Ricochet is the best place on the internet to discuss the issues of the day, either through commenting on posts or writing your own for our active and dynamic community in a fully moderated environment. In addition, the Ricochet Audio Network offers over 50 original podcasts with new episodes released every day.
Quote of the Day: About Failure and Disaster
“I don’t believe in the lone hero theory of disaster. For anybody to [redacted] up this big, they have to be standing on the shoulders of giants.” – Lois McMasters Bujold, as spoken by Miles Vorkosigan in the Vorkosigan Novels.
When I look at all of the disasters that have hit this country in the last two years, I increasingly appreciate the wisdom of this statement. It is pure Miles Vorkosigan, intended as a wisecrack, but containing a significant and important truth. Failure is not an orphan. It always has multiple parents, even when they attempt to disown it.
Think about it. Do you think that Pete Buttigieg created the container ship backup, the collapse of Southwest Airlines routing, the trucker shortage, the NOTAMS failure, (and general airline congestion), and a toxic train derailment single-handedly? He is just the public face of our transportation systems’ failures. He had plenty of help from people both within and outside the Federal government.
Anthony Fauci may have presided over the collapse of America’s public health system, but he, too, had plenty of help. Tens of thousands of health professionals, businessmen, and politicians beavered away unceasingly to create the crisis of confidence we have today. The worst part about it is when a real health emergency comes along everyone will ignore it until it is too late. The shepherd boy has cried “wolf” one too many times.
Nor is Biden solely responsible for the train wreck this country has become. I am not sure he is even partially responsible, because he is not really there. He just signs off on the policies that are placed in front of him by subordinates with the best of intentions and the worst of competencies. Biden truly is standing on the shoulders of giants in the field of incompetence.
There is no pain-free way to fix the problem, because the solution lies in accountability. If you foul up, you get disciplined. If you foul up badly enough, you get fired. If you succeed, you get rewarded and promoted. It worked in World War II. Generals and admirals who screwed up got sacked. Sometimes they got second chances (Admirals John McCain and Marc Mitscher were two who did), but not in the commands where they failed. Most of all you do not reward simple participation. (A Space Medal of Honor for flying a new type of spacecraft on a familiar mission? Get real folks, that is a “star on a service ribbon” territory.)
Doing that means people’s feelings get hurt. They get told they are not good enough. That they are not “special” (except perhaps in the Special Olympics sense of being special). The alternative is what is happening now: people actually getting hurt to spare the feelings of those not competent to hold their jobs.
Failure is not the result of one individual in the wrong position. It is the result of a system that permits individuals in the wrong position to remain in the wrong position. If it does not change? As it will be in the future, it was at the birth of Man. The Gods of the Copybook Headings limp up to explain it once more . . .Published in Group Writing
What is the current legal maximum on Likes by a single reader?
= = = = = = = =
Whoever is doing the Best of Ricochet — 2023, please pop this into the folder for consideration next January.
I like your point “Failure is not an orphan. It always has multiple parents, even when they attempt to disown it.” As I see it Buttigieg and Fauci amplified the harm done by the institutions over which they presided.
I wonder what percentage of Federal workers were hired during the Obama administration. I believe that is where the serious rot exists.
Pervasive ineptitude, mainly uneducated and incompetent seem to actually have been the aim for some time.
And, how many conservative-ish people were pushed out . Same with the military .
Christian Adams probably has the low down on Justice. He chronicled it real time in the first administration- starting with the Black Panthers’ debacle. One after another “resignations” were accepted at Justice. And, at the time it sure seemed all the warriors were being retired from all the services. I’m pretty sure the DEI executive order is for the purpose of seeding all agencies with radical civil service employees who can’t be fired by any next administration.
But his staff is diverse. They are the diversest! That’s more important than competence any day.
Sure there is; it’s what economist Amartya Sen calls a “functioning democracy”.
A “functioning democracy” is a system where the leaders are accountable to the public, where the public can vote them out of office if they don’t do an acceptable job, and thus they have an incentive to perform well.
Election fraud and an absent opposing party are two killers of a functioning democracy.
I’ve talked about this as the cause of ruin of US cities in a previous post.
And I’ve talked about weaponizing incompetence in a previous post.
What you are describing will not be pain-free. Not today. Especially for those who deserve some pain. You know, the current decision makers.
It don’t make me no nevermind about inflicting pain on those that deserve it, but there will be pain.
Far less painful than things are right now.
I mean, we used to be able to do this. We used to have reasonably secure elections and a party that showed up.
It wasn’t painful then, why should it be painful now?
Because we regularly got rid of incompetents then. We have been rewarding failure since 1986 at least. We are in Augean Stables territory, and fixing things will be painful.
Kind of like surgery to debride an infection is painful.
What happened in 1986?
I agree, generally, that large-scale bureaucratically-induced failure has many fathers, but I tend to think that it’s too generous. I like aphorisms and one that is very popular here is, Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity. Mine is, There comes a time when repeated incompetence must be reevaluated as malice. [Malice: to seek or desire to injure.] This is because stupidity is often the cover used to excuse malice, often by the perpetrators: “I misspoke” and “Any insults were completely unintentional.”
But isn’t the Curley Effect most often deliberate? Even if it starts off inadvertently, doesn’t it quickly become premeditated?
Does anyone know of some research or a classic case that illustrates this?
noD is the one who’s written about it. And I don’t know but just considering that politicians bring it about, and it furthers their careers, and that politicians are election savvy, and that this has gone on for years, makes me think that at least some strategists actively promote the practice.
Challenger accident. Search for the guilty, punishment of the innocent, and promotions for those that screwed up. Of course that indicates the rot had already set in, but that was the earliest I observed the phenomena.
Politics is mighty cutthroat, so yeah.
It will likely be covered up with a virtuous explanation.
The original paper, in section 4, “Historical Evidence on the Curley Effect”:
The Curley Effect: The Economics of Shaping the Electorate
Edward L. Glaeser, Andrei Shleifer
Trying to punish all those responsible for outcomes is like trying to herd cats. With the level of fingerpointing that would go on and denials of culpability, it’s hard to know if we’d ever make progress.
Thank you. I think this article may deserve a post of its own.