Why Artifice Rules The World: We Have No Choice

Tyler Durden's picture

Submitted by Charles Hugh-Smith of OfTwoMinds blog,

There's only one small problem with relying on artifice: we haven't actually fixed what's broken in the real world.

As I noted yesterday, we now game dysfunctional systems rather than actually repair them. Rather than fix the dysfunctional system of higher education, for example (as I proposed in my book The Nearly Free University and The Emerging Economy), students and their parents go to extraordinary lengths to game the Ivy league university admissions system.
Rather than actually address the structural causes of unemployment, we lower interest rates to zero and reckon the resulting financial bubble will fix unemployment (and everything else).

To avoid having to deal with unemployment as an issue, the unemployment rate is heavily gamed by counting marginal jobs (working 1 hour a week--you're employed!) and removing tens of millions of unemployed people from the work-force.


The primary tool of increasing prosperity is the expansion of asset bubbles that supposedly boost the wealth effect, an internalized belief that one is wealthier. This internal belief is presumed to encourage more borrowing and spending which is then presumed to lift all boats in the economy.
This is of course all artifice: the elaborately choreographed applications to the Ivy League, the massaged statistics designed to manage our perceptions of reality rather than address reality itself, and the selling offree money for financiers as a policy that magically helps everyone, even those far from the money spigots of the Federal Reserve.
How did we arrive at a systemic dependence on contrivance and artifice to manage problems? We have no choice. Why do we have no choice?
Because any attempt to actually fix dysfunctional systems necessarily steps on the toes of deeply entrenched vested interests that profit from the dysfunctional Status Quo-- interests who will devote every resource in their command to water down, co-opt, divert or defeat any reforms that lessen their share of the national income or their political power.
As a result, true reform of hopelessly dysfunctional systems is politically impossible. Since politicians are elected to give everyone more of what they want, politicos have no choice to but to game the dysfunctional systems via perception management and statistical sleight of hand to make them appear to give everyone more of what they want. Meanwhile, the politicos collect personal fortunes from the Elites and insiders benefiting from the dysfunctional Status Quo.
Artifice and perception management appear to be win-win: everybody seems to win if they see dysfunction as not just "the way the world works," but as a positive approach that benefits everyone in some fashion.
There's only one small problem with relying on artifice: we haven't actually fixed what's broken in the real world, and those dysfunctions continue to fester beneath the glossy surface of gamed statistics and happy stories we tell ourselves about how well everything is working.
At some point--the actual date is unpredictable, but 2021-2025 is as good a guess as any--the dysfunctional systems will break down and no amount of artifice, bogus statistics or perception management will mask the rot.

Once reality crashes through the thick constructs of artifice, faith in the Status Quo will be lost. At that fragile juncture of destiny, the opportunity to fix what is broken will finally emerge.

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NotApplicable's picture

Remember folks, vote early and often!

GetZeeGold's picture



Which mean you'll have to get off your fat ass.......yes.......you!


If you meet a black panther at the polling place......you're probably gonna have to handle it yourself......use your imagination.

Pool Shark's picture



"It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it!" - Upton Sinclair

espirit's picture

We've pissed into the well from which we all drink.

Everyone is complicit.

I am more equal than others's picture



At some point--the actual date is unpredictable, but 2021-2025 is as good a guess as any--the dysfunctional systems will break down and no amount of artifice, bogus statistics or perception management will mask the rot.

The time estimate is generous and optimistic.  I would think by 2016-2018 because major trends will grow expontentially - retiring baby boomers drawing down the available monies in the retirement systems that are underfunded.  The drain is bigger than the facet. 

swmnguy's picture

The timing on these things is really hard.  In 2003 I was thinking, "2007, max."  In 2008 I was thinking, "2009 for sure."  The resiliency of the system gets a lot stronger once complete fraud is accepted.

Right now we can see what's taking shape.  By 2016-2018 it will be even more clear and obvious.  But I remember in August of 2008, being called a "victim of Bush Derangement Syndrome who hates America and success" because I was saying we were already in the middle of a major finance crisis.  So obviousness doesn't mean people can't deny what's going on all around them.

Anybody with a user name on Zh (well, almost anybody) can see it now.  The moment that's so hard to predict is when will people who have a huge personal interest in not seeing what's going on will be forced to acknowledge it.  Will it be when ATM's stop working?  Will it be when people prefer barter to FRN's?  Will it be when a private army takes over their neighborhood?  Will it be when water stops coming out of the faucet and the filled toilet won't flush?  When local cops, people many of us have known for years, set up roadblocks to rob all passers?  Pick your favorite Horseman; it's the timing of the moment that's so hard to predict once fraud becomes the prevailing way of doing business.  But once that threshold is passed, there's no way back, so the outcome is guaranteed and the timing is more of an academic exercise.

espirit's picture

When you die in the Matrix, do you know you've died?

