Failing Up

In the 17th century, European elites told themselves and their subjects that it was providence that put them in charge. For most of human history, blaming God for the rulers has been a popular option. The alternative is some system where rulers are determined through merit. Exceptional warriors have often risen to the top of their society. Wealthy merchants would graduate into the ruling class either through bribery or marriage.

In modern times, western elites have no use for God and they are allergic to discussing nature as it applies to humans. Instead we have this make-believe meritocracy. The first step is to go to the right prep schools so you can get into the right college. Then it off to graduate school for networking and rubswabbery. Once those credentials are obtained, then it is getting the right jobs to fill out the resume and make the right friends.

Finally, if you worked the system correctly, you get into that top tier, where all of sudden the floor becomes impenetrable. You have made the club and unless you harm the reputation of the club or call into question the logic of the club, you are in the club for life, no matter what you do. That’s why government service has become the ticket to great wealth. It’s like having your own private toll booth on the highway. You get paid by simply being there. The managerial elites is a collection of toll takers.

Today we have this story about the perpetually wrong Larry Summers possibly getting the job of Fed Chairman. This was the guy who did the hatchet job on Brooksley Born over derivatives. She was the person who tried to blow the whistle of Long Term Capital, a trillion-dollar hedge fund that was about to go bust due to creative accounting. LTC had powerful friends in the managerial class, so they were saved by the government and the whole matter was swept under the rug. Again, that floor never gives way.

Everything Summers said back then turned out to be completely wrong. The single biggest economic event of the modern era and he was totally wrong. Yet, he is held up as an expert. Granted, it is economics, a profession with no right answers, only models of right answers. Still, you would think getting the one big thing wrong would have some impact on his career. That’s never how it works in the managerial state

He’s far from being an exception. In fact, he is the norm. There are whole professions that now have become inoculated against their own failures. The intelligence community got it all wrong at the end of the Cold War and they totally missed the rise of Islamic extremism, but they just get more money and power. We are rocketing toward a police state, because the people in charge are staggeringly incompetent. They just keep failing up.