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The Obama administration has announced the formation of a panel of “outside experts” to review the NSA’s surveillance practices. And a wide-ranging, diverse collection of experts they are; when it comes to institutional backgrounds and viewpoints, they span the entire spectrum from A to B. They remind me a bit of the space shuttle crew in an episode of The Simpsons: “They’re a colorful bunch … There’s a mathematician, a different kind of mathematician, and a statistician.”
Richard Clarke, who served on the National Security Council under two Bushes and a Clinton, was the counter-terrorism tsar for three administrations. Michael Morell is a former CIA director who was at Obama’s side during the kill of bin Laden and probably heavily involved in the whole “wink, wink, nudge, nudge” operation of “unofficial” leaks to the Zero Dark Thirty propaganda operation. Cass Sunstein, former White House information tsar under Obama, in 2010 authored a paper explicitly endorsing “cognitive infiltration” by the government — i.e., government secretly enlisting the help of “respected outside experts” posing as independent commenters to debunk “conspiracy theories” critical of government policy on social media. You know, like those boiler rooms the Mossad runs full of people pretending to be independent college students defending the Israeli apartheid state against social media critics.
This bunch of clowns bears an amazing resemblance to the “outside experts” running other aspects of government policy. You know how the U.S. government brags about all the “stakeholders seated around the table” when it drafts new laws or treaties on “intellectual property?” Oddly enough, there aren’t many from the Electronic Frontier Foundation or Creative Commons. But you bet your booty the RIAA, MPAA and Microsoft will be represented extremely well.
Pretty much every pick for U.S. Treasurer is a former CEO of Goldman-Sachs or Citigroup. Obama’s favorite for Federal Reserve chairman is Larry Summers, the ultimate insider’s insider from America’s quasi-public, quasi-private network of finance capitalist institutions.
Likewise, if you look through the assorted Assistant and Deputy and Assistant Deputy Secretaries at the USDA, you’ll find a gaggle of former Vice Presidents and Directors from Monsanto, Cargill and ADM. The second-tier political appointees at the FDA will generally be there as a change of pace between stints in the C-Suites of Merck and Pfizer. Basically the entire military procurement policy apparatus is an alliance of military (ahem, “Defense”) contractors and Pentagon procurement officers, rigging tests and getting their lies straight so Congress will rubber-stamp their new weapons systems.
If you think all this insider involvement in policy represents “regulatory capture,” or the corruption of an originally pristine system by campaign money and lobbyists, you’re missing the point. It’s their ability to use the state as a tool for extracting rents from society that makes these people insiders in the first place. Most of the profits they get in the “marketplace” [sic, sic, SICK] result either from rents on artificial scarcity enforced by the state, or from direct government subsidies to their operating costs. Protecting the profits of “insiders” is what governments do. If it weren’t for state subsidies and state-enforced entry barriers, artificial property rights, artificial scarcities and regulatory cartels, there wouldn’t be a Goldman Sachs or a Citigroup. There wouldn’t be an ADM, Cargill or Monsanto. There wouldn’t be a Merck or Pfizer, a Disney or Microsoft.
The government exists, since the beginning of the first states, to serve landlords, capitalists, usurers, bureaucrats and assorted other rentiers — not to serve us. The state, by its very nature, is executive committee of an economic ruling class. Trying to “reform” government through outsider review is like trying to reform the Mafia.
Kevin Carson is a senior fellow of the Center for a Stateless Society (c4ss.org) and holds the Center’s Karl Hess Chair in Social Theory.