3 days of no air conditioning in the S.E. US, most will welcome death.

Matt's picture

I suspect the real blow will come when America has trouble with oil imports. If the amount of available oil falls to half, or maybe even three-quarters of current supply, things will likely unravel pretty quick. This will happen, I believe, due to end of USD Hegemony and competition from domestic consumption in oil exporters and from other oil importers, well before falling production becomes a major issue.

swmnguy's picture

You might be right.  My hunch on "peak oil" has always been that it won't be a matter of getting the stuff out of the ground nearly so much as it will be an issue of me being able to pump gas into my car whenever I want for a price I can afford to pay.  As you say, it wouldn't take much of a hiccup in the supply chain, for reasons having nothing to do with physical availability, to mess things up hugely.

clade7's picture

Easy peasey!  Just wear a Malcom X tee shirt and you are ushered right in!

Call it Urban Camoflage..

Dr Strangemember's picture

In L.A. they want to pay their citizens to vote.  More free $$$ = illegal immigrant magnet.  Keep it up L.A., the rest of the country is counting on you.

LawsofPhysics's picture

It is and has been a fiat world since 1971. 

"Full faith and credit"  - it's only "fake" in so much as faith isn't real or important.

tick tock...

Its_the_economy_stupid's picture

the privately held London Metals Exchange was dismissed as a defendant in the aluminum price fixing case today because it is immune from US prosecution as 'an organ of the UK government.'  That is quite an admission, and some organ.   Droit du seigneur.  Reminds one of the motive for dismissal insinuated by the Barrick motion in the Blanchard gold manipulation suit.

-Jesse Cafe Americain

what's that smell's picture

let me get this right.....i ain't sexy just because i say so?

somebody call the important people!---that kind of thinking is downright radical, sexist, and anti-American!

black balls for you, hugh.

Dr. Engali's picture

We can fix it, all we need is the right color team in the office..... LOLOLOLOLOL

Seasmoke's picture

No status quo, wants to be the 1st to collapse. 

Bill of Rights's picture

Epic fail

Weak Applause - Obama American Legion


GetZeeGold's picture



Not only was the teleprompter not working......the applause sign was also on the fritz.

JustObserving's picture

but 2021-2025 is as good a guess as any

Why so long into the future with wars, plagues, droughts, earthquakes, monetary imbalances, simmering anger and militarized police?  How about tomorrow?  

NoDebt's picture

When the unavoidable juggernaut of entitlements starts to really weigh on the budget and divert significant spending from other areas, would be my guess.  2020 is about when that should all start to badly back up the plumbing.

Medicaid is already in the red and has always been "pay as you go".  Ditto Medicare.  Social Security is running on the fiction of having a "trust fund" good to 2033 but it's been empty and stuffed with Congressional IOUs since the Clinton years and is effectively also being run "pay as you go" as a result.  

toady's picture

What about the lockbox? Oh, that's right, W cleared that out so consumers could shop. Just as well, someone would have Jimmied the lock and stole the money anyway.

And picking the collapse date is a fools errond. Just know it's inevitable and be prepared. The longer it takes the more supplies you can stack.

Dr. Engali's picture

Because by projecting that far out into the future when we get there (which we probably won't) you will have forgotten about what he wrote today.

Tall Tom's picture

There is a choice. The author just laid out the reason that the choice for honesty and trustworthiness are not chosen.


Expedience. The consequences for making the choice may be unpalatable...but that does not mean that the choice does not exist.


Yet it really does not matter. If we continue to refuse to make the choice then the circumstances will dictate that the choice will be made for us. The denial of Reality can only work for a limited time.


Actually we do not have an Economic or Financial Problem at all. We have a Economic Predicament.


While problems may, or may not, have solutions, a predicament is a beast of another color.


There is no solution to a predicament. There is only a dismal outcome.


Falling off of a cliff is a predicament. There is no solution. You will end up smacking the ground...hard. It may cause a fatal injury. But the outcome is a guarantee.


Yes you can deny all that you want that you are falling. You can employ all of the artifice that you want as you are experiencing Free Fall. It will not change the outcome.


Likewise our Economy is headed for a collapse. You can deny it at your peril but the outcome will happen. So in the end you have paper profits that have no value?


Yes we still have a choice. And when we fail to make the honest choice then it will be made for us at the end. And reality can be a royal bitch when it slaps you upside your head.


So...Enjoy your folly. Or opt out (that is a choice) and make honest choices in your personal life.



Spastica Rex's picture

I opted out four years ago.

