Punchinello’s Chronicles

October 6, 2008

The Peter Principle of Democracy

Filed under: Surely a Jest? — Punchinello @ 1:29 am
Tags: , , ,

Back in the 1960s, Dr. Laurence J. Peter spoke about the natural selection process in business leading to incompetency. The gist of the thesis is that an employee is promoted because they’re doing a great job where they’re working. Each time they move up the ladder, they learn the ropes and do another great job in the promotion position. Eventually, they reach a point where they can’t learn the ropes and do a poor and incompetent job. At that point, they no longer are promoted.

The problem is that the employee remains at the perfect job level where they’ve demonstrated they’re not competent for the position. “The Peter Principle” phrase went on to enter popular culture, referring to the rampant incompetence we find everywhere, not only in business.

One example that stuck in my mind was when Dr. Peter went to a local zoo with his kids. Viewing the tiger area, he was reading the story on the tigers. It said that these tigers were known to be capable of leaps greater than 20 feet! Moving along the habitat area, he found a sign that indicated the moat protecting the visitors from the tigers was 10 feet wide.

So too, we have a problem in democratic elections that the forefathers likely never thought about at all. Who would have imagined a polarization so complete that the voting population is split right down the middle between conservatives and liberals?

For every conservative vote, there’s a liberal vote to cancel it out (or vice versa). Anyone with a mind, regardless of their particular interests in politics is part of this polarization. So who’s left to vote? The so-called undecideds.

These undecided voters are either stupid, lying, or could care less about politics and the nature of the country. They might have a one-issue, one-track mind and will vote for the candidate who wears boxer shorts as opposed to jockey shorts for underwear.

But even in these indecisive demographics we see the same split. It isn’t due to polarized ideologies, it’s because of random probabilities. Since undecided voters are basically just taking a wild guess, probability distributions end up showing a 50-50 split between two parties. Ergo, the bulk of the undecideds are out of the the picture.

Who’s left?

There may be ten or twenty utter morons, old enough to somehow gather up a voting registration. Or they may be wandering drunks who received a bottle of wine for registering to vote. In a complete stupor, they have no idea what’s going on around them, much less any thoughts about the future of America.

That’s who will decide the election! A handful of the dumbest possible voters; people who can’t fathom politics, don’t understand economics or ideals, and simply have no concept of a social structure. Great!


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