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September 05, 2007

Democrats And The Iron Law Of Institutions

Read this if you're driven insane by the Democrats.

John Caruso of a Distant Ocean is pissed off at Medea Benjamin:

Medea Benjamin complains that Nancy Pelosi makes time to meet with Democratic coffee klatches and "high-dollar donors" but won't meet with activists from Benjamin's CODEPINK.  My response:

The Democrats generally (and Nancy Pelosi in particular) learned that they could ignore people like CODEPINK generally (and Medea Benjamin in particular) in 2004, when progressives made it eminently clear that they would vote for a Democrat who was as bad as (or worse than) George Bush on the most crucial issues--especially Iraq...

So if Nancy Pelosi won't meet with you now, Medea, it's because she knows that there's absolutely no need for her to do so.  You can sputter all you want about how "Pelosi has alienated CODEPINK and most of the peace movement" and how "disillusioned" you are, but you've already proven that in the only place that Democrats care about what you do--the voting booth--you're willing to sacrifice your principles and give them your support...

Let me gently suggest that John, in his understandable frustration, is not perceiving this situation clearly. What he's overlooking is that the Democrats operate according to the Iron Law of Institutions. The Iron Law of Institutions is: the people who control institutions care first and foremost about their power within the institution rather than the power of the institution itself. Thus, they would rather the institution "fail" while they remain in power within the institution than for the institution to "succeed" if that requires them to lose power within the institution.

This is true for all human institutions, from elementary schools up to the United States of America. If history shows anything, it's that this cannot be changed. What can be done, sometimes, is to force the people running institutions to align their own interests with those of the institution itself and its members.

I'll get to back momentarily to today's Democrats, but first it's useful to look at how the Iron Law plays out in other cases. At the country level, Saddam Hussein is an extreme example: during his thirty years in power, he made choices that led to the obliteration of Iraq—not because there was nothing else he could have done, but because choices that would have strengthened Iraq would have made him less individually powerful within Iraq. And this is a constant occurrence in the history of dictators. When Stalin purged many of the Red Army's most competent officers in the late thirties it made the Soviet Union itself far weaker—in particular, more vulnerable to a Nazi invasion—but what mattered to Stalin was eliminating internal rivals to his power. The same dynamic is displayed in less virulent form with Bush and Cheney: whenever they've had to choose between sharing power with others within a stronger America, and holding more power within a weaker America, they've chosen the latter.

Probably the best writing about this at the political party level was done by the late Walter Karp. Karp points out in Buried Alive that before the 1972 elections there was a huge influx of new people and energy into the Democratic party from the anti-war and civil rights movements. This was enough to get McGovern nominated. But here's what happened then, as Karp describes it:

As soon as McGovern was nominated, party leaders began systematically slurring and belittling him, while the trade union chieftains refused to endorse him on the pretense that this mild Mr. Pliant was a being wild and dangerous. A congressional investigation of Watergate was put off for several months to deprive McGovern's candidacy of its benefits. As an indiscreet Chicago ward heeler predicted in the fall of 1972, McGovern is "gonna lose because we're gonna make sure he's gonna lose"...So deftly did party leaders "cut the top of the ticket" that while Richard Nixon won in a "landslide," the Democrats gained two Senate seats.

Could McGovern have won if he'd been fully supported by the status quo powers with the Democratic party? Impossible to say. But they didn't want to take any chances: they preferred to make sure he lost the election, because his winning it would have meant newcomers would dilute their power within the party. That's the Iron Law of Institutions in action.