I'll say this - one can't opt out and simultaneously expect to have all those things society provides as incentive to stay invested, and I suspect one can never go back.

Would I go back if I could? No.

Landotfree's picture

The present system is same as all the other prior systems.   The basis of which is attaching interest to a medium of exchange.   Its on unwinnable war, even though countless battles are won along the way... the equation always wins.   You have a choice, just no choices you really like.  

Pick a door.  

The Architect -

Which brings us at last to the moment of truth, wherein the fundamental flaw is ultimately expressed, and the anomaly revealed as both beginning, and end. There are two doors. The door to your right leads to the source, and the salvation of Zion. The door to the left leads back to the matrix, to her, and to the end of your species. As you adequately put, the problem is choice. But we already know what you're going to do, don't we? Already I can see the chain reaction, the chemical precursors that signal the onset of emotion, designed specifically to overwhelm logic, and reason. An emotion that is already blinding you from the simple, and obvious truth: she is going to die, and there is nothing that you can do to stop it. - The Matrix Reload

Matt's picture



He then rejects than answer, tries to save her, she dies anyways, but then he raises her from the dead and goes on to save humanity by making a deal with the Machine God to sacrifice himself to kill Smith. 

Unlike The Matrix, I doubt we can alter reality through shear force of will.

Raoul_Luke's picture

Exactly correct!  We use artificial stimulents, like a self medicating depressive madman, to make ourselves feel better in the short term, but at the cost of our problem getting worse underneath the chimera of eubillience.  The longer we ignore and mask our problems, the worse it will be when we ultimately have to face up to them.  Nothing exemplifies this more than the (lack of an) approach to our corporate tax problem.  The left would rather demonize companies that make the rational decision to relocate to a better tax clime, than make the simple (and obvious) admission that ever higher and more complex taxes on businesses drives economic opportunity overseas, and make a (very doable) deal with Republicans to lower and simplify them.  And so the Fed must ZIRP on while we bleed good jobs across our borders...

swmnguy's picture

The problem isn't the dysfunction.  That's the symptom.  The problem is our system itself.  It's fundamentally based on the assumption that we have endless and infinitely expanding money, raw materials, energy, and markets.  That was an OK assumption 100 years ago, but even at that time only a short-term assumption.  Now we've hit the limits, or can at least see the limits, on the last 3 of those 4 table-legs holding up the whole thing.  So we've made money abstract, in order to make it infinite.  As a result, abstract money now dominates every other activity, and is crowding out any actual physical, productive enterprise.

I think we actually hit the peak in the late 1960s/early 1970s, once the profits from cleaning up after WWII were used up.  Nixon's finalizing the conversion of the USD to straight fiat was actually a pretty clear-thinking move, in a totally corrupt way.  The alternative was to do a hard reset and clear the system of all the unpayable debt at interest.  Just write it all off and draw a line under it, call it Zero, and start again.  Of course the financial Elites would freak the fuck out, but 40 more years of smoke and mirrors hasn't done one thing to change the necessity.  Now, though, we've spent 40 years making shit up and foreclosing all possible options, so collapse it is and will be.  At one point the captain of the Titanic should have said, "Hey, let's slow down and get out of the way of the icebergs.  Sure, it'll piss off the owner of the boat if we don't set a record, but I'll take the heat for that when we get to New York."  But he didn't, and from that point the outcome was pretty much assured.  When Plan A is "let's get really lucky," Plans B and C are unlikely to be worth anything either, so it's time for smart people to make good use of the time they have to prepare for utter disaster.

The 2020-2025 timeline makes sense to me.  I've been waiting for the collapse since I refinanced my starter home in 2003 and realized, through an afternoon's work with a calculator, notepad, and an Excel spreadsheet, that the housing market absolutely had to collapse because incomes weren't acting at all like house prices.  I had no way to predict the timing because I really didn't understand the incredible vastness of the wealth of America and the resilience of finance, and I also hadn't fully realized that when the whole finance system is completely abstract, the rules can be changes at any time--and retroactively--to keep the balls at least appearing to be in the air.  I should have been able to predict we would just ignore the rules we could, change the rules we couldn't ignore, and make everything fake, but I just hadn't mentally grasped that the whole thing was doomed, yet.

If things go right for me in the next 6-11 years, I'll have paid off my house, and otherwise converted FRN's to practical objects that people need to survive and create actual value outside the realm of money and finance.  At that point I'm in as good a position for collapse as I can achieve, and what else can one ask for.  No defense against an army gone rogue, but there isn't one, no matter what fantasists like to conjure up.  The only thing an Eastern Ukrainian schlep can do now is leave with a small duffel bag.  I don't flatter myself I'll be any different.

