Tuesday, November 19, 2013

The Gervais Principle Applied to Government

If you have ever read The Gervais Principle, you’d recognize a lot of those patterns in real life.  But applying those principles to government becomes more troublesome, given the disconnected nature of democracy.

In his articles, he frames it based on the following hierarchy:

The “losers” are actually just the average grunts who have traded success for security in the labor market.  Most are aware of what it takes to become successful but refuse to do so based on either apathy, lethargy, or morality.  They are called “losers” because they are economic losers.  Most people fall into that category.

The “clueless” are simply the people who believe in the institution they work for and are placed as a buffer between the losers and the sociopaths.  They are there to provide the dreaded middle management position and do so without any realization that they are being used.  They are often high-performing losers before being promoted to higher positions.  As an example, Venkat uses the character of Michael Scott from The Office.  But he is probably the most extreme example.

The “sociopaths” are merely the men and women with drive and ambition.  They were, at best, mediocre losers who managed to know how the game was played and went up the corporate ladder quickly (like Ryan from The Office).  They will fail, especially early on, but often times end up succeeding in other ways.  John Corzine is a great example of this as a man who has done nothing but fail upwards.  To be clear, sociopaths as used in the example are not evil, but simply people with the will to power, as Venkat describes.

But how would we apply this structure to the United States Federal government?  The hierarchy applies there as well, but are supposed to believe that the elected officials are the sociopaths?

I submit that the vast majority of elected officials are simply clueless, especially the higher up the leadership hierarchy.  This is because sociopaths do not like to be put into positions where they can be blamed for failure and instead prefer to allow the blame to be placed on other things.

This was not always the case.  I’d argue that all Presidents up to Bill Clinton were sociopaths.  It appears to me that President George W. Bush (Jr.) was the first president to fall into the clueless category.  While he was surrounded by sociopaths, such as Dick Chaney and Donald Rumsfeld, he was clearly not a sociopath.  Likewise, President Barack Obama is also a clueless middle manager, though he firmly believes in the Socialist State where as Bush believed in the Corporate State.

I think Bill Clinton was the last one because first of all the USGov had gotten too big as an institution to properly manage upfront and secondly because of his impeachment.  Right or wrong, this is where we see the big failure of allowing a sociopath to obtain the presidency.  Blame cannot be pinned on them and so the other sociopaths who have made a career out of political power decided it was better to hold up a member of the clueless rather than risk another sociopath’s fall.

So the Losers are non-government workers, the Clueless are low-level government workers and politicians, and the Sociopaths are the corporate and bureaucratic elite (or aristocracy).  Understanding this function is crucial to understanding how the government truly operates.