Guest Post: The Rot Runs Deep 3: The Capture of the Professional Class
Submitted by Charles Hugh Smith from Of Two Minds
The Rot Runs Deep 3: The Capture of the Professional Class
A rotten-to-the-core system continues grinding on because it has effectively co-opted (captured) the professional/managerial class with promises of phantom wealth and security.
The Status Quo depends on the professional/managerial class to maintain order and keep the machine running. Since this class has more options in life than less educated lower-income workers, their belief in the fairness and stability of the Status Quo is essential: should their belief in the Status Quo weaken, so would their commitment to positions that require long work days and abundant stress.
I addressed this dependence on the professional/managerial class over four years ago in When Belief in the System Fades (March 12, 2008):
The corollary to this structural need for highly motivated, dedicated people to work the gears is that if their belief in the machine fades, then the machine grinds to a halt.
This belief is far more vulnerable than the Powers That Be seem to understand.
In a way, a belief in the value, transparency, trust and reciprocity of the System is like a religious belief. The converts, the true believers, are the ones who work like crazy for the company or agency. And when the veil of illusion is tugged from their eyes, then the Believer does a reversal, and becomes a devout non-believer in the System. He or she drops out, moves to a lower position, or "retires" to some lower level of employment.
When the most dedicated servants of the system awaken to the realization that they are not benefitting from their service as they'd once believed, that their near-religious faith in the System has been bruised by the grim knowledge that the few are benefitting from the lives and sacrifices of the many, then they simply quit, or move down the chain to an undemanding position.
At that point--a point I anticipate will come to pass in the next 5-10 years--then the Elites' machine grinds to a crawl. People don't have to throw their bodies on the gears of the machine--they just have to stop believing, stop taking that promotion, and stop wanting to trade their entire lives for a thin slice of more more more.
The belief that the Status Quo is fair, just, stable and sustainable is wearing thin, and so the response of the Neofeudal Status Quo has been to "capture" the essential managerial/professional class and effectively chain them to their grindstones.
This phenomenon of "capture" is discussed in the following essay by correspondent Lonn Gary Schwartz, O.D.:
Many are familiar with the concept, regulatory capture, a term generally referring to an industry gaining control over, or capturing, those agencies mandated to regulate their business activities/conduct. A common example is Wall Street and the Too Big To Fail banks that, over the past several years, have been accused of capturing their appointed federal regulators.
I would like to suggest that a similar process applies to the entire American professional class, those highly educated, advanced degreed group of intellectuals designated –legislated - to administrate The System. Except in this case, it is outside - corporate/government - influence that has altered the dynamic of the “self-regulated” professions.
Although this professional capture mostly involves the professions’ elite, once these “thought leaders” capitulate to the needs of the predominant external interests, the bulk of their flock quickly fall into line, understanding that these are not times when fighting The System leads to highly satisfactory outcomes.
Instead of carrying out their professional responsibility of self-regulating their field of expertise - i.e. protecting the interests of their patients/clients/customers - these doctors, lawyers, accountants, educators, etc., have been - in many cases - manipulated, both from without and from within, at times acting completely antithetically to their legislated responsibilities.
Let’s take health care as an example, although this would apply to all professions.
It should come as no great surprise that with the decades-long corporate/government takeover of the American health care system, individual health care providers lost a great deal of professional autonomy.
As this forfeiture revealed itself in decreasing control over patient-care as well as declining real incomes, it becomes easier to understand how professional and economic pressures began to subject health professionals to a variety of external influences.
Accordingly, outside control in health care emerged in several forms. Perhaps the most influential was - and still is - the insurance company provider agreement, a contract that spells out exactly what is expected of the practitioner in terms of clinical care and, in the same breath, stipulates compensation levels.
In other words, not only has the insurance company - in many cases - determined for the practitioner what is best for their patients, but they have also decided how much they are going to be reimbursed for providing these services. They have, de facto, taken over the health practitioner’s business model, a nearly complete loss of both professional and fiscal autonomy.
Whether this can actually work for individual providers - or their patients - seems lost on the insurance companies, as they have judged what works best for their corporate bottom-line, and since they control much of the market, what they say, goes. The result is that both the patient and doctor lose, the insurance company wins.
The greatest degree of external control, though, is exacted by government, whose laws, regulations, taxes, fees, and all the rest, have not only created a bureaucratic nightmare but has sanctioned - through regulation - the private insurance companies and their anti-free market practices [see Obamacare].
Therefore, the current corporate-government coalition in health care has created the worst of all worlds: distorted markets, incredible inefficiencies, skyrocketing costs, tremendous mal-investment, a health [sick] care system designed in the primary interests of ROI [return on investment] in the corporate sector, and a loss of professional control, i.e. professional capture.
The sad reality is - and as a direct result of the above policies - that it has become incredibly difficult to practice ethically and profitably on any level commensurate with the cost of a professional education/investment in a quality practice environment. Indeed, in an increasing number of health [sub] specialties, the insurance companies and government have financialzed and regulated health practitioners right out of existence!
In other words, booming corporate profits and an ever expanding government presence in health care have come at the expense of the patient - increasing insurance premiums/taxes - AND the doctor - loss of professional control/decreasing reimbursements - not to mention declining health care quality levels.
Although the government-sanctioned corporate take over of American life has certainly given us a nearly unlimited selection of mass produced consumer products, at what price has this material frenzy come?
The cost has been the obliteration of our national moral compass, elevating ROI above personal ethics to the point where not only have the professions been sacrificed to the alter of maximum corporate profit, but our very sense of who we are as Americans is being seriously questioned.
When it becomes nearly impossible to do business because of the plethora of laws, regulations, fees, taxes, financialization, and all the rest, highly trained, well-intentioned professionals succumb to the financial pressures and subject themselves to the degradation/humiliation of acquiescing to a system run by hooligans adherent only to the legally mandated corporate bottom-line.
Wealth creation based on widely accepted moral standards is what made the United States the great country it is, but if you can not practice your profession/carry out your business in a way that expresses your true professional nature, treats your patients/clients/customers with high levels of respect, while at the same time, deriving a socially acceptable return on your investment in a professional education/practice capital investment, then what’s the point?
It is time for the leaders of the professions to stand up and say, “ENOUGH IS ENOUGH!!” It is within the power of the professions to bring serious change to this country by acting in the direct interests of the American people.
Whether it is in health care, the legal system, corporate/government accounting, education, or any other professions, massive change is necessary to restore a balance to our national purpose.
It simply takes COURAGE and LEADERSHIP, and a willingness to look at the simple truth that it is time to make the interests of all Americans, PRIMARY.
It is time for those in positions of power and influence to put away the toys and pick up the tools that will enable us to rebuild the foundation of this great country so that future generations of Americans can enjoy what we have almost completely squandered.
The American people need help, and they need help NOW.
The process of capture involves many of the dynamics I have long discussed in the blog and in my books. Wealth is power, and if you want a slice of the wealth then you toe the line and keep quiet. There's a word for for this "voluntary capture": co-option.
At every juncture where a decision to opt out (quit) or continue serving the Status Quo arises, the believer is co-opted by their desire to "stay in the game" for the promised slice of wealth and security. The risk-return calculus is heavily skewed to complicity, because the options for wealth and security outside the machine are meager and loaded with risk.
It is my contention that the wealth and security promised by the machine in exchange for subservience are phantom, and the risk of the promises not being kept is much higher than generally assumed. ironically, those who opt out and accept the risk and lower compensation are actually more secure and much wealthier (in terms of well-being and autonomy) than those who submit to voluntary capture.