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拙林:【The Storm Before The Calm】PART_II: American Cycles (2): Institutional Cy ...

2021-2-1 02:57 PM| 发布者: 昨夜雨| 查看: 80| 评论: 0|原作者: 拙林

摘要: 在书的第二部分第六章,作者在对历史的梳理中,揭示了institutional cycle的变化规律。 作者认为我们现在正处于第三个institutional cycle的末期。 第一个周期大致从立宪到南北战争。 在这个78年的周期中,联邦政府 ...
在书的第二部分第六章,作者在对历史的梳理中,揭示了institutional cycle的变化规律。  作者认为我们现在正处于第三个institutional cycle的末期。 第一个周期大致从立宪到南北战争。 在这个78年的周期中,联邦政府得以成立,但它和州的关系被设置得非常的模糊,引发了末期联邦和州的矛盾,最后这个矛盾通过内战得以解决。 第二个周期是从南北战争到二战结束。 这段时间里,确立了联邦政府和州的关系,但联邦和经济以及社会的关系并没有清晰的界定。 最后在大萧条和二战中,联邦政府的权力得到空前的扩大。  在二战以来的第三周期中,联邦政府对经济的干预,和对社会生活的介入,被接受并成为现实。   二战之后,一个新的社会阶层,技术官僚(Technocracy)出现了,并获得了管理政府的权力。  这是个影响深远的特征,不仅在目前这个第三周期,也会在将来的周期中扮演主要的角色。 很多这个周期的问题,以及未来解决问题的钥匙,都和这个阶层紧密相连。

作者预测我们现在还在第三周期危机(crisis)的早期,可能还要10年才能迎来解决问题的新周期。

PART TWO:  AMERICAN CYCLES

Chapter 6:  The Institutional Cycles and War

1.  1st cycle (1787-1865) - It started with the drafting of the Constitution in 1787, and lasted 78 years until the end of Civil War and amendments to the Constitution in 1865, establishing the federal government but leaving its relation to the states unclear.

2.  2nd cycle (1865-1945) - It emerged from Civil War and established the authority of the federal government over the states, lasting until the end of WWII.  

3.  3rd cycle (1945- ) - It emerged from WWII, and dramatically expanded the authority of the federal government not only over states but over the economy and society as a whole.

4.  If this pattern continues as it has, the next institutional cycle will begin around 2025.  The coming fourth cycle will redefine the relationship of the federal government to itself.

5.  Let's compare the amount of time the United States spent at war in the last few centuries.  In the 20th century, it was involved in major wars such as WWI, WWII, and Vietnam for 17% of the time.  In the 19th century, it was 21% if not counting the war against Indian nations.  And to this point the United States has been at war for almost 100% of the 21th century.

6.  Today, potential enemies proliferate not because of anything the United States does but because of who the United States is.  This changes not only U.S. foreign policy but the institutional structure.  The entire world is a potential antagonist and requires constant management.

7. What must happen now is an emergence of a mature and restrained pattern of behavior in America's relation to the rest of the world.

8.  Because we are approaching the end of the current cycle and the beginning of the fourth, it may help to understand in great detail what led to the end of the second cycle and how the current, third cycle arose.

The Fall of the Second Institutional Cycle

1.  After the Civil War, it was established that the federal government had ultimate authority over the states.  It was a limited authority, but strong enough to establish an indivisible republic.

2.  The federal government's power rested in its capability to enforce the Constitution and to limit the sovereignty of the states to self-government within that framework.  This created a new institutional period in which there was one country, indivisible.  But the federal government did not involve itself with the private lives of individuals or, for the most part, with the functioning of private property, particularly business.  As the second cycle proceeded, the wall began to break down, but the institutions collapsed because of two things.

3.  In 1929, the Great Depression began the process of challenging the institutional framework of the second cycle.  

4.  During past depressions, of which there were several, the federal government kept its distance.  But there were two things that made this crisis different.  First was its intensity and longevity.  The second problem was that society had become much more complex.  The industrial society of the 1930s depended on cities.  In cities, depression strike with a vengeance.  Getting people back to work was a political imperative.

5.  Hunting for ways to pay at least some of the unemployed, Roosevelt introduced legislation raising the maximum tax rate to 75%.  The New Deal didn't end the Depression, but it established the principle that the federal government was in some way responsible for the economy and could legitimately intervene in the economy and society.