In The Politics of War Karp examines a similar situation in the election of 1912. The incumbent was William H. Taft, a Republican. However, he was extremely unpopular both nationally and with the progressive movement within the Republican party. First the National Progressive Republican League (essentially a party within the party, like the Progressive Democrats of America today) backed Robert La Follette. They eventually deserted him for Teddy Roosevelt, because he seemed more likely to wrest the nomination away from Taft. Karp writes:

If a presidential nomination were decided by the sentiments of a party's rank and file, Roosevelt would have won the nomination by a landslide. Of the 388 convention delegates chosen by popular vote, Taft won a mere 71, or less than 20 percent. If a presidential nomination were decided by money, Roosevelt again would have won. He had the preponderance of money on his side. If a presidential nomination were dictated by the party leaders' desire to win the general election, they would have nominated Roosevelt themselves. The Republican oligarchy, however, was fighting for its life. Compared to the prospect of losing power within the party, rank-and-file sentiment meant little. Winning in November meant least of all. The oligarchy was determined to renominate Taft, a certain loser, solely to keep control of the party. "When we get back in four years," explained a machine senator from Indiana, "instead of the damned insurgents, we will have the machine."

So what does this mean for John Caruso's (and everyone's) frustration with the Democrats today? A lot of things, such as:

1. The voting booth is by no means "the only place that Democrats care about what you do." In fact, from their perspective, by the time you get to the general election much of the game is over. Withholding your November vote from candidates they like but you don't will, at most, make them a little sad. Often they'd prefer it, if that's the price of keeping you out of their hair the rest of the time. That's why they don't try to appeal to the ~50% of Americans who don't vote.

2. If you want to motivate powerful Democrats, attempt to threaten their power within the party, not the well-being of the party overall. Of course, this is easier said than done, particularly because much of the power within the party is (as Karp would put it) an unelected Democratic oligarchy. For instance, Pelosi's status as Speaker can be challenged straightforwardly. Getting at the source of the party oligarchy's power, which is money and institutions outside of electoral politics, is much more difficult.

3. Any serious attempt to transform the Democratic party would include a conscious attempt to change its culture, into one that celebrates different people: organizers rather than elected officials and donors. Culture only seems like a weak reed. It's in fact the most powerful motivation people have. If people are celebrated for acting for the good of the whole rather than just themselves, they'll act for the good of the whole. Likewise, a better culture would humble the "leaders," to discourage those with individualistic motivations from seeking the positions. A Democratic party that worked would require Charles Schumer and Steny Hoyer and anyone who donated over $5000 a year to clean the Capitol toilets.

4. If you don't believe the Democratic party is redeemable, don't get your hopes up that another party would end up being much better. Any other party would also be subject to the Iron Law of Institutions. It thus would be quickly just as dreadful as the Democrats...unless people put in the same amount of work as would be required to clean out the Democrats' Augean stables.

5. Generally speaking, don't expect too much from political parties, and certainly don't expect them to change much in less than a generation. And in any case, keep in mind much of the power in society lies elsewhere.

UPDATE: American Coprophagia points out another of Karp's favorite stories, which appears in Indispensable Enemies:

It was a Republican state party boss, Senator Boies Penrose of Pennsylvania, who early this century stated with notable candor the basic principle and purpose of present-day party politics. In the face of a powerful state and national resurgence of reform and the sentiments of the majority of the Republican rank and file, Penrose put up a losing slate of stand-pat party hacks. When a fellow Republican accused him of ruining the party, Penrose replied, "Yes, but I'll preside over the ruins."

AND: I've removed an anecdote I was using about Egypt and the 1967 War because of doubts about its accuracy.

Posted at September 5, 2007 07:49 PM | TrackBack

That was good.

Posted by: buermann at September 5, 2007 08:27 PM

Hear, here -- but what of multi-party political coalitions? There must ways that a nation of 300M can keep politicians from becoming entrenched.

Not that I care. :-)

Posted by: Ted at September 5, 2007 09:28 PM


1. yes.

2. do you have evidence for this, in the television era? it sounds like it could be an incitement to entrenching resistance, e.g., the thing with lieberman backfiring — a somewhat special situation, i know, without a second repugnant candidate in the race, but, lots of nasty selfish pricks are incumbents unto themselves. i mean metaphorically. you're not just talking about electoral challenges. most of the really skunky people have a multi-year relationship with a horrible industry, for instance.

3. organizers are good. targeted and well-planned spending and regulation are not so good — less room for favors.

