Simulacra and Simulation

“That which has been done well has been done quickly enough,” is a quote, according to Roman historian Suetonius, attributed to Caesar Augustus.

These are not the words of obedience to squalid bureaucracy.

The Grand Duke of Tuscany took festina lente, make haste slowly, as his motto and illustrated it with a sail-backed tortoise, a kind of testament to the cohesion of long-term gains achieved through diligence and urgency.

It would be fair to submit, in the current moment, that the wisdom of the ancients is not nearly as sought after as say, government bonds.

Having entered into a third round of its quantitative easing program while lockdowns in NSW cost the economy $3.2 billion a week, the Reserve Bank of Australia seems content to withstand what economists are calling a series of one-offs.

Lockdowns and bureaucratic managed decline, sadly, are not one of them. RBA Governor Philip Lowe has said rolling lockdowns across Australian states and cities would continue into next year.

COVID caseloads clearly, as the rest of us had been led to believe, no longer a key indicator as to why an interstate truck driver must submit to an invasive nasal cavity PCR test up to three times a week.

A malfunctioning financial system is emblematic of greater ills. Short term economic crisis measures and the response to COVID, alas, are interchangeable and here to stay. In the United States debt is on track this year to increase to 150 per cent of GDP under the Biden Administration.

Consumer prices such as gasoline and food continue to climb at their fastest annual rate since 2008 as inflation soars to the highest it’s been in over a decade.

The debacle of quantitative easing continues apace devaluing domestic currency which is being felt by those who work on the thinnest of margins. For transport specialists and delivery drivers those costs can be transferred onto the consumer.

A $1 trillion infrastructure bill, pushed as a bipartisan proposal of the current administration, promises the reverse in the future. Buried on page 508 of the 2,702-page bill is a pilot program for a national motor vehicle per-mile user fee.

Under the pilot program passenger vehicles, light truck and medium- and heavy-duty trucks are targeted.

The fees are to be, depending on the types and weight classes of the vehicles, set “to reflect estimated impacts on infrastructure, safety, congestion, the environment, or other related social impacts.”

That last part though not specified provides enough wiggle room for adjacent government groups to feed like hogs at the trough.

Long-term, the plan spells the end for passenger cars with internal combustion engines, making life even tougher for workers in regional areas and suburban commuters.

Nor does it bode well for thousands of privately-owned fleets.

By reauthorising USD$547.9 billion worth of spending, the bill dumps funds on transportation programs that were previously allocated more than USD$305 billion under the Obama Administration to be used through 2020.

Approximately USD$148 billion of this spending will be funnelled from the General Fund, but other funds such as the Highway Account will struggle to fund fixing the nation’s road and bridge problems while teetering on the edge of going broke within just a few years.

Any bill passed under these terms encourages mushrooming inflation given the deficit spending required. EV Charging stations, infrastructure, more routinely funded by private enterprise in the past, will receive USD$7.5 billion.

By comparison, the New South Wales state government recently pledged $17 million towards EV charging stations and $30 million for government fleets to switch to EVs.

US Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg is to provide recommendations to Congress within three years of the pilot program’s establishment, at which point lawmakers can choose whether or not to pass new legislation taxing miles-per-vehicle in order to fund the infrastructure overhaul.

Buttigieg, whose own president admonished his lack of experience during the primary race, was caught in April, on camera, outside Capitol Hill where an SUV had dropped him off with a bicycle to make it appear he had chosen to ride rather than drive to a cabinet meeting.

As paid-for fact checkers online denied the evidence, the reality in which government policy dangerously coalesces with spin, has rarely been more explicit.

The coming challenges, as Europe has already made clear, are going to be demographic.

“The first lesson of economics is scarcity: There is never enough of anything to satisfy all those who want it,” says Economist Thomas Sowell.

“The first lesson of politics is to disregard the first lesson of economics.”

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