Travelogue: The Imperial Capital

Yesterday, my duties required me to go into the Imperial Capital for meetings. Not being a Cloud Person, and living among the Dirt People, it means I have to drive into the city, which is one of the worst things that can be asked of a man. Traffic around the Capital is some of the worst on the planet. I think I’d rather ride a scooter in Tijuana than drive around Washington DC. But, when duty calls you do what you must and that meant two hours of car time navigating the traffic of the capital.

One of the things you notice upon entering the capital area, if you are the noticing type, is the wealth. Sitting in traffic, I looked at the cars around me and I spied an Audi A8 to my left, a Mercedes S-class in front and a Tesla to my right. That was roughly a quarter million dollars within arms length of me. Looking around, I saw lots of other luxury cars. For the managerial elite, Audi and Mercedes are the safe choices so you see a lot of them. Lexus is another solid choice as their cars are well appointed, without being ostentatious.

The Imperial Capital is the richest place on the planet, which makes a lot of sense, given that it is the capital of the empire. Half of the ten richest counties in America are around Washington DC. The reason for that is the people living in those counties either work for the government or they work for companies that have one customer – the Federal government. The average Federal salary is something north of $80,000 per year, while the average American salary is about $50,000. That’s before figuring in the lavish government benefits.

Of course, the people living in the capital area don’t think of themselves as rich. One of the stranger things about the managerial class is they combine a sense of entitlement with the firm belief they are up against it. Federal employees are hilarious when they start moaning about how tough it is for them in the bureaucracy. From their perspective, they are not wrong. Government workers spend their days in pointless busy work. Anything resembling useful work is thwarted by a bureaucracy that has evolved to serve its own interests.

The shadow bureaucracy, the army of private sector contractors that work exclusively for the Federal government have a slightly different view of things. They actually have to fulfill the terms of a contract so there is a culture that somewhat resembles the dreaded private sector. Even so, fulfilling the contract often just means showing up for meetings and conference calls, where the only thing discussed is the next meeting or conference call. I know someone whose only job is to arrange conference calls for the staff of her firm. She drives a BMW.

I’ve often suspected that the urge for self-actualization among managerial class types stems from the fact that at some level, they know their work is meaningless. Anyone who has had the pleasure of working the business end of a shovel knows the strange pleasure that comes from seeing a hole in the ground that you created. There’s a pleasure in work that comes from seeing the results of your labors. It’s why Donald Trump seems so weird as a politician. Unlike the rest of them, he can point to a building with his name on it and say, “I made that.”

In the Imperial Capital, no one can say they made anything since all of them are just gears in the giant machine we call the state. The Federal government does a lot and the results are everywhere, but no one person can connect his labor to any one thing. Worse yet, most everyone thinks the government does more harm than good. Even the people in the system generally despise the fruits of their labors, what little there are. It’s not as bad as being a guard at a labor camp, but it is hard going to work every day knowing you’re either unessential or a nuisance.

The result of this is the people in the managerial elite, government division, do not identify themselves by their work. A computer programmer will tell you he is a programmer in the first few minutes you meet him. A plumber or school teacher will identify themselves by their trade. Government workers tell you about the hobbies and their passions. A gal yesterday spent fifteen minutes telling me about her passions, before finally getting around to mentioning she was an administrator for a government agency.

The other thing that warps the culture and the people of the Imperial Capital is the near total lack of risk. There’s crime, of course, but that is mostly avoidable. The violence in DC is in the remaining black ghettos, which are slowing being exported beyond the beltway into unsuspecting neighborhoods in the suburbs. The thing that is missing is economic risk. No matter what is happening in the economy, it is always good times in the Imperial Capital. They have not had a recession in over 70 years.

The fact is, it is just about impossible to be fired from a government job. More people die in their government jobs than get fired. No one ever quits, because there is no better place to work. Imagine if your employer gave you a 30% raise and tenure, meaning you can now come to work naked if you choose. That’s life in the Federal bureaucracy. All those days off, I suspect, are so the Federal workforce can have time to build interesting and self-actualizing lives outside of work. Otherwise, days and weeks of pointless tedium would result in a mass insanity or something similar to a prison riot.

Roll it all up and you have a world inside the Capital and the world outside. Something similar can be seen in New York or London with the financial class. The difference there is they actually do things, other than stop people from doing things. Hollywood has a similar culture. They call Washington “Hollywood for ugly people” for that reason. In both cases, tens of thousands live well doing no discernible work. Their value is in the fact they know how the system works or they are a gear in some portion of it that has been deemed essential.

