Purple library guy said...

That sounds about right. Frightening. Also interesting relative to the Canadian context--gives me an idea why, despite Canadian politics often being overtly as right wing as US politics, and sometimes more, I still have had this instinctive feeling that Canada is not as bad:
We don't have nearly as much "deep state" in this sense. Canada has traditionally instead had a sort of "professional bureaucratic state"--a civil service with a basic perspective that's perhaps paternalistic, stodgy, somewhat inefficient, but nonetheless primarily oriented towards serving the country as a polity, rather than particular stakeholders such as corporations.
(There are exceptions. For instance CSIS, as a wholly owned US branch plant, has always had a pretty deep-state-ish feel)

That's why the Conservatives have been so hostile to much of the existing setup in government departments, and have devoted so much effort to transforming them. And this effort has partly gone into muzzling them because they don't trust them, but also to a fair degree towards trying to re-create the Canadian government bureaucracy as a US-style corporate-penetrated Deep State. They haven't got the job finished yet. And the bureaucracy has been vulnerable to this kind of interference partly precisely because they are not a Deep State yet.

Whoever takes over from the Cons after next election would do well to keep this in mind, and be prepared to be fairly ruthless in cleaning up.

The Mound of Sound said...

I suspect the Canadian public haven't been nearly as well 'tuned up' as our American counterparts were in the wake of 9/11. That truly seemed to warp the American psyche, leaving them malleable in the hands of those who knew just how to exploit that.

Unfortunately, PLG, I haven't heard much from the NDP or LPC on how they would rectify the worst excesses of Harper's era.

ben burd said...

"Whoever takes over from the Cons after next election would do well to keep this in mind, and be prepared to be fairly ruthless in cleaning up."

So true, this is the sleeper of the next campaign - just how much will JT reverse. We know mulcair will try but will the libs even admit that there is a problem

Owen Gray said...

What Lofgren says is truly disturbing, Mound. We have lost control of our institutions.

LeDaro said...

Absolutely true. Plutocracy indeed rules.

As far as Canada is concerned nothing will stand in the way of plutocracy enveloping Canada. The current leadership in Ottawa does not provide much hope. New proposed election reform legislation, silencing the scientists and auditing charities are steps in that direction. What more evidence one needs?

I have pretty well stopped reading news. They're simply too depressing.

The Mound of Sound said...

@ Ben. I would breathe more easily if the old NDP hadn't been allowed to morph into Latter Day Liberals. While the NDP anchored the left flank it played an invaluable role in keeping the other parties honest. Now it's just another gaggle of technocrats in grey suits. You can thank Jack Layton for that.

Owen, I think we do need to pay closer attention to our institutions. We sat by placidly while Harper severed communications between our public service and the public, transforming those departments into his personal, partisan political agencies. We failed to recognize that his success depended heavily on a corporate media cartel prepared to indulge this sort of thing.

LD, you can stand in the way of a plutocracy in Canada. Refuse to fall for this "he's better than Harper" nonsense the Libs and NDP are spewing. "Better than" is not coterminous with "good enough for the job."

LeDaro said...

Mound I agree:
“Refuse to fall for this "he's better than Harper" nonsense the Libs and NDP are spewing. "Better than" is not coterminous with "good enough for the job."

But who is going to take this message to general public. Come next election, one of these three leaders is going to be P.M. Trudeau or Mulcair are going to be not much different. It is the leaders who can stop the plutocracy and if they’re not willing then what can be done. Public awareness is absolutely necessary to stop this plutocracy but who is going to spread the word.

The Mound of Sound said...

You are, LD. You and me and others who are like-minded. If we don't spread the word, we can't complain about the outcome from our silence.

It took me a long time to realize that Ralph Nader was right even though it cost the Democrats an election. The Deep State could not have been achieved without the support of Democrats as much as Republicans.

LeDaro said...

Mound, I admire your enthusiasm. But there is a need to travel the country and give speeches and warn the public what is going on. We cannot do it through our blogs. It is a very small section of the population who actually read blogs. However, I do support the efforts of progressive bloggers.

Elizabeth May is a lone voice in Ottawa who speaks out at times and we know how much impact she is having. We don’t need Ukraine style situation but public has to speak out and who is going to inspire public. While ago on Power and Politics (I hope I remember correctly) it was revealed that a survey showed that less than 10% of the public is concerned about the election reform legislation, auditing of charities or silencing of the scientists.

Purple library guy said...

I've never been convinced Nader cost the Dems that election. For one thing, the Dems won the election, and if they'd been willing to get down and dirty with the Republicans they could probably have made it stick.
For another, there was a point in the campaign where the Democrats were trailing, and then the threat of Nader on their left flank forced Gore to get populist. I've seen arguments I found persuasive that this defensive tactic actually boosted the Democratic vote by more than the amount the Naderites directly cost them--especially since it's likely many of Nader's voters wouldn't have voted at all without Nader on the ballot.

Similarly, a small but noticeable left party in Canada might force the NDP to say something real for a change to shore up its left flank, and that might actually be good for them electorally. My ideal would be to get PR first and a leftist alternative second, but I'm reaching the point where I might go for it even without PR.

The Mound of Sound said...

PLG, I think the NDP has gone too far to the centre to return to the left. They were Blairified under Layton.

There's no oxygen left in Canadian politics. It's why we put up with Trudeau Jr and Mulcair.

Purple library guy said...

Maybe. Well, that's why I spend as much time following Venezuelan politics as I do following Canadian politics. I may also start looking for what I can find on Uruguay:

Latin America is where it's at in terms of progressive politics. Sometimes I almost hope the US will continue to obsess over the Middle East; every year they spend noodling with Iran, Syria etc., who will all become irrelevant when certain tipping points are reached on renewable energy costs, is a year the Latin Americans can progress with relatively less interference.

Anonymous said...

Follow the money (as usual) to see who runs the "Deep State"