The High Cost Of Size

All of the great political philosophies since the Enlightenment have focused on the problem of scarcity. The communists insisted that the abolition of private property would solve the problem of scarcity, so that the only problem would be figuring out how to divvy up the bounty. Libertarians insist that the sanctity of private property solves the problem of scarcity, by making sure the lazy, unfit and inconvenient starve to death, so the survivors can eat them during lean times. Every ideology has a solution to material scarcity.

What no ideology addresses is the shortage of smart people. Now, there is never an abundance of smart people. Nowhere will you find a business or an organization complaining that they have too many smart people. In fact, companies spend a lot of time and money trying to attract and cultivate smart people. This is the driving force behind a lot of technological automation. It’s not so much that it replaces basic labor or reduces costs, as it frees up the smart fraction to focus on the complex problems of the organisation.

Now, there are many issues that arise from the natural shortage of smart people. One is that smart people are most valuable when their ideas can be implemented by people who may not be as smart, but have the aptitude to implement the ideas. A good architect needs engineers and engineers need managers, planners and skilled tradesman. Otherwise, the architect is just a guy who draws stuff. The point is, an organization will not only want to attract the smart fraction, they will also want to attract the not-quite-so-smart fraction.

Another issue is that the inevitable shortage of smart people will lead to putting not-so-smart people into positions for which they are not qualified. The Peter principle is a well known concept in management. People in a hierarchy tend to rise to their level of incompetence. The guy who is good as the third in charge gets bumped up to being second in charge, where he is merely competent. Time and circumstances force his promotion into the top spot, where he is over-matched and is viewed as incompetent.

Then there is the problem of people being judged within an organization based on their social skills, rather than their intelligence and competence. The truly stupid are easy to spot, but the mediocre and below average are often hard to notice, because they are extroverts or they are glib. It seems to be human nature to overestimate the abilities of those with high verbal skills. It’s why lawyers always assume they are the smartest people in the room. They have high verbal skills and mistake that for intelligence.

Put it all together and an organization will start out with the normal shortage of smart people. As the organization grows, that shortage will become acute, forcing the firm to rely on a greater number of not-so-smart and mediocrities in positions that should be filled with smart people. The resulting increase in errors will place a further drain on the stock of smart people, as they have to compensate for the downstream problems. Exacerbating this is the increasing tendency to evaluate people on social skills rather than talent.

The result of as an organization gets bigger, it gets dumber. That seems to be the case with American intelligence organizations. Recently, screw-ups downstream from the upper echelon of the CIA, resulted in a very serious breach of security. This led to the exposure of at least thirty spies, all of whom were executed by the Chinese government. This is a serious failure under any conditions, but the cause here suggests the CIA is not longer capable of doing the basics. It is a big bureaucracy full of people way over their heads.

This is not an isolated incident. Diane Feinstein had a Chinese spy on her staff for over twenty years. Counter intelligence is a basic function of the CIA. Their job is look for anomalies in what foreign governments know, because that means the foreign government is getting access from obscure sources. If the guy at the poker table always folds when you have a good hand, it means he knows things he could not know through the normal play of the game. There is no excuse for missing the Feinstein spy.

Of course, there is the matter of John Brennan. He spent 25 years in the CIA as a dangerously incompetence hack. He’s known today for being the mentally unbalanced lunatic howling about Trump on cable chat show, but while he was CIA director he had his e-mail account hacked and exposed by WikiLeaks. By “hacked” it is understood to mean he was recklessly insecure in the handling of his password and account access. The guy never should have been in a junior position, much less a senior one at the CIA.

There are over 20,000 employees at the CIA. Most will never do anything more than process paperwork. Even so, the sheer size of the organization makes it unwieldy for the task assigned to it. Intelligence work is hard. It takes a creative mind, but also a disciplined mind. The supply of highly disciplined high IQ people willing to spend their lives playing cat and mouse for modest pay is small. Placing a small number of them in a vast stew of incompetents, mediocrities and bureaucrats does not make the stew better.

Fixing agencies like the CIA is simply a matter of making them smaller. Firing everyone with an even number at the end of the agency ID would be a good start. Sure, a few good people would be lost, but the high cost of the mediocre people would more than make up for it. One reckless bozo can cancel out the work of a hundred competent people. The remaining ten thousand people could be broken into five units of two thousand and you would have a better agency overnight. In time, it may even be trustworthy again.

Of course, this is why large organizations can never reform themselves and why fixing American government is impossible. That army of morons at Langley is a constituency within the vast sea of morons known as the federal government. No one reduces their constituency on purpose. Additionally, by the time this is an issue, incompetent boobs like John Brennan are in senior positions. The obsequious climbers have either pushed out the talent or simply swamped them. Government becomes a giant punching itself in the face.

