VAMPIRES, HOSTS and HOSTAGES
In the PUBLIC SQUARE
This piece is also available on The Policy Think Site — http://jaygaskill.com/VampireHostagesInAmerica.htm
Jay B Gaskill
VAMPING THE METAPHOR
“Obama argued at a press conference in Chicago that his escalating attacks on Romney, whom the campaign has dubbed a ‘vampire’ for making profits as workers were being laid off, are not petty politics…”
Earlier this year, I read a very entertaining and interesting book, Abe Lincoln, Vampire Hunter, by Seth Grahame-Smith. It will soon be released as a movie. Note that our president has identified himself with Abe Lincoln (among scores of other iconic figures – see The Martian in the White House http://jaygaskill.com/dot2dot/2012/05/18/the-martian-in-the-white-house/ ). I suspect that Barack Obama sees himself as the Great Vampire Hunter of our time. This raises a question.
Who is the REAL vampire hunter?
Not only is the leader of the free world confused about vampires, it seems that our president doesn’t quite get capitalism. He has polemically mischaracterized Governor Romney’s tenure as the head of Bain Capital, a highly successful venture capital investment company that has salvaged and turned around scores of failing companies by making them successful (among them Staples, Sports Authority and Domino’s Pizza); but to the Obamistas, this is a form of corporate vampirism.
Presumably the president and his economic team think that all businesses are equally entitled to succeed, and that the failure of investors to subsidize losers is somehow analogous to vampire bats feeding off a herd of wildebeests. A less inapt metaphor might have been to talk about vultures, but that misses the essential point: Neither vultures nor vampires create new, healthy businesses.
A success-aimed investment strategy, like that which governed Bain Capital, necessarily requires that flawed, broken and inefficient models be cleared out of the way to make room for the new models that will thrive. We should note here that individual commercial enterprises are not like countries when they fail because their employees can and often do quickly migrate to new jobs with the more successful competition. Some economists refer to this process as creative destruction. Without creative destruction, motorcars would still be hand made in small shops; and only the very wealthy could drive.
That Invisible Elephant
There is an elephant in the room. We are witnessing a very large scale systemic failure, much as the catastrophic failure of an immense bridge might appear in extreme slow motion. Without paying adequate attention, we have been living through the successive collapse of two models of human organization: one is done for, and one is well one the way to the end game:
 In the late 1980’s, the large authoritarian socialist states did not generate enough real employment and real prosperity to survive the pressures of competition; either they failed (as evidenced in the sudden collapse of the Soviet Union), or they began adapting (as in China’s blowtorch semi-capitalist economy).
 In the late 1990’s through the present, we have been witness to the slow, inexorable collapse of the mixed economy, socialist-Lite welfare-state experiments, especially in Europe and the UK. Without adaptive reform, these states will follow the Greek example and fail one by one. No modern sate is exempt from this failure trend –the ongoing need to adapt or fail is as old as the human condition.
A Better Vampire Metaphor.
The hosts in this metaphor are all the “breadwinner” enterprises, the (mostly but not entirely private) productive, profitable private commercial businesses that provide real goods and services that actually fulfill a demand that can be measured in real value tendered. There is an allied set of support services (think of legal, juridical and protection functions, mostly but not exclusively performed by public institutions). Closely linked to the breadwinner enterprises there is an expanding circle of the breadwinner’s dependents (immediate family and extended family). And there is another loosely linked circle of recognized, not-family affiliated dependants. The status of this outer group depends on a fragile consensus among the productive breadwinner enterprises – “We are willing to pay for the care and feeding our grand parents, and even others similarly situated, but our sense of obligation is not unlimited….”
The vampires in this metaphor are all the political and other power manipulators (who mostly but not exclusively dwell in government) who sustain themselves and even thrive by sucking value from the breadwinner enterprises in order to perpetuate their status. They earn the title vampires when their activities do not represent value added, especially in contrast with voluntary, well managed charitable actions, because this subset of “public servants” do what they do (a) without generating value in return; (b) by burdening the life conditions of the affiliated and not affiliated dependents with irrational rules administered by bureaucrats; and (c) by promoting symbolic faux values (e.g., think of a new, protected ADA category, the ‘morally challenged” to get the idea) that are designed to create ever new classes of dependants who “need to be helped” at public expense. The additional cost to the burdened breadwinners is analogous to vampires swarming a dying horse.
