Light Bulb Goes On

Just today dawned on me, while contemplating how far Scientific American and other once noble scientific organs and organizations (like the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists mentioned in the last post) have fallen or have been conquered by political hacks: given Pournelle’s Iron Law, to take over an organization, one needn’t take over the leadership positions – one merely needs to take over the bureaucracy. Sooner rather than later, that bureaucracy will become the real leaders, and can then get whoever they want as nominal leaders.

One day, I imagine some lover of science who established or joined some group in order to further science will wake up to find some hack who joined in order to run the bureaucracy is his boss, or the one who approves his hires or funding – and he leaves or is driven out. Someone more amenable to the bureaucracy’s goals then get the job or position.

So if you want to co-op an existing organization for your ends, don’t go after the leadership jobs – just get appointed manager or assistant treasurer or HR head – and be patient (and not all that patient) and you can soon call the shots.

This explains a number of things I’ve seen. Y’all probably knew this already?

Author: Joseph Moore

Enough with the smarty-pants Dante quote. Just some opinionated blogger dude.

4 thoughts on “Light Bulb Goes On”

  1. A certain amount of this arises, I think, from the same principles behind aphorisms “politics flows downhill from culture” and “never give an order you know will not be obeyed” and things like that. And for what it’s worth a strong leader can obviously (as current events in both national and Church politics demonstrate) make a very significant, though not always lasting, difference.

    In regard specifically to modern bureaucracies, though, I can’t help but think of some of Zippy’s musings. The following short posts might be good food for thought:

    1. Very good, thanks. The Zippy stuff is good as well.

      Here, I was musing on the simple mechanics of the thing. You want to subvert something, and the current leaders are idealistic and focused? Don’t try to take them out directly – volunteer as assistant treasurer (the person with the title treasurer is almost certainly a figurehead who relies entirely on his staff to do the actual work.) Then, due to attrition, burnout, and just plain got other things to do, the idealists will gradually peel themselves off – and you can get to be treasurer just by volunteering, as the trusted person who did all the work under the Beloved Predecessor.

      Now the fun starts: you put the kibosh or throw sand in the gears of projects you don’t like, and speed ones you do; you can favor certain hires/assignments; you can make life hard on those who you need to be gone in a hundred little and big ways.

      For example. You and Zippy are taking a look from a level or two higher up – a good thing to do, for sure. Truly food for thought.

      1. Now you’ve got me thinking of that old canard about how amateurs study tactics but professionals study logistics. Some days I just think in cliches.

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