First, there will be those who are devoted to the goals of the organization. Examples are dedicated classroom teachers in an educational bureaucracy, many of the engineers and launch technicians and scientists at NASA, even some agricultural scientists and advisors in the former Soviet Union collective farming administration.
Secondly, there will be those dedicated to the organization itself. Examples are many of the administrators in the education system, many professors of education, many teachers union officials, much of the NASA headquarters staff, etc.
The Iron Law states that in every case the second group will gain and keep control of the organization. It will write the rules, and control promotions within the organization.
This is a special case of the dynamic of power, which governs all organizations willy-nilly. It dovetails with a homely observation virtually everyone makes at some point in his life:
…which isn’t to say that that never happens, just that it’s not the way to bet.
Much that “doesn’t make sense” to the naïve observer of governments makes perfect sense when viewed in the light of these observations.
Let it be said at once that the Center for Disease Control (CDC) was once an organization with a praiseworthy mission which it pursued and fulfilled more often than not. But being a government bureaucracy, it was as subject to the laws above as any other. Power and perpetuation became its ruling aims some years ago. Today its nominal purpose no longer seems to matter:
The Centers For Disease Control (CDC) deleted a reference to a study it commissioned after a group of gun-control advocates complained it made passing new restrictions more difficult.
The lobbying campaign spanned months and culminated with a private meeting between CDC officials and three advocates last summer, a collection of emails obtained by The Reload show. Introductions from the White House and Senator Dick Durbin’s (D., Ill.) office helped the advocates reach top officials at the agency after their initial attempt to reach out went unanswered. The advocates focused their complaints on the CDC’s description of its review of studies that estimated defensive gun uses (DGU) happen between 60,000 and 2.5 million times per year in the United States–attacking criminologist Gary Kleck’s work establishing the top end of the range.
“[T]hat 2.5 Million number needs to be killed, buried, dug up, killed again and buried again,” Mark Bryant, one of the attendees, wrote to CDC officials after their meeting. “It is highly misleading, is used out of context and I honestly believe it has zero value – even as an outlier point in honest DGU discussions.”
Bryant, who runs the Gun Violence Archive (GVA), argued Kleck’s estimate has been damaging to the political prospects of passing new gun restrictions and should be eliminated from the CDC’s website.
I’m unfamiliar with Gary Kleck’s study. However, other criminologists put the average number of defensive gun uses around a million per year. That figure is consistent over several studies, and is also consistent with violent-crime and property-crime trends in states that loosen their restrictions on the private ownership of firearms. I’m willing to believe it until it’s been disproved.
However, a defensive gun use that doesn’t result in a verified shooting is a tough thing to qualify. The circumstances aren’t always definitively known. The person(s) deterred aren’t always courteous enough to hang around until the police arrive to take statements. And the key figure in such an incident might have reasons to describe his conduct in self-protective ways. So such studies and estimates are properly tempered with appropriate caution and recognition of limitations.
That doesn’t seem to apply to Mark Bryant, nor to the CDC. Their overt principle is that guns in the hands of private citizens are a bad thing, and whatever facilitates getting rid of them would therefore be good. Their deeper principle is that anything that conduces to the strengthening of their respective organizations is good…and depriving Americans of a Constitutionally protected right is one such thing.
I suppose that’s not news to firearms enthusiasts and persons ardent about the right to keep and bear arms. But the operation of the organizations involved in this instance is striking nevertheless.
People can get awfully weird about weapons and laws that pertain to them, so let’s move to another subject before the fidgeting gets really pronounced: the COVID-19 vaccines introduced in late 2020.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the CDC were previously supremely cautious about approving new medical treatments. That caution was at its maximum when the subject is a potential new drug. The approval process for a new drug typically took about ten years and featured all manner of studies, tests, and safeguards. The nominal object was to ensure that any drug released for general use would do no harm, or as little harm as possible consistent with the purpose of the drug. Stated thus, most Americans would agree that great caution is commendable, even if the length of the approval process strikes them as absurd.
The development of the COVID-19 vaccines was ultra-rapid. The technology on which they were based was experimental, never before employed in a drug to be administered to humans. The approval process was barely there; few tests of efficacy or safety were performed, and the results of those tests were suppressed in favor of a rapid adoption of the vaccines. The persons and companies most visible in this matter affected an air of total confidence that the vaccines would work beautifully.
So successful was the promotion of terror over the COVID-19 virus that the great majority of Americans accepted the claims…and accepted the vaccines into their bodies. At this time the fraction runs around 70%. I hardly need dwell on the consequences. Let it suffice to say that the benefits of the vaccines were wildly overstated, while their downsides have proved to be devastating to many thousands.
How did this result emerge from such legendarily cautious institutions and their procedures? Pournelle’s Iron Law, of course: amplified to the maximum by pressure from the highest levels of the federal government. The FDA and CDC complied as if the alternative were unthinkable. As the alternative probably involved firings, demotions, and (ulp) budget cuts, their alacrity in signing on to these experimental, barely tested vaccines was understandable.
But not excusable.
For those who paid sufficient attention, the warning signs were many and hard to overlook. But terror overrode appropriate caution in too many cases. Others placidly accepted the assurances of governments. Still others were cowed by proclamations from state and local governments about policies that, for those who declined to be vaccinated, would become de facto lifelong house arrest.
And now thousands of otherwise healthy Americans, including newborn babies and prominent athletes, are succumbing to massive blood clots, autoimmune diseases, and “sudden adult death syndrome,” a malady previously unnamed and unknown. Sensible people would never have accepted any of this before the COVID-19 vaccines. There would have been torches, pitchforks, and mass lynchings.
It’s a sad tale, to be sure, but it’s one whose moral must not be overlooked. No matter how painful the consequences of our choices may be, the path of responsibility compels us to accept them and what they tell us – and to accept that imposing them on others who have diverged is flatly wrong.
Or in their “organizations.” Or in their pronouncements about “necessity” or “the public good.” And never, ever look to a government for a “solution” to a problem for which governments are responsible.
The COVID-19 virus was the product of a government-run bioengineering effort, conducted in a government-controlled laboratory, and funded from the coffers of governments…including our own. From its earliest origins to its most recent outcroppings, it was and is a tool of the State, designed to serve the State’s purposes. That more than one State was involved in no way weakens the conclusion. Verbum sat sapienti.