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The Consent Of The Conned

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Every single line item in our entire Bernie Madoff scam of a system is cooked.

My theme this week is The Great Unraveling, by which I mean the unraveling of our social-political-economic system of hierarchical, centralized power. Let’s start by looking at how the basis of governance has transmogrified from consent of the governed to consent of the conned.

In effect, our leadership leads by lying. As we know, when it gets serious, you have to lie to preserve the perquisites and power of those atop the wealth-power pyramid, and well, it’s serious all the time now, so lies are the default setting of the entire status quo.

But all too many of us are willing to accept the lies because they’re what we want to hear.

As any competent con-man knows, you can only con those who want to be conned. You can only scam the marks who want to believe that what’s obviously too good to be true is in fact true.

The story of scams such as Bernie Madoff’s isn’t that canny Bernie victimized helpless wealthy people; the untold story is that all those “victims” wanted to believe that something that was obviously too good to be true–incredibly high returns, logged month after month and year after year like clockwork–was in fact true because their greed made them more than just vulnerable to being scammed–they wanted to be bamboozled by Bernie.

Victims of scams naturally deny their own culpability. It’s extremely uncomfortable to admit that greed didn’t just blind us to a patently impossible yield; we wanted to be conned because it felt so wonderful to believe we richly deserved unearned wealth.

All wealth is “earned” to those doing the skimming. The greatest con machine of all time, Wall Street, judiciously refers to every skim and scam as “earnings.”

And so the “victims” blame our lying leaders for telling them what they want to hear. You see how the webs of self-interest reinforce each other: those atop the wealth-power pyramid secure their position by lying persuasively enough to gain The Consent of the Conned–those who give their consent to a visibly corrupt and unsustainable status quo because that status quo is promising to provide too good to be true goodies.

In other words, the lies are constantly compounding: the leadership lies to themselves– we have to lie to keep everything glued together for the good of the people–when their real motivation is to keep the system glued together because the system gives them wealth and power.

If we can be honest for a moment, we might admit that representational democracy encourages leaders to issue too good to be true promises because those promises win votes.

Those on the bottom of the wealth-power pyramid accept the too good to be true assurances because that’s exactly want we want to hear: that we all deserve a piece of the unearned wealth that, like Bernie Madoff’s painfully impossible scam, flows in permanent abundance via some sort of financial magic.

The books are cooked, people; we embrace a gigantic too good to be true Bernie Madoff scam of a system because it’s what we want to believe and what we want to hear. Then, when the whole phantom-wealth con collapses in a heap, we quickly pull on the tattered cloak of victimhood: we were promised, we were lied to, we trusted our leaders to lead us wisely, and so on, as if the con wasn’t obvious to anyone who was skeptical of too good to be true claims.

Now that the whole Bernie Madoff scam of a system is unraveling, two self-reinforcing dynamics are in play: our leadership, elected and unelected alike, are doubling down on the lies because there is no alternative–TINA. What does a liar gain by confessing the whole prosperity thing is illusory, and darn it, we can only spend what we produce in real-world surplus? Short answer: nothing, because that’s not going to win elections or gain the consent of the governed.

So lies are piled on lies to the point of absurdity. But just as Bernie Madoff’s wealthy marks ignored the warnings of the skeptical and mounting evidence that they were being conned, the electorate wants to believe the magical thinking is real, and so they accept the latest statistical flim-flammery as “proof” that the con is not a con.

Once again, we worship the Goddess TINA–there is no alternative. Just as our leaders are now trapped in their web of lies and false assurances, the governed are also trapped in the con because it’s too painful and unnerving to admit we’ve willingly bought into a complete con: we’re too smart to be conned, we protest; look, it’s not a con, the GDP is growing and unemployment is low–and so on.

Bernie Madoff’s marks made the same defensive protests: it can’t be a con, look at my statement: the monthly “earnings” keep pouring in.

The books are cooked, folks, at every level of our Bernie Madoff scam of a system: the federal books are cooked; state, county and city books are cooked; corporate books are cooked; the statistical metrics are all cooked; the projections are cooked, and the estimates are cooked.

Every single line item in our entire Bernie Madoff scam of a system is cooked. Wanting to believe a con is true doesn’t make it true. The power of a con rests in our great desire to believe that what’s too good to be true is magically true. It isn’t, but it feel so reassuring and, well, deserved for it to be true.

It’s tempting to blame our leadership for perpetrating this systemic con, but every con requires marks who are willing to accept that what’s too good to be true is magically true.