It’s easy to see why Mao sent these people off to the rice paddies in the Cultural Revolution. If one is of the revolutionary mind, you cannot help but look at the managerial class as an occupying force, a foreign colonial bureaucracy. It’s not that they are bad or evil. It’s that they are so foreign and detached. Walk onto an elite college campus and you, as a Dirt Person, feel as if you are in a foreign country. Spend time in the Imperial Capital and you get some sense of what it was like to be a Hindu during the British Raj.

66 thoughts on “Travelogue: The Imperial Capital

  1. Today most government workers are emotionally and politically similar to NGO types. They believe, or pretend to, that they are on a mission to change the world. They vote Democrat. They have sensitivity training sessions to make sure there are no heretics. They are preoccupied with deviations from the unnatural order they want to maintain. A good example is the obsession with bicycles. They want to curtail fossil fuel use because of global warming. So, riding a bike to work is an act of faith. Unfortunately, they are always getting hit by cars because DC isn’t Amsterdam. The idea of encouraging people to ride 150cc Vespas and motorcycles is heretical and so the congestion, accidents, and tensions continue.

    When I first moved to DC in 1969 it wasn’t like this. Federal workers were normal, mostly white men with wives and children. They were considered conservative by Washington Post writers and editors. Also, at that time and well into the 80s they were poorly paid compared to private industry. But, while private sector workers have lost their standard of living federal workers have maintained theirs due to yearly automatic cost-of-living adjustments which raise wages in line with inflation.

  2. I was in DC a couple years ago for a couple days; and this fits the bill. The structures are beautiful (though rather undersized; the Washington Monument is by far the most notable part of the city), the traffic heavy, the suburbs leafy, and the people rich. Construction is still going on around the outskirts of the city and confidence in the economy is the highest in the country. It’s the Hillbot managerial-class dream come alive.

  3. I did a freelance photography job once, for a Federal Department of Social Services. Simple thing, a photo of a child for the front page of a short pamphlet. The subject was…I can no longer remember. The child is in college now. The pamphlet hasn’t been released, yet. I spoke once to the lady that had me take the photo (also the childs mother) and I asked her way the project was canceled. “It wasn’t”, she said. “It was still winding it’s way through the process.”
    So far this has taken three times longer than the construction of Hoover Dam. There’s a moral there…
    …isn’t there?

  4. It’s not that they are bad or evil.
    But it is, and they are. And, even worse, that many of them can know this and feel no self-loathing, or at least shame.
    Taking money to produce nothing is theft. How anyone with a sense of self-worth can do this for a month is beyond me, but for 30 years? To me, that puts you in the company of, as Arlo Guthrie said, ” mother stabbers and father rapers. ” Knowing that the money you take comes from friends and family members should mean that no one works in DC at any job connected with the federal government. You are a thief, plain and simple.

    Yes, my standards are very high. And yes, much of this is caused by DC having a hand in things where it has no business.

  5. I recently moved to Fairfax County to work an assignment at the Pentagon. My wife and I are still in shock at the cost of living and the level of wealth inhabiting this area – strikingly different than the rest of the country. I met a civilian employee at the Pentagon who is a secretary. She’s not even a good secretary. She was recently asked to order some supplies and this request sent her home in a panic attack. She is a GS-14!!! This puts her salary somewhere between $87,263 and $113,444. This woman shows up to work, does next to nothing (mostly online shopping), and goes home. There are several such employees. We have another civilian who has been hired for a year who literally refuses to work and still gets paid. Most of these jobs are held by minorities who would not command large salaries anywhere else. Supervisors have a difficult time holding these people accountable because, as you stated in your post, it is nearly impossible to lose a government job. It requires (no kidding) a year of paperwork. In the meantime said supervisor will find themselves the target of an EEO or IG complaint, filed by the civilian under scrutiny. In the meantime the mission must be accomplished. Most supervisors are already working 12-hour days with a one hour commute to and from work. It’s easier just to bite the bullet and suck it up.

    • First, this blog post represents the most accurate description of DC I’ve ever read. It is entirely accurate. Charles Murray is exactly right in describing the (rich) DC suburbs as a land wholly cut off from the rest of the country.

