The Fall of Wuhan

A corrupt political response is always the same. It never changes in form. It never changes in function.

A corrupt political response occurs when a political leader sacrifices national interest for regime or bureaucratic interest ... when a constructed Narrative of "Yay, Calm and Competent Control!" is maintained for the political benefit of the Leader at the expense of the Led.

Oh, the Leader and his flunkies will convince themselves that the narrative "is in the public interest" ... that the narrative will "buy them time" ... that the narrative is necessary because "the other side" would do the same or worse if given half a chance. It's all the excuses that all the Renfields to all the professional politicians tell themselves as they slowly sell their souls. It's what every President and every Director-General and every Senator and every CEO eventually comes to believe, that their personal interests are identical to "their" people's interests.

Corrupt political responses occur all the time. Literally every day, all over the world. It's not a left/right thing. It's not a Democrat/Republican thing. It's not a Chinese thing or an American thing or a Russian thing. It's a power thing. It's a high-functioning sociopath thing.

Not only are corrupt political responses as common as rain, they're almost never big deals. It's not treason. It's not Benedict Arnold selling a map of West Point. It's petty stuff. It's patronage appointments. It's log-rolling. It's pork barrel politics. Who's gonna notice? Who's hurt?

Precisely because these corrupt political responses are so commonplace and so quotidian, they are almost never revealed publicly. I mean, sometimes you have a "whistleblower" listening in on your petty corrupt bargaining with the Ukrainian President or some such, and it blows up into a bit of a tempest, but that's the exception rather than the rule. And even so, these normal-time reveals are almost always tempests in teacups ... full of sound and fury, but no more than that.

But every once in a very great while, an honest-to-god crisis reveals the consequences of your petty everyday corruption, consequences that are paid in the LIVES of those who trusted you to be better.

Every once in a very great while, an honest-to-god crisis reveals the political self-interest and mendacity behind your carefully constructed narrative of "Yay, Calm and Competent Control!" .

Like the fall of New Orleans revealed George W. Bush.

Like the fall of Wuhan revealed Xi Jinping.

What we must prevent today is the NEXT city to fall.

We must prevent the fall of Daegu. We must prevent the fall of Qom. We must prevent the fall of Milan. Looking ahead, we must prevent the fall of Yokohama. We must prevent the fall of San Francisco.

Because containment has failed.

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  1. Ben, I’m afraid we’re a long way from “We got this.” Unless you mean we got the virus… The America that was based on the commonweal, self-sacrifice for the good of the country is so pre-JFK …“Ask not…” We are collectively a nation of people who have gone into our tribes and silos, blocking out science, common sense. Kurt Andersen put it succinctly. An excerpt here: I bought the book. Nobody, certainly not the Tweeter-in-Chief can wrap our collective efforts around this. See I used multiple references to the “collective” so I must be a Bernie Bro. NOT. Nobody understands united we stand divided we fall. The media has ensured that everybody is always at everyone’s throat all the time. WE have long ago forgotten what Ben Franklin said as the Founding Fathers plotted our revolution" “Gentlemen, I suggest that we hang together or we shall surely hang separately.” Oh yeah there are Militias, Oath Keepers, but they are not what the Framers thought of in the 2d Amendment. The real military is full of them, just itching to “go full retard” on us when the Posse Comitatus laws are repealed. Heck Lincoln suspended Habeas Corpus, the Alien and sedition acts, internment of Japanese Americans, we’re going to show what a bright shining city on a hill looks like. Hunker down, I think it’s going to get very ugly

  2. Avatar for gwise gwise says:

    “I’m saying that there are decades where nothing happens, and then there are weeks where decades happen.”

    I’ve never heard that quote before, but that’s a great mental model for thinking about history. Volatility doesn’t just exist in the markets, and it seems to act similar, with periods of calm (geopolitically, financial, etc. etc.) interrupted by paradigm shifting events. It’s like waiting for water to boil, there’s some simmering underneath for awhile and then BAM, all of a sudden it’s boiling.

    It would be interesting to think of the world today without these volatility spikes, if the water never reached a full boil. Obviously not realistic, but goes to show how much our world has been impacted by the “weeks where decades happen.”

  3. (And also just in case you missed it, the tourist community has been trapped here for 3 days by sandstorms - feels great to be trapped somewhere AND exposed - now returning tourists wondering if they should self quarantine)

  4. Also ask your corporate business continuity team what their plans are for global pandemic. Trust me, they don’t have any. They have 9/11 plans and maybe Sandy/Katrina/Ike plans. Fighting the last war. SMH

  5. Paul Railsback

    9:28 AM (0 minutes ago)

    “The people who control institutions care first and foremost about their power within the institution rather than the power of the institution itself. Thus, they would rather the institution “fail” while they remain in power within the institution than for the institution to “succeed” if that requires them to lose power within the institution.”

    — Iron Law Of Institutions

  6. The DJ this morning on the radio was talking about how surgical masks are not recommended for the general public, and that washing hands and other free methods were far more effective. As I heard him speaking I asked myself “Why am I hearing this now?” The thought occurred to me that this is a Missionary and that this is a narrative being formed. Why? I’m pretty sure to “Keep Calm!” but also because medical supplies are most likely going to run very very low. Everything is Made in China. China has been shut down for 3 months…
    I sent an email to the Chairman and the COO of my local hospital. I’d encourage you to do the same.

  7. We should make this article publicly accessible. It is the perfect message.

  8. Hilarious/sad the number of news articles speculating about whether/how quickly the CBs will cut rates to blunt the markets’ reaction to this. I mean, come on people! Since when do viruses & quarantined workers get cured at the Fed funds window?

  9. “New Orleans fell because of the corrupt political response to Hurricane Katrina.”
    Ben, I believe this and the picture of President Bush and Brown try to depict a complex set of problems Katrina / New Orleans in an extremely over simplistic narrative. No mention of the THOUSANDS of residents of New Orleans who refused to get on a bus and move out of town away from their illicit drug supplier. No mention of more not willing to put distance between themselves and their government subsistence check.

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