20190728 – It’s Only a Joke, Comrade
The main idea of this book is to use history of humor in Stalin’s Soviet Union to analyze human need for agency in live, which is so important that people still were telling all kind of jokes unacceptable for soviet authorities even when there was real and present danger of being imprisoned or even shot as a consequence. Author also analyses what kinds of jokes were told and psychological reasons for each of them. Finally an important part is rejection of dualism when historians look for support / resistance for regime. Author believes that people mainly supported regime, but had to resolve to humor when contrast between official propaganda and personal experience was too big and people needed some reconciliation between these two.
Here author briefly describes the story and reasons he become so interested in jokes telling in totalitarian society. He describes political and economic situation of Soviet Union in 1930s and response of extremely suppressed people expressed via all kind of humor. Author also introduces notion of Crosshatching, which he applies to situation, trying to demonstrate how intersection of the dominant official and suppressed, but not eliminated unofficial discourses, values, and assumption created complex mix of soviet live.
PART 1: TAKING LIBERTIES
Chapter 1: Kirov’s Carnival, Stalin’s Cult
This chapter “explores the myriad ways Soviet people dethroned their leaders and brought them down to earthy reality, from the quietly subversive to the raucously sexualised and scatological, focusing on the irrepressibly carnivalesque responses to the murder of Leningrad Party boss Sergei Kirov in December 1934. “
Author characterizes is as kind of counterculture that provided people with some space to at least partially get away from official craziness.
Chapter 2: Plans and Punchlines: ‘The anecdotes always saved us’
Here is how author characterizes function of humor of the time: “At first glance, humour might seem anathema in such dark days, but, as Chapter 2 shows, in fact this was precisely when it was needed the most. From the Five-Year Plans to the bloody collectivization campaign, an endless slew of mandatory state loan subscriptions, and the growing suspicion that their blood, sweat and tears might all be for nothing (exacerbated by a truce with Nazi Germany), people’s everyday realities clashed painfully with regime promises. Just as contemporaries used anekdoty to read the regime’s often bloody policies through the incongruous lens of their everyday experiences, they used the blackest humour to cope with the fear of denunciation and the dreaded 3 am knock of the NKVD at their apartment door. People were not struck mute by terror during these years; in humour they found ways to deal with the hardships and uncertainties, rather than standing frozen and isolated in the headlights of the NKVD’s paddy wagons. If humour could not save them from the secret police, it could always save them from despair. “
Chapter 3:Speaking More than Bolshevik: Crosshatching and Codebreaking
This chapter is about specifics of soviet speak – the new language that was strongly promoted by soviet officials in order to wipe out history and even language that existed before communists came to power. However it was not only imposed from above, but also actively supported from below by majority of population who were seeking way to survive in attempt to become truly new soviet person. It proved to be impossible and old (real) way of thinking and talking proved to be quite resilient, creating mix of old and new.
PART 2: JOKING DANBEROUSLY
Chapter 4: Who’s Laughing Now? Persecution and Prosecution
This is about price of humor that people sometimes paid: “Chapter 4 shifts our focus from how joke-tellers perceived the regime to how the regime perceived the joke-tellers. It reconstructs for the first time how the Bolsheviks struggled to control and contain all unofficial humour, and reveals how its perception of humour changed from considering it a blunt instrument to a mind virus, which could infect all but the most ardent ideologues. This was a twisted evolution that was largely opaque to the general population, but even if some people managed to keep up with policy, it might already have been too late. If historians have long known that the Soviet legal system was capricious and unpredictable, the criminal case-files of those convicted for humour reveal that it also practiced retroactive ‘justice’. A joke that seemed acceptable at the time it was told could be reinterpreted months or years later as evidence of counterrevolutionary intent and could land even devoted Party members in jail. In such a climate of uncertainty and unpredictability, even though joke-tellers might know they were taking a risk, they had little chance of judging the true danger of their actions. Even so, the content of what they actually said frequently turns out to have been less important than who they were.”