      I just finished 2+ years in the Pentagon, working in an office of mostly sand crabs, a mix of GS and contractors, along with two military officers. I arrived in DC knowing that it wouldn’t be easy, but I was stunned at the level of affluence, coupled with the sheer number of oxygen thieves. Before DC I had never met a GS-15; my office in OSD was all non-supervisory GS-15s. As a Navy CDR, I was one of the lowest paid people in an office which I am convinced literally accomplished nothing. Between the work load, the cost of living, and the commute, I never was in a position to enjoy any of the good parts of DC. It was a real adjustment – in work culture and standard of living, I was clearly the “hired help.”

      I went through command legal school about a year ago – we were briefed by some high-up lawyer from SECNAV’s office about dealing with gov’t employees. For worthless or troublesome gov’t employees, the lessons boiled down to “there’s nothing you can do, don’t waste your time.” Everything Brock relates is completely accurate, but does not include the extra ass-pain if the employee made any sort of communication that could be viewed as whistle-blowing. All he describes is put on hold until the negative review is proven not to be retaliatory, even if the supervisor knew nothing of the communication and was not the topic.

      In short, after my time in DC, I came to see that one of the obvious intentions of the federal workforce is to employ the otherwise unemployable. Unemployable not in the sense of criminal; instead, federal employment supports the not-so-smart, not-so-industrious, those who could not function in the private economy. But the pay and benefits and stability have increased at a rate well beyond their worth.

    • Thought about going that route once – honorably discharged combat vet, etc…, it would have been easy. Just couldn’t bring myself to do it.

  6. When I finished college in mid-70’s, there was a recession and jobs were tough to come by. I lucked out and got one at a government contractor. You know, the big kind with “cost plus” contracts where profits were guaranteed. When budget time came, we had to work overtime to spend the current budget in order to justify a larger budget for the next year. Those kinds of things were at play including having a union for technicians. So as an engineer, I could not “touch” any equipment. I had to instruct the technicians on what to to. This after having gotten an engineering degree where I spent hours in labs using great equipment of all kinds from the likes of HP and Tektronics.

    But what really opened my eyes was dealing with a sub-contractor who had a “fixed price” contract. And it amazed me that someone actually cared about costs and schedules. When some testing took longer than expected, the sub-contractor was all over it wanting to know why. That is when I realized there was a “business” side to things and decided shortly after to go back to school.

    I cannot criticize the company that much, it’s people or the products they produce. They have a long and storied history with our country, but what is a shame is the blatant rigging of the system to transfer wealth that is unearned, call it theft, from the American taxpayer. This is done by the corporate execs, their lawyers and complicit politicians.

    So bureaucrats aside and the waste they represent, there is another criminal element that is more sinister and entrenched and that does far more damage to our country. It isn’t called the MIC for nothin. Bodies grease the wheels but the machine has to be fed. Gotta keep it churning. There is no such thing as existential threat … it is just about big business.

  7. I worked briefly for the federal government as a bridge job. I couldn’t stand the uselessness and pointlessness of it. I had maybe 3 days of real work a month. I left after about 14 months for a private sector job. As I was leaving, one of the managers told me he didn’t need 80% of his people, but I could come back if I ever wanted to. I don’t see how these people can spend their entire lives doing nothing. They’re better off gargling buckshot.

    I agree with everything else in your post. I have to travel to Mordor in December and am not looking forward to it.

    The only way for a bureaucracy to collapse is for an entire civilization to collapse.

  8. Good article. Minor correction to assertion that there hasn’t been a recession in fed gov’t in DC in 70 years. There was one during the early Eisenhower years, complete with layoffs. Federal jobs were less well paid than private at that time and slowly gained over the private sector, then quickly – until the ridiculous present.

  9. There are gov’t jobs in my state agency that are so horrible the turnover rate is 50%, but that’s all the young blood who are sure they weren’t born to torment people that way. Today’s fresh Hell was in the form of yet another bureaucrat above me who has been promoted beyond her abilities (the turnover rate creates lots of these folks higher up). She is a dear, and tries to be helpful, but has hit the wall. She can’t get her mind around the fact that a vendor can be working for the State under two different contracts, for slightly different services in selected parts of the State. So we must break out our long list of vendors into individual requests, because she can’t understand it as a package. Our betters, above us in the state capitol, keep looking to us for guidance and definition, and then writing a contract according to a bean-counter’s interpretation of what we do, and then telling us they can’t do it that way, so we’d better do it for them. Meanwhile, I’m in week three of trying to order a case of paper.

