30 December 2014

US Power Elite: An Echo Chamber of Illusions, Delusions, and Subsequent Policy Errors

"A monopoly on the means of communication may define a ruling elite more precisely than the celebrated Marxian formula of monopoly in the means of production."

Robert Anton Wilson

I watched the latter part of a televised discussion called Surveillance 2015 which included Sallie Krawchek, Mohamed El-Erian, Sheila Bair, and Mario Gabelli with Tom Keane as host at the high-toned, dark-wooded drinking salon in the Waldorf-Astoria in New York City.
There is no one in the discussion that you could dislike, as they are all affable and intelligent people who are most likely very good company at a cocktail party and acknowledged as subject matter experts in their own areas.
I may have missed the first part where hopefully they discussed some things that they understand, like the workings of the US markets, although that is no guarantee of a frank and open discussion. Or maybe I was spared the usual self-congratulatory success fest.  Mission accomplished, and all that.
But the groupthink when it came to discussing global events was absolutely stunning in its glib triumphalism and selective shallowness.
Their read on Putin and the situation with Russia was almost sad in its cartoon like shallowness.  Russia is on the ropes, and it is just a question whether Putin folds now, or does something stupid to distract his people, like cutting off the energy to Europe and driving them into recession. The odds are fifty- fifty.
But the US is pristine, above it all, the global puppet master.   Exceptional and winning!
I think that pat description of Russia with an economy that is on the edge, with the option to do something stupid to take the peoples' minds off their misery, fits Obama and the new Congress just as well as Russia.  The difference is that we are seeing things from within the dollarsphere of wealth illusion.
How can one discussion the global situation without getting around to including China until at the very end, almost as an afterthought?   And to discuss Russia's options without including China and a few other emerging countries which is still where the growth remains?  At least real growth in building infrastructure and actual products, instead of just overcharging each other for healthcare and financial services and calling it growth?
Part of the problem I am sure is that we are given to the phenomenon of mistaking wealth for intelligence, and on subjects in which the person has little to no expertise beyond that which an intelligent person who read newspapers and magazines might gather.  There is quite a bit of that going around.  Traders and bureaucrats making policy calls is like watching a fox hunt, to paraphrase Oscar Wilde:  the unspeakable in full pursuit of the indigestible.
When the US gets blindsided next year, and I think it is more like 75-25 that they will, it is will be because the power elite in the US is living in an echo chamber of their own thoughts, sharing a distorted vision of their own country, not to mention the world, from the cocoons of Washington and New York City.
When they do the wrong things, and respond clumsily and ineffectively again and again, we should have no confusion about why they are doing so.   They are marching to the beat of a very different drummer. 
What a brave new world, that is so dangerously out of touch with the shared reality of their fellows, and the rest of the world.