2020 election, Bureaucrcy, Education, Famous Commn People, Millennials

Judging the “Expert Class” in Times of Crisis, the John Cleese Axiom

A few weeks ago I posted a short 3-minute clip of John Cleese, of Monty Python fame, as he introduced his 2020 comedy tour. I had planned to see him in Richmond this Fall, but expect it may be cancelled.

Too bad because it would likely be relevant to what is going in America today.

It’s very quick and you can see it here.

You see, John is saying what virtually every American over 30, with a family and home, and a job, is already experienced in dealing with.

Having been a part of the legal class for many years I came to recognize it there first, and only later among the corporate management class, the “organization man” of the 80s, and more recently, as today, to the bureaucratic government class in general.

In my courtroom days lawyers had a glib joke we told among ourselves “If you can’t beat them with brilliance, baffle them with bullshit.” This can mean all sorts of things, since lawyers generally feared judges, regardless of how they felt about their legal knowledge. No one ever tried to BS a judge, trying to project only brilliance in arguing motions.. Then, if they lost, would they turn to the jury and turn on a variety of songs and dances to edify or confuse them.

We see this more often in news editorials, so everyone is familiar with the process.

Corporate bosses rarely did any of this, even in meetings. And before Google Searches and Facebook, no one really knew whether Ernie the Plumber, Fred the Roofer, or John’s Termite Service was really very good, and had to call around for recommendations the old fashioned way. (Still the best way, I might add.)

The government and its bureaucrats generally operated outside our view, and everything they seem to come off of a check list, as Cleese explained, rarely having to deal with situations that fell outside the four corners of the job description…a problem they’d never seen or hadn’t been trained for. Even state health department inspectors have a check-list.

When we see these people on television, we have ask ourselves, as John Cleese mentions, are they the 1 out of 7 who do know, or the 6 out of 7 who don’t know, only don’t know they don’t know?

You see, Cleese asked a psychiatrist he knew to be very good, how many in his profession were actually good at what they were certified to do. The psychiatrist replied, about 10%.

Then over time, he inquired about several other professions, from writers, editors, and odd-jobs handymen. No profession earned higher than 20%.

Then Cleese consulted a study by a researcher at Cornell that makes sense; namely that for a person to actually know how good he/she is at certain skills, that person must know the very same things that it required to be good at the skill in the first place.

This leads to the logical conclusion that those who are not good at what they do haven’t the skills to know they don’t know they aren’t good at it.

More specifically, people who are not good at certain things have no way of knowing they are not good at it..unless their customers or someone of higher ranks tells them so.

Well, in certain government positions these people can’t be removed and arguably can’t be officially told. So, since we’re the ultimate employer, it’s anyone’s guess what they might have done when confronting a situation they didn’t know how to handle. There are several options, depending on who confronts them. One of them, as I explained above, is to try and baffle their interrogator with bull shit.

Now, take Cleese’s rule one step further, and place the inept but doesn’t know he’s inept, public official on a public stage, and Situation A) is either questioned by a 20-30 something year-old member of the media, or Situation B) is questioned by a trial lawyer who does know what he’s talking about, as in the recent impeachment trial.

As the ultimate jury, it’s the general public who watches these events occur side-by-side that had better be able to distinguish between the two, and react accordingly.

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