273. What Is Going On Here?

AlCaponeBecause they are mega-every­thing, states like China and the USA become test par­a­digms for what can go right and wrong in man­ag­ing humans. Con­sider these: 

1) The US has the world’s largest and most sophis­ti­cated assem­bly of spy­ing orga­ni­za­tions. They col­lect what is laugh­ably called “intel­li­gence” on all of us, legally and often ille­gally. How­ever this vast mass of intel­li­gence assets has repeat­edly been unable to antic­i­pate attacks upon its own integrity by its own per­son­nel (who are surely more spied upon than any­body else): in the first instance from infor­ma­tion leaks by thought­ful and con­sci­en­tious insid­ers (Man­ning, Snow­den, John Kiri­akou … there are oth­ers too), as well as from a long his­tory of sol­diers shoot­ing fel­low sol­diers; or on a much larger scale from the “war on drugs” – read fail­ure to eval­u­ate the real mean­ing of “intel­li­gence” from mas­sive sur­veil­lance – which has gen­er­ated an explo­sion of vio­lence and crim­i­nal­ity (shades of the 1920s-30s Pro­hi­bi­tion); and of course a from long list of wars with fail­ure sourced in end­less mis­in­for­ma­tion and self-decep­tion; and about to break: a tsunami of lost busi­ness for US cor­po­ra­tions which are now regarded as agents of US spy­ing and no longer trusted world­wide.

2) The US has the world’s most “sophis­ti­cated” health care sys­tem. Result: also the world’s most expen­sive health care sys­tem. Its out­comes have resulted in ris­ing mor­tal­ity, an increase in dis­eases, and ever-falling life expectancy for US cit­i­zens rel­a­tive to those in other coun­tries, and about 62% of bank­rupt­cies due to med­ical emer­gency (so this is “intel­li­gence”?).

3) The US has the world’s best uni­ver­si­ties. A few. It also has one of the world’s most frag­mented and least suc­cess­ful edu­ca­tion sys­tems amongst advanced nations, with grad­u­ates indebted for decades. It would be tire­some to list the fail­ures here, but basi­cally the mess is an ide­o­log­i­cally dri­ven, hys­ter­i­cal melt-down, best under­stood by the pop­ulist con­tempt for teach­ers.

Issues 4), 5), 6) … why go on? 

So Dag­wood Bum­stead, pre­pare a sim­ple solu­tion, an exec­u­tive sum­mary in 50 words or less for your lobot­o­mized neigh­bour­hood direc­tor… Well Mr Dithers, the prob­lem is partly that nobody really knows how to man­age any­thing as com­pli­cated as a large, tech­ni­cally advanced coun­try. Spin doesn’t cut it. Excep­tion­al­ism is another word for arro­gance. But there are other basic miss­ing ingre­di­ents too, such as out of fash­ion ideas like hon­esty (from which comes real trust), gen­uine respect for oth­ers (don’t spy on them), coop­er­a­tion (not coer­cion), and actu­ally want­ing to do your job well (CV fluff and salary level are not evi­dence). Oh, and lead­er­ship the rest of us can believe in… 

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