110 thoughts on “The High Cost Of Size

  1. This essay touches upon an idea that I think has merit and would like to see promoted: breaking the federal government’s physical corpus up into smaller, regional entities. For example, the Interior Department could be headquartered in Denver, the State Department in New York, Defense could operate out of Texas and the Department of Education could be quarantined on the Aleutian Islands.
    In this modern age with all the communications, delivery and transportation technology available to us, there is no need for ALL government business to be transacted within a twenty-mile-square area in Maryland (on the eastern seaboard). This physical fact is responsible for a lot of the evils we see resulting from the insular, cliquish, ‘In-Crowd’ culture of DC, where the cocktail party circuit and the daily sex-o-rama of social interaction is the essence of “getting things done”.
    Why not have the Federal Government conduct its business by teleconference and FedEx? Every other enterprise in America seems to be able to.

  2. “This is the driving force behind a lot of technological automation. It’s not so much that it replaces basic labor or reduces costs, as it frees up the smart fraction to focus on the complex problems of the organisation.”
    It also is an effective way to replicate intelligence without the bother of cloning or eugenics. An intelligent man designs a useful machine, that machine is duplicated a thousandfold and the benefits of one man’s intelligence becomes widespread.

  3. Intelligence has it’s limits, however arrogance and stupidity have no bounds.

    Our current Chancellor, and most European bureaucrats, are perfect examples of well educated, intelligent people who think they know better than the great unwashed masses who voted them into office. This is the same intelligentsia that is blissfully driving the country into the ground while raging against and demonizing anyone with a hint of common sense.

    It’s amazing how many well educated people you run into who are so arrogant, they don’t realize just how stupid they really are. And unfortunately, history has proven they end up running things.

    On the other hand, it may be natures way of keeping things in balance.

  4. Used to work at a place where a manager who didn’t know the departments he worked in (and was generally clueless about the business as a whole) was eventually elevated to managing director. Admittedly it was in a declining industry so perhaps fewer and fewer people cared, but he was a big macho-type who played high-level rugby, drank to the point of stupidity and had a string of very attractive but horizontal-prone females in tow.

    I once tried, because I thought the business mattered, to help him out after he made an abysmally elementary error but it was me who was hauled over the coals for some minor aspect of my rescue while he sailed serenely on.

    After I left the company I understood Mr Useless was being helped up the ladder thanks to his endless stories of wild nights and sporting prowess by people who might have known better if they hadn’t been as equally ineffective at their own job.

    • Mr. Useless understood the central point of good life. Your welfare matter not company or Country or whatever. When Economy collapses or Russia attacks, then Mr. Useless have solid amount of cash to fly to Maledives and enjoy retirement. It is like war. The biggest winners are not frontline soldiers but the guys using crazy times filling their own pockets. Ten years after the war, the bravest soldiers working for minimum wage for this guy who avoided fight, cashed from war contracts and caused many death selling useless crap to army.

      • Good point. I live in a highly Mexican filled area of Southern California and the ones that are closer to normal Mexican values (Comida, Cervesa, Familia, Iglesia) are happier and far better off than the amoral strivers of any race

        White people especially work too damned hard for the benefit of others and would be better off with less stuff, more time off and more kids.

        Atlas needs to Shrug and fast

  5. Don’t know if you guys like the MTV Video Music Awards. But Madonna is getting a lot of criticism for making the tribute to Aretha Franklin (who died last week) more about herself. Blacks are especially pissed. Reminded me of Z saying women only write about other women or themselves.

    This guy is pretty funny about her VMA speech.

    From the Daily Mail

  6. Dare I say it. In the ancestral environment of our evolution, stupid got you dead at an early age and kept your genes out of the gene pool. This enhanced fitness selection for intelligence. During the modern era of civilization, we began carrying the dead weight of stupid because of a sense of compassion and the availability of surplus resources. Now-a-days, half our population worship the stupid as paragons of virtue.

  7. Speaking of smart people. Look at Google. They are known for only hiring the cream of the crop. Yet the average employee leaves IMS just over 14 months. Pay wise it’s not any better than working as a LAPD officer or state worker for CA. About $120k yearly.

    Now consider Google is always located in very expensive urban areas. So that $120k just barely gets you a apartment and mid-range car. Wow, like that’s attractive when you do the math.

    And look at their working conditions. Do you want work in a fishbowl where you have zero private space and you’re always being watched.

    Maybe their workers are smart, but they are lemmings and have no math sense at all.

    I’ll take a gig at half the salary working in a quarry any day over that hell.

    • This is why companies like Google are so heavily populated with H1B’s and Green Card types.

      Americans want a decent quality of life.

      If the Actual Right gets power on of the1st things on the agenda is getting rid of all immigrant labor including gradually farm labor.

      Cheap labor is national suicide.

  8. I’m not sure that the spoils system was any better, but chucking everyone out of government every few years and replacing them with new guys sure couldn’t have been a bad thing.

    • Seriously, that’s all you’ve got?

      I know guys like you go around trying to incite heated comments, so that blogs like this one can be reported and blocked. But, geez, that’s real “phoning it in” work for anyone with an IQ over about 82 or so.

