Playing by the rules is a relatively new version of the American Dream.
The phrase was added to the American Dream in the latter part of the 20th Century. When the American Dream was first articulated in secular terms, the wording was a very simple: “deal honestly with others.” Playing by the rules is a bureaucratic amendment to the Dream. A needed change given the degree control the bureaucracy has over the economic system.
As we already know, bureaucracies were built to replace the nepotism, corruption, and capriciousness (of electoral spoils) in governance. To accomplish this, they were built as meritocracies, with strict rules for how people are promoted and fired.
As bureaucracies grew in the last century, they naturally took on the role of managing our economies to ensure prosperity. As part of that effort, the rules of meritocratic advancement were extended to every citizen, if they followed the rules handed down by the bureaucracy. In short, if you play by the rules, your future success — i.e. a job, a home, a pension — is guaranteed by the bureaucracy.
Of course, as we’re finding out, this isn’t working out.
The bureaucracy isn’t able to manage the economy in a way that ensures prosperity, nor is it able to provide citizens with a set of rules with determined outcomes. The bureaucracy our entire socio-economic structure is based on is being obsoleted.
The reason for the failure of the bureaucracy comes down to one simple flaw in its approach to decision making. A flaw that makes it unable to manage the economic system effectively in the 21st Century or deliver on the promises made by the American Dream.
Bureaucratic decision making is based on predictable statistical outcomes.
Do x and y is the likely outcome.
In the world of the 20th Century and earlier, that was possible, in most cases due to the nature of the economy at that time. In that economy and earlier, most of the economic processes, in aggregate, could be plotted as a normal distribution (a bell curve, gaussian, etc.).
We all know this curve from measures of human height to IQ scores to random noise. As you can see, even with some variation, this distribution makes the management of outcomes possible.
However, that changed.
The inexorable technological advance that destroyed hard work, did something else. It changed the dynamics of the economic, financial, and social systems the bureaucracy assumed it managed. These technologies turned processes that were formally depicted by gentle, rolling hillock of the the Gaussian distribution into the steep cliff of the exponential non-linearity and fat tailed power laws.
A world that routinely produces those outcomes is completely at odds with the rational and foundation of bureaucratic management.
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