4. my feeling on this is a lot of the old industries are currently taking heavy blows to their reputations. before they buy their way out of it, it's a grand opportunity to force a cleanup.

5. we don't have a generation to wait.

Posted by: hapa at September 5, 2007 09:54 PM

You may suck, but you also rule.

Posted by: mtraven at September 5, 2007 10:08 PM

With that in mind, we must change the way money works. What does the power of institutions stem from if not money?

Posted by: En Ming Hee at September 5, 2007 10:40 PM

BTW Jon, if that is the way even elementary schools work, you must have had a sucky elementary school life, no? I'm not American, but I at both my elementary and high school levels I have seen true examples of selflessness at work from my headmasters and I know then instinctively, that better ways are present.

Posted by: En Ming Hee at September 5, 2007 10:53 PM

SteveB, you're not even going to link to your own post?

Jon, thanks very much for this.

Posted by: Nell at September 5, 2007 11:20 PM

Nell, the link is the word "diary" in the first line.

I just skimmed that thread, SteveB. You have my sympathies. Your critics are locked into their positions and aren't listening to anything you have to say. None of them seem to understand that some of the "facts" Obama cites regarding Iran's threat are in question, or that accepting all these accusations about Iran as factual contributes to the prowar campaign or that maybe we don't assume that the US is in any moral position to blather on about the harm Iranian influence has on the Middle East--even if all the claims made about Iran were true, it's a sick joke listening to American politicians complaining about their malign influence on the region. American politicians are expected to talk this way, of course, but that's one of the things wrong with American political culture.

I suppose it's hard to work enthusiastically for a Democratic victory if you find mainstream Democratic politicians to be a pretty disgusting bunch. One way to avoid the problem is to adopt their views.

Posted by: Donald Johnson at September 6, 2007 12:08 AM

Jon - this post is astounding, which seems to be a pattern with you. But I disagree with your Iron Law. There are plenty of examples of people more devoted to the institution than to themselves. Plenty of people have died for their cause, for example, even with a strong leadership role. Let's leave a little space in that Law, least we be stifled by our own cynicism.

If you'd restrict the Iron Law to political parties, however, I'd agree with you. (4) is dead-on. Schumer and Hoyer will never have to scrub toilets, because no one can make 'em. The fundamentals of political organization - the meaning of "senator" - would have to change first.

SteveB - you're a brave man for even attempting that. That crowd seems unusually thick-headed. Maybe you should try some allegory:

"Let's kill that rapist cock-sucker Jedediah!" shouts someone in the lynch mob.

"Now, now, wait a minute!" says Pastor Ruben, climbing up on a stump in front of the crowd. "Jedediah may have despoiled Maybeline, that sweet flower of innocence, but killin' just ain't right! Let's tar and feather him, and run him out of town on a rail!"

"Yeah!" shouts half the mob. "No! Kill the bastard!" shouts the other half.

"Wait! Wait! Friends, I don't think Jedediah raped Maybeline AT ALL! This is all a horrible mistake!" cries out Rudy Butler, waving her hands frantically. But no one can hear her through the din.

Posted by: saurabh at September 6, 2007 12:15 AM

THE FEAR that Obama could say anything to increase the chances of an attack on Iran, is that , just a fear. George and Deadeye don't care about ANYBODY'S opinion and will fire when ready.

Posted by: Mike Meyer at September 6, 2007 12:23 AM

I really enjoyed reading this post as it helps me organize my thoughts on the way things work. Culture is certainly a powerful force that too often is dismissed as unimportant, I think mainly because being immersed in it we cannot recognize its influence. It hardly seems democratic for our politicos to disenfranchise the masses in favor of the people who imbue them with what ever power our politicians posses. Coming to this site has certainly been an educational experience and am looking forward to more.

Posted by: rob payne at September 6, 2007 02:06 AM

"when ready" has a domestic political component

Posted by: hapa at September 6, 2007 02:13 AM

Jonathan, I certainly wish our congressional polical class had the institutional pride. That they cared enough for their institutions of the Senate and House and they would quit abrogating their duties to the executive branch.

