Wednesday, March 30, 2011

On 'The Managerial Revolution'...

I made reference to James Burnham's The Managerial Revolution a few days ago, and got some mail from people asking me where they could find a copy, since it doesn't seem to be floating around many Public Libraries these days.

Of course, you can find all the Jacqueline Suzanne you want, but very little in the way of Political Science. Unless it's Saul Alinsky's Rules for Radicals, which I'm led to understand the library can't keep on the shelves, or Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged (can't wait for the movie!). has The Managerial Revolution -- at an unconscionable price. I personally found my copy at The Strand bookstore in Manhattan, many years ago, and I think I paid about $8 for a used copy, so try them. Otherwise, I'd keep my eyes peeled at used book sales, swap meets, etc.

For those who can't afford the ass-rape price over at, I'll summarize the book for you here as best I can.

Burnham wrote the book in about 1940 or '41, at the start of the Second World War. His basic premise was that laissez-faire capitalism was as dead as a doornail, and as proof of this dictum, he pointed to the defeat of the capitalist nations of France, and the hanging-on-by-it's-fingernails desperation of Great Britain and it's empire. Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy were going to win the war, according to Burnham, because they had abandoned the old-fashioned, outdated, unworkable system of Capitalism. The superiority of the Nazi/Fascist economic system, where industries were nationalized but their owners allowed to keep ownership -- and profit -- by the State, was evident by it's visible effects upon the battlefields of Europe.

Burnham also made the point that while Capitalism was doomed, Socialism wasn't exactly automatically going to inherit the Earth, as many Leftists had hoped (the Soviet Union, he felt, would also be defeated, or at least come to some accommodation with the Nazis in order to simply survive). What was going to replace those two systems was a mixture of both; a planned economy (on the Nazi, socialist model), geared to national aggrandizement and victory, but run by a new generation of people who weren't interested in such old-fashioned notions as mere profit, as much as they were eager to be the New Arbiters of Power within this new system.

This New Generations were to be called The Managers. Their ranks were to consist of the politicians, scientists, technical specialists, inventors, lawyers, media types, and so forth, who were willing to put their talents to work for the empowerment of the State in return for special privileges; the opportunity to manipulate the levers of power for their own benefit. These were the men and women who would remake society according to their tastes, and being privileged employees of the State, they were to also acquire the ability to direct resources as they saw fit (usually, in their own direction).

The Managers, in the new, Managerial State, would find their way into positions from which they could influence business and government according to their efforts, while remaining invisible.

A similar idea was once also promulgated by the Italian Communist, Antonio Gramsci, who postulated that if given a choice between full-blown Communism and Capitalist Democracy, the greater mass of the people would choose Capitalist Democracy almost every time. Therefore, the Communist was always assured of defeat in fair electoral politics. So, instead of engaging in electoral politics, the True Believer Commie would instead make an effort to insinuate himself into the institutions of the State -- into the educational system, the judiciary, the legal profession, law enforcement, labor unions, and so forth -- and work within the bureaucracies to promulgate his stupidity. Much like the Managerial Class would do.

In any case, Burnham turned out to be wrong in a major way: the Soviet Union, Great Britain and the United States defeated Hitler and Mussolini, and it was the American Capitalist System that had become the Arsenal of Democracy that built the guns, ships, planes, grew the food, pumped the oil, and shipped it all over the oceans to every battlefield where it was needed, and wherever it could be brought to bear against the enemy.

In fact, I think it was 1944 -- when Germany was staring certain defeat in the face -- when Burnham changed his original thesis in another book, The Machiavellians, in which he basically said "forget what I said's obvious that Hitler and Mussolini had the right idea, but were just the wrong guys to lead this new Managerial Revolution, but the idea will survive. Democracy, it turned out, was far more amenable to Managerialism after all than Dictatorship was... just you wait..."

And we waited.