PART 3: ALONE TOGETHER
Chapter 5: Beyond Resistance: The Psychology of Joke-Telling
This is probably the most interesting and important chapter: what were psychological reasons to say jokes and laugh in the face of death or at least prison term. Here is how author describes it:” Studying an extreme case can highlight elements of the ordinary. Everything exceptional, if it endures for long enough, becomes ordinary – that is, at some level accepted and understood as ‘how things are’. People seek to normalize and adapt to their circumstances – so they can find a degree of stability and predictability as they go about their daily lives – but this is not the same as blindly accepting them. Joke telling could even become a statement of your own existence in this climate of smothering conformity: ‘I joke, therefore I am’. This could be quite practical as well as psychological. Wit and anekdoty did not just pick holes in the fabric of the official world and its claims, but actually began to create new ways of looking at it – unofficial rules, which could help people, get by just a little more comfortably and successfully. These were ways to solve problems and get by within the system, rather than attempts to destabilize or to confront it. In-jokes became a secret language between those in the know, and, while pointing out what didn’t work in the Soviet system, many jokes simultaneously conveyed a kind of clandestine ‘ know-how ’ – hints and tips people shared which explained how to get by to their minimum disadvantage. Barbed as they might be, they were often simultaneously affectionate, expressing a desire that things should work as they were supposed to, rather than writing the system off at large. In this way, they were actively trying to find patterns within the confluence – the crosshatching – of both their own perspectives and official ideology.”
Chapter 6:In On the Joke: Humor, Trust and Sociability
The final chapter is about trust. Author rejects idea of Hanna Arendt that totalitarian system destroys private life. On contrary, author’s research demonstrates that private life become even more important because it was the one area where individual could be save – there were no data found showing family members denouncing each other to authorities. Moreover strong friendships also provided shelter where individuals could express opinions with little fear and doing so satisfy his/her need for at least some semblance of agency.
In conclusion author points out that his research demonstrated that society was not really “atomized” into bunch if individuals trembling with fear. It rather turned into some king of mix of intersecting multiple realities in one of which Soviet Union made huge progress and build superior socialist society, in another reality it was all for show and Soviet Union was the place of massive incompetence, corruption, and suppression in which individuals were telling jokes not that much to undermine regime as to save self-respect and some semblance of control over their lives.
MY TAKE ON IT:
This is a great research on human psychology under totalitarian regime in which ideology, while being generally supported by vast majority, nevertheless was so far away from reality that it was necessary to find some way to diminish cognitive dissonance that was done by using humor and jokes. Far from being method of resistance the humor was method to maintain sanity and reaffirm one’s agency by demonstrating to self and few trusted others ability to see ridiculousness of socialist environment and official propaganda. There is also another point that I’d like to make, which is the use of notion “real”. For soviet people telling jokes there was no contradiction between believing in ideas of communism and laughing over real live implementation of these ideas. The duality is kind of simple: “real communist” was incorruptible, but local party boss was highly corrupt. “Real” socialist plant was super-efficient, but the plant one worked at was super-wasteful. This tolerance of inconsistency was the great achievement of totalitarism, which by suppressing real information and supplying huge amounts of propaganda successfully pushed handling of cognitive dissonance into area of underground humor, consequently preventing population from facing real problem of failing system and extending existence of the socialist system for decades after its economic and ideological bankruptcy become obvious to anybody in possession of real and truthful information.
20190721 – Frontier Rebels
The main idea of this book is revive memory of mainly forgotten part of American Revolution that was not less or probably even more important than most celebrated revolutionary movement of coastal elites in Boston and New York. This coastal elite revolted against taxes, regulations, and increased government control. The other part of revolution was rebellious movement of frontier settlers who decided that British attempts to accommodate Indian tribes, while refusing provide military protection to settlements makes it detrimental for them, so they started revolutionary fight for independence.
PREFACE: THE CRISIS OF EMPIRE
This starts with the story of important mission sent in 1765 to Indians by British government under leadership of Robert Callender. The objective was to bring massive amount of gifts including weapons and ammunition to Indians in order to establish firm foundation for permanent peace with American settlements expansion stopping at Appalachia and Indian tribes maintaining complete sovereignty further West. The mission was practically destroyed by resistance of settlers who had no intention to limit their advance and who considered British attempts to stop such advance and settle the border with Indians completely treasonous. They believed that Indians would continue attack frontier settlements in any case. The people who stopped this mission were called Black Boys. Their resistance eventually grew into kind of frontier rebellion that continued on and off until it merged with coastal movement into one American Revolution.