And whilst I respect and admire the CodePink ladies, they lost my emotional support during one of the hearings a few months ago when they were disruptive to the process. I frankly could see no difference in them shouting down Conzo, or whoever, than when the reichwing talivangicals shouted down the Hindu opening prayer.

Like Cindy Sheehan, I respect their views, their right to voice them, just not their tactics.

Another great thought provoking post.

Posted by: Dee Loralei at September 6, 2007 02:31 AM

"I frankly could see no difference in them shouting down Conzo, or whoever, than when the reichwing talivangicals shouted down the Hindu opening prayer."

I partly agree with you in that I don't think shouting people down is a good idea, but I think I can spot the difference (and presumably you can too) between the theocratic tendencies of the one group vs. the justifiable outrage at a war criminal in the other. Motivations do matter here.

Posted by: Donald Johnson at September 6, 2007 07:13 AM

To Dee--

That last comment sounded snarkier than I realized when I reread it. The "presumably you can too" was meant to be an acknowledgement that I think you agree with me about the motivations of the two groups, but it came out snarky. Sorry about that.

Posted by: Donald Johnson at September 6, 2007 07:18 AM

Excellent post.

Posted by: atheist at September 6, 2007 07:47 AM

Now that I've done my diary-pimping, I'd like to add to the general consensus about the excellence of this post.

A few questions, though:

1) How do you draw a line between challenging Democratic leaders at the voting booth and challenging their power within the party? If Cindy Sheehan becomes the next Representative from San Francisco (an unlikely prospect, I admit) then Pelosi's power within the party is obviously greatly diminished, since she can't be Speaker if she's not in the House. Furthermore, challenges at the voting booth seem like the only challenges we can make, now.

2) I'd really like you to expand on the theme of "much of the power in society lies elsewhere." (If you already have, could you provide a link?) Popular movements have been able to make remarkable changes in our society, while the political parties remain corupt and essentially unchanged. Do you see any popular movements today that are doing things right, in your opinon? (we already know what you think of the antiwar movement).

Posted by: SteveB at September 6, 2007 09:10 AM

Maybe all we progressives should form a fifth column in the Republican party. See, what we do is to switch our registration to Republican and work to nominate a candidate that really threatens the entrenched Repubs.

If we can build enough mass, and Karp's theory holds, the Republican party will promptly self-destruct. We don't even have to back a progressive Republican (since such a thing no longer seems to exist) just someone so far out of their elite mainstream that the power guys just go ballistic. (Ron Paul maybe?)

Just a pipe dream, of course, since there are probably a million reasons it wouldn't work, not the least of which isufficient mass and focus to make it happen. I guess I'm just desperately trying to think of a way to make Karp's insights work for "we the people."

Posted by: Michael at September 6, 2007 11:40 AM

your post provoked a couple questions, Johnathon.

1)do you think this "iron law of institutions" would crumble if we publicly funded all elections, and every candidate got the same amount of money from the government ONLY, and the media was forced to give free airtime equally to all candidates?

2) this isn't a sideways dig at the idea of having more than 2 parties, is it? because other countries have multiple parties, and they work just fine, AND- it's more difficult for corporate America to pay off 5 or 6 different parties than it is to pay off the 2 we have now.


Posted by: joe mama at September 6, 2007 11:55 AM

your post provoked a couple questions, Johnathon.

1)do you think this "iron law of institutions" would crumble if we publicly funded all elections, and every candidate got the same amount of money from the government ONLY, and the media was forced to give free airtime equally to all candidates?

2) this isn't a sideways dig at the idea of having more than 2 parties, is it? because other countries have multiple parties, and they work just fine, AND- it's more difficult for corporate America to pay off 5 or 6 different parties than it is to pay off the 2 we have now.


Posted by: joe mama at September 6, 2007 11:56 AM

sorry for the double post. I was frustrated at the button....

Posted by: joe mama at September 6, 2007 11:59 AM

I think you've confused a failure mode for inevitable doom. In the world at large, conflicts of agenda are a fact of life, but there are also ways to deal with or avoid them. In the case of American politics, there are also structural problems -- the generations of power stuggles within our government, have damaged various safeguards, and also allowed parasites to take hold. The current malignancy didn't grow overnight, it's just reached a critical mass.

