No Man Controls Everything in a State

by | Feb 28, 2024

No Man Controls Everything in a State

by | Feb 28, 2024

depositphotos 384651074 s

The constant screeching about various “strongmen” from America’s media and think tank classes seem to have created a widespread misunderstanding about how governments, or really any large organization, work. We perhaps see this the most with Russia, where we hear the constant refrain that “Putin personally approved” what are routine matters for states. We also saw it with Donald Trump in both his business and political life, where people found it impossible to understand that a large team of lawyers and accountants handle his taxes and other such matters.

The reality is that a man only has so much time in a day and even running a mid-sized city, much less a country of many millions of people, a lot of tasks are delegated. It is a somewhat trite observation that Adolf Hitler didn’t kill anyone but instead a lot of government employees following orders did, but it’s also true that even in so authoritarian a state as Nazi Germany the vast majority of orders were not given by Adolf Hitler. A ruler sets the policies of the state and makes key decisions, and perhaps interferes in matters he considers important, but the hierarchy of men making a living oversee almost everything a state does, and for the most part try to avoid bothering the boss.

At the beginning of 2023, Haiti found itself in an incredible situation which put it into the ranks of “failed states,” a designation that has only been properly applied a few times in the modern era. The last group of senators ended their terms, leaving the country with no elected, or other, government besides an illegitimate “Prime Minister.” It is to the credit of all the legislators that they left office when their terms ended and no election had been held to replace them or continue their terms. Haiti in its current form hardly “needs” a government, as Ariel Henry is basically one gang leader out of 200 controlling perphaps 20% of the capital of Port-Au-Prince, so it wouldn’t have much administering to do.

For any functional state, even an absolute monarchy or totalitarian state seen as “one-man rule,” some form of government council is necessary. This is why an absolute monarchy like Oman has a legislature while the Vatican has a College of Cardinals, and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has a similar body of religious scholars while the vast royal family performs legislative functions within the state. The elections themselves in North Korea may be an obvious fraud, but we can be sure the legislature has a great deal of influence because Kim Jong Un doesn’t know which rural road to repair or where to build a school or who should oversee some district’s agriculture; these are not the sort of political matters the Worker’s Party would deal with. Un also doesn’t know which people to throw in a re-education camp; even in a state where trials are routinely unfair or people are outright disappeared they are at most presenting the patriarch with a list of people who should be rounded up. So I guess they’re “approved,” but the ruler didn’t really make the decision.

Donald Trump brought out great examples of the failure to understand delegation. He is an interesting case because he has a penchant for arbitrary micromanagement which can give people the wrong idea about which decisions he usually makes. One amusing example is that Trump originally hired the man who became his long-time head of security when he saw him throw someone out of a tennis match and liked the cut of his jib. This doesn’t mean his normal job is hiring low-level employees. The media told us that Trump is a hypocrite because some of his businesses hire illegal aliens, but Trump isn’t the one to do that. Perhaps the Trump Organization puts unrealistic demands to keep labor costs down on its properties, but the person who hires maintenance staff is many levels below Trump.

Donald Trump was at the meeting where they approve a company-wide policy that surely says to follow all applicable laws. The alternative is Donald Trump demanding papers from every brown person he sees mowing the lawn at one of his golf courses, and we can imagine how that would turn out. In Trump’s government he had constant problems getting people to follow his orders, which made it all the more absurd to imagine he controlled everything, despite that he was always popping off about random matters.

Vladimir Putin has quite a bit more respect for the chain of command than Trump, having came up the ranks of an organization, not inherited a leading role. In 2017 he was interviewed by Megyn Kelly, who went on about the fake scandal of the Russian Ambassador to the United States Sergey Kislyak doing his normal job of meeting with people in the U.S. government who deal with foreign relations (or perhaps will in the future). Putin insisted he did not know who Kislyak met with and got quite annoyed at Kelly’s idiotic line of questioning, saying, “I have no idea, I’m being completely honest…it’s the routine job of an ambassador, do you think from all over the world…the ambassador reports to me every day who he meets with or what they discuss. That’s complete nonsense, do you even understand what you ask?” When she pressed and said, “Well you’re his boss” he responded, “Listen, his boss is the Minister of Foreign Affairs, do you think I have time to talk to our ambassadors all over the world, every day? Complete nonsense.” Putin may meet with such an ambassador occasionally or have a direct phone call about an important matter, but their normal communication is through the Minister of Foreign Affairs, out of respect for both Putin and Sergei Lavrov, and in fact an undersecretary of some sort is probably the ambassador’s “manager” and he only speaks to Lavrov about important things. They also claimed hacking the DNC would “have to be approved by Putin” when that is completely routine intelligence gathering, and it’s also routine that Putin would deny the Russian state does such things.

Ted Snider just had an article on Antiwar.com outlining the fact that for all the “mysterious deaths” we hear about, even if they were by Russian intelligence it doesn’t mean they were ordered by Putin—God knows American presidents can’t control the CIA. Perhaps Putin had Navalny killed, though it doesn’t make sense he would; I have to say it’s funny they spent two years convincing us that men dropping dead of blood clots was normal but now it could only be poisoning. Then we were treated to a story about how Putin is having people thrown in prison for mourning Navalny, though in reality for illegally protesting. Of course Putin doesn’t control routine law enforcement or the courts, no matter how much this may confuse Western interviewers when they bring up some high profile case.

None of this is to say executives in government don’t directly make some individual decisions. For one famous example, Barack Obama’s drone assassination involved personal approval by the president. But how many more airstrikes were chosen by others? The reality is everyone in a position of authority in Russia or a similar state knows that the president wants them to keep a lid on things without overreacting in a way that causes more problems. It is, to an extent, Putin’s fault that he encouraged such a culture in Russia, though Russia’s history is very authoritarian and Putin did not invent this political culture.

The reality, though, is that the great majority of what any state does is the result of an enormous hierarchy of much more mundane figures, and besides some specific individual powers, the executive primarily puts out guidelines that people may follow and tries to enforce discipline in following said policies. An enormous mass of attendants is the true heart of the state, or any other sufficiently large organization.

About Brad Pearce

Brad Pearce writes The Wayward Rabbler on Substack. He lives in eastern Washington with his wife and daughter. Brad's main interest is the way government and media narratives shape the public's understanding of the world and generate support for insane and destructive policies.

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