    • I want the video. I bet you there will be a local surge of mulatto babies born 9 months from last nite.

    • Fine, then conservatives will seek self-determination. It is obvious that a leftist government will not protect the ability of the Right to exercise its legitimate interests.

      Partition now

    • Oh, Dent. Not even most blacks want our Confederate monuments destroyed. “An NPR/PBS NewsHour poll released this month found that 44 percent of African-Americans believe Confederate memorials should stay, compared with 40 percent who say they should be removed. Nationwide, 6 in 10 Americans say the monuments should remain.”
      America doesn’t want angry, hateful, barbaric mobs destroying our heritage. You’re on the losing side.

      • Consent will be manufactured. A majority might oppose removal, but they won’t do anything about it for fear of doxxing. They are in no means prepared to protest against removal. The dedicated minority of far-left activists will accept arrest, fines (paid by foundation money, Patreon) and even jail time. And liberal politicians won’t arrest their own supporters. We’ve already go the “Conservative case for removing statues” and we will soon have the “Conservative case for reparations”.

        • Any defense of the statues is portrayed by the left as Nazism and a sympathy with Dylan Roof of Charleston, the Charlottesville fiasco didn’t help. If activists like the SCV are genuinely interested in protecting the statues, they will need to raise money to buy the statues and move them onto private property. In effect, the price of preserving the statues will be reparations. And costly security will still be needed if they are moved onto private property. The left has removed them with impunity in several major cities, with only one fatality.

          • To move Confederate monuments from public to private private property is to yield to the Left.

            This statue moving proposal is an example of cuckservative meekness and defeatism.

            I also wouldn’t bet on the demise of American football.

          • David,

            How much violence do you think the state is willing to use to protect unpopular monuments from leftist college students? How much violence do you think the average SCV member is personally willing to do to protect the monuments? How well will this violence play out to an overwhelmingly leftist media? I don’t see it happening, if anything we need accelerationism that leads to outright grave desecration, that might wake some people up.

        • There were counter-protesters present at UNC and a criminal investigation is ongoing regarding the vandals that pulled down the statue. Of course, we could always just concede the point to John Dent. It’s over, all is lost.

  9. The government seems to have failure modes unique to its model. The bottom line is there is no bottom line. In business there’s a limiting principle in that eventually the company runs out of money to support its stupid population. There is a way to measure its effectiveness.

    In theory the military can measure its effectiveness by winning battles and wars. In between those though it can tolerate enormous incompetence at every level. This is why you see people write about how a new jet is more combat effective, spend unlimited amounts of money on it, and reward themselves for increasing combat effectiveness. All without ever putting the jet into combat. It’s not just that it may be innefective, even competent people could be wrong about that. It’s that they have no way of knowing, and no way to judge whether the people who want it are competent. Their competence is judged on whether they like their own ideas.

    I imagine the CIA suffers from this just as much if not more. No doubt their ideas have prevented many terrorist attacks in their own mind. Whether they actually did in real life- that’s a little harder to judge.

  10. The NFL and MLB used to elect high IQ, man-of-action commissioners. This was necessary as the sports were trying to gain a popular foothold. Once that was accomplished the owners started electing mild, pliable commissioners with just enough intelligence. It’s made the owners money in the short term. But without assertive, Real-Men visionaries in the top spot, the long term isn’t looking good. Hasn’t for a while now.

    • They are also paying for it. Is there any orgainization in the last 25 years that has dropped the ball (so to speak) as badly as has the NFL in the last few years?

      • The NFL has known for years about the concussion/Alzheimer’s problem, but did nothing thinking it would go away. Tagliabue and Goddell were negligent even more than Selig was on steroids. Let’s not forget the evidence of HGH use in the NFL that they have ignored. They grew fat thinking the TV money would never go down, and that cities will continue to build taxpayer-funded stadiums. Time will tell if both Boomercons and Millenial leftists are turned off for good.

        • “The NFL has known for years about the concussion/Alzheimer’s problem, but did nothing thinking it would go away.” In fairness to the NFL I don’t think there’s ever been a business that took a costly moral action before it was compelled to. But yeah, I get the anger at the hypocrisy and moral preening.

          • Its hard to think of anything other than sportsball that would convince a Boomer conservative male to willingly spend time with a 75%+ black audience. Perhaps something related to religion, but most blacks prefer to attend historically black churches and they rarely attract tradition-minded people of other races. I don’t like R. Spencer, but he influenced my thinking on this issue.

          • Furthermore, if the NFL/NCAA wasn’t majority black, I suspect liberals would have gotten it shut down years ago. This is why the NFL isn’t fining its Black Power players, why it is adding female coaches and referees, not to mention male cheerleaders. They are desperate to show “wokeness” in order to stave off the hangman. In 10 years the NFL will be playing rugby/Australian or nothing at all.