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  11. To be a dirt person is to have created something through labor, something tangible, creation of intrinsic value.
    The entire cause of revolution against King George and the Tory’s was the cause of unfettered economic freedom. The act of producing something without the unrighteous, unholy burden of having some portion of the fruits of your labor taken from you to be divvied up among people who produce nothing of intrinsic or tangible worth. It is theft plain and simple.
    There is a deeply profound line in the Declaration of independence: ‘He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance.’
    There is another injury to our liberty, Bill of Attainders, the basic premise being to make everyone whom are not party to and beneficiary of administrative tyranny of the state, an adversary or enemy of the state. It is becoming increasingly apparent to be a component, an employee of the federal government. and enjoy it’s lagess, garnered from the labor of others, is to be a enabling partner in the unchecked, increasingly insulate administrative power of unaccountable government. I can hear a myriad of arguments on that score. But the truth is if one cares to ask the un-askable third rail of questions why such a government to begin with, would the federal leviathan be a leviathan without the “Swarms of Officers” whom eat out the peoples existence? They sure have no problem collecting those wonderful paychecks and benefits, which are only possible because that government they “work” for produces nothing of intrinsic prosperity, and can only function in it’s present state by forcibly removing people from a portion of the fruits of their labor, without those people having a say in it. And ultimately, if you refuse to comply, there are other officers, armed swarms of officers, who will ultimately shoot you dead if you do not ultimately comply. Try it. Something deeply inherently wrong with this picture. And “it’s just the way it is”, is not even an excuse, it is not self bullshitting, it is a lie so large there is not a definition for it. But Tyranny is a pretty good start.

    • We can start by removing every firearm, every bullet, every piece of military equipment from any Federal bureaucracy. If they need firepower, they can request help from the local police. They want gun control? Fine, let’s give it to them. I don’t want to hear any more about a Department of Education SWAT team coming for someone that is behind in their student loan payments.

      • The military grade armaments, and the mentality which employs those weapons of war upon the civilian populous literally and figuratively are a symptom of the crux of the “fundamental transformation” of amerika. It is as Thomas Jefferson once said: A government big enough to give you everything you want, is big enough to take everything you have.
        Collectivism, globalism, communism, democracy, socialism, pregressivenism, same shit different names, is the appetite of a self-appointed ‘elite’ for other people’s liberty, property and lives.
        The federal government has become nexus of the ultimate entitlement class, the class of Americans who believe they are entitled to rule over everyone else, and make the ruled pay for the privilege of being ruled over. And they are arming themselves, again at the ruled expense, to keep it, their status quo, that way.

        I think the harsh reality that will eventually come to pass is as the late Mike Vanderboegh put it: “Collectivism’s timeless appetites for liberty, property and life — undeniable, insatiable, non-negotiable — can only be defeated. Fight or die. Resistance is not futile, despite what the little tyrant behind the curtain would have you believe. It is, in fact, the only survival strategy that works with zombies — communist or not.”

        It is a Gordian knot, and the collectivists have drawn it so tight it is going to take some serious work to hack away at it and cut it.

        • I think it was Gerald Ford who said that, not Thomas Jefferson. I don’t think if anyone in Jefferson’s time could have even imagined a government capable of “giving” as much as ours does now.

          • Jefferson said it, Ford could have. Don’t know.
            What makes you suggest the tyranny of King George or the specter of future human behavior and actions is any different from Jefferson’s time onwards, than it is in ours?

            The tyranny of the day is relative friend. Jefferson’s was no more or no less terrible than what I am personally confronted with today, it is just simply relative. Wouldn’t you say?
            To put a finer point on it, how is a little bit of slavery OK? Would it not be valid to ask how is just a little bit of tyranny OK?
            Neither are acceptable to a person who is free.
            So maybe Jefferson was in the same boat as we are today?

  12. When the title said “Travelogue”, I wondered for a minute whether you had yet to return across the Atlantic, and that the Imperial Capital spoken of might be Brussels. Apart from the details of the vibrant parts of the city, I’m not sure there’d be much difference in the description.

    We can also generalise to “Politics is show-biz for ugly people”, up to and including the anomalous number of homosexualists and other deviants in each “profession”.

  13. From your description, Washington D.C. sounds a lot like the Bay Area and Silicon Valley back in the 80’s and 90’s. Companies like Applied Materials, eBay, Adobe, Cisco and dozens of dot coms on the up and up. The 101 and 280 were bumper to bumper at rush hour with BMW’s, Mercedes, and Porsche’s. Not to mention the million dollar homes in Palo Alto, Los Gatos and Aptos.. If you ever have dinner on a sidewalk restaurant in downtown Palo Alto, you’ll watch a couple million dollars cruise by every five minutes.

