Promoted from the Ricochet Member Feed by Editors Created with Sketch. Corporate Climbers and the GOP Establishment

 

shutterstock_55052476In a small organization, everybody cares about now it is doing. After all, it cuts their paycheck, so all the employees have a direct incentive to care for it. But the bigger an organization becomes — and this is equally true whether it is private or public — the less important its immediate survival becomes to each employee. Its continuity and health is more and more taken for granted as the prospects of bankruptcy become ever more remote. Instead, what looms larger and larger in everybody’s mind is their individual place in its hierarchy. It is much more lucrative to be an executive in a large ailing company, than to floor sweeper at a corporate success story.

This leads inevitably to the flourishing of a particular type of creature: the corporate climber. This person doesn’t give a whit about how the outfit he works for is doing, but is solely focused on the next rung in the org chart. The proliferation of corporate climbers is a problem for all organizations that are successful for too long. The danger is magnified because the company can do well for a long time – coasting on its laurels – before the moral rot becomes apparent. Unfortunately, often by the time it is noticeable, not only will the CEO have become a self-interested striver, but also was the man he replaced, and the man that man replaced.

The best example of this is Rick Wagoner, the former CEO of General Motors. He ran the company from 2000 until its bankruptcy nine years later. In 2007 – the year before bankruptcy — his salary was $1.5 million, with a total compensation of $14.4 million. After the company failed, he retired with an exit package worth $10 million. In other words, if the rot is deep enough, it doesn’t even matter if the organization fails completely; the man most responsible for its failure will still draw generous benefits.

According to Wikipedia, “Wagoner stated that the worst decision of his tenure at GM was axing the EV1electric-car program and not putting the right resources into hybrids. ‘It didn’t affect profitability,’ Wagoner claimed, ‘but it did affect image.’” The company lost $85 billion while he was at the helm, but he thought the most serious mistake he made was over something that had nothing to do with making money. In unrelated news, Wagoner was named one of the worst CEOs of 2008.

When I think of the people running the GOP, I think of Rick Wagoner. I suspect the RNC is filled with corporate climbers of dubious actual talents. In my mind, I can imagine one climber remarking to another in the lineup at the RNC cafeteria that he had been in the same room with the Great Man, Reince Priebus, and – gasp – Priebus had actually smiled at him. Now you and I know that Reince Priebus is a third-rate, incompetent hack, but that is only because we don’t work at Republican Headquarters. Because politics is only a hobby for us, we can think what we want. But if we were cashing a GOP paycheck, it would be different. We would have to suck up to all the mediocrities ahead of us in the Establishment Republican career path, just like the two staffers whose conversation I just imagined.

That I am right about the dominance of climbers in the Republican Party can be seen by the way the party fights Democrats vs. how it copes with internal threats. Against Democrats, whether it be McCain and Romney vs. Obama, or Boehner and McConnell vs. the Congressional Democrats, the Republicans are at best lethargic, uninspiring, and timid. And at worst, well, let’s just say they can be a lot worse. But if some Tea Party insurgent like Chris McDaniel challenges a party institution like Thad Cochran, you see their animal spirits suddenly come to life. The Republican Establishment springs forth like a cheetah and bounds after its pray with lightning speed and cat-quick reflexes. They suddenly exhibit a level of ruthlessness and vigor that was wholly lacking in their struggle against President Obama, their purported enemy. Even more ominously, you also get a sense that there is a lot of mutually beneficial bipartisan back-scratching going on inside the Beltway between them and their Democrat counterparts.

For this reason, I see that the Republican Party has only two possible fates: either the insurgents ruthlessly take over the GOP and conduct a thorough purge from top to bottom, or the Republican Party goes the way of the Whigs — or, more recently, Canada’s Progressive Conservatives. There is no Plan C.

There are 10 comments.

Become a member to join the conversation. Or sign in if you're already a member.
  1. Carey J. Inactive

    Canadian Cincinnatus: I see that the Republican Party has only two possible fates. Either the insurgents ruthlessly take over the GOP and conduct a thorough purge from top to bottom, or the Republican Party goes the way of the Whigs (or more recently Canada’s Progressive Conservatives). There is no Plan C.

    No truce with the never-to-be-sufficiently-damned establishment.

    • #1
    • September 22, 2015, at 7:01 PM PDT
    • Like
  2. Brian Wyneken Member

    My personal experience at the edge of local politics seems to fit what you suspect and describe. We are so entrenched in a two party system, however, that I suspect only something cataclysmic could break this paradigm in our era.

    Good post!

    • #2
    • September 22, 2015, at 9:47 PM PDT
    • Like
  3. Ball Diamond Ball Inactive

    Are you sure you’re not me?

    • #3
    • September 22, 2015, at 10:38 PM PDT
    • Like
  4. Guruforhire Member

    I agree with your conclusion, but I think you are insufficiently aware of the trade offs that are being made.