You now live in a world which is managed by selfish little toads to the nth degree. Products are produced with built-in obsolescence as a major consideration, and with full knowledge that newer-and-better technologies and products are available now but deliberately held back by Big Business. Government advocates on behalf of this industry or that, sends trade missions to foreign countries on their behalf, and negotiates Free Trade Agreements which allow favored industries to relocate the more expensive aspects of their operations overseas (where wages are lower and regulation non-existent). Where it would be inconvenient to move operations, the government then allows masses of illegal immigrants to pass into the country unmolested, or issues H1-B visas to effectively do the same thing. The Middle Class is deliberately destroyed so as to make them dependant upon government.

There is no longer anything that can be described as a Free Market, anymore. Markets are now manipulated by a hybrid of Business Interests and Government Regulations. Government now picks winners and losers in industry. Businesses are started overnight with government subsidies, and then quickly die when the subsidy money dries up without having produced a single thing except profits for it's executives. Banks are allowed to defy economic logic and extend their reach into stock markets, mortgage markets and insurance industry, and then are bailed out by legislators and Presidents who have been bought and sold by corporate money when they become Too-Big-To-Fail -- and no one notices that it was the lawmakers (manipulated by the Managerial Class) who allowed them to get that way by issuing this or that waiver, or failing to perform the basic oversight duties its empowered to conduct.

And when the inevitable happens -- disaster looms -- then government simply demands more restrictive and intrusive powers to ensure that 'this never happens again!' Restrictive and intrusive powers put into the hands guessed it: the Managerial Class (i.e. the bureaucracy).

How do you think GE has managed to avoid paying any taxes whatsoever, get Jeffrey Immelt (perhaps the worst CEO in America today) on the President's Economic Advisory Board, and then stand to profit enormously because of its involvement in Green Energy, Electric Hybrid Vehicles, High-Speed Rail and Nuclear Power projects? Not to mention having it's finance arm, GE Capital (the largest such finance company in the world) bailed out by American taxpayers? The Oil and Coal industries are being slowly strangled in the name of environMENTALism -- another branch of Managerialism; this one says we can control the weather with lovely thoughts and strangling Western Economies -- from which GE will profit handsomely, and gladly return some of that tax-free profit into Obama's and the democratic party's coffers.

General Motors and the UAW have also been the recipients of government largess, and they will, we're assured, in the very near future be building automobiles powered by GE products. Those automobiles will be  protected against foreign competition by the government (remember all those Potemkin Toyota Hearings last year? Oh, btw, it turns out that Toyotas don't have accelerator problems...only stupid drivers). The Defense Industry has it's hooks into every Congresscritter who's ever lived, so that Congress can fund 400 F-22's when the Air Force only wants 300, sell tanker aircraft the military doesn't even want, build tanks which are overkill for the current battlefields were on, fund jet engine programs that no one wants, and spend money to ensure that every soldier has every high-tech geegaw, regardless of it's actual battlefield utility?

NASA only exists to ensure that thousands of highly-trained specialists actually have jobs. In return, we get to watch them shoot golf carts to other planets we could never live on, chase asteroids, build an International Space Station for which we bear the burden of cost, and look for exoplanets in other galaxies we can't reach for millenia, if ever. There is currently no replacement due for the Space Shuttle for another decade, and not too much of a domestic, commercial Space Industry in this country: Do you believe the government is simply going to allow all that talent and experience to either wither away, or worse, head overseas? NASA engineers and technicians will, mark my words, be able to write their own checks.

You get your news and entertainment from corporate conglomerates that are cheerleaders for this-or-that political point of view, and they don't even try to hide their biases anymore. The executives of the major networks exert their influence on behalf of the political parties. Hollywood makes films attacking this or that political standpoint, or cultural tradition. News anchors have absolutely incredible power to shape public opinion. Newspaper editors, too. All contribute to political parties and candidates, and then actively seek to aid the very politicians they've bought, or raised to prominence. Editorial content is carefully vetted, crafted, infused with orthodoxy, to ensure that only one point of view is presented, and that any other point of view is discredited.

Washington, D.C. (and every state capitol, also) is absolutely lousy with lobbyists, lawyers, think tanks, special interest groups, etc. These people actually write legislation in cahoots with lawmakers, carving out special breaks, tax credits, waivers, relaxation of regulations, legal immunities, for themselves or their clients, and then ensure that a steady stream of cash flows into campaign coffers, or that lucrative job offers for 'retired' politicians are available when needed, in return.