    But of you looked out into the parking lots of those companies, 90% of the high-end cars were all leased. No one owned anything. Lots of bling to keep up the hipster lifestyle that was actually drowning in debt and living paycheck to paycheck. When someone makes over $100K a year, drives a new 5-series BMW, shops at Whole Foods and is worried about making a house payment, it doesn’t take a Stanford PhD to understand the problem.

    But at least they produced something valuable – unlike their government counterparts.

    • I went to high school in Mountain View, pre-Silicon Valley. (Steve Job’s parents moved to a different area, so he wouldn’t have to go to my school.) I consider the tech companies to be the worst blight on a state you can ever have. Normally, corporations would tend towards the conservative side. Tech companies are the worst sort of liberals imaginable. Every state they infect winds up with a wealthy class and a peon class. WA state is well on the way to being just like CA.

      • I did most of my stint at HP. Gotta love Dave Packard and Bill Hewlett. True gentlemen, businessmen and scholars. What attracted me to HP was their dedication to making the best products for their markets. Great values in how they ran the company. And somehow, despite all the brilliant people that were hired, when the company got into trouble, Dave would come back and “find and fix” the problem, usually a business problem like inventory.

        Seems to be a great shift in Valley values happened after the dot com bust. Companies after that were just in the mode of “scam” anything for as much as you can get, while you can. Anyway, I left HP when Carly came in. I could spot a bad apple a mile away, just as I did with Obozo in 2007.

      • @ notsothoreau – From a historical perspective, workers in American industry at the turn of the century were horribly treated by their robber baron masters. It took a long time before you had anything like unions to protect workers from management elites. Let us not forget men like J.P. Morgan, Andrew Carnegie, Andrew W. Mellon, and John D. Rockefeller who got rich on the backs of abused men and women. Heavy industry was more of a blight on the people and the land than any tech company today. In America and Europe today, no tech company is responsible for workers losing limbs, polluting rivers or fouling the air.

        But for someone who uses a computer and the internet, perhaps you should be thanking the tech industry for the ability to even post on this blog. You’re starting to sound a little like the Berkeley crowd who drive their Volvos to Earth Day rallies and decry fossil fuels.

        So what if Zuckerberg, Jobs and Gates become zillionairs? They’re capitalists like those in the past and are entitled to gain from what they have created. And along the way, hundreds of thousands of people have a safe place to work thanks to them.

        • Karl- industrial jobs at the turn of the 20th century were no picnics, to be sure. I think though, that to the people of the time they represented a significant improvement in their lives. None of us would want to work in a meat packing house or a steel mill in 1905. Factories were dirty and dangerous places. But- the world at that time was a dirtier and more dangerous place. Even back in my youthful commie days I thought that there was a flaw in the “Robber Baron” meme. These guys were not always Angels, but they have largely been defined by people who hated them.

  14. Beemers and Mercedes are the common car around here for the apparatchiks (the illegals drive beat up Hondas and Toyotas). There are also thriving Maserati and Jaguar dealerships to serve the Imperial City. The path to wealth, assuming you can’t swing a foundation like the Clintons, is to rise up in a government job to GS-14 or 15 then jump to industry, move up there while making political connections, then jump back to the Government as an SES. These are the people who have the nice vacation properties on the Eastern shore and the Shenandoah valley.

  15. Zmans post is a perfect example of why the constitution must be amended to prohibit the federal govt. from exacting any taxes, fees or tariffs from any state, individual , corporation or entity.

    Each state legislature should be empowered to decide how much of their citizen’s money they will sent off to the federal govt. and the amount they send should be solely at the discretion of each state legislature.
    This is the only way to dismantle the tyrannical , unaccountable govt. bureaucracy and to prevent the rebirth of this parasitic leviathan.

    Just like the elitist parasites that rule the EU, the federal bureaucrats excel at totally F’ing up this nation and screwing over the citizenry. They are damn good at defining the acceptable geometry of the banana (or worse, defining and pricing “new” oil vs. “old” oil for you old timers), but have no idea how to grow, distribute or sell them (or anything else; see Venezuela or the former USSR, or Greece for the resultant end game).

