“We are Forerunners. Guardians of all that exists. The roots of the Galaxy have grown deep under our careful tending. Where there is life, the wisdom of our countless generations has saturated the soil. Our strength is a luminous sun, towards which all intelligence blossoms… And the impervious shelter, beneath which it has prospered.”

Competence is necessary but not sufficient

by | Aug 19, 2023 | Philosophy | 3 comments

As noted earlier this week in the Great Mondaydact Browser Slayer, the long read of the week was an excellent bit of analysis on the decline, fall, and collapse of the Western world by Gaius Baltar, featured at Larry Johnson‘s SONAR21 blog. As Mr. Baltar pointed out, repeatedly, the West’s decline has to do with its total failure to manufacture and maintain a sufficient base of human capital – of highly talented, competent, educated people who combine high IQ and high GENERAL competence, with a very high degree of objectivity. The three ARE NOT equivalent, though they are correlated.

It is a superb article which makes many outstanding points. Mr. Baltar points out how the West is systematically purging competence, as a general idea, from within its institutions, and is instead primarily rewarding those who kiss ass (not to put too fine a point on things).

However, Mr. Baltar also argues meritocracy is no longer useful in the Western world, especially with regard to education and white-collar professions. Here, I must respectfully disagree, albeit to a pretty limited degree.

It is not a matter of whether merit is a measuring-stick in the FUSA, EUSSR, and other parts of the Empire of Lies. It is rather a matter of where merit is a measuring stick, and whether merit, in and of itself, is any sort of measure of competence.

In fact, the problems that plague the West today, are not new. Nor is it entirely accurate to argue that merit is not a measuring stick used in Western academic and professional circles – in fact, in the modern Western world, there is an extraordinary degree of emphasis on merit, earned through credentials, and that is a problem not at all unique to the West.

The true problem is not the use of merit as a yardstick for competence. The answer to national and imperial decline is not merely a change to the overall academic systems, such as what Russia is successfully implementing now.

It is, instead, the rediscovery of national spirit, of identity, of purpose. Without this, there is not even the slightest use in discussing merit, competence, or anything else – because a nation that has no idea how to define itself, will never survive.

Merit, competence, intelligence, and skill, in and of themselves, are guarantees of absolutely nothing. Only when one directs such virtues to a definite end, can one make a real difference in the world.

Meritocracy at its “Finest”

By no means do I discount or disagree with Mr. Baltar’s excellent prognosis of the cancer currently consuming the Western world. He accurately points out the fact that far too many people with specific competencies have been promoted to general managerial positions, without having the first clue how to be generalists. Further, he notes that current Western systems of management promote conformist morons and stifle innovation, creativity, and skill from rising to the top.

The problem arises when he claims there is no meritocracy involved. It really depends on what you mean by meritocracy. If you mean that we do not see the “most deserving” rising up to leadership roles, well, that is true, in a way, but it is very, very difficult to determine who “deserves” what.

That is why just about every society, ever, devolves into using credentials as a proxy for competence.

And, TO SOME EXTENT, this is not actually such a terrible idea – because, in theory, if you went to an elite university with high standards of admission, then you are, by the general agreement of your peers and society, someone worthy of attention and rewards.

Indeed, one could make the argument that Western, particularly American, society actually uses meritocracy at its most ruthless and refined to figure out who gets the rewards, and who does not.

About a decade ago, Charles F. Murray wrote an excellent book, Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1960-2020, in which he discussed how American society has stratified itself into an upper class of highly educated, very wealthy coastal and urban elites, who all attend the same schools, run in the same social circles, marry within their own kind, and generally live in bubbles away from mainstream America. The rest of the country lives in “the great beyond”, or “flyover country”, as those same urban elites derisively say.

To those Brahmins living in the uber-liberal “super-bubbles” of the northeast, or in London, Paris, Brussels, Berlin, and so on, the travails and concerns of the ordinary man are totally irrelevant – they literally make no impact whatsoever on the daily lives of those elites.

This is no surprise to any of you reading this, I am sure. All of you know this to be true. Moreover, it is not merely true of White America – in the increasingly deracinated “multicultural” reality of America, you could say exactly the same thing about Asian-Americans, certain very small substrates of Black America, and Hispanics. They ALL intermingle and intermarry within their own upper class.

Here’s the kicker, though:

They got that way through merit.

That is not a joke or an exaggeration. Think about it. These same people all went to the same schools – the Ivy Leagues, the Stanfords and MITs and extremely selective liberal arts colleges of the FUSA. In Europe, they went to Oxford and Cambridge, the LSE, the Sorbonne, ENA, Ecole Polytechnique, HEC, INSEAD, Bologna, and various elite universities throughout the continent.

