The benefit of hiring incompetent people

October 18, 2006 | By | 1 Reply More

Last night, my local PBS station aired a ‘Frontline’ program, called “The Lost Year in Iraq,” about the Bush Administration’s handling of the Iraq occupation.  Among other things, it confirms that Americans who sought civilian jobs to help rebuild Iraq were asked questions such as whether or not they had voted for Bush, and whether or not they supported Roe v. Wade — questions that would not only be irrelevant, but illegal, in any other American hiring situation.  Apparently, this was how recent college graduates with no work experience got jobs as senior strategic planners, and how Iraq — a nation with 40% unemployment — got a flat tax.  Bush’s programs to “reconstruct” Iraq are reminiscent of FDR’s New Deal programs, but instead of helping the poor, unemployed and homeless, Bush’s “New Deal” programs have been a boondoggle for incompetent Republicans.

What I learned from the program is that incompetent leaders (like Bush) hire incompetent followers for the same reason that fish swim in schools — because it enables the leader to disappear into the crowd.  When disaster comes — and it will come — an incompetent leader with incompetent followers has plenty of scapegoats to share the blame for the various aspects of the disaster.  Plus, there will be many more messes to fix, so the leader’s own mess becomes merely one of many, thereby diluting its importance and diverting attention from the leader’s bumbling.  Better to have a lot of messes, with a lot of culpability to go around, than to have just one mess that spotlights the leader’s shortcomings. 

Seeing this PBS show, it is easy to understand why the Iraq insurgency got started, why Abu Ghraib happened, why Iraq is the gigantic mess it is today and why “stay the course” is Bush’s canned answer to everyone calling for change:  Bush protects himself by surrounding himself with incompetent people, and that’s not something he wants to change.


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About the Author ()

Grumpypilgrim is a writer and management consultant living in Madison, WI. He has several scientific degrees, including a recent master’s degree from MIT. He has also held several professional career positions, none of which has been in a field in which he ever took a university course. Grumps is an avid cyclist and, for many years now, has traveled more annual miles by bicycle than by car…and he wishes more people (for the health of both themselves and our planet) would do the same. Grumps is an enthusiastic advocate of life-long learning, healthy living and political awareness. He is single, and provides a loving home for abused and abandoned bicycles. Grumpy’s email: grumpypilgrim(AT)@gmail(DOT).com [Erich’s note: Grumpy asked that his email be encrypted this way to deter spam. If you want to write to him, drop out the parentheticals in the above address].

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  1. Erika Price says:

    Having equally incompetent peons also ensures that groupthink without anyone having the presence of mind to speak out against ideas that sound foolish.

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