Market Mad House

In individuals, insanity is rare; but in groups, parties, nations and epochs, it is the rule. Friedrich Nietzsche

My Thoughts

America’s Political Fool’s Paradise

For the past 30 to 40 years, America has been living in a Political Fools’ Paradise we can no longer afford.

The political fools’ paradise is based on the belief that competence, effectiveness, and character do not matter as long as politicians have the right ideology or beliefs. For example, “who cares that he’s a crook, a fool, and a racist as long as he appoints pro-life judges.” Or, “yeah I know he’s old and probably has dementia, but he supports trans rights.”

This thinking has given America some terrible leadership. For example, a corrupt and incompetent president who was ignorant of basic history and other nations (Donald J. Trump Sr (R-Florida). In addition, this thinking produces arrogant and aloof leaders who are completely disinterested and detached from the lives of ordinary people; for example, Barack Obama (D-Illinois), Hillary R. Clinton (D-New York), and Joseph R. Biden (D-Delaware). People voted for all four leaders because they expressed the correct ideologies not because any of them showed any competence, experience, or ability.

Similarly, the Fool’s Paradise gives us a US Congress with 139 members who deny the most pressing problem facing the world today: Climate Change. Then there is US Senator Josh Hawley (R-Missouri) who wants to rewrite US copyright law solely to punish one company, Disney (DIS), for opposing one law in Florida.

Our politics has become a fantasy land in which ideology trumps reality. Real world problems do not matter has long as the politicians get the ideology right.

The Dangers of the Fool’s Paradise

The damage done by America’s Political Fool’s Paradise is enormous. For example, military commanders incapable of engineering an effective evacuation from Afghanistan. Or law enforcement authorities incapable of keeping a group of cosplayers out of the US Capitol.

Such government failures occur because leaders do take interest in the basic functions of government or hold military and police authorities accountable for their actions. America used to have political leaders, such as US Senator Barry Goldwater (R-Arizona), who took a strong interest in the operations of the military and held its commanders accountable.

Today, the only interest our leaders take in the military is approving a bigger and bigger budget to help defense contractors make more money. Few in Congress take interest in how the Pentagon spends that money. Nor do they ask if the weapons bought with taxpayers’ money are effective or necessary.

An even worse failure is the Great Baby Formula Shortage which nobody in Washington, DC, noticed for three months. The Baby Formula Shortage is the result of a series of bad policies, poor regulatory oversight, shortsighted trade rules that keep European formula out of America, and the horrendous decision to allow stock buy backs by corporate management.

To explain, some critics allege managers the nation’s largest baby formula manufacturer Abbott Laboratories (NYSE: ABT) spent the money they should have spent on modernizing equipment on stock buybacks. Between 2009 and 2019 Abbott’s management spent $31 billion on cash dividends and stock buybacks. Abbott began recalling huge amounts of baby formula in March because of production problems. Some critics attribute Abbott’s production problems to old and defective equipment that the company refused to replace.  

Frighteningly, the Baby Formula Shortage is only the latest misery afflicting ordinary people that politicians are oblivious too. The political class and its boosters in the media are also ignoring the housing crisis, homelessness, inflation, technological unemployment, and high gas prices all of which make life miserable for ordinary people.

Indeed, our leaders are now so aloof and detached they are oblivious to things like $5 a gallon gas and baby formula shortages. Historically such aloofness led to catastrophe. History buffs will think of French Queen Mary Antoinette telling starving peasants to eat cake. If you know anything about the French Revolution, which was partially triggered by food shortages, you know Mary Antoinette died under the guillotine’s blade.

How the Fool’s Paradise Arose

We can trace the origins of America’s fool’s paradise to the late 20th century when most Americans enjoyed peace and prosperity. The lack of scarcity and other problems made America’s politics abstract and theoretical.

Add some good old-fashioned American exceptionalism and you get a situation in which American politics are divorced from reality and everyday life. For example, some Americans think that they do not need a welfare state safety net because they are rugged individualists.

Others think America does not need law enforcement because Americans are inherently idealistic and good. Similarly, some misguided patriots think America’s military is so powerful and capable it does not require oversight. The Russians had a similar arrogance that is now leading them to total defeat in Ukraine.

Then there is the widespread belief Americans do not have to pay attention to international affairs, the global economy, or the environment because the United States is special or unique. Such illusions are comforting but they leave the nation unprepared for growing problems.

The Fool’s Paradise Politics are a luxury we can no longer afford. Yet they are the norm in Washington DC, our city halls, and our statehouses.

Unfortunately, our leaders have been living in the Fool’s Paradise for so long, they have forgotten how to govern. Only future history will tell if Americans can escape the Fool’s Paradise before reality destroys their nation.