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.