Friday, June 9, 2023

"What happens when the competent opt out?"


Charles Hugh Smith asks that question.  He offers this graphic of the life cycle of a bureaucracy:

In an accompanying article, he goes into more detail about how the competent workers simply give up and withdraw under politically correct and other pressures, leaving the incompetent and the incapable to try to keep the system going - a thankless and usually fruitless task.  He concludes:

As the competent leadership leaves, the incompetent takes the reins, blind to their own incompetence. It all looked so easy when the competent were at the helm, but reality is a cruel taskmaster, and all the excuses that worked as an underling wear thin once the incompetent are in leadership roles.

By this terminal stage, the competent have been driven out, quit or burned out. There's only slack-masters and incompetent left, and the toxic work environment has been institutionalized, so no competent individual will even bother applying, much less take a job doomed to burnout and failure.

This is why systems are breaking down before our eyes and why the breakdowns will spread with alarming rapidity due [to] the tightly bound structure of complex systems.

Go read the whole thing.  It's worth your time.  I think he very accurately describes the breakdown in corporate, government and bureaucratic structures that we're seeing all around us.



Anonymous said...

Makes quite a bit of sense, especially coupled with Pournelle's Iron Law.

tsquared said...

John Galt?

Michael said...

What happens? You're seeing it in real time. The base and evil take charge and the yes men and idiots follow "ORDERS" without asking WHY?

The Enemy Within
“A nation can survive its fools, and even the ambitious. But it cannot survive treason from within. An enemy at the gates is less formidable, for he is known and carries his banner openly. But the traitor moves amongst those within the gate freely, his sly whispers rustling through all the alleys, heard in the very halls of government itself. For the traitor appears not a traitor; he speaks in accents familiar to his victims, and he wears their face and their arguments, he appeals to the baseness that lies deep in the hearts of all men. He rots the soul of a nation, he works secretly and unknown in the night to undermine the pillars of the city, he infects the body politic so that it can no longer resist. A murderer is less to fear. The traitor is the plague.” –Marcus Tullius Cicero, 106 BC – 43 BC

riverrider said...

what happens? just look at south africa. the jewel of the continent can't keep the water running, power on, nor food on the table. one thing he missed. the competent that get hired will be regarded as enemies of the incompetent and will be fired/driven away quickly.i already see this happening in many areas.

SiGraybeard said...

The end of competence is on display everywhere. It's possible the best example is NASA's Artemis program to "land the first woman and the next men on the moon." It relies on a rocket called the Space Launch System or SLS, but how it was made gave rise saying SLS stands for the "Shuttles' Leftover Shit." It uses the same engines as the shuttles, the RS-25 designed in the late '70s, as well as the same basic solid rocket boosters (they have an extra segment). And the first flight was still six years late and billions over budget. They had months of issues with fuel leaks, as if everyone in both the companies (Boeing) and launch contractors had completely forgotten how to work with liquid hydrogen.

It's not just the rocket. Everything you look at is horrifically late and over budget.

The country that launched a Saturn V three or four times a year can't build a less powerful rocket using the same technology that can launch twice a year. It's looking like one launch per year.

CGR710 said...

Makes more than enough sense but I think there are additional facets to the problem:
1. demographic evolution, meaning that, while some countries in the western hemisphere exhibit a somehow balanced demographic profile, most of the western world has a serious population problem, namely it has an increasing number of people retiring combined with a decreasing number of young people entering the work force. How the pension and healthcare systems are going to work under this increasing imbalance is anybody's guess.
2. catastrophic education, meaning that the increasingly smaller number of young people entering the workforce have a lousy education (especially college, but vocational needs to build on something and primary and secondary education is an absolute catastrophe) and are largely incapable of competing on the market. The problem is that employers will have no choice than to hire them since there's no other option and try to train them, which will add to the employment costs and success is unfortunately less than guaranteed.
3. economic systemic crisis, meaning that the keynsian focus on aggregate demand is woefully out of date in a world where the proportion of consumers to capital holders is increasingly unbalanced. The whole idea of regulating the economy through interest rates is just beating the dead horse in the highly inflationary market reality.
4. rationalization strategy, which means that, while de-globalization may sound good, on the short term every region needs to build the infrastructure and logistic lines which they loose from the global market. That's neither cheap nor fast!
Combined with the whole rise of the incompetent cliques it paints a pretty dreadful picture...

AJ said...

makes sense at management level, but fails to recognise that the competence drain at worker level lags behind management failure significantly. Managers are a high turn-over group and tend to be the early adoptors of fads and weasel word "programs". Competent managers leave early, while competent workers try to keep things ticking over. There's a brief halcyon period when the incompetent workers cannot tolerate the ridiculous demands of the incompetent managers, quitting and leaving a (briefly) high performing and highly motivated workforce. But it's all downhill from there. The workers figure out they are being taken for a ride and walk away, leaving negative workplace reviews on Seek, making it harder to attract good replacements.
The Union thing, except in the most rabidly militant areas (construction, wharves, etc), is a fallacy in my experience. Most Union resources are bogged down trying to make recalcitrant employers honour the minimum award rates & conditions.

Anonymous said...

On the Gripping hand, do you really want these clowns to be competent?

BGnad said...

This is exactly what we have a ring side seat for as our Rome crumbles...

Harbinger62 said...

Pournelle’s iron law of bureaucracy
In any bureaucracy, the people devoted to the benefit of the bureaucracy itself always get in control and those dedicated to the goals that the bureaucracy is supposed to accomplish have less and less influence, and sometimes are eliminated entirely.

Restated :

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.

Max Wiley said...

I was going to say, this sounds like Ayn Rand in actual operation. Galt's Gulch was never an actual place but rather a metaphor.

Landroll said...

How does anything co;;apse? Slowly, then all at once.

A Pinochet said...

Maybe we don't have enough dumb-versity running these programs?

I jokingly tell older people on topics like the deterioration of things is that I might live long enough to see the demise of functional indoor plumbing.

Anonymous said...

Here is a good study about the focus on diversity rather than merit. It comes to the same conclusion.

Nuke Road Warrior said...

It's not just competent leaders leaving, The competent workers, engineers, and technicians either retire early, shift from making meaningful contributions and proactively solving problems to being good little worker bees, following insane orders given by unaware, and ungrateful managers until they can find an exit ramp.