Why do so many smart people in high places seem out of touch with reality? Daniel Greenfield, writing as Sultan Knish, clarifies something that’s been bothering me for a long time in his post, Government is Magic.
Our technocracy is detached from competence. It’s not the technocracy of engineers, but of “thinkers” who read Malcolm Gladwell and Thomas Friedman and watch TED talks and savor the flavor of competence, without ever imbibing its substance.
These are the people who love Freakonomics, who enjoy all sorts of mental puzzles, who like to see an idea turned on its head, but who couldn’t fix a toaster.
The ObamaCare website is the natural spawn of that technocracy who love the idea of using modernity to make things faster and easier, but have no idea what anything costs or how it works.
I urge you to read the whole thing because it’s packed with insights that will make you chuckle and cry at the same time. Here are a few more paragraphs, but I’m skipping over a lot of good stuff.
Modernity has to be built. It has to be constructed brick by bit by rivet by cable by people who know what they are doing. Modernity without competence is as worthless as the ObamaCare website which looked pretty enough to give the illusion of technocratic modernity, but didn’t actually work.
….Our modernity is style rather than substance. It’s Obama grinning. It’s the right font. It’s the right joke. It’s that sense that X knows what he’s doing because he presents it the right way. There’s nothing particularly modern about that. In most cultures, the illusion of competence trumps the real thing. It’s why so many countries are so badly broken because they go by appearances, rather than by results.
….Build a website and it will work. Pass a law and they will come. Get a degree and you’re competent.
There is no need to know how to do a thing. You don’t need engineers or competent men. All you need to do is remember the great dreams of the past, listen to a few inspirational JFK speeches and then carve a computer out of wood and wait for free health care to arrive.
In cargo cult America, the food is free, the cell phones are free and the money can be printed forever because government is magic.
Here’s one application of this idea. I’ve heard a lot of complaining about the incompetence of young people. (Some of the complaining is mine.) The establishment thinks that education is magic, too. You just pass a law called “no child left behind” and magically no child will be left behind. You hire “experts” to design a math curriculum and magically children will understand math.
But more and more children are left behind, and fewer and fewer understand math. That’s the system our young people have come through and many don’t know much and don’t know how to make things happen. And just wait until you see what Common Core does!
Home-schooled kids know things because they weren’t subjected to this system. People who took up an interest on their own know things because in their field of interest they learned outside the system.
And people who work in the private sector and really want to succeed figure it out, especially if the results of their work are visible and/or measurable.
Apply this magical-thinking paradigm to any area of life where things aren’t working and you’ll see how much it explains. Daniel Greenfield is one bright guy, and a prolific writer. See his articles and his blog at FrontPage Magazine, David Horowitz’s website, in addition to his Sultan Knish site.
Hat tip: Annie B.