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The Status Quo’s Model Of “How The World Works” Is Broken

Public Policy

The Status Quo is dysfunctional because its model of how the world works is broken.

Much has been written about the dysfunction in Washington D.C. Pundits have been wringing their hands for years over the rise of bitter partisan politics and the resulting gridlock. The impact of this–what I have termed profound political disunity–extends beyond the narrow confines of domestic politics, a reality reflected in Foreign Affairs new survey of our winter of political discontent, Dysfunction Junction.

But all these discussions of our dysfunctional politics ignore the larger truth, which is the entire model of the Status Quo is broken. Even if reformers succeeded in ridding the political system of cronyism and favors-for-campaign-contributions–two essentially impossible reforms, given the legalistic cover provided for cronyism and bought and paid for representatives, the basic model of “how the world works” that dominates the world-view of leaders across the political spectrum would remain broken.


There are only three alternatives:

1. The current gridlock continues, and the policies in place grind on with minor tweaks.

2. The Democrats win a sweeping victory and are able to unilaterally impose their reforms.

3. The Republicans win a sweeping victory and are able to unilaterally impose their reforms.

Why do we know the entire model is broken? Because all three alternatives lead to a continuation of the same ruinous model of “how the world works”:

1. A continued reliance on Keynesian Cargo Cult “stimulus,” i.e. borrowing and blowing trillions of dollars to prop up inefficient, bloated, corrupt, wasteful crony-capitalist cartels and politically untouchable fiefdoms.

2. The continued destruction of open, transparent markets via intervention by the central state and bank.

3. The continued expansion of the Welfare State, i.e. entitlements such as Medicaid and ObamaCare subsidies and implicit entitlements such as farm price supports, corporate tax breaks, mortgage interest deductions, etc.

4. The continued expansion of the National Security State, whose premises are A) everyone on the planet is guilty until proven innocent and B) only Total Information can protect “us” (i.e. the National Security State itself) from threats.

5. The continued erosion of civil liberties via death by a thousand cuts.

6. The rising dependence on borrowed money to fund standard government services.

7. The rising dependence on manipulated/gamed statistics to manage perceptions that the Status Quo is eternal, powerful and improving everyone’s lives, even as it serves the narrow interests of self-serving Elites and insiders.

8. The expansion of a Permanent War State that recognizes no boundaries between domestic and international threats, hence the militarization of local police forces and the rise of private mercenaries in the guise of for-profit domestic prisons and police forces.

9. A central bank (the Federal Reserve) that will continue to support the most rapacious, opaque and self-serving financial Elites with free money for financiers.

10. The continuing purchase of political favors by monied Elites via lobbying and campaign contributions.

11. An ever-rising dependence on generating the appearance of stability, transparency, competence and expertise as a substitute for actual stability, transparency, competence and expertise. In other words, an expanding reliance on gaming dysfunctional systems rather than actually repairing dysfunctional systems.

12. An increasing reliance on zero-interest rates, debt and free money for financiers as the “fix” for every economic ill.

The Status Quo is dysfunctional because its model of how the world works is broken. It won’t matter if gridlock remains in place or one of the parties gets to impose its “brand” of policy-tweaks; since no one on the political spectrum has any concept that the current model described in these 12 points is broken, fixing the political dysfunction won’t fix the systemic dysfunction.


Charles Hugh-Smith of OfTwoMinds blog

20 Comments on "The Status Quo’s Model Of “How The World Works” Is Broken"

  1. Plantagenet on Tue, 26th Aug 2014 11:52 am 

    The only thing that has changed is that Obama won’t compromise with the Congress. The US system is designed to force compromise—and prior Presidents like Bill Clinton and George Bush founds ways to compromise with Congresses dominated by the opposite party. But Obama isn’t interested in compromise—in fact he boasts about ruling “with a pen and a phone.” Hence the current gridlock. IMHO it will end in three years when we elect Hillary to replace Obama.

  2. noobtube on Tue, 26th Aug 2014 12:41 pm 

    If I didn’t know better, it looks like you have a hard-on for Obama.

  3. Plantagenet on Tue, 26th Aug 2014 12:45 pm 

    Noob—please keep your sexual fantasies about Obama to yourself.

  4. louis wu on Tue, 26th Aug 2014 12:46 pm 

    Really, it is all Obama’s and only Obama’s fault?Congress is willing to compromise?