    The federal bureaucracy is certainly not dysfunctional when you consider their role is to metastasize into a cancerous blob to F up the citizenry and to act as a mechanism to disburse political favors for criminally negligent politicians (our representatives).

    Of course, the bureaucracy is best at allowing Congress to avoid it’s Constitutional mandate of being the SOLE law making branch of government; in effect, Congress has abrogated this responsibility and left it to the unaccountable bureaucrats who now make the vast majority of laws.

    The federal govt’s ability to exact tribute from the citizenry goes a long way in explaining how the USA went from minding it’s own business (pre-1898 ) – and following the admonition of George Washington and Alexander Hamilton to avoid involvement in the affairs of foreign nations – to having a few zillion military bases around the world.

    The Constitution has to be amended to remove revenue exacting power from the Federal Govt and given to the States.

    • I’d allow only sales tax and import duties, and any sales of bonds(for emergencies) should be matched by an immediate increase in the sales tax rate – calculated to pay off the debt before most current voters retire. I think people would be AMAZED and angry at how high that sales tax would have to be, to maintain current levels of spending.

      But , if we quit our foolish “wars”, we’d be in a much more “sustainable” position:
      – War on poverty – our social safety net should be a barracks, with rice and beans diet – anything more will attract parasites and an army of bureaucrats to administer.
      – War on drugs – supports an army of lawyers, sociologists, guards and police. see Portugal’s decriminalization policy – people are helped and encouraged away from drugs.
      – military Wars – limited to having the army break stuff, kill people and come home. War should be dreadful and something to avoid, not another way for idiot politicians to “virtue signal” with a huge potlatch of degrading our military and benefiting suppliers. Our goal should be that any foreign leaders who advocate war with us will be promptly killed by their citizens (like Iran, Norks). And if we have to go to war, it should be paid for by the aggressor – especially in the case of moslem oil wealth, which buys misery for their “dirt people” and many, many of OUR POLITICIANS.

      • @ Joe – Americans have a very different idea of fighting wars today than they did 80-years ago. Out with c-rations and mobile kitchens and in with Burger King in combat areas. When Napoleon said “an army travels on its stomach”…I’m pretty sure he didn’t have Pizza Hut in mind.

        But you’re right. Sixteen years of war…sixteen…against people running around in robes and tennis shoes. Something is not right about that, given you defeated the technically advanced German war machine in less than four years.

        While I support your troops and the brave young people who server your country and put themselves in harms way, the military should not be the last option for young people in dire need of real employment because a corporation shipped the local factory to Mexico.

        • I am a combat veteran of Afghanistan and I would like to clear some of your notions. The infantry (my experience) did not have anything close to pizza hut, no internet either. It was MREs and whatever food we could scrounge up from the locals every now and then. Those amenities are found in the bigger logistical bases, I wasn’t living much differently from the villagers around me.

          I agree that 16 years of war for what we have achieved is an outrage. That’s because of very strict rules of engagement, and probably something deeper at a civilizational level, where we have forgotten how to properly do empire. The European imperialists controlled many more with many less. Maybe its time to whip up the old history books again.

          Last thing, most of my friends came from middle class to lower middle class backgrounds, not desperate circumstances, as most people assume. These were guys who had options other than the military, but they chose the military, and the infantry in particular.

          • Uh, yeah, in my Dad’s day, they were called REMF’s. They get the cushy stuff while the real fighting men live the hard life. God bless you Anon Bro!

          • @ Anonymous Bro – In my eyes, a military base represents occupation by the force that won after the war is over, as US bases exist in Germany today, in order to establish a controlling presence. As you say about rules of engagement, it would seem these rules are not helping the average soldier or the greater strategic goals.

            American military soldiers I have had the pleasure to know are generally well education, highly skilled and very well trained. But we had seen in the past various reports where young men in depressed economic areas joined out of financial need more than out of a sense of duty. Can you comment?

      • It is no accident that the personal income tax is taken automatically from each paycheck; people generally don’t think twice about it.
        Congress did this intentionally to “fool” the public.
        They just as easily could have decided that everybody pays what they owe at the end of the year.
        This of course would cause riots.

        Allowing politicians to tax is just an open door to abuse, corruption, waste and fraud.
        If the states, and states only were allowed to impose an income tax, the people could at least have the option to move to a more tax friendly (i.e., economic growth friendly) state/

      • The safety net should be commodities. That’s what they used to get. And indians (feather not dot) still get them. They came with a little cookbook to tell you how to use the stuff. They went to food stamps and SNAP to allow graft for the grocers.