In the world at large, plenty of people are working for their cause. But the most successful organizations have some things in common: among other points, they are led by the partisans of their cause, and have means in place to make sure that remains the case.

Currently, I really don't know what can be done about the situation. It's important to realize that the "old rules" aren't completely demolished; what's left of them won't automatically save us, but they can still be useful tools. There are also new tools, including not only the Internet, but the insights gained from it about cooperation, communication, and security. And there's us -- simply by refusing to endorse evil, we help shape the society around us. Come to think of it, there's also them -- their insanity leads them to self-destructive acts, and we can try to turn those against them.

Posted by: David Harmon at September 6, 2007 12:14 PM

joe mama-

I don't think the Law fails if you publicly finance elections, although that would help. Direct financing of elections is only one of the ways that elites control electoral politics.

At any rate, the Law applies to any (hierarchical) institution. So not only political parties, but corporations, military commands, whatever.

The countries you refer to that work "just fine" not as a function of having more parties, but rather a function of having a system that allows for more parties, which ours does not.

Countries with Parliamentary systems, runoff elections, and/or direct popular election of the Executive do get policy results that vaguely resemble public wishes, unlike here.

But at the end of the day, if you have an economic system that allows for concentration of wealth, government will be the preserve of the wealthy and will reflect their interests.

If Medea Benjamin wants to put pressure on Pelosi, she should be knocking on the door of Pelosi's boss. Which is what Jon meant when he pointed out the "much of the power in society lies elsewhere".

Posted by: scats at September 6, 2007 12:31 PM

WHO is PELOSI'S BOSS? I'll give him a call if you have the name 'cause I thought I was her boss.

Posted by: Mike Meyer at September 6, 2007 12:59 PM

Joe mama - the reason other countries have multiple parties is because their system facilitates that process, by allowing coalition governments. And in fact, in a Parliamentary system, since the Prime Minister is chosen based on which party or coalition has the majority seats in Parliament, small parties can have a lot of influence by serving as arbiters - moving between larger party blocks and swinging the vote. I'm not really sure how formalized our committee system is, but it seems like there's some room for allowing this kind of thing here; Lieberman's current seat is Independent, but he caucuses as a Democrat, so this might be a reform that would allow smaller parties into the system. However, I see no reason for the larger parties to encourage such reforms, since Jon's Iron Law prevents that.

Posted by: saurabh at September 6, 2007 02:33 PM


You thought wrong, I'm sorry to say.

Posted by: scats at September 6, 2007 03:09 PM

"The countries you refer to that work "just fine" not as a function of having more parties, but rather a function of having a system that allows for more parties, which ours does not."

--true enough, scats. I was under the impression that WE are the actual bosses of this country, since 1) we pay those pigs every day thru taxes, and 2) they're terrified of us en masse!
Also, this being OUR country (an all-inclusive "us"), we can change it if we want to! legally! without signing statements.

"However, I see no reason for the larger parties to encourage such reforms, since Jon's Iron Law prevents that."
that is exactly true! even more reason to TAKE our country back from these parasitical enemies of the USA.

I bristle at the contention that "we can't do anything about it".
horse's ass, we can't do anything about it! are we adults, or a bunch of diaper-soiling babies?!?

I'm not coming down on YOU specifically--I'm pissed at the willingness of We the People to sit back and cheerlead their own destruction.
this has reached a "critical mass" ONLY because no one has done anything about it for 40 years or more.
Democracy without real participation doesn't work. sorry!

Posted by: joe mama at September 6, 2007 04:01 PM

Off topic. Saurabh, was that a movie reference in your first post? Sounds like something from a Russ Meyer film. Just curious.

Posted by: KevinD at September 6, 2007 04:01 PM

KevinD - No, I just wrote it.