The hostages in this extended metaphor consist of the dependants that the breadwinners actually care about, plus elements of the core support services (typically public protection and national security) that have wide popular support among the “ordinary” people.
THE VAMPIRE-HOST GAME
The vampires are individually intelligent, but collectively stupid. Over time, their individual blood-sips, all for the nominal cause of some new dependency, aggregate to much a much greater blood loss than the host organism can tolerate. This is the condition of the overburdened, over-harvested, commercial economies in all of the gravely weakened mixed economy, socialist-Lite welfare states. A potentially fatal host-disease has infected Greece. The epidemic is growing, and it will not end (if we are not careful) until the USA, itself, collapses.
Collectively the vampires achieved this unhealthy state of control over the affairs of state because by exploiting a political strategy of hostage bartering. Opposition to increased bloodletting has typically been countered with the threat of cutting support to the dependants that the breadwinners care most about and essential services like public protection. Even a legendary vampire fighter like The Reagan was backed in a corner when the vampires threatened hostages at budget time.
The massive public debt in the Western economies is the byproduct of a series of expensive compromises with vampires to save hostages.
As I write this, the metabolism of the productive enterprises that support the breadwinning economy is behaving like a weakened host surrounded by vampires who are buzzing about, discussing strategies for its revival. Without the host, the vampires will starve; but hungry vampires will not be denied – this collective hunger makes them collectively stupid to a self-destructive extreme. At the moment, the vampire elites are proposing saline injections, while “radical” voices can be heard in the distance, shouting “Stop sucking the blood!”
Meantime, the baby vampires cavort around the dying creatures, shouting “Occupy!” The vampire children are embedded among mobs of hostage pawns caught up in an agenda only dimly understood.
All metaphors have their limits. This one doesn’t take into account that minds can be changed (the vampire-host relationship is the result of policies that can be reversed); that rational self interest can lead to self restraint (reasonable vampires understand the need to let the host recover); and that there is an overriding moral component to all this.
The left has attempted (with transient and spotty success) to promote an ethic of “fairness” in which the very condition wherein some enjoy success, while others do not, is inherently and collectively unfair. Via this propaganda campaign (at least three decades old), the left still hopes that the American people can be propelled into a regime that compels leveled outcomes. This is a thinly disguised sales pitch by vampires to their hosts – “Hold still ‘till we bleed you all the way to equality”.
But there is a more ancient – and more widely held – ethic, one that is much more likely to prevail: It is fundamentally unfair to take away your earnings in order to give them to someone else that did not earn them. This is seen as particularly unfair – even repellant – when, as is so often the case due to the inherent dysfunction of welfare-state bureaucracies, only a small fraction of the extracted blood actually finds its way to the promised beneficiaries. After all, the vampires must be fed…at all times and under all conditions.
We live in a democratic, constitutional republic, not a vampire feeding pen. Reasonable minds can differ over the allocation of public resources to benefit activities and people outside the host economy. But there is little room for reasonable disagreement about one overriding imperative: Keep the productive, breadwinner economy healthy and thriving.
The question of the day is whether the American public gets it, as their current president clearly does not.
THE VAMPIRE TEACHING TOOL
Metaphors can be used polemically or they can be effective teaching tools. The teaching value of the vampire metaphor is manifold. When well explained, it helps illuminate a number of things misunderstood by the clueless subset of the left and right:
 …how a sequence of separate policy failures and defaults over the last five decades have made fiscal conservatives complicit in the accumulation of crippling sovereign debt;
 …why it is now imperative to dramatically lift the regulatory and economic burdens on business development and growth;
 …how to frame the urgent case for market-intervention restraint when misguided vampires attempt to selectively “help” politically connected, politically correct business projects at the expense of other more efficient and promising ones;
…why the government vampires are congenitally incompetent at managing the breadwinner sector on which their parasitic livelihoods depend.
The pending collapse of all of the mixed economy, socialist-Lite welfare-state experiments is a valuable warning. If we choose to take heed, Europe will be our crash-test dummy. If not, we will be the crash dummy for the survivors.
This article is Copyright © 2012 by Jay B. Gaskill, Attorney at Law. Forwards, links and quotes with attribution are welcome. For everything else, contact the author via email– firstname.lastname@example.org. Jay B Gaskill is the California attorney who served as the 7th Alameda County Public Defender (in Oakland, CA) before he left his “life of crime”. This article and others can be found on The Policy Think Site www.jaygaskill.com and the linked Blogs.