  5. Davy on Tue, 26th Aug 2014 1:12 pm 

    My comment would be from my obsessive “dog’s got a bone” system perspective. This is classic limits of growth with diminishing returns to representative democracy. We see the pie shrinking and power concentrating. This creates a club of interconnected wealthy, industry, politicians, and professionals i.e. the key administrators of the system. When a system cycles beyond its equilibrium it becomes brittle. The availability of power and privilege compresses due to a deceleration of the growth of energy intensity and complexity. As populations grow and carrying capacity shrinks more people are shut out of the resource pipeline. The remaining forces become locked in battle hanging on to what they can of the shrinking pie. Instead of broad based sharing and relative sacrifice we see patrician battles of both ideology and pork policies of the connected. The “ONLY” way we can find a solution to this destructive disequilibrium and dysfunction is a severe enough crisis that the basic system remains intact but the dysfunctions of our BAU become impossible to justify and support. The last frontier of efficiency, resource conservation, ecosystem protection, and energy stability lies with a profound change to attitudes and lifestyles. It is not entirely clear if our current system could encounter and survive a crisis to make these necessary changes. Even if we were to make these changes there is no silver bullet for a maintenance of the basic comfort we have grown accustom to. There will only be increased pain, suffering, food insecurity, energy shortages, and social breakdown. The difference is in degree and duration. At this point we have to find a course that limits both degree and duration of the descent paradigm. If we cannot begin the descent in a reasonable environment of shared responsibility and sacrifice there will be no hope. Pre-1950’s people had these attitudes especially pre 20th century. I am not sure we are capable as a people anymore to share and sacrifice on a macro level. Time will tell. We have a few years before the fall gathers momentum and speed.

  6. Northwest Resident on Tue, 26th Aug 2014 1:18 pm 

    I see that Plant the Obama Blamer is still polluting this forum’s discussion with constant, habitual, compulsive blaming of Obama. That’s a sordid sickness that Plant has, kind of like a gaping wound in the side of his head with maggots crawling around feasting on the rot. Picture plant as a demented bitter old man, sitting in his rocking chair taking a wheezing gasp of breath with each rock backward and spitting out an Obama-blaming accusation with each rock forward, and you’ll be very close to reality. Keep up the Obama-blaming, Plant, and prove to everybody on a daily basis what a sick retarded puppy you are.

  7. Plantagenet on Tue, 26th Aug 2014 2:55 pm 


    Why does a mention of Obama’s shortcomings as president trigger off in your mind bizarre fantasies about diarrhea and maggots? Your post is even weirder then Noob’s post with his Obama sexual fantasy.

    Davy made a good post, but it seems he is the only one out there who is intelligent enough to be able to discuss the issues.

  8. Plantagenet on Tue, 26th Aug 2014 2:59 pm 

    @louis wu

    Of course you are right that Congress also bears a share of the blame for the gridlock in DC. However, the LEADER is always the one who is ultimately responsible. Thats why DC insiders like Bob Woodward put the bulk of the blame on Obama for the dysfunction in DC.

  9. noobtube on Tue, 26th Aug 2014 3:04 pm 

    Considering that, no matter the topic, you manage to turn it into an opportunity to blame one person (out of all the billions on this planet). No one should be that predictable, because it shows you have a 1-track mind.

    That is obsession with one man. So, you must either love this man or envy this man. Which is it?

  10. Plantagenet on Tue, 26th Aug 2014 3:25 pm 

    I don’t turn every topic into an opportunity to blame one person. But this topic is about the dysfunction and gridlock in DC, and the blame for that must mostly lie with the LEADER who has led us into these circumstances. Past presidents bear the blame for their failures, and the responsibility and blame for the failures of the Obama administration inevitably and ultimately lie with Obama.

  11. noobtube on Tue, 26th Aug 2014 4:21 pm 

    I didn’t know one man wrote the Constitution.

    Or one man controls the Federal Reserve.
    Or one man controls the oil companies.
    Or one man controls the local governments.
    Or one man controls the weather.
    Or one man controls gas prices.
    Or one man controls private business.

    Yet, I have seen blame, for all these things, placed on one man.

    That is an irrational and delusional mind.

    Where there is one, there are millions more. They are called the American Exceptionalists… the idiots of the Earth.

  12. Plantagenet on Tue, 26th Aug 2014 4:25 pm 


    What “one man” do you imagine “controls the weather”?