        And I agree on military wars. If we don’t have an agreed on goal and an idea of how to get out of it, we should not go in.

    • Federal bureaucrats! Friend, you have no idea what they are like at the state level.Very short version of an 8 year story. I have riverfront property with a dock that has been there since at least the 70s. DNR would not renew the lease with the previous owner (they did not want it as a recreational dock.) DNR wants the dock removed, even though the road will likely be washed out from ship surges that come up the river. (This has happened at another spot in the road that is permanently closed.) Court tied themselves in knots doing whatever the state wants.

      But here is where it gets interesting. We found out from the city officials that DNR forced them to pass a law saying you can’t have a private dock unless you have a neighbor that also owns upland property. So if our dock goes, no one owning this property will ever be allowed a dock again. This is despite a state law that allows a private dock for upland property owners. And that is just one tiny story I could tell about this process. I have read FOIA documents on this whole mess too. The states are every bit as corrupt as the Feds. We don’t need ways to get them out of office. We need tar and feathers!

  16. I seem to recall us calling govt cogs “Mandarins” at some point. We need to revive it. They don’t actually wear jeweled fingernail sheathes and write eight-legged essays on the finer points of the Tao, but functionally it’s the same thing. When I’m dictator, one of my first fuhrer orders will be non-transferrable term limits on government employment — you get five years on the tit in any capacity, then you’re done. Contractors shall have compliance officers whose sole job is to make sure any former govt employee hired by their firm gets nowhere near that line of business, violations to be punished by catapult. (My second fuhrer order will be taking the vote away from anyone who works for the government — you get your vote back when your term’s up — but that’s a rant for another day).

    • @ Severian – I don’t mind if a government employee can hold a job for 30-40 years and retire. Why shouldn’t they be entitled to full time employment and benefits like anyone else? What I would do is simply limit their salary based on the type of work they do and only give them pay raises equal to the cost of living increase. I don’t really see the point of retraining someone every five years. High turn-over rates are expensive and not very productive. The lady at my local grocery store has been working there for over 23-years. Why shouldn’t the person at the driver’s license office be able to work that long, or longer too? I would argue that it’s not how long they work, but how much they get in pay and benefits over the long term.

      But I do like the idea of catapults. But may I recommend the trebuchet? It has much better range thus ensuring a much longer scream factor.

      • @ Karl Horst, the high cost of high turnover is the best argument for simplifying government procedures to the point where very little training is required. It’s the same argument for term limits on Congressmen — if you simplify the government to the point where teaching someone to do it is easy, that government is by definition limited and transparent. I’m sneaky that way. 🙂 But I’d be ok with no term limits if you don’t get to vote while on the govt it. I totally agree about the trebuchets, though, and hereby invite you to serve as Commissioner of Ballistic Punishments in my regime.

      • A high turnover rate would be a good thing amongst useless pests. We would just have to make do with less busybody interference. Those in useful positions, providing the actual legitimate functions of govt. could be exempt – protect the borders, emergency services, police, inspector generals….

      • For someone who drinks of a right wing site, your understanding of the bureaucratic DNA is shockingly low. Then I remembered Hayek writing words to the effect that Germans might be the only people naturally suited to a socialist-bureaucratic society that was not self-immolating; that all people were drawn to it by instinct but that only Germans could survive it.

        • @ Joe and James Wilson – “The federal government employs approximately 2.1 million workers plus 700,000 Postal employees. The U.S. Government is the largest employer in the United States, hiring over 2% of the nation’s work force. The average annual salary for full-time federal job holders exceeds $81,258. The federal sector hired 232,812 federal employees nationwide and overseas in 2015. Almost a third were veterans.” *

          When you outsource all your factories to Mexico, South America and China, and don’t provide retraining or proper education or apprentice programs for your veterans and young people who aren’t college bound, this suddenly makes sense. It would seem the federal government is a good pretty company to work for. At least they’re not down-sizing, outsourcing or cutting health benefits like the private sector – at least not yet.

          Personally, I’m okay with that lady at the DMV who knows her job because she’s been doing it for 20-years. I hope she’s there for another 20-years because I’ll still need her when I have to renew my drivers license. (Okay, I no longer have a California drivers license, but you get the point).


