The Elite are Not Good at Strategic and Long-Term Thinking: 1
Many apparently non-retarded people seem to believe members of the so-called “elite class” are very good at strategic and long-term thinking. This particular belief is the basis for pretty much all conspiracy theories which you would have ever heard or read about. But is that belief true? or is it just a case of wish projection? Remember, I am not denying that people try to conspire or scheme. The real question is whether they can achieve anything beyond pissing in the rain.
In my opinion there are two types of reasons why the “elite” are far less competent than most people can imagine.
1. A ‘winner takes all’ system, like the one we live in, favors luck and chance over competence.
Let me clarify this point with a few examples. Would Microsoft be what it is today if it had not gotten a few important lucky breaks in the beginning or its now-extinct competitors made fewer mistakes? Think about it.. Was MS-DOS or Windows the best or even only Operating System for 1980-1990 era PCs? Was IBM the most popular PC manufacturer throughout the 1980s? Were all of its competitors such as Commodore, Apple and Amiga or even IBM staffed with incompetent engineers and programmers? So why did they not win the PC race? Could it be that it was luck and chance, not competence or ability, that made Microsoft the still undisputed leader in PC operating systems?
Let us take WalMart as another example. Beyond all the talk about their wonderful supply chains and logistics lies the real reason for their success- cheap manufacturing in developing countries. Ask yourself- How much of its success is dependent on the neo-liberal policies followed by the USA since the 1980s and concurrent mercantilism practiced by totalitarian low-wage countries such as China? The success of WalMart is largely due to being the right place at the perfect time with the right attitude. Changing any one of these pre-conditions would have changed the outcome of retail shopping in the USA.
2. Money and reputation from previous “wins” can be used cover current mistakes.
Ok, here are some rhetorical questions. Would any company other than Microsoft Have been able to survive the flops known as ‘Windows Me‘ and ‘Vista‘? In both cases, revenue from their previous successes such as Win98, Win NT and WinXp allowed them to weather failures that would have killed pretty much any other company. But what does repeatedly making such potentially lethal mistakes say about their intrinsic competence? Or take Apple, which also made many mistakes (Lisa, Newton) and took many mistakes (they initially resisted independent apps on the iPhone).
Another good set of examples concerns the recent failures of new drugs in Phase II and Phase III human clinical trials. Many of these new drugs were supposed to be blockbusters, and yet they failed miserably after each consuming billions of dollars and years of research by thousands of people. How could so many thousands of “super-smart” people fuck up so badly? In many cases, the fuck-ups were so basic and obvious that even a bunch of semi-retarded people would have figured them out.
Or look at the F-22.. they still cannot fix problems in the oxygen supply for pilots for an airplane that cost over 200 million dollars a piece. Even worse, the F-22 program has suffered from even more basic failures in the past- in many cases after induction of the aircraft in the USAF. How can people who are supposedly “smart and competent” make such big mistakes.. again and again? Or take Donald Trump.. How many times have businesses run by that guy defaulted on their creditors? and yet he seems to have little problem raising money for his next batch of hare-brained schemes. Or ask yourself- How many of Warren Buffet’s “wins” are due to legalized corruption, sweetheart deals and discrete influence peddling?
The reality is that the so-called “elite” are often less competent than your average village idiot. Only social inertia, slick image manipulation and the willingness of people to believe in a ‘fair’ world keep them relevant.
These people don’t have even the basics of what they claim to excel in. Take strategic thinking. People often forget that quality strategic thinking requires a high degree of objectivity which in turn requires a certain level of detachment from your immediate environment to see the bigger and less obvious picture. The “elite”, on the other hand, use their money and position in society to insulate themselves from the bigger picture. They tend to focus on the minutiae such as status jockeying (where they studied, traveled, ate, drank or what they read, saw, listened to etc). They spend their whole lives trying to think about as small a slice of reality as possible, while claiming to be good at seeing it all.
The “elite” also claim to be good at ‘long-term’ thinking- but the bulk of evidence suggests otherwise. Let us first consider the obvious problem with any ‘long-term’ planning aka our inability to predict the future. Given that many “super-smart” people have been repeatedly shown to be so wrong, should we even trust anybody who claims to predict the future? How can you predict any process which you neither understand nor control? Look at human history.. it is full of so many actions and decisions which in retrospective look like the handiwork of severely retarded persons. However all of these actions and decisions were conceived, executed and supported by the “best of the best” and the “brightest” minds of that era. How come these “most respectable” and “meritorious” people kept on fucking up so badly- century after century, millenia after millenia? Note that many of these fuckups hurt the “elite” in power as bad or even worse that the populations they were lording over.
I believe that the best way to model “elite” thought, behavior and actions in any human society is to ask yourself the simple question- What would a parasite do? aka WWPD?
What do you think? Comments?