But it isn't a matter of choosing a better policy to fix this mess.  The mess is the system itself.  Unfortunately, the most concise and comprehensive description of what's going on was written by a German guy 150 years ago, and it's anathema in polite conversation.  And even he just detailed and described the problem.  He concluded it was not fixable, and his idea of how to proceed in the face of collapse was profoundly naive and just the sort of idiocy only a really smart person could come up with.  And he also got the timing utterly wrong.

espirit's picture

I've saved your post because you're an optimist.

6 to 11 years though, is beyond my comprehension due to the warmongering and dominance positioning occuring today.

Collapse has varying degrees of decay.

swmnguy's picture

Some days I feel like that too.  Give me half an hour and I may feel differently.  The timing is impossible for me to feel sure of.  The direction and trend, however, are not.  I wildly underestimated the wealth and resilience of America for the past 11 years or so.  I also had no idea how far fraud and and retroactive rule-fixing could go.  It could go on for a very long time, or it could collapse this afternoon.

"Collapse has varying degrees of decay" is a great line and very wise.  Imperceptible at first, and then all of a sudden.  Very hard to gauge as it happens.

I am an optimist, though.  I think most people haven't ever been as tuned in to all this as even they think they are, and when it collapses, I think most people will go to great lengths to avoid the Mad Max scenarios people hyperventilate about.  It'll be bad, and some people will resort to cannibalism either metaphorically or not.  But I think most people have a lot more sense than they usually show, when it matters.

What really encourages me is how quickly people have come to acknowledge that most of our system is fake and doesn't work.  Mentally, a lot of people have "made the jump" and are not going to totally freak out.  Most people I run into in daily routine show faith in the status quo and operate according to the status quo while simultaneously indicating they know it's falling apart and getting their minds set to deal with it.  My auto mechanic told me the other day, chuckling but watching me to see how I'd react, that he'd be willing to work on cars for food or carpentry work or medical care if it came to that.  Right out of the blue; I'd never broached the topic with him. I didn't have the heart to tell him I thought if it came to that I wouldn't need auto repair work done, but the fact he mentioned I thought was significant.

MeelionDollerBogus's picture

Krugman & many others say Malthus was wrong, always will be.
Therefore, pr1nt moar welfs!

limacon's picture

Vested Interests drive Artifice , but can and has been overcome .

See http://andreswhy.blogspot.com/2007/12/augustus-caesar-roman-disaster.htm...

Vested Interests tend to grow in number , as can be seen in the present little monetary contretemps . 

See http://andreswhy.blogspot.com/2010/11/do-gods-proliferate.html




q99x2's picture

People with wealth don't feel they have to fix anything. It is easier for them to collapse the system and depopulate. Plans for a population of 66 million for the US land mass seems about right. That's the reason behind all the preparations. Nobody is going to fix anything unless you get the oligarchs in a head lock. Shows over Rover.

Fiscal.Enema's picture

Depopulation thru disease,war,starvation,poison,sterilization,suicide....

MeelionDollerBogus's picture

Not likely. Slaves are a necessary component of empires & elites don't live without empires.
Depopulation = no more slaves = elites lose all power.
Haven't thought this through very well, have you?

sam site's picture

It isn't just the "deeply entrenched" that are preventing reform.  Don't forget about the toxically injured sheeple that also obstruct reform.  Toxic injury produces depression, anxiety and a blind allegiance to the establishment. 

Just try informing these toxic, unhealthy, anxious basket cases that they have been toxically captured and are being controlled by a Jesuit/Rothschild banker elite and they will immediately dismiss you as a nut.  To them, it's the other political party that's ruining America.

When TSHTF, these disillusioned people are going to die in droves.  Probably just as well as they will cling to their GMOs, statins, Prilosec and depression pills and accept no cuts to their big government support system that has disabled our ability to compete globally. 

VWAndy's picture

Or we could just stop this train wreck. It wouldnt take much to stop it all.

Peter Pan's picture

America needs to realise that the world cannot be fixed with either a hammer or a printing press.

MeelionDollerBogus's picture

Hammer & Sickle?

Arm & Hammer?

MeelionDollerBogus's picture

Too many shysters selling snake oil.
What this market needs is McGillipherson's Tincture of Marmoset oil! No snake oil here, my friends! All genuine marmoset market oil guarantees the monkey-business will continue unabated!

Radical Marijuana's picture

"deeply entrenched vested interests that profit from the dysfunctional Status Quo -- interests who will devote every resource in their command to water down, co-opt, divert or defeat any reforms that lessen their share of the national income or their political power"

That summarizes WHY there are no feasible solutions!

The only issues are how bad are the real problems???

I find that the more one learns, the worse that gets!

VWAndy's picture

I see it and the answer just keeps getting clearer.