Empire of the Rising Scum

In 2007, when he was still courting us and had to put on a clean undershirt every day, Barack Obama said:  “The President does not have power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation.” Compare that to his current position on the War Powers Act.

But this is nothing new. Every day, it seems progressives have another reason for disillusionment with Obama.  As libertarian commentator Anthony Gregory wrote in a recent column (“Why the Left Fears Libertarianism,” LewRockwell.com, June 30),  this is really George Bush’s third term.

Obama dumped hundreds of billions in corporate welfare into the banking and auto industries, appointed General Electric’s CEO as his unemployment tsar, and “appointed corporate state regulars for every major role in financial central planning.”

He violated his pledges to close Guantanamo and end warrantless wiretapping, doubled down on Afghanistan, refused to halt rendition of prisoners, left the US gulag of black torture sites up around the world, turned Baghram AFB into Gitmo East, and authorized the torture of dissident Bradley Manning.

He abandoned all his assurances about transparency, and pushed through a healthcare “reform” that does for the insurance companies what Medicare D did for the drug companies.

Harry Browne used to warn that the laws you supported would most likely turn out to “do the opposite of what you thought you were supporting.” You’d expect everyone would know by now — but, like Charlie Brown, they keep trying to kick that ball — that “no law will be written the way you have in mind, it won’t be administered the way you have in mind, and it won’t be adjudicated the way you have in mind.” This is because “you don’t control government.”

It’s also because of the kinds of people running government. Jon Ronson, author of “The Psychopath Test,” claims that psychopathy is four times more prevalent in the top ranks of Corporate America as in the general public. I’m sure the same phenomenon prevails in government as well. As Ronson said, a consensus of leading psychologists said “psychopaths rule the world.”

There’s a good reason for this. As Robert Shea wrote in the aptly titled “Empire of the Rising Scum” (Loompanics Catalog 1990), the more successful an organization becomes at its ostensible function, “the more it attracts people who see the organization as an opportunity to advance themselves.” And because advancing in an organization is a talent like anything else, organizations tend to become dominated by apparatchiks: “[P]eople who are extraordinarily good at manipulating organizations to serve their own ends …” who can “out-a**-kiss, out-maneuver, out-threaten, out-lie and ultimately out-fight his or her way to the top of the pyramid — any pyramid.”

So ultimately, any large, hierarchical organization — regardless of its ostensible purpose — will serve the real primary purpose of getting bigger and increasing the power and wealth of those at the top. You get governments that create internal passport systems and put us under constant surveillance in order to “protect our freedom,” and giant corporations whose CEOs downsize customer service staff to goose their own stock options while publicly proclaiming that “customer service is our priority.”

Giant, top-down organizations are headed by people — frequently power-crazed sociopaths — whose main skill is bureaucratic in-fighting. The scum rises to the top.

So what’s the answer? To replace hierarchy with self-organization, and to replace authority with mutual agreement between equals.

Don’t give the scum any place to rise to.

Translations for this article:

Anarchy and Democracy
Fighting Fascism
Markets Not Capitalism
The Anatomy of Escape
Organization Theory