The politicians who know about the Synthetic Economy know that the only way forward is to maintain the status quo. Big deficits are OK, as long as the excess doesn’t slosh around in the Little People’s economy and cause inflation. And the politicians, and their friends in the Big People’s economy, get richer and richer because the same dollars circulate in both economies.
But even the politicians who aren’t in on the secret are constrained to follow the status quo, as well.
- If you believe in increasing spending, you run headlong into the Little People’s notion that money is finite. (It isn’t necessarily true anymore in the Big People’s economy, but it’s still universally understood, and useful as a bludgeon.) “We’re eighteen trillion dollars in debt! How dare you contemplate another half-trillion to fix the roads!” The real reason—that an extra half-trillion loosed into the Little People’s economy would be inflationary—need not be mentioned.
- If you believe in reducing spending, you quickly find out that every dollar of spending has a constituency, who will argue that the world will come to an end if even one dollar is cut from their program. A while back, the Federal government convened a ‘blue-ribbon commission’ to investigate spending and identify things that could be readily cut. They could identify less than 1% of spending that fit in that category. And Federal, State, and local governments all have commitments enshrined in law that cannot be readily unwound.
While state and local governments can’t print their own money, they are nevertheless subject to the same constraints, with the same results. Occasionally a governor or mayor can turn back the tide in his own state or city, reducing taxes and encouraging development, but it’s a drop in the bucket, and the gains in one state or city are almost always balanced out by losses elsewhere in the US.
So what does this mean for our politicians?
- A politician’s positions don’t matter. We’ve always know that most of what politicians say when campaigning is motivated by ambition, and bears scant resemblance to what the politician will actually do if elected. But now, with the Synthetic Economy, politicians really can’t do very much different.
- Political parties don’t matter. At least, not at the Federal level. The rhetoric and the emphasis may differ, but both parties are pulling in the same direction and seeking the same ends.
- Elections become beauty contests. In the 2000 Presidential election, much was made about how George Bush was ‘more likable’ than Al Gore. At the time, I thought it was ludicrous: we’re electing a President, not hiring a bartender! But the pattern has been set for every Presidential election since then, as well as most of the others I’m aware of: the most telegenic candidate wins.
- Incumbents rule. And if you’re not telegenic, but you’re the incumbent, you still have it made. You have the name recognition and, perhaps more important, the connections for campaign funding. Just don’t do anything stupid that would land you in prison.
For us ordinary citizens, it’s all very disappointing. In general, there isn’t much point in supporting one politician over another. And the notion that an ordinary person might run for office and win, once one of the basic tenets of our republic, is now a pipe dream.
And the keepers of the Synthetic Economy prefer it that way.