The more kafkaesque quagmires you’ve slogged through, the more you hope “pay-to-play for the rest of us”
You know how “pay-to-play” works: contribute a couple of million dollars to key political players,
and then get your tax break, subsidy, no-bid contract, etc., slipped into some nook or cranny of the legislative
process that few (if any) will notice because the legislation is hundreds of pages long or a “gut and replace”
magic wand was wielded at the last minute.
As the essential systems of everyday life break down and become increasingly dysfunctional, I predict the rise of what
I’m calling “pay-to-play” for the rest of us: if you pay for expedited service, concierge service, etc.,
you will get the kind of service everyone used to get, i.e. functional, prompt and efficient.
As I detailed in
Who’s Going to Fix What’s Broken?, systems such as vehicle registration and tax
collection are becoming kafkaesque quagmires where the expected (or promised) services are not provided or
Waiting for services at the DMV, IRS, et al. and the county welfare office are identical experiences.
Poor people have no choice but to put up with long waits and bureaucratic quagmires, but the top 10% who
earn almost half of all income and are responsible for roughly half the consumer spending are not amused by
services that are equivalent to what the bottom 10% must tolerate out of necessity.
Since nobody in power is truly interested in fixing these large-scale, complex systems, then it’s easy to
predict the rise of “pay-to-play” for the rest of us: pay an extra fee, get much better service.
There are already examples of this trend. For example, if you want expedited processing of your U.S. passport
renewal, that will cost you $60. Given my previous experience with passport renewals, I was happy to pay the
extra $60 just to have some additional assurance I was actually going to receive the new passport in a timely
Would I have paid an extra $100 for “expedited processing” of my DMV registration to avoid a 7-month descent
into bureaucratic Heck? Yes, with no hesitation whatsoever. Would I have paid $200 for “expedited processing”
of my federal tax return to bypass that 7-month kafkaesque quagmire? Gladly, without hesitation.
How about a $500 “expedited processing” of your building permit? Given that those long months of slogging through
the quagmire cost real money, a $500 “concierge service” fee to get your permit in 8 weeks rather than
8 months would be a bargain.
“Pay-to-play” is inherently unfair: the wealthy get their interests served, the rest of us tax donkeys
and debt-serfs slog through kafkaesque quagmires. “Pay-to-play” for the rest of us will also be
inherently unfair, but at least it will democratize “pay-to-play” to the degree that a couple hundred bucks
will actually buy better service, and that’s within reach of many more households than the million
dollars required to access political “pay-to-play.”
If systems can’t or won’t be fixed, then having access to the 10% which still functions is worth a great deal.
The more kafkaesque quagmires you’ve slogged through, the more you hope “pay-to-play” for the rest of us
How much would you pay for expedited emergency services?
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