C4SS.org | People in authority make stupid decisions because the people who know more than they do are their subordinates, and the only people who can hold them accountable know even less than they do.
The only way the people doing the work can get anything done is to treat irrational authority as an obstacle to be routed around, the same way the Internet treats censorship as damage and routes around it.
2. Groupthink: Hierarchies systematically suppress negative feedback on the results of their policies. As R.A. Wilson said, nobody tells the truth to a man with a gun. Hierarchies are very good at telling naked emperors how good their clothes look.
Hierarchies also systematically suppress critical thinking ability in their members. Psychological studies have found that people in positions of authority become less likely to evaluate communications based on their internal logic, and instead evaluate them based on the authority of the source.
3. Opacity from above: A major theme of “Seeing Like a State,” by James Scott, is that states try to make populations “legible” from above, and hence more amenable to control. We might add a “seeing like a boss” corrollary about the analogous phenomenon inside hierarchies. The problem is that such legibility is very costly, if not impossible, to achieve.
Hospitals are a good example. Most of the paperwork that nurses are required to fill out results from the fact that management doesn’t trust them to do what it wants them to do without some independent means of verification. But the paperwork is worthless, unless management operates on the assumption that those same nurses can be trusted to fill out the paperwork honestly. It all boils down to the fact that management knows their interests are diametrically opposed to those of the nurses, but there’s no way to actually get inside the nurses’ heads and look out through their eyes and thereby overcome this fundamental agency problem. So bosses constantly look for new, ineffectual gimmicks to get around the problem, resulting in endless layers of new paperwork that are as useless as the old paperwork. Read Entire Article
By Kevin Carson