Sunday, October 25, 2020

A Crisis of Accountability

“With great power comes great responsibility”


In 2002, when this was the tag line for a superhero movie, it was an obvious to everyone. Literal popcorn stuff. How times have changed. Over the past decade, in particular, the world has been suffering from an increasing accountability crisis, where instead of coming with great responsibility, power is increasingly used to avoid responsibility.


This is not a partisan thing- it happens from the most left wing countries to the most reactionary ones. Nor is it restricted to government. Many of the post-financial crisis business models, such as the gig economy and many debt repackaging schemes, involve taking profit while evading the associated risk.


I’m not entirely sure why this is happening now. In government, it may be related to the rise of strongmen in the wake of the Arab Spring failure and the alienation of Putin by the G7 in the earl-to-mid teens. Strongmen, almost by definition, use their power to repress criticism and avoid responsibility, and try to minimize their accountability. If they had actual accomplishments, then they wouldn’t have to use threats and lies to distract from their records.


The transformation of the internet into a disinformation superhighway probably plays a role as well, But disinformation is only a tool, not a payoff. However, it can distract from the rapid movement of ideas and capital, which allow grift to mutiply like never before.


But these aren’t the main problem. The main problem is the mindset that somehow, some one somewhere will clean up the mess left behind. Grifters assume that they can just move on to somewhere they can spend their ill gotten wealth. But even though we live on a big old planet, technology has shrunk it to the point where they can trash and loot all of it before they realize that there is nowhere left to go.

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