Thursday, September 06, 2007

law of institutions 

Two in a row. Jon Schwarz has an excellent post up about The Iron Law of Institutions which explains...well, it explains a lot. The Law runs thus:

the people who control institutions care first and foremost about their power within the institution rather than the power of the institution itself. Thus, they would rather the institution "fail" while they remain in power within the institution than for the institution to "succeed" if that requires them to lose power within the institution.

Schwarz gives a few examples and references the excellent Walter Karp, one of the most insightful writers on American politics bar none. It is heartening to see Karp's name pop up every now and again since he deserves to be much more widely read. One of Karp's most revealing and instructive anecdotes:

It was a Republican state party boss, Senator Boies Penrose of Pennsylvania, who early this century stated with notable candor the basic principle and purpose of present-day party politics. In the face of a powerful state and national resurgence of reform and the sentiments of the majority of the Republican rank and file, Penrose put up a losing slate of stand-pat party hacks. When a fellow Republican accused him of ruining the party, Penrose replied, "Yes, but I'll preside over the ruins."


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