  13. MSN Fanboy on Tue, 26th Aug 2014 4:45 pm 

    Plant: “I don’t turn every topic into an opportunity to blame one person”

    LOL 99% of your posts may be summarised as “Its Obama’s fault”

    However plant does make a decent point… “must mostly lie with the LEADER who has led us into these circumstances” This is true.

    However Plant, do you fail to recognise it has been SUCCESSIVE LEADERSHIP FAIL of American Politics.

    A leader confronts reality, is wise and understands what is right for everyone in the long term.

    What democracy caters for such leaders?

    What democracy looks furthur than “their” term.

    Democracy is the superlative form of goverment, promising the rewards of “freedom” now etc… the lies of the present narrative.

    Like you plant, 99% of Humanity is as vacuous as our leaders: Like Obama. You both share the same faults.


    Democracy Democracy Democracy LOL

    We get what we want, eat that chocolate bar, get fat, blame someone else, sit away idle in our own entertainment, the next hip hop pop.

    How can i prove this: History.

    One Name

    Jimmy Carter

    Tried to get America to face reality (mistake) believeing they would live up to the challenge.

    The cry-babys voted him out, prefering the matrix.

    If i reduce this further, it is human nature lol

    But then, why did Norway have a soverign wealth fund…

    They had effective leaders.

  14. Niav on Tue, 26th Aug 2014 4:52 pm 


    Please stop replying to Plantagenet’s obsession with Obama. Had you not replied, there would be only one post from him in the comments of this article.

    But now, out of 10 comments, 5 are basically Obama bashing from Plantagenet, 4 are basically saying: “Plantagenet, your Obama bashing is getting incredibly boring

    and only ONE (1 out of 10!!) comment actually bring something to the article… and I didn’t even read it entirely because it desperatly needs paragraphs.

    Well.. I guess my comment isn’t bringing much to the discussion either.

  15. jmb on Tue, 26th Aug 2014 6:18 pm 

    Did any of you posters (with a couple of exceptions, Davy and NWR) actually read the article? You argue politics and spew nonsense. “no one on the political spectrum has any concept that the current model described in these 12 points is broken, fixing the political dysfunction won’t fix the systemic dysfunction.” CHS
    The ENTIRE MODEL is broken.

  16. DMyers on Tue, 26th Aug 2014 7:43 pm 

    I don’t believe Hugh-Smith is talking about gridlock. Political gridlock doesn’t matter when the eventuality is an agreed upon continuation of the enumerated dysfunctional tendencies.
    The problem from the wider view is not so much gridlock, as the lack thereof.

    Taking the twelve items and arriving at a common theme, it would be corruption. One might even call this classical corruption, as it seems to mirror the self-destructive practices of empires past.

    We are submersed in corruption with nowhere to turn but to the corrupted, themselves.

    A moment will arrive when the dysfunctional becomes the nonfunctional. That’s when all will see that the system is broken. Of what will that moment be comprised? If only we were able to know. I’m just going to guess it will be some phenomenon of Nature, which we believed to the core that we had conquered, forever.

  17. HARM on Tue, 26th Aug 2014 8:53 pm 

    “The only thing that has changed is that Obama won’t compromise with the Congress.”

    Meaning, Obama won’t cave into any absurd demand from the Teajadists. Who, even when Obmama *has* caved (healthcare “reform” being a recent example), they just move the goal-posts even further to the right, rinse, wash and repeat ad infinitum.

  18. Makati1 on Tue, 26th Aug 2014 9:51 pm 

    A lot of comments … but the reality is that there are no longer TWO parties. Only one with minor differences that have little to do with reality. The same elite are running the US no matter who sleeps in the White House or who is flinging bull shit in Congress. The ones running things are not elected, they are part of the elite club and you are not invited.

    If you think it matters who wins in November, you have not been paying attention. (2004,2008 & 2012 for instance) Nor will the election in 2016 make a difference. If we are not involved in a world war by then, we certainly will be by 2020. Unless the world economy collapses and even then it may still happen.

  19. John on Wed, 27th Aug 2014 9:07 am 

    The article misses an opportunity to make a great observation; that the status quo is broken because of peak oil and energy concerns. My world view looks rather tidy as result, as I assume all of the listed observations are because we’re running out of fuel, and the government is making changes to deal with future problems.

  20. Makati1 on Wed, 27th Aug 2014 10:57 am 

    So true, John. The USSA is trying to dominate the world’s resources and is running into formidable opposition, i.e. Russia, China and the other hundred or so countries that are tired of being ruled by the war mongering, hypocritical US.

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