Government by Vampire Zombie Squid


As a friend writes, “Our system is very opaque.” Various thinkers have tried to diagram or schematise the relationships among different branches of western liberal democratic regimes. A popular concept in some circles, and the prototype for many such efforts, is Curtis Yarvin’s Cathedral. What ties together much of this analysis, is the conviction that formal political structures have been increasingly sidelined by informal, illegible and corrupt power networks. We see a growing gulf between how western liberal democracies claim to function, and how they actually behave.

Attempts to model power structures like these are at base arguments about whether regime behaviour is emergent, or centrally directed; whether our governments are simply failing, or pursuing hidden goals; and whether our elites are malicious, or just remarkably stupid, or some unfortunate mixture of both.

Instead of contributing more schemata to the landscape of dissident thought on what is wrong with modern liberal democracy, I’ll take a descriptive approach. It seems to me that not only our pandemic response, but many signature western policies, are distinguished by a curious set of recurring pathologies. Taken together, these suggest important conclusions about how we’re governed.

As I see it, our brave new world is beset by state actions which betray 1) properties of inertia, 2) the absence of strategy, 3) symptoms of profound demobilisation, 4) an obsession with simple metrics, 5) diffuse consensus guidance, 6) transnational uniformity, and 7) media activism.

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