- SETTING THE STAGE
This chapter is about prehistory of main events – the British / French 7 years war in which British were victorious and took North America away from French. However this victory left Britain economically deprived and in need for money. This quite reasonably prompted the Crown to make its colonial subjects to help with payments for their defense and start looking for settlement with Indian tribes that would sharply decrease needs in such defense. The latter was the main reason to arrange delegation with gifts to Indian tribes in order to convince them in British peaceful intentions.
- THE MISSION
Here author describes preparations for the mission, its main players like George Croghan, and complex machinations between government and private interests used to raise significant money required for the mission. Author also describes attitudes of Indian side somewhat tangibly led by Pontiac who tried establishing peaceful relations with British after French were mainly gone.
- THE CONVOY DEPARTS
Here author describes final preparations, content, and departure of the mission led by Robert Callender – one of Croghan’s business partners. Croghan himself was waiting them at Fort Pitt. The mission on its way moved to Conococheaque – an area close to frontier, were population was well familiar with Indians and was undergoing regular attacks.
- THE ATTACK
This chapter describes actual attack of Black boys against Callender’s mission with destruction of gifts prepared for Indians. It also includes one of the first direct clashes of Americans with British troops. When train came to Sideling Hill Black boys attacked it, but the British soldiers of 42ndRegiment successfully protected the train and disarmed Black boys. British, however, could not prevent destruction of much of convoy’s property. On the Indian side another leader Charlot Kaske did not believe in possibility of accommodation with whites and did all he could to stop new settlements.
This is detailed narrative of attack’s consequences when attempt to prosecute Black boys failed because of jury support for them. This story includes lots of legal and executive maneuvering and also some semi military confrontations around Ford Pitt and Fort Charles. It also includes details of Penn’s thinking and his politics of trying to find some way to accommodate both sides: British and settlers, which had directly opposite objectives.
This chapter starts with the story of capture of Fort Loudon commander lieutenant Grant by Black boys. The main point here was the struggle for settler’s guns captured by British troops in previous confrontation. Author describes general mood of settlers and provides support to this description in form of popular ditty describing these events as clash between patriotic settlers and treasonous authorities that preferred to support Indians against Americans. Author stresses that it was the same period of time in the summer of 1765 when coat cities were boiling excited by Stamp act.
This starts with description of Indian, more specifically Pontiac attempts together with Croghan to establish peace and stop settlements. It has a very interesting point about difference in notion of “father” between Indians and British. The former did not perceive it as someone superior in hierarchical order, but rather equal friend. This created confusion when British believed that Indians accept their rule, while Indians believed that it is just agreement coexist in exchange for gifts. Even when British authorities and people like Croghan were dealing directly with Indians, they would be satisfied with formalities because it supported their of objective peace and no more settlements. For them gift to Indians including weapons and ammunition were just a normal condition of peace. For settlers peace would mean complete cessation of Indian attacks against settlements, which settlers did not believe to be possible, so any transfer of weapons and ammunition to Indians meant treason of authorities against them. Therefore logically dependence on British would be detrimental for settlers.
- THE ELUSIVE PEACE
This is narrative of the following events when Penn broke with settlers as result of massacre against peaceful Indian tribe by Frederick Stump. Initially disgusted, by Stump’s actions settlers put him in prison, but their opinion changed when they found that authorities supported his punishment. Consequently mob broke prison and set Stump free. In turn authorities with William Johnson at the head turned against settlers even more. In October 1768 Johnson signed treaty with Iroquois at Fort Stanwix to establish Ohio River as natural border between Indian lands and settlements. As byproduct it included generous land grants to Johnson himself and his deputy George Croghan, making them the richest landowners in the area. It turned out to be not a stable solution.
This chapter describes the next confrontation when Black boys start patrolling highways near Fort Pitt to prevent transfer of weapons and ammunition to Indians. Some of them were arrested, leading to Black Boys taking Fort Pitt in September of 1769 and freeing their people. In following encounter the man was killed and Black boys leader Smith was accused of murder. Instead of escaping, he decided to comply with laws, stand trial and was acquitted. Then author discusses legal situation on the frontier, when settlers often ignored directions and legal requirements of British authorities and used their own courts and juries to resolve issues. Especially explosive was their rejection of authorities demand to give Indians the same legal protection as any British subjects. This was so much unacceptable for these British subjects that they start moving in direction of ceasing to be British subjects. The final part of the chapter discusses Indian internal struggle that eventually led to the murder of peace promoting Pontiac and raise of militant Charlot Kaske who believed that no real peace with settlers is possible and just wanted to win military against all odds.
