“An ideology is a conceptual framework with the way people deal with reality. Everyone has one. You have to – to exist, you need an ideology. The question is whether it is accurate or not….” These were the resounding words of Alan Greenspan in his testimony to the Congressional Committee on Oversight and Government Reform in October 2008.
Congressman Waxman’s chilling response was “In other words, you found that your view of the world, your ideology, was not right, it was not working?”
Unfortunately, it is not just Greenspan, who has been living in a bubble of false reality for all too many decades. It is the entire Washington elite – and even the elite of the entire Western world who have bought into la vie en rose mentality for all too long.
How is it that a country, and its President, who recognizes that “our system of free-market economy… [and] the legitimacy of our government and our economy depends on the degree to which [the values of] self-reliance, self-improvement, risk-taking, drive, discipline, temperance, hard work, thrift and personal responsibility are rewarded,” is in total denial as to the challenges the country faces during the present economic crisis? (The Audacity of Hope by Barak Obama).
And, how is it that one of the most educated cities in the world, with an incredible amount of knowledge at its finger-tips, continues to exist in a vacuum and cognitive ignorance that prevents them from grasping the ever-pressing social and economic problems that face the nation, and the world?
Mark Leibovich provides some insight into the mind-set of Washington and the ‘rules of the game’ that perpetuates the mass brain-washing that characterizes the nation’s capital in his best-seller, This Town. Leibovich explains that ‘in recent years Washington has defied the national economic slump and become the richest metropolitan area in the country. Getting rich has become the great bipartisan ideal: “No Democrats and Republicans in Washington anymore, only millionaires,” goes the maxim… Sucking up is as basic to Washington as humidity. There is a financial component. It has never been easier for “strategists” and “consultants” and “agents” of all stripes to affix themselves like barnacles to the local money barge, sucking in green nutrients…”
Leibovich goes on to say, “Lobbying is a thriving example of Washington’s middleman economy in which a third party (the lobbyist) facilitates a relationship or some illusion thereof between a client and a government official… One way or another, almost every engine of new wealth in the region has derived from the federal government, or at least the desire to be close to it… The Center for Responsive Politics listed 412 former members who are influence peddling, 305 of whom are registered as federal lobbyists. Hundreds more were reaping huge, often six- and seven-figure salaries as consultants or “senior advisers” those being among the noms de choice for avoiding the scarlet L… It happens not only on the Hill but in the boastfully anti-lobbyist, anti-revolving-door Obama White House…”
Against this self-serving back-drop, it is easy to understand why and how the past decades of Democratic and Republican administrations have dug the country deeper and deeper into a hole and abyss, that no amount of tax-payer money and government bail-outs can dig us out of. As Daniel Goleman states in Vital Lies, Simple Truths, self-serving people “see life in terms of an “illusory glow” of positivity…[and] are rarely found out. After all, the dissembling goes on discreetly, behind the screen of the unconscious; we are only its recipients, innocent self-deceivers. A convenient arrangement.”
Emily Pronina in Perception & Misperception of Bias in Human Judgment further explains the biases and cognitive limitations of the Washington mind-set, stating that “much of human judgment & action is driven by non-conscious processes. People can form impressions of others, pursue goals, adopt attitudes & regulate their emotions – all without awareness, effort or intention. They claim freedom from racial bias & from gender bias, even in circumstances where they have shown these biases– at times even showing these biases more strongly the more objective they claim to be...”
In the past decade, in what started out as a simple desire to start an Internet business from my home computer (but has snow-balled into a full-blown, global women’s rights campaign), I have come to appreciate to what extent unbridled nepotism between government officials and the private sector, coupled with a total lack of government oversight, is responsible for the lack of transparency and accountability in just about every industry under the Sun.
It is not just Greenspan whose ideology “was not right, was not working”. He has been just one of the many players in the “Wonderland of Alice”, where promotion of free-market systems, healthy competition, and strong economies is nothing more than an illusionary tale in the minds of the rich and powerful.