Posted by: saurabh at September 6, 2007 04:33 PM

How does this apply to Bush and Cheney? On wiretaps, for example, they could have easily gotten any changes to the law out of our compliant Congress (as proven with the recent FISA vote) but they deliberately refused to ask Congress for a law authorizing expanded wiretap authority, because they didn't want to acknowlege Congress' authority in the matter.

Thus, seeking to expand their own power, they weakened the government's power to actually protect us from the terrorist threat they claimed to be fighting.


Posted by: at September 6, 2007 06:57 PM

It's too bad reality is not conforming today, because I really liked that anecdote.

Posted by: StO at September 6, 2007 09:23 PM

I liked Saurabh's little parable too. It reminded me of something Alexander Cockburn wrote back in the 80s I think, mocking the "balance" of McNeil-Lehrer. Cockburn imagined a spokesman for cannibalism, arguing that human flesh should be subject to government inspection to ensure its safety for human consumption; another spokesman argued that the free market should be allowed to decide such things. At the last moment, an opponent of cannibalism got out a few words before being cut off with "I'm sorry, we're out of time." There was also a spokesman for slavery, and a spokesman for the regulation of slavery, and a quickly silenced abolitionist. And so on.

Reading SteveB's diary and the comments was interesting too; it made me notice some things about Obama's op-ed that I hadn't before. For example, Iran as a "challenge to American interests" -- "American interests" meaning, of course, the usual elite corporate interests. As Noam Chomsky likes to say, when national politicians and the media denounce "special interests" they mean working people, racial minorities, women, the elderly -- in short, the vast majority of the American population. By "the national interest" they mean the wealthy, the corporate, a tiny percentage of the population.

Bearing this in mind, the main threat to American interests in the Middle East is the government of the United States of America. It is also the main threat to peace in the Middle East, with Israel a close second. The foreign country most responsible for violence in Iraq, including arming Shi'a terrorists, is the United States of America. That Obama would single out Iran, in the face of this well-known reality, shows just how dangerous he is.

His insistence on diplomacy is not reassuring. Some of the Kos commenters yelled that Obama was calling for diplomacy, not war! But by chance I looked at Jon's post of April 19, 2007, in which he quoted George Bush saying, three days before the invasion of Iraq: "Tomorrow is the day that we will determine whether or not diplomacy can work..." Bush always pretended -- not very convincingly, of course -- that he only went to war because diplomacy had failed. (So did Clinton, so did Bush Sr.)
So, who'd trust Obama? Not me.

Posted by: The Promiscuous Reader at September 6, 2007 09:55 PM

TPR: Hear, hear. Good points all.

Posted by: John Caruso at September 6, 2007 10:20 PM

I am a Democrat. Registered as one in Pa. (Georgia doesn't have party registration but I've voted in every Democratic primary). As Will Rogers famously said: "I am not a member of any organized political party. I am a Democrat." But I have no illusions. My Congressman, a Democrat, was perfectly happy to serve in a minority party for most of his tenure (1993-current) in D.C. so long as he got to be a Congressman. The above article illustrates why ordinary people who are Democrats or Republicans can't believe that the top leaders in their respective parties seem to be engaged in the kind of politics which is not only bad for the country as a whole, but bad for the party's chances in coming elections as well.

To most of us, this stuff is stunningly obvious: human beings care about their position, their power. They'd rather be captain of a sinking Titanic than a deckhand on a floating ship. Some of them (Russ Feingold, the lone vote against the 2002 Patriot Act, Charles Hegler, the Republican who called out his President on the insanity of the lack of strategy for exiting Iraq, to name a prominent Democratic and a prominent Republican) do seem to put country ahead of party or self. But they are oh, so rare. More likely we will have a Hillary Clinton on the Democratic side or a William Frist (former Tennessee senator and Republican majority leader) on the Repubican side who put aside country, party, and reality. Frist, a physician, famously diagnosed Terry Shiavo's medical condition by watching a videotape. Hillary will pay lip service to any cause that will get her elected (her pandering to the Israel lobby to get Jewish votes in 2000 disgusted me, and I am, of course, a Jew and a Zionist; her attempt to do a black woman's dialect on MLK in a speech in Alabama was more amusing than anything).