- IMPERIAL FAILURE
This chapter moves to events in 1772 – close to revolution. The British authorities decided to stop protection of settlers and removed a few forts including Fort Pitt. The idea probably was that without military protection settlers exhausted by Indian attack would stop resisting and become much more compliant subjects. Another plan was set into movement was Croghan plan to create new colony: Vandalia. Ironically this plan failed in court when multiple claims on the same land forced administration to drop this idea. Croghan did not give up and continued fight, eventually getting approval for Vandalia in 1775 just when revolutionary war started in Lexington. After that author describes London political events of 1770s and events on the East Coast including Tea Party that made war for independence inevitable.
In this last chapter author discusses events and meaning of American Revolution for the West and events during period of 1777 to 1783 substituted British authorities with new American Authorities, which were a lot less concerned about Indians than about settlers, supporting Western movement all the way to Pacific with Indians being just a bumps on this road that were continuously removed.
This is an interesting part where author somewhat links these events of long time ago with contemporary issues when current American coastal elite, which for all purposes is not that different from historical British elite once again bumped into resistance of lower classes, which are also for all purposes not that different from historical settlers. He specifically looks at issue of guns ownership and control and provides an example of older man explaining to young students that it is not possible to keep freedom if one cannot keep guns to protect this freedom. In his final thought of this book author states that this direct confrontational approach to elite is legacy of American history and revolution and one should not treat it easily because such easy treatment by president Buchanan in 1850s was one of the causes of devastating Civil War.
MY TAKE ON IT:
The author’s recovery of important, but often-missed part of American Revolution provides an interesting material for thought. The cruel and unstoppable movement of European settlers West was inevitably destroying Indian civilization, which was by far inferior numerically, technologically, and organizationally to fight successfully against this movement. I do not see how it could be different, all good feeling and compassion of British elite notwithstanding. For me it is interesting clash between two groups of people belonging to one civilization, specifically British Europeans that developed different believes who should be included into group of “us” and who should be treated as “others”. The settler had not doubt that Indians could not be included into ‘us’, while for elite the contempt and disgust of settlers was strong enough so to include Indians into the group of ‘us’ and suppress settlers who were not agree with this. It is understandable because this disgust of settlers came from somewhat familiarity, while good feelings and admiration of Indians came from the lack of familiarity. One should not discount purely financial consideration. For elite formal land grant meant little because of difficulties to use it, while protection of settlers meant loss of resources for causes elite had difficult time benefiting from. The Indian area free of settlers with clear border and peace meant profits from trade and little need for protection expense. For settlers peace with Indians meant loss of opportunities to acquire new lands and life under constant threat and real attacks every time when their interest clash with Indians. The free trade obviously would mean for settlers to deal with Indians who are well armed and equipped. In short interests of elite and settlers could not be reconciled.
20190714 – The Pursuit of Oblivion
The main idea of this book is to trace history of drugs use mainly in the Western world, present some technological history of variety of drugs and methods of their use, and use multitude of historical examples to demonstrate that consequences are quite different for different individuals. It is also history of government intervention with drug use, prohibition, and, generally futile, attempts to prevent such use.
Author starts providing definition of various types of chemicals impacting humans psyche:
Narcoticsrelieve pain, induce euphoria and create physical dependency. The most prominent are opium, morphine, heroin and codeine.
Hypnoticscause sleep and stupor; examples include chloral, sulphonal, barbiturates and benzodiazepines. They are habit-forming and can have adverse effects. These side effects are shared with tranquillisers, which are intended to reduce anxiety without causing sleep.
Stimulantscause excitement, and increase mental and physical energy, but create dependency and may cause psychotic disturbance. Cocaine and amphetamines are the pre-eminent stimulants, but others include caffeine, tobacco, betel, tea, coffee, cocoa, qat and pituri.
Inebriantsare produced by chemical synthesis: alcohol, chloroform, ether, benzine, solvents and other volatile chemicals.