6.  What did solve the problem, ended the Depression, and finally broke the institutions of the second cycle was war.  The essence of American strategy in WWII was industrial production.   

7.  Industrial production in such massive quantity and at such a fast pace solved the problem of unemployment.  The war also broke down many barriers between public and private life and changed private life as well.  The greatest barrier that was broken was the barrier between the federal government and business.  Business thrived on federal contracts, but in turn was managed to an extraordinary extent by the federal government.

8.  The Great Depression rendered the second institutional cycle obsolete.  WWII took the New Deal to its most extreme conclusion, by intertwining the federal government in both the economy and the society.  The older model was abandoned, and the foundation of a new institutional cycle was established and would remain in place for the next 80 years.

9.  In the prior institutional cycle, the practice had been that science and technology were the purviews of universities and corporations.  This practice didn't work in WWII, because it was too diffuse and unpredictable.  Therefore, federal departments organized universities and their scientist and corporations and their engineers into a single, federally funded enterprise, and they were not pacifists.

10.  In one sense, the founders did envision federal involvement in science.  The Northwest Ordinance mandated that every new state set aside land for the creation of a university.  The principle was there from the beginning, but it evolved in ways that were unanticipated.  Universities, the federal government, and private industry combined during this period to transform private life.  

11.  This model is still very much in place.  Look at the smartphone.  The cell phone was first deployed for the U.S. Army in 1985.  The GPS function on a cell phone was first devised and implemented by the U.S. Air Force, lithium-ion batteries were developed by the Department of Energy, and the Internet was pioneered by the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency.

12.  The model won WWII, making the United States one of two global superpowers.  The model also ended the Depression and permitted the continued and dramatic growth of the country.  The federal government's relation to private life changed in WWII.  It was central to winning the war, because WWII was won or lost on the ability to utilize the industrial base.

13.  America's institutions and society after WWII were very different from what they were at the start of the war.  This was end of the second institutional cycle, and America was reshaping itself once again.

The Third Institutional Cycle  (we are approaching the end of this cycle)

1.  The idea that emerged from both the New Deal and WWII was that a state managed by experts dedicated to solutions without an ideology would do for the country what it did for the war:  it would breed success.  But of course, this became a principle, the principle became a belief, and the belief became an ideology.  The ideology created a class who felt entitled to govern and who were believed to be suitable to govern.

2.  Technocracy is the concept that emerged early in the twentieth century that argues that government should be in the hands of nonideological and apolitical experts whose power derived from their knowledge.  Technocracy was not primary about wealth.  It was about merit regardless of the rewards.  As we will see, technocracy plays a vital role in our current and in future cycles.

3.  The focus of the technocracy was social engineering, restructuring the way in which economic and social institutions worked in order to improve the lives of citizens.

4.  Veterans returned from WWII as a favored class.  Many married and wanted to have their own homes, but they lacked the money for a down payment.  The federal government stepped in and guaranteed the loans, and they were made with no money down and at low interest rates.  It gave the veterans a just reward and stimulated the economy.  It was a conceptually simple program.  But the program followed the principles of the new cycle and had far-reaching effects in helping to creat the postwar middle class.  In tracing its course, we can see how it led to the crisis of 2008.

5.  The federal government, in wanting to provide homes to returning veterans, changed American society to the core.  While the technocrats had planned meticulously and successfully for providing veterans with homes, it was the unintended consequences that towered over their efforts.  This was a dimension of social engineering and the expertise of technocrats.  The ideology of expertise failed to take into account that the expert's narrow focus prevented him - and other people - from anticipating what they had opened the door to.

6.  As we move from the 1950s to the 1970s and then to 2008, we notice a problem.  A perfectly good idea morphed into another good idea, spread beyond housing, and then culminated in uncontrolled insanity.  By 2008, no one, including the management of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac or the Department of Housing and Urban Development, had any idea of the fragility of their own institutions.

7.  The purpose here is not to track the details of the subprime crisis.  It is to make the point that this started as a very reasonable program to help veterans.  It turned into a program to help the lower-middle class while also aiding business.  What followed was giving banks the ability to sell mortgages, which over the decades both introduced private buyers of mortgage and made lenders pretty much indifferent to the creditworthiness of borrowers.  In due course, it ended in disaster.  As we can now see, these disaster took decades to work themselves through.