One can make the argument that admission standards in US universities are a joke these days. If your dad and his dad went to Yale, for instance, and if your parents happen to donate a lot of money to Yale – which they probably do, since, after all, they went to YALE – then your chances of getting into Yale, regardless of grades, are high. I do not disagree with this.

However, in Europe, I assure you, the same simply is not true, to anything like the same degree. The UCAS standards for admission to UK universities have not changed materially since I went through them – in fact, the grades required for admission to LSE have gone UP, not down. The entrance process for Oxford and Cambridge remains extremely demanding. Only the very best and the very brightest, with the toppest [sic] of top grades, get into Polytechnique and the various German and Dutch elite schools.

These are not places where you get to mess around with grades and sleep through your classes while shagging cheerleaders after school. They ARE, in fact, (largely) institutions based around merit.

The “Meritorious” Life

Once you go through these merit-driven schools and emerge out the other side clutching a piece of paper that says you know… something, then you will tend to get a job working in a service-sector job of some kind. If you take a serious engineering or science subject, chances are pretty good that you will end up in an investment banking environment of some kind – where, again, you get in based on how well you perform in the admissions process.

To be sure, there are “easy” jobs and routes into investment banking. I know, because I worked in that industry for years. If you apply for a back-office function, you can be a complete dumbass and still get in, simply because you have the right skin colour, sexual deviation, or political opinion. But, if you aim for the revenue-generating parts of the firm – the trading desk, the front-office strategic analyst (“strat”) teams, or anything even remotely related to front-office risk management, settlements, and support – then you had damned well better have excellent maths skills and real knowledge of derivatives pricing.

These divisions inevitably work across race and gender. There is a very good reason why the IT teams at major investment banks tend to be full of Indians (which is why so many of them have shitty systems), the product control teams tend to be full of Indians, Chinese, and Russians, the risk management teams tend to be full of Chinese and Russians – and the back office and accounting teams tend to be full of Blacks. And there is a very good reason why the jobs involving high risk, high stress, and long hours, tend to be heavily male-dominated – while females make up the majority of those “useless” jobs.

If investment banking isn’t your thing, you might end up in consulting. The MBBs – McKinsey, BCG, Bain – of this world are always looking out for raw brainpower. They find it, they pay top dollar for it, and they work it to death. (Old joke from one of McKinsey’s German offices: “we like the 35-hour work week so much, we do it twice a week!”)

All of these professions will pay you mind-boggling amounts of money for your services. And, make no mistake, you got there because of MERIT. You got there because you earned your place there – based on what the system around you defines as “meritorious”.

And that is precisely the problem. We have revised and realigned the entire Western mode of thought and action to believe that service-oriented jobs are the ONLY ones worth having. The system we have created, reinforces and compounds this belief, insisting on exaggerating the economic value of these professions far beyond their true worth. Meanwhile, the professions that ACTUALLY PRODUCE THINGS – the blacksmiths, factory workers, farmers, construction workers, engineers, merchant marine sailors, and so on and so forth – find themselves derided as “manual labour” without honour or class.

I do not deny the need for bankers, lawyers, tax accountants, product controllers, risk managers, and so on and so forth. But, when you build up an entire world that tells these people they are special and amazing, you end up with a self-reinforcing system that promotes people who ONLY know how to do things that add a very specific kind of value – making money from money, basically.

THAT is the meritocracy that exists in the West. It exists purely to perpetuate itself, not to add value to a nation or a culture as a whole.

I know this system very well, not least because I am a direct product of it. Given my background, I can match or exceed about 98% of the population, short of a PhD from MIT, in terms of credentials.

That is also why I know this system will FAIL.

An Ancient Sign of Coming Storm

Let you think this is a purely Western phenomenon, or even a recent one, I assure you, it is not.

Back in high school – this was a few hundred years ago, or so it seems to me, given my body tells me I am officially one of Ye Olde Phartes – I studied the rise of China as part of my history syllabus. The tome you see above – and it IS a tome – was our textbook for that course. It is in fact a quite readable book, but it is ridiculously detailed and goes into absurd levels of depth on very, very specific subjects, to a degree that you sort of have to see to believe.

Immanuel Hsu‘s The Rise of Modern China contains a number of genuinely fascinating explanations for China’s stagnation, degradation, and near-collapse in the 19th Century. I particularly remember quite well a chapter that went into nearly mind-numbing detail on the kinds of exams the Chinese mandarins had to sit, to qualify for their posts.