          • De Beers, I have been trying to figure out the male cheerleader thing. I think you nailed it, they are trying to earn enough “wokeness” points to stave off the inevitable concussion liability meltdown. I don’t think it is going to work out too well for them.

          • If the NFL will convert to Australian rules, that will give the owners a chance to extort more money from local governments when the stadiums are converted to the larger fields.

  11. In the future, people will be scored on their pliability. The Chinese/Facebook “social score” will look for a combination of intelligence and the propensity for manipulation by the “right” sources. Most valued will be the smart people who never question or fail the “shit tests” that will be given as part of their indoctrination. Those who consistently internalize what they are fed by the “good” sources, and reject all others, will be rewarded.

  12. Zman, as I read this I was nodding in agreement. But afterward I got around to the central question of why a large organization would likely have a bigger share of incompetent leaders than a small one. I didn’t pick that up in your essay. Probably obvious, but I just missed it.

    What is it that doesn’t scale up? Communication maybe. But I don’t see how that by itself, causes the specific problem you outlined.

    • My own thinking is that the larger the organization, the easier it is for bullshitters to get to the top without taking the organization down. In a very small organization, incompetent leadership destroys the organization immediately, and wiping it off the face of the map affects nothing. In a bigger organization, it is easier for the incompetent leadership to be compensated for by competent underlings, or for the financial strength of the larger organization to carry incompetency (for a while).

      When you have a big country and the power of the printing press, the absolute ineptitude and occasional treason of the last four leaders (before the current one) can be endured.

    • My thinking is that let’s say there are 1000 smart people distributed over 100 companies. One company begins to grow, demanding more smart people. Inevitably, the price of smart people goes up. That and some smart people like being in smaller environments. So, the growing organization ends up replacing needed smart people with not so-so-smart. The same process then happens at that layer. This cycle keeps repeating until the ratio of smart, not-so-smart and mediocre tilts heavily to the mediocre.

      This is probably something I could work out in detail if I had more time. Just a hunch at this point though.

      • That sounds right to me and one other thing. When you got the mediocre people doing the hiring they don’t want to hire anyone that makes them look bad so they hire more and more mediocre or lesser people. It’s just downward spiral the whole way

        • This is an excellent point. I’ve been in candidate review meetings where someone would veto a hire because the person was too smart. When I used to administer standardized tests, I noticed that the few top-10 percenters tended to be excluded from consideration.

          • Interesting. I’ve actually never worked in the corporate world I got that from the book I read about the university system. Treadgold claims that is what’s happening with the hiring of new professors and the hiring committees are just looking for trendy buzzwords on dissertations.

        • This is also so called bioleninism. You know, putting stupid people on the high place makes them blind loyal. They will defend the system to defend themselves. Nobody want to drop from the Government adviser to the part time baggage handler where his normal place in the society would be. It is the softer version of stalinism. Comrade Stalin forced people to commit crimes to make them loyal.

          • Fan of Spandrell? He’s an infrequent blogger but his stuff is very insightful. His essay The Spectre of Nationalism is one of his best.

        • That’s an old business hiring maxim. The A-level talent recruits and hires other A-level talents. The B-level talents hire C-level. With an ever-growing shortage of top flight people, the ‘good’ people get overwhelmed by the mediocre and below. The size of the bureaucracy is a sign of this, as everything becomes committee and commission style initiatives.

  13. On the CIA there is a very interesting book, Deception, by Edward Epstein (he is a ((())) but I dont give a hoot about that, he’s a patriotic, marxie hating American), where he describes the spy games between the CIA and KGB. The CIA’s chief of counterintel in the 1950s and 60s was James Jesus Angleton, probably America’s best counterintel chief efter (Epstein liked this guy and the book persuaded me to like him too). Angleton was then fired in the early 70s, by what seemed from the book, typical DC hack types. And then, from the 1970s onward, and worse in the 1980s, the CIA and FBI was swamped with Russian spies, Ames, Hansson, there were termites all over the woodwork. I personally believe the ppl who got Angleton axed were probably encouraged by ppl secretly on the Kremlin’s payrole but who knows. In any case, the US has proved about as hard to penetrate for foreign spies as an open phone book. And, back to the ‘smart ppl’ theme, Angleton is a strong candidate for prototype of the genuinely gifted, unsociable type, vulnerable in a bureacracy to a merely smart careerist hack.

    • Angleton is a classic example of the truth of the old saying “Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean that they aren’t out to get you!” Angleton was most certainly paranoid, but he was also essentially right, at least when it came to the moles in the CIA. T any rate, Angleton illustrates the difference fifty years has made in the US. Guys like Angleton and Dulles (both of them) weren’t always right by any means, but they were serious men who loved their country and their civilization, and were trying to save both from an unprecedented existential threat. Comparing guys like them to Brennan is like comparing James Bond to Austin Powers (although to be fair, I doubt that Powers would have ever voted Communist – “Evil is for squares, baybee!”

      • For something like chief of counterintel you probably want a paranoid guy. I think that’s a little like calling a math professor ‘geeky’ or a navy seal ‘aggressive’. It’s what they’re supposed to be.