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Charles Hugh Smith via OfTwoMinds blog

10 Comments on "The Consent Of The Conned"

  1. onlooker on Mon, 9th Oct 2017 9:29 am 

    The biggest Con to me is the Con, that somehow technology, our ingeunity and cleverness could somehow not pay a price for dismantling the living support systems of Earth and populating the Earth so much. The leaders lied and could because, many people embraced modernity as the “best” way to live.

  2. Hello on Mon, 9th Oct 2017 9:57 am 

    >>>> many people embraced modernity as the “best” way to live

    It needs a special character of strength to not want to use ‘modernity’.

    I’m very thankful that there is modernity when having to go to the dentist.

    Have you ever had a tooth pulled the old fashion way? Say hello to half a bottle of whisky and plumbers pliers.

  3. Jean Paul Getty on Mon, 9th Oct 2017 10:10 am 

    It is 100% sustainable – provided that the US Government continues to dominate the world.

  4. onlooker on Mon, 9th Oct 2017 10:30 am 

    I am not judging modernity as totally “bad”, some tangible benefits were attained. But, at a cost too high. And the realization of this “cost” was ignored because it was to be paid sometime in the future and what mattered to all concerned was the benefit being accrued in the present.

  5. Hello on Mon, 9th Oct 2017 10:47 am 

    Medical treatment is a good example where all costs are ignored just to help a loved one.

    It’s extremly difficult to say to a loved one that the cost of treatment is too high, specially if those ‘costs’ are in abstract terms like future/environment/greater good etc.

    I’ve seen families in 3rd world countries bankrupt themselves into practical slavery just to provide treatment to a loved child. They should have calculated the cost, I presume, and let the child die?

  6. Davy on Mon, 9th Oct 2017 11:17 am 

    It is called social triage and it will be the name of the game when decline sets in as the dominant reality. Currently we have growth and decline in a mix that is difficult to determine. Social triage is already a fact of life for many in the 3rd world and many poor in the first world. The older I get the more I appreciate modernity. I give internal thanks for a good meal and modern comforts. I live as if they could be gone soon with the surreal understanding that they may remain. Modern life is amazing with its stamina and staying power. I used to be a extremist colapsnik. Now I just live day to day in a doom and prep lifestyle. This lifestyle may not make a difference but it gives me meaning and that means a lot in this insane world we live in.

  7. onlooker on Mon, 9th Oct 2017 11:23 am 

    Both of you are just proving my point that the “allure” of modernity was and is too difficult to resist. Look at China and India galloped headlong into modernity. Nevertheless, given our Predicament would both of you not agree that the Price was too high in terms of the prospects for our species.

  8. Darrell Cloud on Mon, 9th Oct 2017 11:45 am 

    I’ve walked through the bone yards of past civilizations in Latin America and Europe. I am absolutely convinced that we have reached peak complexity as described in Tainter’s theory. One of the tells fore me lies with the tremendous number of people who are no longer buying the narrative. It’s strange really. The lights are still on for most of us. The beer is still cold and the pizza is still hot. Still there is this foreboding that follows many of us like a shadow. We can see the rotting city centers. We can see the closing store fronts. Many of us get it. AR-15’s are the most popular rifle in America. Bug out bags are now part of the lexicon. When enough of the dreamers awake, the dream is over. The zeitgeist feels like 1859 or 1913.

  9. J. H. Wyoming on Tue, 10th Oct 2017 1:13 am 

    “I am not judging modernity as totally “bad”, some tangible benefits were attained. But, at a cost too high. And the realization of this “cost” was ignored because it was to be paid sometime in the future and what mattered to all concerned was the benefit being accrued in the present.”

    That’s it right there, because to focus on the present clearly enough, relinquishes concern and sense of responsibility for the future.

    Without a clear, responsible vision and effort to ensure a good future, the rules get sidetracked, paid off, rejected. Fish out the seas until some someone stops it. Clearcut as much as possible as fast as possible until someone stops it. pollute the streams until someone regulates it then elect trump so overburden can once again be shoved into rivers and valleys to help people get back to work coal mining so copious amounts of pollutants can flush out into the atmosphere.

    The foot is always on the accelerator pushed down to the floor and the focus is always on short term profit at any cost to the environment. That’s why regulations are put in place because humans can’t really be trusted to do what is right. They have to be forced to. But generally the one’s damaging the biosphere far out number the one’s trying to slow them down, so the net effect is we are blowing through the resources of this planet and changing the climate in the direction of it becoming unlivable.

  10. Revi on Tue, 10th Oct 2017 1:04 pm 

    What do you expect? We are creatures that live off of dead things. We aren’t going to stop, or even slow down until it’s all gone!

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