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24 November 2014 @ 08:52 am
supergee's laws of stupidity  
1. A corporation will do things too stupid for a person to do.

2. A government will do things too stupid for a corporation to do.

3. The bigger a corporation gets, the more it resembles a government.
sturgeonslawyer: Defaultsturgeonslawyer on November 24th, 2014 03:35 pm (UTC)
Complete agreement with #1 and #3.

Qualified disagreement with #2: a corporation will do things stupider than a government than which it is bigger (e.g., Chevron-Mobil vs. the government of Belize)

ETA: Come to think of it, with that qualification, this reduces to RAW's law about the failur of real information to propagate upward in a hierarchy.

Edited at 2014-11-24 03:37 pm (UTC)
Kalimac: puzzlekalimac on November 24th, 2014 06:53 pm (UTC)
I think you mean that the stupid decisions of a large entity can have greater impact than those of a small entity, not that the decisions are more inherently stupid. Governments of small countries, or small companies, are capable of being epically stupid. It's just that you're not so likely to hear about it as when a large one does it, because it's less likely to affect large numbers of people. How many small websites must crash upon first opening? You don't hear about them. But if it's Obamacare ...

The most stupidly corrupt municipal governments in California are among of the smallest cities. (Check out Vernon, literally the smallest city by population in California, and vastly the most corrupt, and mightily stupid about it.) Larger ones can be corrupt, but they're less stupid about it. Smaller US states tend to pass stupider laws. The stupidest state government right now is undoubtably Kansas, not particularly large.

On the general applicability of #2, if it's true it's because governments, especially national ones, are larger and more pervasive than most corporations. But when the corporations are larger or more pervasive than the governments, then watch out.
sturgeonslawyersturgeonslawyer on November 24th, 2014 07:18 pm (UTC)
No, I'm referring to the fact that, the larger an organization is, the larger its hierarchy is. And, in a hierarchy, the farther you are up the food chain, the less accurate is the information you receive from below, because people naturally color the information they pass to their superiors to make their superiors happy. Thus this chain:

Workers: "This product is a crock of shit, and it stinks."

Foremen: "This product is a container of excrement, and none may abide its odor."

Managers: "This product is a vessel of fertilizer, and none may abide its strength."

Middle managers: "This product contains that which aids plant growth, and it is very strong."

Upper managers: "This product promotes growth and is powerful."

You get the idea. Nobody lied, everyone passed on _approximately_ what they heard, but the message got so twisted it was actually reversed. This is an extreme example, but this kind of shading happens all the time.

Robert Anton Wilson called this the SNAFU principle.
Kalimackalimac on November 24th, 2014 07:25 pm (UTC)
But that is far from the only cause of stupidity, even institutional stupidity. A very small institution can be stupid because of individual stupidity and not enough bureaucracy to stop it.

You're arguing from general principles, but it would be wise to look at the actual rates of stupidity in the world first and match that against the theory. The largest organizations are not always the stupidest.
Christine Quinonesbugsybanana on November 25th, 2014 01:13 am (UTC)
As the saying goes, any sufficiently advanced stupidity is indistinguishable from malice.
(Anonymous) on November 28th, 2014 03:38 am (UTC)
Stupid is...as subjective as stupid does. Good Joke. Stupid Joke. Effective wit.
Qualify stupid. Now comprehend for the humour in the post, the ambiguity and have a laugh. If Stupid becoming subjective; the joke withers, argument reduced to the actions of the gov. of Belize and Chevron.
Ultimately our lack of smarting boycott and non-voting is stupider than the idea of life on a moon of Jupiter. t. It is stupid for me to continue on this point, unless I was trying to win instant status-identity as a know it all, which would be stupid.
Great philosophical, geometrical relational joke. Stupid, the best kind. Effective.
et in Arcadia egoboo: Sacred Chaoapostle_of_eris on November 24th, 2014 09:35 pm (UTC)
Bureaucracy is bureaucracy. Generally, it gets worse as it gets bigger.
I would expect stupidity to correlate more with size, age, and success in eradicating accountability than with "private" or "government".
(Anonymous) on December 1st, 2014 04:29 am (UTC)
Topical Recommendation: Beyond Power/Knowledge an exploration of the relation of power, ignorance and stupidity by David Graeber. May 2006. LSE.
I cam here from Tom Jackson's RAW site and was rewarded with a memory of a very good piece on stupid bureaucracy. Thanks SuperGee.
El Coyote Gordo: sacred chaosupergee on December 1st, 2014 10:09 am (UTC)
Welcome. Stick around, and feel free to introduce yourself. I don't do locked posts.
eub on November 25th, 2014 08:10 am (UTC)
Some stupid, but a lot of amoral, is the defining essence of these large organizations. If they were people, they'd be profoundly deficient in moral sense; even the organizations that have principles have the motivations of a driven sociopath who in the absolute best case is working hard to simulate moral behavior.

Lewis Thomas wrote an essay saying that if nation-states were people, the only people whose nature they would even approach were some particular group described by an anthropologist (wrongly, I later heard, as might not surprise you) as being without friends or family ties or any other human motivation to prevent them from shitting on each other's doorsteps on a whim.