The healthcare industry is about to be handed over to the Federal Unions. The private insurance industry is about to be squeezed out of the medical insurance racket by legal means, economic factors, and state-run insurance exchanges, all brought into being by ObamaCare. That new system will be run by the bureaucrats who made Medicare such a rousing success. The ultimate goal is to de-privatize as much of the healthcare system as possible, and then leave the business of deciding who lives and dies in the hands of a nameless, faceless, unelected mish-mash of bureaucracies, approval boards, Death Panels, government accounting boards, lawyers, and so forth.

President Odingbat, in order to better run all these new government bureaucracies that he's created and dole out the giveaways to politically-favored people and entities, has appointed something like 35 'Czars' who are unelected, unanswerable to the people or Congress, and as we have seen, have little or no regard for the law. They seem to act capriciously, and pick-and-choose who wins and who loses according to their personal preferences, or according to political orientation/affiliation.

Your Public Schools and Universities are chock full of people pretending to be educators, but their real job is to indoctrinate; to prepare future generations of people for the day when every aspect of their lives will be controlled for them, where their decisions will be made for them. We turn out college graduates who can't add. We promote elementary school children who can't read. Textbooks are devoid of facts, and full of pie-in-the-sky garbage disguised as scholarship. The price of a college education continues to climb, ensuring that only the 'right'people  -- i.e. rich liberals who can afford it, or who have been exempted from the more onerous and oppressive dictates of government -- will be able to get one. And where will they work? Not private industry -- which will soon be destroyed -- but for the government. The schools impose "Speech Codes" ostensibly for the protection of people's sensibilities, but mostly because no dissent against the coming Managerial Revolution can be voiced, or even tolerated.

Wall Street, once a bastion of Conservative Capitalists, is more and more coming to be dominated by the Rich Liberal. Wall Street poured more campaign cash into Barack Obama's coffers than they ever did any republican, in the last election cycle. In return, ex-Obama administration appointees find themselves with highly-paid sinecures when they leave Public Service, and the Firms find themselves with a ready supply of people who have the ears of those in power, or in a position to re-write this or that reg, squash this or that investigation. And to be fair, it was going on long before Obama came down the pike; How many Clinton Administration officials found themselves on the board of directors of Citigroup, JP Morgan., AIG, and others?

How much influence do NOW, the NAACP, United Nations, Council on Foreign Relations, EncironMENTAL groups, a thousand think tanks, study groups, blue-ribbon panels, immigrant spokesdouches, Advocacy Groups of a Thousand Stripes visibly exert upon American Policy? How often do we see the same people leave -- and then re-enter -- 'government service' on a regular basis?

Burnham predicted this would happen; a collusion between business, government, and politically-favored-and-funded groups in which one hand washes the other; but instead of just the old-fashioned notions of plain old graft and bribery, all this coziness has an identifiable, and yet not-too-easy-to-discern, goal; the Management of the American Public by people and groups who will stand to benefit the most from the re-ordering of society when the fruits of capitalism are 'spread around' in the proper fashion. And by the proper people.

Of course, such a thing will eventually destroy the very capitalism that it depends upon to fund it, but that was the goal all along. Once there's no more money and the ensuing crisis such an event will create finally arrives, government (i.e. the Managers) will simply grant itself  "Emergency Powers" to re-order society as it sees fit. The decisions on who gets what, if anything, will be made by the same Managerial Class (bureacrats, 'experts', and so forth) that probably engineered the crisis in the first place. Socialism will arrive -- if not in name but surely in effect -- without there ever having been a vote in favor of it, without a violent revolution, and without anyone ever identifying it as 'Socialism' at all.

NOTE: This post has been edited for spelling, and punctuation, and a few additional notes have been added since the original publication.


Mr. Chap said...

The only thing I can do is let you know that I was here. I feel totally inept. I always learn something from you, Mr. M.

Now, I'm off to find the "Managerial Revolution".

Dr. Stephen J. Krune III said...

There was an interesting thread on the book recently here.