        Comparing Angleton to Brennan, you know I really believe a Soviet mole got the chief gatekeeper axed. I cant prove that, the book, by memory, does not say that. But I believe the infiltrators in the CIA got their most dangerous adversary in the end. And THEN all the skunks came out of the closet later.

        You dont want a nice, chatty, pleasant guy for counterintel boss. You want a paranoid, sullen, suspicious old fox. You want a guy like Angleton I think.

    • People still believe that James Jesus Angleton was competent? He was a one man disaster who cost the CIA many good men and accomplished nothing. Sure there were moles in the CIA, but none of them were the ones whose careers Angleton ruined. And there was Angleton’s good buddy, Kim Philby. The two would go out on long drunken lunches, where Angleton would leak CIA secrets to Philby, under the impression he was leaking them to the Brits. Philby, of course, had no qualms about leaking British secrets…considering his loyalties lay somewhere else entirely.

      Read Tom Mangold’s THE COLD WARRIOR.

      • If you know your shit on this story, without googling them, on ‘sportman’s honor’ lol, Golitsyn or Nosenko, who was the mole and who was legit?

        First thing, neither of us KNOW who was right, between Angleton and his detractors. That is my first acknowledgement. In these games, intellectual humbeness is an excellent place to start; spy games, infiltration and deception is where you get a bunch of ppl w the IQ to be math professors at Princeton or the Russian Academy of Sciences, to consider things like ‘why does a person or organization believe to know what they believe to know, how can that be manipulated and how can such a process be controlled?’ Dunning Kruger types are run over, ensnared and played like a fiddle in this game in two seconds flat. I think you are so sure of knowing what’s up and down here that I sense Dunning Kruger there. It’s a little like a guy claiming quantum mechanics is simple; whatever else he may know, you’ve established that he doesnt know physics.

        Books, often ‘memoirs’, are a typical way to plant fake stories. Several people were told by the CIA to ‘publish’ the same ‘memoirs’ in their own name, written by the CIA. A book doesnt prove anything, but the principle logic of information flow and epistemology, well, that s like a math proof in a text book, it cant be faked, either it makes sense or it doesnt. And that is introduced in Deception.

        I dont know what Mangold says but the man worked for many years for one of the true flagships of British Cultural Marxism, the BBC. THen various left-leaning outlets. You see a problem there??

        Kim Philby was a missed necktie party, no doubt. His betrayal certainly didnt make Angleton less paranoid.

      • Ha! I knew anyone admired by David Goldman (Spengler) was probably a danger to this country.

        The proteges of the Dulles and Angleton types have ruined us all. Couldn’t protect us from low con-men or grasping savages, much less from Leftist takeover.

  14. “The point is, an organization will not only want to attract the smart fraction, they will also want to attract the not-quite-so-smart fraction.”

    I would amend this to read “…they will also want to attract the competent fraction.”

    Intelligence and competence are not necessarily mutually inclusive. Nor are stupidity and incompetence. There are some low IQ people who can work a float and trowel like Michelangelo worked a paint brush. Ask them what planet they’re on and they might have to think about it before answering. On the other hand, there are likely some brain surgeons who would mutilate themselves 30 seconds after walking into a wood mill.

  15. Great insight Z, as usual. The same analysis can be made of our “modern” healthcare system. At one time your local hospital was run by the senior physicians and nurses. Now they are organized into vast health systems run by countless bureaucrats with no medical training or experience. The number of “administrators” has increased 2-3000% over two decades while the number of actual providers increased by 400%. The system was primed for mediocrity to rise to the top and it happened quickly. The number of decisions made based on “surveys” and PC culture are too numerous to count. Decisions made to actually improve patient care are hard to find. I suppose it should be expected. What would buildings full of mediocre bureaucrats know about medicine? Your solution for the CIA would also be very helpful here. Fire 75% of them tomorrow, a random selection would be fine. We might all live a little longer. We would certainly reign in the cost increases in healthcare.

    • Middle-management ( and some upper management positions) in inpatient healthcare is often just seniority-based, and has little or nothing to do with merit. IT is constantly tasked with trying to make-up for or safeguard against the crummy decisions that happen everyday when you put average IQ people (+ or – 1 SD) in charge of fairly complex systems. 90%+ of the care delivered to inpatients is through people who fall into the 85-115 range. My advice; don’t get sick.

  16. The very word central in cia means it was intended to aggregate all the incompetence of smaller intelligence organizations, just like dhs was formed out of the failure of 911.

  17. There’s no shortage of high IQ people, (more of us alive now than when we put a man on the moon for example) but we are mostly not distributed or well-utilized.

    Many (most?) of us are in a handful of cities working in jobs that boil down to makework whether that’s in advertising or FIRE or “consulting” or consumer software (Silicon Valley apps/sites) because the pay and conditions are better than doing anything valuable. Or becoming doctors which is very valuable but doesn’t require a high IQ.

