America’s Escalating Incompetence Crisis – JP
There is an excellent read at Palladium by Harold Robertson about the competence crisis. Put simply, it’s a lot like the recent push to get kids into the local Uni instead of trade schools. There’s a dearth of qualified trade workers. Now, apply that to every occupation becasue of the culture shift.
The core issue is that changing political mores have established the systematic promotion of the unqualified and sidelining of the competent. This has continually weakened our society’s ability to manage modern systems. At its inception, it represented a break from the trend of the 1920s to the 1960s, when the direct meritocratic evaluation of competence became the norm across vast swaths of American society. …
The resulting norms have steadily eroded institutional competency, causing America’s complex systems to fail with increasing regularity. In the language of a systems theorist, by decreasing the competency of the actors within the system, formerly stable systems have begun to experience normal accidents at a rate that is faster than the system can adapt. The prognosis is harsh but clear: either selection for competence will return or America will experience devolution to more primitive forms of civilization and loss of geopolitical power.
America has become obsessed with putting appearance above skill. From Meritocracy to Diversity, to quote the author. A journey he outlines beginning in the ’60s and through today from College faculty and admissions to Corporate board rooms. The picture he paints is not a still life. The cascade of failures that follow are very real. From his opening,
In a span of fewer than six months in 2017, three U.S. Naval warships experienced three separate collisions resulting in 17 deaths. A year later, powerlines owned by PG&E started a wildfire that killed 85 people. The pipeline carrying almost half of the East Coast’s gasoline shut down due to a ransomware attack. Almost half a million intermodal containers sat on cargo ships unable to dock at Los Angeles ports. A train carrying thousands of tons of hazardous and flammable chemicals derailed near East Palestine, Ohio. Air Traffic Control cleared a FedEx plane to land on a runway occupied by a Southwest plane preparing to take off. Eye drops contaminated with antibiotic-resistant bacteria killed four and blinded fourteen.
While disasters like these are often front-page news, the broader connection between the disasters barely elicits any mention. America must be understood as a system of interwoven systems; the healthcare system sends a bill to a patient using the postal system, and that patient uses the mobile phone system to pay the bill with a credit card issued by the banking system. All these systems must be assumed to work for anyone to make even simple decisions. But the failure of one system has cascading consequences for all of the adjacent systems. As a consequence of escalating rates of failure, America’s complex systems are slowly collapsing.
Appeasing the social justice gods requires sacrifice and it comes not just in the rejection of qualified applicants but in the lives of regular Americans. And it is an altar upon which more than just bodies will pile. The decline in skill at every level leads to a loss of institutional knowledge and a reduction in the number of qualified or capable persons to teach their replacements.
It is the making a copy of a copy of a copy. Each iteration is less legible until you can’t tell what it was to begin with.
Think about the consequences for air travel (manufacturing, pilots, and air traffic controllers) to the military (from contractors to soldiers), to the very heart of every company.
Promoting diversity over competency does not simply affect new hires and promotion decisions. It also affects the people already working inside of America’s systems. Morale and competency inside U.S. organizations are declining. Those who understand that the new system makes it hard or impossible for them to advance are demoralized, affecting their performance. Even individuals poised to benefit from diversity preferences notice that better people are being passed over and the average quality of their team is declining. High performers want to be on a high-performing team. When the priorities of their organizations shift away from performance, high performers respond negatively.
What are the long-term consequences of this cultural shift?
[C]atastrophic normal accidents will happen with increasing regularity. While each failure is officially seen as a separate issue to be fixed with small patches, the reality is that the whole system is seeing failures at an accelerating rate, which will lead in turn to the failure of other systems. In the case of the Camp Fire that killed 85 people, PG&E fired its CEO, filed Chapter 11, and restructured. The system’s response has been to turn off the electricity and raise wildfire insurance premiums. This has resulted in very little reflection. The more recent coronavirus pandemic was another teachable moment. What started just three years ago with a novel respiratory virus has caused a financial crisis, a bubble, soaring inflation, and now a banking crisis in rapid succession.
It cannot be lost on anyone with a modicum of common sense that absent an abrupt change in culture and priorities, America will collapse on its own in a few generations, if not sooner. And our enemies, if not complicit in the decline, are certainly watching and could take advantage before we implode on our own.
HT | Palladium