Mayor Vaugh at the helm

The biggest lesson from this plague is that the Western world -and much of the rest of the world- is getting governed by Mayor Larry Vaughn from "Jaws".

The behaviour patterns were identical in many countries and states; no decisiveness, pandering to popular opinion, fixation on superficialities, prioritisation of economic interests over citizens' lives, preferring any advice that suits the own preferences, not following public policy rules in private life ... and staying in power (or being replaced by people who turn out to be just the same).

Even worse; supposed competence centres showed that technocracy is no superior alternative, either. Even the dedicated anti-plague agencies of wealthy large countries were plagued by poor decisionmaking, if not showing appalling and unforgivable incompetence (such as the near-total statistics-analphabetic German RKI). They shone mostly when compared to the outright idiocy of dangerous idiots.

I spent more than a decade blasting away at the shortcomings of the establishment of government agencies and politicians in the field of military affairs and to some extent also foreign policy. The pandemic confirms that the systemic problem is more widespread, my suspicion is that all discontinuous government tasks are affected by the same systemic problems as in military policy. A military prepares for an event war that (hopefully) only happens once every couple decades or centuries, our supposed plague experts only got tested after a 100-year break (one could also say they failed during both influenza epidemics of the 60's and 70's). Natural disaster responses are also prone to display disappointing performances, albeit this is most commonly attributable to insufficient budgeting before the disaster.

Sadly, this seemingly systemic proneness to failure in uncommon, rare challenges may also be an important factor behind the apparent inability to execute foreign policy strategy and geostrategy. The politicians and top bureaucrats may even be so aware of the proneness to disappointing behaviour that they avoid accepting unusual challenges.

In other words; predictable incompetence at execution may be the reason for the timidity and inactivity regarding strategy.
It doesn't help that Europeans often elected conservatives into power, who block decisive action by definition and spent decades to built institutions (including the EU) that by design prove stabilising, perpetuating, resistant to changes of course.This is beneficial in regard to some issues and harmful in others.

How could we possibly expect solutions to well-known problems or even some coherent, sensible grand strategy from Mayor Vaughn?

P.S.: Sadly, the political press also failed spectacularly. One detail of this is that they criticised politicians for wrong things. I saw severe criticism about inefficiencies and mistakes made in hurried, frantic mas purchases. Those mistakes (not some related profiteering) were completely excusable IMO. The lack of comparably energetic action on other issues is what should have been criticised. Somehow the press finds it much more entertaining to criticise action than to criticise inaction. This may be related to the numbing success of actual conservatives.


  1. Can this decision-making problem also be attributed to the reasons why Europe lost its position in semiconductor manufacturing since the 90s? It might not be just bad admninistration, but a lack of investments into the future.

    1. I don't know much about that topic. IIRC the German semiconductor sector was not paying enough attention to the consumer market and the IBM compatible sector and did thus stagnate with specialised business electronics such as automation electronics (Siemens SPS et cetera).
      The Americans had a much larger monolithic home market before 1993 and thus better conditions for scaling up.

      IIRC save for "Buy American" propaganda and military purchases the American government didn't do terribly much more than the European ones for the semiconductor market back then.

  2. I would say prioritizing the economic interests of themselves and the rich would be a better description. I can't see how letting a deadly pathogen to circulate freely is good for the economy.
    Also the USA had a massive role in all of this. Let it be de funding the WHO during a global pandemic to having their very popular president preaching Covid-19 was just a flu.

  3. SO:

    Welcome to the human race. Humans are so, that is the way humans behave (cross-sectional), this is who and what humans are. ONE Human (like you) could be intelligent, the same moment you have a group, the intelligence and the ability for problem solving began to shrink, and if you have an complete complexe and dynamic system like an society, whole economy etc humans are not able to handle such a system. The evolution nether intended it that way!

    Lets assume you would become leader of the state wiht limitless power and rights (only a theoretical mind game). And now you would have the target to fix the armed forces. I will assure you, you would fail. Despite all your knowledge, despite all your efforts (or exactly because of them) and despite all attempts.

    The reality is, that the day have only 24 hours, you can work only a limited amount of time and you are dependend on other humans and the more you need, the worse the outcome will be.

    The whole problem has reasons inherent in the system, it lies in the human system itself.

    Therefore the conditions can never be as you strive for them and every attempt to achieve such better conditions is doomed to failure. Ideally, of the many incompetent systems, one is only the least incompetent. And even this is incredibly difficult to achieve.

    1. I don't really get what you'r trying to say. It is banal to say that man is mediocre. Rather what is interesting is to understand what causes large variability of quality over time for the same systems or systems that understand themselves as being the same same (since ofc due to the human lifespan, all the elements of the social system are completely new after 3+ generations).
      Btw, Humans as a matter of fact have evolved, surprise, both empirically and theoretically, a number of ways of achieving better outcomes than raw misanthropy would suggest. The question is why at this time they seem to be failing.

    2. The variability is in reality much smaller than you might think. More important is the show, how the overall and everywhere suprisingly similar incompetence is presented. The differences you asume here are not so important. Very small differences, sheer luck or many other factors make the difference, and the differences in competence are the least important of them.

      Humans of cause like the idea that things are not deterministic and that the competent leader which designs and make the war will make the difference, but in reality the importance of the leader is again not so important.

      There is sometimes one exception: that extreme incompetence leads to catastrophic defeat, especially in warfare. So all are quite equally incompetent, and one is bicarre incompetend, that could make an difference.

      You asked the question why at this time humans seem to be more failing than in earlier times: the answer is quite simple: the circumstances are not the same. Everything has become much larger, much more complex and much more dynamic and much faster. This overwhelms the human race.

      Lets take only one example: leadership: in earlier times one could lead a company of troops as one person, everyone was crowded around the leader and could hear his commands personally. Everybody had the de facto same weapons and combat was not nearly as complexe. Today this is not longer possible and leading even an company has become a much more complex and dynamic thing. The same applies to many other things and areas.

      Also: it is not so that humans are failing today and that they did not fail the same in earlier times, but that today because of internet, news media, near live news reports etc the failure and the gross incompetence of humans are much more visible. The failed the same way in earlier times, but nobody found out and it was also much easier to cover up. Also social culture was completly different in comparison to today.

    3. It's established that with a certain set of paradigmas political entities rise and fall when these lose their advantage. During the fall, infighting becomes more important than constructive efforts. We are currently in a declining phase in the West in general, although not specifically in all of its parts, so such behaviour is to be expected.