Daily Bread for 9.25.23: The Special-Interest Hierarchy of a Small Town

 Good morning.

Monday in Whitewater will be partly cloudy with a high of 73. Sunrise is 6:46 AM and sunset 6:46 PM for 12h 00m 06s of daytime. The moon is a waxing gibbous with 78.7% of its visible disk illuminated.

The Whitewater School Board goes into closed session shortly after 6:30 PM and returns to open session at 7 PM

On this day in 1804, the Teton Sioux (a subdivision of the Lakota) demand one of the boats from the Lewis and Clark Expedition as a toll for allowing the expedition to move further upriver.

In a small town, and perhaps elsewhere, there are four tiers within a special-interest hierarchy: principals, operatives, catspaws, and residents. Only the first three serve, reliably, the special interest; the fourth is a large group of unaffiliated people that the special interests must persuade or dissuade repeatedly. 

Principals. These are men who have control over property or assets. Private property is the foundation of a free society. Some small number of private men, however, through entitlement or greed, come to believe that they have a right to direct public goods as they, not the public, wish. Those are the principals about whom I am speaking, men who care more about their own businesses than a society of free markets (in capital, labor, and private goods) and equal access to public institutions.  These are the entitled.

As owners, this first group has a direct financial interest in the success of a venture. (A special interest might be ideological rather than financial, but that’s less likely in a small town. For the most part, it’s a businessman who is at the center of small-town financial interests.) This interest may start as one man who, owing to the limits of a town marketplace, quickly develops a sizable advantage over a commodity or service. 

When they show up to argue for their own economic benefit, they pretend to be speaking in a different role (‘wearing a different hat’). There is no worse joke: a man who claims to speak while wearing different hats speaks with the same head and tongue regardless of his feeble claims otherwise.  

Human nature sometimes being dark, and men being proud, avaricious, and emotionally needy, the man begins to believe he has a right (and feels he has a need) to maintain his advantage perpetually. So he looks for ways to secure that advantage beyond legitimate marketplace competition. 

He turns to the government: he looks (and feels) that he can (and should) use the government to secure an everlasting advantage as an incumbent business by advancing his interests and retarding his competitors. He wants councils, boards, and commissions to advance his views.

In the beginning, he may act alone this way, but as he grows bigger he will enlist family members and shove them onto boards, commissions, foundations, etc. Other good candidates will be pushed aside or ignored, on the false claim that only that one businessman or one family could possibly have the expertise to serve. (Ludicrous, of course: places do better without nepotism in public affairs.)

These relatives will reflect the will of the businessman to advance his financial position. 

Some relatives will be messengers and enforcers of the special-interest line. They’ll call up and harangue others endlessly about what they want, and what must be done, droning on while others feel hostages on the line to a small-town businessman’s ego. (Note well: a proper man or woman does not entertain the greedy or the addled. A conversation is controlled from both ends. Men and women of the city: all these years, you should have hung up the phone. There’s a difference between politeness and self-degradation.) 

Operatives. These men or women are the scheming agents of the special-interest owners. They aren’t principals, but agents, and they gravitate toward special-interest men to do their bidding. They communicate with the men at the top, and spread that message out through the community. On their own, they have nothing to say and produce little that’s uniquely theirs; they receive attention only because they represent someone else. Part communications types, part lickspittles, all repulsive. 

These are the legal prostitutes of a community, with a twist: they serve at the pleasure of the special-interest men, but it’s the community they f-ck. 

Catspaws. Catspaws are people who are used to carrying out the selfish and unpleasant tasks of principals or operatives. They’re dupes, suckers, stooges, etc. Sometimes they believe they’re doing the right thing. Most of the time, they’re needy losers (often in public office) who just want to fit in. Behind their backs, the operatives and agents laugh about how easy it is to manipulate these catspaws; to their faces, the operatives pretend they care, really care!, about these dupes, suckers, and stooges. 

Ordinary residents. Ordinary residents, as all of us are (for who could want more?), remain a problem for special interests. The principals, operatives, and catspaws will try to trick residents into believing that all is well through boosterism, toxic positivity, or excuse-making, but that seldom works for long. People come to spot excuse-makers and liars when they see them. 

If special interests can’t get the assent of residents for their plans, then they’ll hope no one notices their own schemes. If they can find enthusiasm, they’ll hope for malaise.  

This libertarian blogger has written that ordinary residents are at the bottom of the special-interest hierarchy (that is, how special interests see things) but in fact, ordinary residents are at the top in any normal, well-adjusted community. What the special-interest man wants is incompatible and opposing to what an American man or woman deserves within a community. 

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6 months ago

One hundred percent accurate!!! They’ve had a long reign now crumbling. These guys f’ed this city something awful.

Hysterical that you also chose a crown that looks like a fools cap!!!


Leeroy Jenkins
6 months ago

Elections have consequences. If you want to see something sad/funny, review the council meeting where the king voted against the building of the stage at cravath lakefront, and then after the vote passed, made an under breadth comment that he was glad it passed to the council woman next to him.