      • It used to be that the government employee received a lower wage proportionally with some decent benefits. They also received cost of living raises tagged to the inflation rate. Then costs in the locus of DC and other spots got high. That caused the cost of Gov’t employment to go up along with the cost of the benefit packages. Then they got the idea they should be paid more than the productive members of society. The managerial classes lost the sense they were servants of the rest of us. Back then the retirement packages were really good because of being considered as deferred compensation. The imbalance came when the US Gov’t turned Feral. Now they demand high pay and golden benefits AND the deferred compensation, too.

        It is out of control and needs to be rebalanced.

    • You are far too kind. I would immediately put all of them on part time, ~20 hrs/wk, and eliminate benefits for part timers. Half of 80k per year year is 40k – nearly the average of private sector WORKERS. If govt. workers are not quitting their jobs at the same rate as private sector workers their wages would be adjusted downward, starting with the top tiers.

      At the very least, the Pendleton act of 1883 must go. It was intended to prevent political hacks running govt., but has cemented hacks of only one side in place – the more govt. at ALL COSTS side. If (R)s are going to able to trim govt., they need to be able to replace managers with people who will eagerly search the records for signs of corruption/partisan bias, and who have the power to fire those who obstruct. The prospect of REAL OVERSIGHT would tend to make the bureaucrats behave – partisans and crooks would have no future in govt. without the Pendleton act.

      • Yep, we were taught that the spoils system was bad. Why just think! Political parties handing out offices to their supporters! Good thing the DNC doesn’t do pay for play any more /sarc

  17. I know someone who quit a government job. It was quit, go crazy or blow up the place. Her military service was vilified, by people who had none. She was berated because she worked – at her job description and improving relations with the non-government companies involved in the agency, hours above and beyond. When she told a supervisor a report going forward was filled with incorrect information and needed overhaul, she was told to shut up. Supervisors in various categories were paid a bonus based on meeting a calendar deadline, and to fix the report would mean missing the deadline.

    A good point on the managerial class as “an occupying force.”

  18. They live in Washington and its suburbs the way the party elite lived in Moscow, Prague, Warsaw, Budapest, etc., and their suburbs in the old Soviet days. All of it on our money.

  19. Don’t feel bad when you see a dearth of comments. Sometimes there are just no words that do justice to it. Like trying to photograph Alaska. Hopeless.

  20. Great observations, acute perspectives, and keen insights, as usual. In any good narrative, it is the anticipation of the ultimate denouement that keeps one engaged. So, personally, in any given piece, I am always looking for the “money shot”. Very often, with the Z-man, it happens in the final sentence and this is when I get all like: “DAMN! Put a bough on that sucker and hand me a cigar.”

  21. About those luxury cars, that sounds like our suburban neighborhood, Southern California. Somewhat East of Hong Kong and Beijing. The local Mercedes dealer is in fat city – every Chinese woman has a Mercedes – black or white. The men drive bigger models. Every Chinese kid gets a BMW or a Lexus for high school graduation. Teslas all over the place! Maseratis! Ferraris! In multiples!!!! (And we are nowhere near Hollywood.)

    They are terrible drivers. Does it hurt less to be hit by a fancy car?

    • In NJ I chuckle every time I see an idiot driving a new Mercedes while holding a smartphone to his/her ear. They can afford a $60k car but are too stupid to sync the bluetooth.

  22. I had to laugh after reading your post. I had just finished submitting a monthly hours and wages report to the U.S. Dept. of Labor for my employer. A cadre of Government clerks will gather and consolidate this same date from a variety of American businesses and produce an extremely detailed report in full color on a very nice bond paper. The report has no discernible purpose, will be read by nobody, and trashed upon receipt.

    • Not so fast, Dan: I think the no doubt excellent report from your information will be filed away. In my experience nothing was ever thrown away, because otherwise there would be no filing cabinets.

      Back when I did some teaching, there was a small, locked room no one went in. That was where all the students’ course papers from the past ten years were stored. They were saved in case anyone ever asked about them, but no one asked. When we came to filing away year eleven, it was hard finding space in the bulging cabinets. I have to admit though that at the end of my time in the college, when someone handed me a desperately late course paper and I had marked it to show the slowcoach had passed (i.e, submitted a final paper with their name on it spelt correctly — and yes, some students even used to get their own name wrong) I was told to put it in the “room.”

      Try as I might I couldn’t find where year eleven was in the jumble so as I was no longer being paid for this, I stuck it in among the year four papers. I expect one day some dedicated worker will find it and return the paper to the right files and all will be well. Just in case anyone asks.

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