8.  The institutional problem was not that the government had grown too large.  In fact, relative to population, it has not kept up.  The number of government employees has doubled since 1945, but the population has more than doubled from 139 million to 320 million.

9.  The problem of the federal government is rather that the dramatically increasing level of federal involvement in society has outstripped its institutional capabilities.  The problem with the federal government is not financial.  It is institutional.

10.  The institutional crisis is rooted in two things.   First, the governing class, and the technocrats, accumulate power and wealth, and they begin to shape the institutions to protect their interests.  The second problem is that the expertise that won WWII and built the postwar world is now encountering its own problem of inefficiency - diffusion.

11.  Diffusion is the distribution of authority among several departments or agencies.  At a lower level, it is the diffusion and fragmentation of knowledge among individual experts.  Knowledge of what is happening is diffused rather than integrated.  

12.  The other problem is entanglement, multiple federal agencies engaged in managing parts of the same problem, and various agencies battle each other for funding and turf.  It is also compounded by a massive entanglement with society.   The barrier having been broken, there are few areas of private life in which the federal government is not in some way involved.  And there is hardly any area where only a single agency is involved.  The entanglement between agencies becomes the defining characteristic of the federal system.

13.  As society becomes more complex in its own right, management becomes more complex, regulations are less comprehensible, and the authority is less clearly defined.  The institutional crisis has been building since the maturation of the third cycle.  As with the first two cycles, what started as splendid ideas eventually wore out as the society changed.

14.  Another important aspect of the third institutional cycle is that the balance of the three federal powers has changed.  Probably the most obvious is that the power of the president has increased dramatically.  His formal powers have not increased, but his weight in the overall system has.  Partly it was to do with domestic affairs, and the real impetus to the rest was the shift in his power in foreign policy.

15.  Nuclear weapons and the Cold War introduced a technical problem.  In the event of nuclear war, the president had to have the power to immediately don the mantle of commander in chief without a declaration of war or a resolution from Congress as required by the Constitution.

16.  This was then extended to conventional war.  No war since WWII was waged with a declaration of war, and many began without even a congressional resolution.  The Korean War had no congressional involvement.  The same was true in Vietnam.  During the Cuban missile crisis, the question of what ought to be done was decided by the president and his advisers.

19.  The increase in presidential power has been seen during the current jihadist wars of the last 18 years in a more extreme way.  The president claimed the authority to conduct surveillance on American citizens' telephone activities and other collective communications.  Many of the aspects of the program were secret and not known to Congress at all.  The balance of powers has become unhinged.  It was not simply the imperial presidency, it was the reality of contemporary war.  Action potentially had to be secret to be effective.

20.  And this further shifted the balance of power.  Staffers to the president and experts scattered through the intelligence, defense, and foreign policy communities could affect the decision being made far more than could Congress.  In foreign and security policy, the president continually accumulated more and more power in the third cycle.  This did not, however, often lead to success.

21.  The crisis is this: institutions built on expertise are no longer working.  The federal government is increasingly diffuse and entangled and cannot operate in a timely or efficient manner.  Universities are increasingly inefficient, with tuition and student loans are staggering levels, making the cost of acquiring credential increasingly out of reach of much of the population.  The internet is increasingly incoherent, and newspapers can no longer maintain needed staff.  As for the technocrats of Google and Goldman Sachs, the vast accumulation of money that increasingly could not be efficiently reinvested, but still created a vast gap in wealth that had been alleviated to some extend after WWII, has become a defining characteristic of society.

22.  The accumulation of wealth by experts, combined with the decreasing efficiency of technocracy, is creating this third institutional crisis.  But because it's early in the crisis, those who in some way recognize it are still impotent to change it.  President Trump came into office promising to "drain the swamp," a metaphor for attacking technocracy, but he had neither the clarity as to how to proceed not the political base from which to do it.  The country was still divided down the middle, with the technocrats successfully defending their institutions.

23.  The third institutional crisis is now in its first stages, driven by the new and uncomfortable position of the United States in the world and the long jihadist wars.  The United States is looking for a new framework for dealing with the world, but can't readily do so in the framework of the third institutional cycle.  In this cycle, the federal government was constantly engaged in both foreign and domestic matters.  That constant entanglement under the guise of management cannot be sustained.  We must turn to the second type of cycle, the socioeconomic cycle, which is equally influential on the United States and is concluding at nearly the same time and amplifying the chaos.

(待续)

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