Friday, February 22, 2019

If Only Everything Goes Exactly As Planned

I've probably told this story before, and name withheld because it's from memory and memory is unreliable. But, basically, once upon a time Russia was transitioning from communism to Glorious Capitalism and the powers that be were there to ensure that it transitioned overnight into a glibertarian paradise, I think to prove that while communism had provided some nice gold plated subway stations, only capitalism could put a gold bar in every pot, or something. There was the Russian boom, then the bust, then the inevitable should've-listened-to-the-hippies establishment of a kleptocratic oligarchy. You know, modern capitalism.

An army of economist advisers went around telling everybody what they were supposed to do to usher in this new paradise. Writing books and getting paid quite well by various international institutions and corporations. Consulting is a good racket, and an underdiscussed thing is which "outside activities" universities are totally cool with as condition of continued employment and which they aren't. Side gigs for some, not for others. Some of them engaged in behavior that should've gotten them jailed, but friends of Larry Summers are good people, by definition, so that didn't happen.

One such person had written a book touting the genius of it all before it all went to hell. When asked what went wrong, he basically said "I told them to do 5 things but they only did 4 of them and if they had done all 5 things it would have worked out perfectly."

And this is how The Quiet Americans (though I think this specific example was a Brit) approach every bit of international meddling, including the ones with the Air Force involved. Create chaos, then blame the local inferiors for their imperfect implementation when it all goes to hell. Even if the "just gotta do these 5 things" advice is correct, you have to incorporate the very real possibility that only 4 of them will happen into your forecasting model. If that last thing is necessary to prevent catastrophe, perhaps your advice isn't very, well, advisable.

Someone gets rich either way, so who cares I guess.