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The Understanding Stupidity

This systematic distortion of information makes human societies characteristically self-deceptive, with people disposed to believe they are living up to their ideals, particularly when they are not. The existing schematic dissonance is usually subconscious, due to the misleading nature of words, so society stumbles smugly along while at odds with itself, its environment and its equally stupid neighbors. In fact, the only really effective control of development comes not from inside but from physical limitations (what cannot be done) and competition with other groups which are also out of touch with themselves.

In general, internal criticism is of limited value as a control mechanism for growth and development of a social system. There usually tend to be few, if any, effective critics within any organization. When not dismissed out of hand as a crank or an outsider, anyone with valid criticism is made an outsider, as ostracism is a common reward for honesty, accuracy and integrity. Thus, criticism without power is largely wasted, producing little but woe for the bewildered critic himself.

Perhaps there are so few effective critics because anyone with any brains at all quickly finds that most human organizations just are not set up for effective criticism. The basic working assumption is that everything is just fine. Outside criticism is deflected and internal feedback is supposed to be positive reinforcement from "Yes men" promoting their careers by corrupting the mighty. At best, criticism has a place on the fringe, where cranks and comics can be tolerated as amusing diversions.

Can Truth Be Told When Using Selective Information "The trap of the permanent campaign is that you diminish statesmanship," Professor Gergen said. "Statesmen rise above the daily concern and look to the long haul."

Business marketing and politics often overlap in election campaigns. Someone vying for office is essentially trying to sell himself to voters. "When you are campaigning, you're like the businessman who has a limited responsibility, a limited set of people to whom you owe something," said Alan Wolfe, director of the Boisi Center for Religion and American Public Life at Boston College and author of "Moral Freedom: The Search for Virtue in a World of Choice" (W. W. Norton).

But, increasingly, because of the fund-raising involved in running for national office, "you have to be in an almost permanent campaign mode," said David Gergen, now a professor of public service at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, who was an adviser to four presidents. "In politics, you fall into the trap of short-termism. You do whatever it takes to keep the headlines up today." This short-term thinking is not dissimilar to what causes some businesses to make poor decisions in trying to bolster stock prices or earnings reports.

"The trap of the permanent campaign is that you diminish statesmanship," Professor Gergen said. "Statesmen rise above the daily concern and look to the long haul."

BUT it's difficult to affect the long haul if you find yourself voted out of office. For that reason, Dick Morris, a former adviser to Mr. Clinton and the author of "Off with Their Heads: Traitors, Crooks and Obstructionists in American Politics, Media and Business" (Regan Books, 2003), said he thinks that "using polling and all of the tools of an election to help you govern is a good thing."

"It gets the president to be very aggressive in figuring out what he can do in an active way really to help the country," he added. "The motivation is to govern well so he can get elected."

Even if President Bush has to campaign constantly and, as a result, selectively uses information to sell his message, we still expect him to tell the truth. "If they decided to lie to make the case stronger that's simply unethical," said Mr. Gilman, who was a senior official at the United States Office of Government Ethics from 1988 to 2001. Mr. Gilman said he hopes that the president "got one bad piece of intelligence and the rest was correct."

Some political analysts say President Bush crossed a line in selectively using information by pointing to British intelligence to make an argument, when American intelligence doubted the claim. "As in all marketing, when you go too far, it creates a small cloud over you about credibility," Professor Gergen said.

There's more at stake when President Bush selectively uses information than when a business executive tries to move a product. The president's role clearly distinguishes his unique moral responsibility. As an executive, you don't order young men and women to give up their lives for a cause.



Etc

The Last but not Least Technology is dominated by two types of people: those who understand what they do not manage and those who manage what they do not understand ~Archibald Putt. Ph.D


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