Posted by: goose99 at September 7, 2007 12:28 AM

An easier way of understanding the "Iron Law" is thinking of a CEO of a corporation. If his pay is determined by the board of directors, he will fill the board with people who will pay him more - whether it hurts the company or not. If it's tied to the stock price, he will do whatever raises the stock price - whether it's good for the company or not. If it's tied to that year's net profits - he will do whatever will raise that year's net profits - even if it destroys the company's long term net profits.

If you had to determine the most productive way of structuring the CEO's pay, in a way that would cause him to act in the company's best interest - it becomes clear that the first question to answer is: what *is* in the company's best interest? Stock price gains? Net profits over a certain period? Market share? Market capitalization?

Assume that your hypothetical CEO is both very capable, and completely selfish.

To apply this way of thinking to your political party - you have to ask yourself what the best thing for the party is. And that's where you'll get confused - because you don't actually care whether the Democratic party is in good shape, you care whether the *country* is in good shape. It'd be nice for your party to be responsible for it too, but that's not your first priority.

The exception to the "Iron Law" is laid out very well in Orwell's fictional novel 1984, and in the actual rise of Scientology or old school Republicans - even Al Quida. These models favour the "True Believer" approach - selecting leaders who genuinely care more about the survival of the organization than their own position in it, or their own survival for that matter.

In all of these organizations, the groups fared far better than they should have given their actions, because the members at all levels - as selfish as they were - put the survival of the group above their own advancement.

This is a dangerous approach, because it's so effective that it creates a self-sustaining entity that is under no one person's control.

So we have two choices. Either decide what's best for America, and tie selfish leaders advancements to that benchmark; or restrict membership to people who genuinely care more about America's well being than they do about themselves.

Neither option is easy, but both have been successfully carried out. Study the inner structure of those groups that have succeeded to learn how to do it for America.

If the "true believer" groups I mentioned are to odious to look at objectively, then study the history of Apple and it's "True Believer", Steve Jobs. You just won't learn quite as much there though, because Apple's goals, being good ones, were easier to achieve.

Posted by: Rex Devious at September 7, 2007 09:35 AM

Re: people missing the diary link -- that obscure color change is why it's such a good thing you have underlines under your links now. I wonder why the comments still have the old style of link?

Posted by: Noumenon at September 7, 2007 12:28 PM

I loved your Kos-baiting, by the way...good one.

Well, I'm not sure I should be accepting complements from a guy who got himself disappeared by Common Dreams. If I keep hanging out with people like you and our host Mr. Schwartz, I won't be fit for polite company.

Posted by: SteveB at September 7, 2007 07:36 PM

"The Iron Law of Institutions is: the people who control institutions care first and foremost about their power within the institution rather than the power of the institution itself. Thus, they would rather the institution "fail" while they remain in power within the institution than for the institution to "succeed" if that requires them to lose power within the institution."

...and thus, we learn why Amurrican business is so inefficient at actually making money. The patron saint of this in the private sector may well be the Pointy-Haired Boss in Dilbert.

Posted by: Hal O'Brien at September 8, 2007 03:34 AM

Thanks a lot for this-- I need more and more education on how power works in the political parties. Just got done with Legacy of Ashes/history of CIA; took some with grain of salt, per don't know if I'd want CIA at all and it definately was in favor of it-- plus this guy obviously has some stake in keeping good name with CIA; but nonetheless, was good education.

You're doing a good job

Posted by: Alex Rediger at September 8, 2007 02:16 PM

Dear Mr. Schwarz,

I think you nailed it.

Posted by: Hieronymus Braintree at September 10, 2007 06:09 PM

This is why Gorbachev won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1990 and not that hack Regan. Gorbachev actually did things he knew would reduce his own power in Russia. So rare and so worthy of praise because of it.

Posted by: Slack at September 10, 2007 07:04 PM

Excuse me...that hack Reagan...

Posted by: Slack at September 10, 2007 07:07 PM