The level of learning they had to complete was shocking, by modern standards. Their curriculum required a level of rote memorisation that is near-unthinkable today. The best and the brightest of the Chinese scholars, who scored the highest in the national exams, received exalted positions in the court of the Chinese Emperor. Those exams had been used for generations to test Chinese functionaries and bureaucrats, and – back when they were originally devised – they were very much fit for purpose.

However, as time went on, the system stagnated, and became self-perpetuating, interested only in its own survival and the continuation of the caste of bureaucrats it created.

The result was the China of the 19th Century – backward, bloated, insular, totally incapable of confronting the challenges of the modern age head-on.

And that resulted in what the Chinese call “the Century of Humiliation”, in which the country that had invented gunpowder and paper, perfected the techniques for extracting silk and brewing tea, discovered magnetism, and sent gigantic ships on seven magnificent voyages from China all the way to Africa under the eunuch Admiral Zheng He, found itself rapidly outmatched and outclassed by the far more virile, capable, and advanced Western world.

The irony of this fact was not lost at all on the Chinese scholars of the time, who noted bitterly that Western traders like Marco Polo had stolen their greatest secrets – like gunpowder and silk – from them, and had perfected them to a degree the Chinese could only dream of.

Moving Toward National Interest

The point of this is, meritocracy for its own sake is not a new problem. It is also far more endemic to Asian societies than Mr. Baltar or other proponents of a multipolar world would like to admit.

I am one of those proponents. Yet I also acknowledge openly the very serious and gaping flaws in other societies that hold them back.

Take a look at India. In a country of 1.4B people, education has a near-sacred status – to the point where your average elevator operator might just have at least a B.Com (Bachelor of Commerce – the Indian equivalent of a Bachelor’s in Basket-Weaving, a complete nothing degree). Competition to enter the top Indian technical institutes, like the much-vaunted Indian Institutes of Technology, is FEROCIOUS. High school kids go from their regular Indian School Certificate (ISC) classes every day, and then go to cram schools, where they study until their eyes bleed.

These are the kinds of students who end up choosing American Ivy Leagues as their safety schools.

And it is not just India. China is the same way. As is Singapore. And Japan. And South Korea. Even Russia, to some extent, has this issue.

The critical difference to keep in mind here is, the nations which are doing the most to establish their own education systems and identities, are doing so to serve their own national interests.

In Russia, we see the move away from the “Bologna System”, back to the old Soviet 5-year system of extremely high-quality, specialised degrees that emphasise tremendous amounts of mathematics and science, even for relatively “easy” subjects. Why are the Russians doing this? Because they understand the need for a literate, numerate, educated population.

At the same time, the Russians are actively working to ensure they maintain a balanced economy, in which agriculture, manufacturing, and service sectors all have honour and dignity. Unlike the West, the Russians never made the critical error of outsourcing their productive capabilities to China – they maintain a vast manufacturing economy that is truly staggering in its depth and power. While their economy is not as efficient as Germany’s – that is a FACT – it is also far more expansive and robust, capable of creating a hell of a lot more than merely overpriced and over-engineered automobiles and equipment.

THAT is the critical difference. The Russians send their students to university to study mathematics, engineering, computer science, data analytics, and a dozen other skull subjects for the sole purpose of creating a deep bench of highly talented and skilled human capital. They then unleash those same people in sectors of the economy that need those specific competencies – and keep them there. A man can have a pretty long and happy career in a manufacturing plant for most of his life in Russia, and not feel any particular pressure to move.

Business schools are not common in Russia, though there are a few, and only a couple with actual international recognition. The MBA is not a well-respected degree in their country – people look at “business degrees” as a bit of a joke, actually. In the FUSA, by contrast, if you want to get into “middle management”, you practically HAVE to have an MBA – which, in my experience, makes people good at talking, and not very much else. (I say that despite the fact that I, too, have an MBA – it is not something I like to brag about, to be honest, especially given that I have two degrees in mathematics. In most ways, I have turned my back on the very society that produced me.)

Strategy Determines Design

The thing to keep in mind in all of this is that, just as corporate strategy determines company design, national strategy determines the formation and design of human capital.

The results of this are indeed as Mr. Baltar describes. Russia’s strategy is to build out its human capital in service of an autonomous nation that can hold its own against anyone, in any field it chooses to compete. China’s strategy is to keep a Han-dominated empire of about 7 nations and 1.4B together through vast social and mechanical engineering projects. India’s strategy is… well, essentially, not to fall apart, really, and become even more of a shithole than it already is.