    And many high IQ people are basically dropping out and becoming instagram influencers or other online grifts because the modern work environment really sucks even in “good” jobs.

    • I’ll admit that there seem to be some pretty stupid doctors out there, but most of the real dummies are the ones with the highest grades and entrance scores. Sometimes it seems that testing intelligence and common sense have an inversely proportional distribution.

      But in general I’d say that a minimum of 115 would be necessary to get through med school. For a white guy.

      • My dear old deceased father-in-law was a flight instructor at the local airfield. Towards the end of his career he had come to the point where he refused to accept a doctor as a student. He used to say “You can’t teach somebody who already knows everything. ” I’m sure that it’s unfair to judge a whole class of people by a few dunderhead, but he must have had some bad experiances as for the most part, he was a fairly reasonable man.

        • I was talking to a lawyer at a bar the other night. Sports and topical stuff at first. Opinionated as hell with lots of dumb prosaic opinions that, upon challenge, always sputtered out in unthinking cliche. He spoke with the arrogance of someone who knows his profession means he’s smart and right. And he was smart. It’s just that his personality (need for strong opinion/hostility) skewed his everyday perceptions.

          Much of the smart-but-dumb guy phenomenon can be explained by the Jungian Myers-Briggs notion of how people take in the world and how they’re comfortable thinking. The minute this clod started talking about the law and his cases he turned into Kenneth Minogue. Beautifully coherent and logical. And he wasn’t just reciting law, he became creatively fluid.

          It’s good the opportunities for bias and misperception were removed from his thinking/conversation otherwise I’d have assumed he was a complete dunce. I’m glad I ended the night respecting him.

        • My accountant says his worst clients are engineers. They are prickly and hostile because they don’t understand all his business involves and it pisses them off being helpless or at the mercy of someone else’s expertise.

      • Medicine is the last place I’d call people “low- IQ”. Even nursing. Look at their textbooks.
        I know stupid, and medical ain’t it.

  18. There are fast talking, confident doctors and surgeons, too. And it is very difficult to find out who is actually competent, even when you deal with them on a regular basis. The best way to find out about surgeons is to talk to OR staff about whose patients are seen back for complications more, but sometimes the ones who know are night staff, or the smarter of the less competent will have special people they refer their complications to out of town, and no one sees them. Colleagues do a good job of covering up for each other, too, especially nowadays with all the young docs trained in political correctness. They keep secrets better because they have been trained in fear of saying anything out of line. Conversations in the OR have turned into chit chat about nothing.

      • Spot on. Worked for a medical malpractice firm years ago. We referred to one of our regular clients as the Butcher. You learn that medicine is as much an art as a science. Do you want your surgeon to be Da Vinci or Picasso?

    • TeaParty: “There are fast talking, confident doctors and surgeons, too. And it is very difficult to find out who is actually competent, even when you deal with them on a regular basis.”

      So true. I’m fascinated by verbally fluent people, and the difference between those with substance and those with mere talk-ability. (Not to dismiss talkability, as it’s fascinating too). Myself, I suspect that people who are things & systems oriented, walk away from me thinking, “He’s quite possibly retarded.” As Zman said of Gorelick and Caroline Kennedy.

      Society hates bullshitters. Unless they’re charming. Then they’re rogues. Love them but don’t trust them. Bill Clinton is unhateable.

      Guys aren’t patient listeners but they’re serious listeners. With them the moment you open your mouth you’re on trial for being real or unreal, knowing or unknowing. Especially gear guys. They’re keen (almost hoping) to detect that another guy or reviewer doesn’t know what he’s talking about. And they’ll set him right with harshness. Salt of the Earth dudes DO NOT like bullshitters. Maybe they’re the reason Americans always had a reputation for fundamental honesty. Tough guys keeping “tough guys” in check.

    • The reality is they are often dis-economies of scale. Big organizations eventually become easy prey for small agile start-ups. I don’t lose too much sleep over Apple and Google. In a decade or two, they’ll be Sears.

    • Standardized parts and processes are a function of economies of scale. It works mostly for production of physical commodity goods. The lie is trying to apply economies of scale to intellectual or creative work efforts.

      • Eh. We don’t find big scale economies in hospitals, grocery stores, package delivery, farming, etc. & etc. There’s an efficient scale, don’t get me wrong, below which it doesn’t make sense to operate. But the idea that bigness is useful in general is total nonsense.

      • In education, you are consistently told that teaching is a science with research and “best practices.” it’s a waste of breath to try to explain the difference between an art and a science to these people, let alone the differences/variables you can have from one minute to the next. let alone one class to another, or one day to another.

        Our dept. head was big on this, with her newly-minted PhD but no classroom experience. She often told us what she thought of our “outdated” practices. One day a little girl came in from one of the two classes she taught each day, asking to borrow our overhead.

        With big eyes, she told us, “Mrs. —- got mad ‘cos were all talking and wouldn’t listen. She slammed her hand down on the overhead — and glass flew everywhere!” (But we were supposed to take her seriously as an “advisor” and “supervisor.”)

  19. And AA is undoubtably a big factor in gummmimg the wheels of these federal institutions. From my experience many of them have devolved into jobs programs for NAMs.

    I am intrigued about the thirty spies executed in China. I wish Z would give a reference for this, and would use references more generally, not because I doubt verity, but because I would like to read the original articles.

    An acquaintance of mine works in the VA hospital system and I have had limited experience with it, and he argues that the VA—even given its jaw dropping levels of systemic failure—cf. the writings of Ron Paul and numerous newspaper articles—is probably one of the more competent branches of the federal government. There are strong IQ filters for working there, such as medical and nursing school, together with the various licensure and accreditation systems. Also, the medical legal system provides an outside check on the level of incompetence that can perpetuate. Most government jobs have nowhere near that level of oversight! Can you imagine how bad the other bureaus must be? It’s no surprise at all that we were completely blind sided by 9/11.

    • A buddy of mine worked for the contractor that installed the DP security software in the US embassies and consulates circa 1990. Normally they were in the field, but would have to be Foggy Bottom for long stretches. He used to call 4:30pm the “deer hour”. It was like spooking herd of deer in a tall grass field as everyone popped up in their cubes and ran for the doors. You could be in a meeting working through a particularly thorny install process problem on tear sheets—and State employees would just…leave.

  20. In any organization, you can assume the Pareto Principle applies.
    Square root of total number does half the work
    So out of an 100 person org, 10 of them are doing half the work
    20% of them are doing 80% of the work

    • An organization in the major corporation I worked for was downsized by laying off the lowest rated 20%. I asked one of the survivors how it was going without that 20%. He replied that the 20% had been doing 5% of the work and now there wasn’t anyone to do that 5%.

  21. I would maintain that the CIA is no longer necessary. The Pentagon has its own intelligence gathering apparatus, and it is quite good. They do not trust the CIA and do not share information. Abolish the CIA.

    • When Truman reluctantly re-authorized the CIA after WWII he said “You can’t have a government by the people if the people don’t know what the government is doing”.

  22. “Another issue is that the inevitable shortage of smart people will lead to putting not-so-smart people into positions for which they are not qualified.”

    I work at a company in the top 200 of the Fortune 500. We are absolutely plagued by management level idiots who think they are smart, but are as dumb as door nails. Not that this will be a surprise to many, but the majority of them (at least 90%) are self identified progressives.

    “Then there is the problem of people being judged within an organization based on their social skills, rather than their intelligence and competence.”

    True, hence the 90%+ rate of progressives running things.

    Alas. our company you can add skin color and gay lifestyle to the mix. We have upper level managers who could not manage a lemonade stand on their own, but advanced strictly because of the darkness of their pigment or how LGBQTDIWVOEM they are. Managers who make disasters out of everything they touch, but never seem to get reprimanded for it. A low level employee coughs the wrong way, they are quickly suspended or shown the door.

    One of our biggest jokes is when management will send survey’s to the employees, asking them how things can be improved. The survey’s are as worthless as the paper they are printed on. They ignore the employees and fix things that are not broken and ignore the broken things that need fixed. Sort of like how Government works, but on a company wide scale.

    “Hey Dave, sounds like you guys need a union!” We have one. They are in bed with management, but when it comes time to vote for shop stewards, Local Lodge leaders, etc, they come out for a few weeks and tell us how they are fighting for our rights and how they are going to increase job security and pay. Then we get a shitty contract that concedes everything to the company, told we won’t get a better contract and things will be dire if we don’t vote yes. Somehow the votes always seem to squeak by in favor of the contract and then the employees get screwed again.

    Just like voting for regular politicians too! Anybody see a pattern?

    • Unions are really only valuable in dire situations. They should be formed in the need of the moment and disbanded as quickly. Otherwise they just become self-serving, self-perpetuating bureaucracies, as you have described.

    • Wow, your workplace sounds like mine. The cancer has most definitely metastasized! Diversity uber alles.

  23. I just read a book called The University We Need by Warren Treadgold. The first half of the book detailed all the problems with the current University system of which I’m sure we’re all aware and the second half detailed his solutions. One was legislative and the other was to build an entire new University. He went through the logistics of it all but I couldn’t help but laugh because you could not pour the foundation on a conservative University without the social justice warriors showing up every night to pickaxe it into pieces. We have passed the point of compromise. We’re just going to have to wait for it all to burn down. Which sucks for all of us 50 and up because it’s unlikely the fires will go out before we do

    • Sad but true, Whitney. Especially applies to those of us 70 and up! My grandfather, died at 94 more than a half century ago, used to pound his cane on the floor and proclaim, “I just want to live long enough to see how all this turns out.” Sorry gramps. I won’t either. Tim

      • Nice, anyway, to live to see the revolt of the Deplorables. Ten years ago, were supposing we would witness the fall of America in our lifetimes.