Hallucinogenscause complex changes in visual, auditory and other perceptions and possibly acute psychotic disturbance. The most commonly used hallucinogenic is cannabis (marijuana). Others include LSD, mescaline, certain mushrooms, henbane and belladonna.
Then he briefly discusses prohibition and its counter-effectiveness, providing a number of statistical factoids.
ONE Early History
The contemporary story starts in 1670 when English sailors first encountered drug use in Bengal. Then author narrates discovery of opium, cannabis, coca, and other drugs. He also refers to drug use in history starting with Sumerian records, including Egypt, Greeks, Romans, and everybody else.
TWO: Opium during the Enlightenment
This chapter describes use of drugs during Enlightenment when they became a potent part of medical toolset. At the time drugs action was poorly understood so it was used without limitation and author describes numerous real stories of opium users of this period. Some of these users were destroyed by constantly increasing need to have drugs, but many others found some stable level of drug use that practically had little impact on their live, just slightly enhanced their perceptions and alleviated discomforts. The important point here is unpredictability of individual consequences, however with high probability of developing strong dependency.
THREE: The Patent Age of New Inventions
Here author describes significant changes in drug use that occurred beginning in 1820s. Drugs, as everything else, were industrialized being included into multitude of patented medicines and then produced and marketed on the big scale. Author also discusses here Chinese opium wars that were mainly result of economic disequilibrium between China that had plenty of products for international sale like silk and British Empire including India that had little useful for China and therefore paid silver in exchange of goods. It was clearly unsustainable and sale of opium from India was very useful tool to resolve this problem. As elsewhere in this book author narrate a number of personal stories of drug users mainly from the upper crust of British and French societies, once again demonstrating that consequences of drug use are highly individual and range from financial and health ruin to mainly benign enhancement of everyday perceptions, physical conditions, and mood.
FOUR: Nerves, Needles and Victorian Doctors
This chapter is about development of various methods of drug delivery into human body: digesting, smoking, injection and so on. It is also about differences in drug impact depending on the method.
This starts with description of coca leaves in recipes of various drinks. Then author describes a wave of Chloral addiction, use of amyl nitrite, and other stimulants.
This chapter starts with the story of dr. Pemberton – founder of Coca Cola Company. Then it moves to Freud and his unethical behavior promoting use of Coca. It is also about medical use of cocaine to treat depression and neuralgia. Author compares level of addictiveness of various drags, concluding that cocaine is more harmful than opium. It resulted in continuously growing stigmatization of cocaine and its users. Author describes the growing concern about drug use and results of various government commissions reviewing the issue.
SEVEN: The Dawn of Prohibition
This chapter is about beginning of prohibition. Author looks first at Moscow and London where at the beginning of XX century many thousands of patients were treated from addition. One of the interesting points author makes hare is that every new drug developed first was considered non-addictive and was used to wean people out from another drug. He reviews this process in details using development and initial use of heroin as example. About the same time in early XX century first contemporary restriction on drug use begin to apply.
This chapter is about the history of legal limitations on drugs as it developed from 1919 on in UK and then in parallel in USA: The Jones-Miller Narcotic Drugs Import and Export Act of 1922 further institutionalized and restricted drug supplies. The Porter Act of 1924 prohibited the manufacture and medical use of heroin.
As usual these developments included multiple controversies, but by the end of 1930 elsewhere in Europe and America governments prohibited drugs.
The production and transportation drugs was probably the first international trade when product cultivation was moving regularly from country to country finding new and new places where government control was very weak as in former colonies or very strong as in communist countries where government itself was the main producer and distributor of drugs to international market.
TEN: The Age of Anxiety; ELEVEN: The First Drugs Czar; TWELVE: British Drug Scenes; THIRTEEN: Presidential Drugs Wars
This was the age after WWII when drugs came into use massively and produced lots of feed to mass media and Cultural Revolution in Western world, which start destroying traditional values substituting sobriety and hard work as models of behavior with search for satisfaction via all means available including drugs. The political and moral reaction was traditional – attempt to forbid and suppress use of drug by police force. Author describes history of this process and multiple personal stories involved. There are a lot of details here, but they are generally retelling the same story of the failure of this suppression.