What is the West’s strategy?

Well, as far as I can tell… Buttsecks, kiddie-fiddling, trannies, indoctrination, and mass-migration of Wakandans and Shitholistanis to replace the “great unwashed masses” that live in the very “flyover country” that the leadership castes do not even bother to pretend to care about anymore.

This is happening because the West lacks a national identity, a national purpose. The West is in fact an empire – an Evil Empire – that richly merits and deserves destruction at this point.

If the West seeks to fix itself, then it must first devolve away from an empire, back to nations, with clear-cut identities. Only when those nations know who they are and what they stand for, can they even hope to come up with a strategy that correctly identifies, quantifies, and specifies the factors that drive their human capital.

Russia has such an identity. The Russian people comprise some 170 different nationalities and ethnicities, yet they are all absolutely and resolutely UNITED in their identity as citizens of the Russian Federation. They are over 70% ethnic Russian – which is to say, White and largely Orthodox Christian. The Orthodox faith is experiencing a dramatic revival in Russia – there is a new church being built roughly every week, as far as I know, across the entire length and breadth of the largest country on Earth.

The Chinese have a national identity and a clear purpose. So do the Iranians. As do the Egyptians. And, believe it or not, the Indians too.

What is the West’s identity? Only when it answers that, can it come up with the sufficient strategy that meets the necessary design requirements for creating a competent and capable workforce.

Conclusion – A Caution About Intelligence

It is worth pointing out here that intelligence still matters. As Mr. Baltar correctly noted, intelligence and competence – both general and specific – operate on Gaussian (bell-curve) distributions. This means a country with an average IQ of 70, is simply not going to advance as fast and far as a country with a 95 or 105 average IQ.

Russia’s average IQ is, last time I checked, about 95-ish. Sub-Saharan Africa remains stuck at 70. The point here is that, no matter how great and wonderful a multipolar world will be, Africa will still be a shithole, because its people are simply not intelligent or competent enough to make things work.

Let me put it this way: Africa has literally ALL of the raw materials and resources required for a space programme. How likely do you think it is we will see an Angolan or Nigerian mission to space anytime soon?

Exactly.

There is no getting around this. Africa has, for whatever reason, been cursed to suffer an extremely hostile environment with a very large population that cannot adequately support a high-tech economy. It is best for the rest of the world to simply leave Africa alone and let it develop as it sees fit – do trade deals and commerce with Africa, by all means, but keep Africans in Africa, and do not pretend or delude ourselves that it can be saved from itself.

The same is true for any other country. Each nation has its own national characteristics that determine competence and capability. As long as we respect those factors, and as long as each of those nations has a clear overriding strategic purpose, then they can all develop as they see fit.

The West needs to rediscover its purpose, and to do that, it must rediscover the one true God, the giver and embodiment of Truth. That is the ONLY way forward. Without purpose, competence is impossible, and intelligence avails of nothing. Without strategy, design is pointless. And without design, success is impossible.

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3 Comments

  1. Bardelys the Magnificent

    You don’t brag about your MBA because you have other degrees.

    I don’t brag about my MBA because it’s worthless.

    We are not the same.

    Reply
  2. Cato the Uncensored

    “THAT is the meritocracy that exists in the West. It exists purely to perpetuate itself, not to add value t to a nation or a culture as a whole.”

    ——-

    But it’s mere existence adds value.

    One of our Canadian colleagues visited us in NY, and didn’t understand why people started quietly laughing as he handed his cards out, so he asked me if he had said or done something funny. I replied, “Yeah, you put MBA on your business cards. Everyone in the room has a MBA … even our administative assistant.”

    Reply
  3. Dire Badger

    Thanks to the emphasis on ‘Japanese management principles’ in the 80s, and the corresponding complete destruction of company ethics, loyalty, and employee investment, the entire structure of America has become a peterocracy…. IE. corporate and economics defined by the peter principle.

    Yes, our entire corporate infrastructure took the worst possible lessons from one of the most oppressive tyrannies on Earth that was conquered 40 years earlier and applied those not only to their own profitability, but in turn used their influence to apply them retroactively to the government and nation they dominated.

    We saw this coming. Heck, the 1986 Michael Keaton movie ‘Gung Ho’ illustrated the change that was coming, and as America falls, so will Japan which has existed solely by being propped up by their conquerors for decades.

    Never allow your country to be ruled by merchants.

    Reply

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