  24. John Brennan was also the CIA station chief in Riyadh when the Khobar Towers bombing occurred killing 19 Air Force personnel. Investigators blamed the attack’s success on intelligence and security failures.

    In a private company, management would have realized that the guy was already well above his level of incompetence. Instead, he was elevated to the Director of the CIA a few years later.

      • It also doesn’t help that Brennan was a flat-out actual Communist supporter back in the 1970’s. Gus Hall, the Communist candidate for president in 1976, only got about 58,000 votes in the entire United States – and our former CIA Director was one of them. Aside from the obvious problems of loyalty, this also raises serious concerns about his intelligence. By the ’70’s, everybody with two brain cells to rub together knew what Communism was. I mean, this was after Khruschev’s secret speech, after “The Gulag Archpelago”, after the Cultural Revolution, after it had become apparent to everyone, even loony hippies, that the CPUSA was a wholly owned subsidiary of the USSR. And yet, Brennan actually voted Communist – not Socialist, not Green, actual Hammer and Sickle Communist in 1976, and he still seems to regard this as something idealistic. I mean, never mind disloyalty, we’re talking serious stupidity here.

        • I’ve wondered about that myself, Toddy Cat. How on earth does a person who voted communist get into the CIA to begin with? You mean out of 300 million Americans the only guy qualified was some moron who voted for the abolition of private property? Right there whoever hired him should be held under suspicion of sedition.

          • Yes, especially since you know that if he had voted for the American Nazi Party, or even been a Bircher, he would never have been hired by the CIA, let alone made director. It’s interesting to know that subscribing to a philosophy that was responsible for between 50-100 million deaths (depending on how you count and who you believe) and that was the philosophy of America’s greatest adversary in the second half of the Twentieth Century somehow doesn’t disqualify you from heading up America’s premier intelligence agency. Very interesting indeed.

          • “When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.” Which in this case means the CIA is and always has been as left wing as State. That condition has accelerated since ’09, but it was always present. Stanley Dunham was a CIA stringer going way back.. His gay mullato didn’t appear out of fairy dust.

      • Along with Susan Rice, Senior Deputy Director of African Affairs 1995-97. These two have managed to fail spectacularly upward throughout their careers,leaving a trail of mangled,bleeding bodies.

        • That little beady-eyed bitch! BHO surrounded himself with women like that, who were TOTALLY dependent on him for their status — including the awful Michelle. Barack was so insecure that he was willing to make our country weaker just so he could feel better about his own lack of gonads.

    • This is a phenomenon you see all over government. Failing up is so common, we have a term for it. Jamie Gorelick, who is quite possibly retarded, has gone from one disaster to another, collecting millions along the way.

      • It’s because they know those people are yes man and would never tell those above them to go stick it because they’re stupid…It’s in every organization but more pronounced in government because gov. doesn’t have to turn a profit…

      • In DoD contracting we called it “FUMU” F**k Up, Move Up, With AA’s it worked like a charm. With whites it worked as long as you personable and weren’t seen as being ‘too smart’ which management often equated with being dangerous to them.

        There is a article floating around the internet from a ANG colonel who served in Afghanistan and who did briefings for the top brass over there. In a article he recounted that making a mistake on a Power Point presentation would send the generals into a state of confusion and panic. He basically had to keep to certain way of presenting data to them so as not to panic the poor simpletons. BTW the Army sent him home after the article for making the brass look like children.

        But they are. Same with senior contractor management. You wonder why weapons cost so and take decades to finish. It’s all the flat out incompetents in the DoD.

    • The establishment does not want intelligent people in charge of the bureaucracy, it wants safe, reliable and pliable people. That includes all of the branches of the military as well. The establishment wanted a couple of females wearing the RANGER tab, so a major general kindly took them by the hand and led them through the training. Amazingly, they passed! Is that fellow a three star now? What do you think?

      • Schools are a bureaucratic institute where this has worked extremely well. Those who do not want to or cannot handle themselves in the classroom are always the ones making double a teacher’s salary for “supervising” them; people have no idea how little autonomy teachers have (and what they have, they have learned to grab for themselves.)

        Worked with a sub whose son was just finishing up school. He was planning to go into school administration, so he would be a 24-year-old with no classroom experience evaluating, hiring and meeting with teachers. The idea that he was going straight into it, not even working in the classroom for awhile– well, that takes a lot of audacity, doesn’t it?

        • Yep, walking on eggshells with their hands tied for 30+ years, no wonder they feel they’ve earned it.

    • If your goal as president and CIC is to wreak havoc on functioning, or better yet semi-functioning institutions of government, especially those tasked with national security, then Brennan’s being an incompetent ideologue and addled lunatic – traits fulsomely displayed by the man on the merest acquaintance, as his TV persona demonstrates – are hardly disqualifications for a Director of Central Intelligence. What is the current year jargon? It’s not a bug, it’s a feature?

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