FOURTEEN: So Passé
The final chapter is about multiple new drug that are getting created all the time, their various impacts on human body and histories of typical loop: creation of the new drug, its penetration through the market, alarms caused by some negative effects like overdose deaths or some other negative consequences, prohibition, and indefinitely ongoing and generally futile fight to enforce this prohibition.
MY TAKE ON IT:
This very detailed and thorough account of history of drug discovery, production, distribution, use, abuse, and prohibition is quite interesting. It provides very good description of how many of drugs work, their impact on human body, and long fight of multitude of authorities in multitude of countries to prevent or stop their use. I generally agree with author that prohibition does not work, but I would go as far as it is possible to allow people to use whatever they want in pursuit of happiness, and if it is just chemical reaction inside of body that make them happy, so be it. I think it is meaningless and cruel to deprive some people of resources they produce in order prevent other people from hurting themselves. I think that example of one of the most potent drug – alcohol is quite obvious: some people never use it, some use it very moderately without any negative consequences, but some destroy their lives with alcoholism. I guess it would be no different with all other drugs, so it would be better allowing people decide what they want and obtain drugs if they want to and medical help to get off drugs if they want to. However I think it is very important that drug use started only when person is adult and can take responsibility of his/her action. Children should be educated at early age about potential consequences with visits to hospitals for addicts so that children had very vivid picture of consequences. Correspondingly pushing drugs to children should be treated as murder, since it does has potential to ruin human life.
20190707 – Government- Industrial Complex
The main idea of this book is to identify true size of government counting total FTE employees not only of government, but also of contractors and grants recipients. Author intends to demonstrate that American strive to limit government had resulted not that much in small government, but rather in big government-industrial complex in which many government tasks conducted by employees of private companies via government contracts and grants, making it actually less effective and more cumbersome, even more expensive. The solution author proposes is to increase number of government employees so they would do tasks that need to be done and in process actually save money on contracting overhead, complexities, and inefficiencies.
- A Warning Renewed
“Chapter 1 starts discussion by focusing on Eisenhower’s warnings about the conjunction of what he described as an “immense military establishment” with “a permanent armaments industry of vast proportions” and proceeds to a description of the methods used to calculate the true size of the federal, contract, and grant workforce. As chapter 1 argues, Eisenhower presented a framework for tracking the “unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought,” of any government-industrial conjunction, large or small, and even outlined a method for measuring the true size of government through head counts of federal employees and funding for contract firms and grant agencies.”
Here author provides description of methodology and results of analysis of head count and functional allocation of government employees in 2017:
Author also discusses how much there is hidden government-funded employment and provides a comprehensive list of reasons why nobody can even estimate these numbers:
2. The True Size of Government
Chapter 2 explores patterns in the number of federal, contract, and grant employees under Presidents Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama. The chapter starts with an overview of the measurement challenges in estimating the true size of government, a discussion of threats to accuracy, and a description of an estimating approach based on contract transactions and grant awards. The chapter also offers caveats on using the information and examines the data deficits that currently frustrate efforts to monitor the blended workforces that faithfully execute the laws from both sides of the complex. The chapter then turns to a history of the changing size of government under Reagan, George H. W. Bush, Clinton, George W. Bush, and Obama. Reagan and George W. Bush pushed the total size of government upward during war, while George H. W. Bush, Clinton, and Obama all harvested the peace dividends that followed. The chapter examines each president’s view of the federal workforce and explores patterns of growth and decline as the true size of government surged during war and economic crisis and compressed during peace and recovery. Readers are urged to pay particular attention to Reagan’s role in creating a Cold War peace dividend that reduced the number of employees on both sides of the government-industrial complex. Reagan also helped launch two decades of military base closing that gave his successors enough savings to hope for no new taxes and declare an end to the era of big government. The chapter ends with a quick review of President Donald Trump’s early relationship with the government-industrial complex and ends with a discussion of the federal personnel caps, cuts, and freezes that have done so much to alter the government-industrial balance. Although most of these post–World War II employment constraints had negligible effects on federal employment, they fueled public demand for a government that looks smaller but delivers more and the use of contract and grant employees as a work-around.