    The RNC isn’t dying due to a lack of outsiders using the party as a ladder climb, its dying due to a lack of diversity of thought because there isn’t enough outsider representations.

    I am sympathetic to Wagoner, you have to compensate people for risk and GM had been surfing the edge of bankruptcy for a long time. Its doubtful that success was ever an option on the table.

    • #4
    • September 23, 2015, at 5:21 AM PDT
    • Like
  5. I Walton Member

    It’s not just or even primarily the climbers. Mancur Olsen’s the logic of collective action develops an analytical framework that explains the establishment’s behavior. Or his “Rise and Decline of Nations” The conclusion by the way, is that it cannot self correct, or even evolve out of its problems. It must be crushed, overthrown or it dies so the conclusions are the same. The same process made it almost impossible for GM or the UAW to self correct even as they faced the challenge of the market place which normally controls the disease in question.

    • #5
    • September 23, 2015, at 5:32 AM PDT
    • Like
  6. livingtheLoneStarlife Inactive

    Interesting analogy.

    You’re spot on, Cincinnatus, about the character of large corporations. As a consultant in a previous career, I worked with both mid-sized and Fortune 250 companies, and the general laziness and stale thinking within Fortune 250 companies reminded me of the federal government. There was little willingness to take risks or rock the boat; some employees just wanted to show up to get their checks, relishing their anonymity, and others were playing the political game, polishing the right apples to take the next step up the rung.

    Don’t have enough insight into how the GOP runs, but evidence indicates you’re right. GOP insiders do seem to have the same general laziness and stale thinking of large corporations, and any internal attack on their position is furiously repelled.

    • #6
    • September 23, 2015, at 5:41 AM PDT
    • Like
  7. Ralphie Member

    It is a system, like all systems that grow large, the feedback loop becomes inaccurate (yes men, etc.). There is also a problem with the average voter who identifies as one party or the other who doesn’t have a clearly defined worldview, nor the integrity to see it through. I know conservatives that demand their government pensions because they were promised them, no cuts or alterations. It is ok to be small government until you are personally effected. Most politicians know this. Churchill said the biggest problem with a democracy becomes apparent when talking to an average voter for 5 minutes.

    The RNC is not alone in not getting things. I think the DNC has its problems too. GM was one of the biggest employers in the world, and it ran for a long time in failure mode before it finally collapsed. You forgot that the big three collectively bargained, where the strongest was targeted for a strike so that they could capitalize on contracts that the others had to sign. Workers were part of that failure. Ford knew when it agreed to early retirement it wasn’t sustainable.

    Education has been talked about being reformed since I was a kid 50 years ago. You cannot reform something if significant parts are off limits, especially if that is what actually need reforming.

    As Robert Samuelson wrote, if you can’t cut the small (NEA,PP) or big (entitlements), government is suicidal.

    • #7
    • September 23, 2015, at 6:18 AM PDT
    • Like
  8. John Walker Contributor

    Canadian Cincinnatus: This leads inevitably to the flourishing of a particular type of creature: the corporate climber. This person doesn’t give a whit about how the outfit he works for is doing, but is solely focused on the next rung in the org chart. The proliferation of corporate climbers is a problem for all organizations that are successful for too long.

    This is a manifestation of Jerry Pournelle‘s Iron Law of Bureaucracy. I can’t nest quotes here, so I’ll separate the following quote from my remarks afterward by asterisks.

    * * * * * * * * * *
    Pournelle’s Iron Law of Bureaucracy states that in any bureaucratic organization there will be two kinds of people:

    First, there will be those who are devoted to the goals of the organization. Examples are dedicated classroom teachers in an educational bureaucracy, many of the engineers and launch technicians and scientists at NASA, even some agricultural scientists and advisors in the former Soviet Union collective farming administration.

    Secondly, there will be those dedicated to the organization itself. Examples are many of the administrators in the education system, many professors of education, many teachers union officials, much of the NASA headquarters staff, etc.

    The Iron Law states that in every case the second group will gain and keep control of the organization. It will write the rules, and control promotions within the organization.

    * * * * * * * * * *
    The Iron Law doesn’t apply just at the executive level; it pervades the organisation. Each department in a large operation will eventually be largely filled with people preoccupied with the interests of that department, not the overall mission of the enterprise. The Iron Law can be seen in action in any bureaucracy, whether corporate, government, non-profit, or religious.

    • #8
    • September 23, 2015, at 6:24 AM PDT
    • Like
  9. Fredösphere Member
    Fredösphere Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Now you and I know that Reince Priebus is a third-rate, incompetent hack

    I do not know that.

    • #9
    • September 23, 2015, at 9:36 AM PDT
    • Like
  10. Fricosis Guy Listener

    It’s a wonder that any human institution lasts much past its founder’s demise.

    • #10
    • September 23, 2015, at 12:07 PM PDT
    • Like

Comments are closed because this post is more than six months old. Please write a new post if you would like to continue this conversation.