Thursday, October 23, 2008

The Trickle-Down Theory

This morning on iGoogle I noticed an article referring to WikiHow entitled “9 ways to get by while living in your car.” This is depressingly relevant to more and more people. The situation stems from an abuse of trust and lack of regulation. I fear it was those at the top who proved James Madison’s admonition, “If men were angels, government wouldn’t be necessary.” Anderson Cooper on CNN has a feature called “10 despicable bastards considered responsible to for our present economic situation.” (I paraphrased that.) Even Anderson thinks that 10 are not enough. I am reminded of a comment by Barnie Frank, Congressman from Massachusetts, in response to the statement, “A rising tide lifts all boats.” He said, “yeah, but what if you don’t have a boat?”

I must admit that I feel a little guilty testing people at the lower levels for “good workplace attitudes.” How many people with good attitudes worked for Enron and Merrill Lynch? I bet it was plenty, in fact the vast majority. It only took those at the top to bring the others down. Sure there are jerks everywhere, but I’m not so sure that the crème rises to the top. What rises to the top seems to be more a matter of what a skimmer removes at a sewage treatment facility.

I know, in times such as these it is easy to be cynical. I wish it was as easy as the scenario in the movie “Network” where Peter Finch encourages us to go to the window and yell, “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore.” What then? The movie doesn’t say.

The Workplace Attitudes Test suggests that about one in twenty workers is a jerk. But there is another phenomna going on here. Jerks tend to congregate together and at all levels there is a tendency to ignore the rules. A lower-level jerk can be a pain in the butt to those around them, and jerks at the highest levels can cause untold damage, but the lesson is to ferret out jerks at all levels and don’t hire them. Hey, corporate boards don’t tolerate them. Government regulators, regulate them. Legislators, remember what Madison said about men (and women) not being angels and pass the appropriate legislation. Rules and consideration for one’s fellow man should apply to everyone. Maybe, the Workplace Attitudes Test should be considered a candle in the darkness. See,

1 comment:

Jon said...

Speaking of Jerks, check this guy out: