Archive for January 15th, 2014

Perverse Incentives I: The Beltway Bandits

[ US & Them IUs & Them IIUs & Them IIIUs & Them IV ]

It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it!”

                – Upton Sinclair (probably)

Empire-Builders

"... laughed my ass off, and had a really good time!" - Bill HicksThe INCB is one of several institutions which labours effectively on behalf of Orwell’s War. They are a UN institution, but they are American in nature, mission, and largely in personnel. I include them with the Beltway Bandits (the DEA, ATF, and company) because they are products of the same US domestic politics, and were originally staffed by US domestic operatives. Their governing mission is inherently bureaucratic: self-perpetuation. As long as the Drug War remains official international policy, they get to sound important and say nice things about a sickening list of human rights abuses around the world: “Time and again, the INCB has simply turned a blind eye to international standards, human rights, science and even basic decency.”

Bureaucracies are organisms which eat budgets and seek to survive. No such organism can admit it is wrong easily, let alone admit that the entire rationale for its existence is misguided. As a result, the INCB is currently in a direct confrontation with the sovereign nation of Uruguay, and look likely to be publicly humiliated: President Mujica’s not for turning. Behind all the propaganda and theatrics, the INCB are the international arm of a Beltway empire-building exercise which would have stunned even Nixon had he seen what it would become. I covered the origins of this Napoleonic enterprise when I spoke of Harry Anslinger, but it only starts with him. What mattered is the institutional legacy his personal ambition left behind him, and the way US governmental incentives created a self-feeding war machine. To cover the DEA and its associated support troops I’ll need to go back into Anglinger’s methods. Continue reading ‘Perverse Incentives I: The Beltway Bandits’

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Per Argument Ad Astra

Politics, history, economics and rampant speculation from a victim of the Great Recession, currently at large in the West Midlands.

"When the regulation, therefore, is in favour of the workmen, it is always just and equitable; but it is sometimes otherwise when in favour of the masters."
                -- Adam Smith

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