Despite difficulties of accounting presented in the first chapter author provides some official data on history of government-funded head counts:
3. Pressures on the Dividing Line
Chapter 3 examines the time limits, bureaucratic constraints, and political realities that drive federal functions and jobs across the dividing line between government and industry. Whether by accident or intent, the fifteen pressures catalogued in the chapter give Congress, the president, and federal officers ample incentive to use contract and grant employees in lieu of federal employees. The pressures also frustrate effective deployment of federal, contract, and grant employees. The chapter ends with a short discussion of the prospects for reducing the pressure through comprehensive reform.
This chapter is also interesting by author’s analysis of differences between direct and indirect government-funded employees. Here is result of one research:
Another interesting part here is the example of bureaucratic structure that includes some number of layers in bureaucracy and people that occupy them:
4. A Proper Blending
Chapter 4 starts with a short history of recent efforts to realize Eisenhower’s proper meshing of government and industry. As author argues, six of the past seven presidents focused on one-sided reforms designed to cut big government or discipline the contracting process. Obama is the only recent president who focused on both sides through a broad agenda for government improvement and aggressive reforms in the blend of federal and contract employees. Obama eventually retreated from both efforts, but provided an inventory of options for future two-sided action. The Chapter draws on this history for developing a “reset and reinforce” process that might be used for a regular reblending of the federal government’s federal, contract, and grant workforces. Based on rigorous annual head counts and workforce planning, this proper blending involves six steps:
(1) Clarify terms,
(2) Force both sides of the government-industrial complex to take social responsibility for their work,
(3) Track movement across the divide between government and industry,
(4) Sort functions based on careful definitions of which workforce should do what,
(5) Monitor and reset caps on the true size of the total workforce, and
(6) Reinforce the dividing lines between government and industry. Anchored by more precise inventories of who delivers what for government, this reblending process could ease long-standing limits on federal employment, while acknowledging the important role that contract and grant employees play in launching bold endeavors and achieving success.
Author looks in details t every one of these steps and concludes the chapter with question: who can deliver on these recommendations?
5. Conclusion: The “Next Gen” Public Service
“Chapter 5 ends the book with a discussion of the “next gen” public service. Even following a careful reblending using the sorting system presented in chapter 4, Congress and the president must assure that the government-industrial complex embraces a continued commitment to public service, a mission that matters to the nation’s future, and a workforce that bring new vitality to aging institutions. Federal employees are going to retire in record numbers over the next decade, but their departures will create a destructive “retirement tsunami” unless Congress and the president act now to recruit and train the next generation of public servants wherever they work in the government-industrial complex. Congress and the president must make sure that every federal, contract, and grant employee is committed to faithfully executing the laws, including laws they might oppose. Too many decisions about the choice and deployment of the federal government’s blended workforce are made without concern for cost, benefit, performance, accountability, and the underlying public-service motivation that should call all government employees to their work. Just as Eisenhower argued that the military-industrial complex was imperative to the nation’s safety, this book argues that the government-industrial complex is critical for supporting bold endeavors and creating lasting achievements. And just as Eisenhower also argued that a proper meshing of the military and armaments industry was the only way to protect liberty, this book asks how to align a much larger government-industrial complex than Eisenhower could ever have imagined. It is impossible to know whether Eisenhower would describe today’s government-industrial complex a conjunction of an immense federal workforce and a large contract and grant industry, but it is easy to imagine that he would say its size creates the same “grave threats” may be perfectly appropriate, if not much too weak.”
MY TAKE ON IT:
This book is an interesting artifact of American society demonstrating how deep is foundation of American culture that forces bureaucrats and politicians go to very long ends to hide size of the government. One should make no mistake that it is all about this hiding. Practically in any other country no bureaucrat or politician would think twice about increasing size of government workforce, but in USA such increase is done underground, even if per author’s tables this underground of formally private employees represents 5 out of 7 millions people paid by government. I well understand frustration of author who obviously would like all these people to be moved to government jobs in which he believes they would be more effective and productive. I do not believe that it would be the case, but I would also like to see the same happen. Unlike author I believe that most of these jobs have nothing to do with legitimate government functions and mainly represent malignant growth on American society, which simultaneously deprives its economy millions of potentially productive people and deprives millions of actually productive people from keeping significant share of result of their work. I would hope that open and clear presentation of government workforce and results of their activities would make it politically necessary really decrease size of government and move great many of its activity to private sector.