2016/02/02

Self-serving insider 'analysis'

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I'm probably sounding like an old man for writing this, but I've seen some patterns emerge in my lifetime, and I don't like some of them. 

One of those - found in places as diverse as regional development, environmental protection, political parties and navies - is this one:

Someone with huge emotional investment in a specific area (and usually with a great pay check dependence on it now or prior to retirement) writes an analysis or study on a subject. The result is - quel surprise! - in favour of some modest changes, but never in favour or large spending cuts or reduction of powers and most rarely in favour of radical change.
In a navy example, such an analysis may typically call for some additional strategic review, some modest organisational shuffling, or maybe for building more ships of this kind and less of the other without any budget cut.

Such writings often contain a seemingly logical chain of conclusions such as some uncontroversial statement 'a', because of 'a' the conclusion is 'b' and because of 'b' the conclusion is 'c'.
These are almost invariably incorrect. The author is usually ignoring an unlimited quantities of alternative conclusions, but pretending that no idea that's harmful to the 'club' interests (such as less hulls for a navy less money for regional development or less strict regulations in environmental protection) would ever be a reasonable conclusion from 'a' or 'b'. Quite often such pieces keep going on for several pages after making such a gross logic error, which makes almost the entire content unfounded in reasoning while the author actually tries to make it look like extremely well-founded.

Typical of such closed systems is that their utter disrespect for the outside world's definitions.  "Evaluation", "efficiency", "affordable", "effective", "sustainable", "innovation" and "excellence" are typical examples for words that tend to have weird and surprising meanings inside such 'clubs'.

Another constant of this pattern is that with perfect predictability like-minded people will cheer the author and his peace for great thinking, great clarity, great daring for speaking the truth and the like.

Finally, everyone who dares to call out that the emperor wears no clothes will be shunned as some lowlife and incompetent, usually complete with ad hominem, strawman attack and appeal to (self-defined) authority. In internet discussions this is as harmless as stupid replies or downvoting, but I saw entire professional groups been excluded from the 'club'. I saw economists eliminated from entire political advisory, bureaucracy, publishing and punditocracy communities for the terrible sin of pointing out that some activities are terribly wasteful and their governmental evaluations (illegally) rigged from the start.


Such 'clubs' create their own version of reality, their own universe of mythology in which they live and their preferred rules apply only.
I wouldn't mind this as entertainment for the club members, of course. Why would anybody criticize trekkies or Lord of the Rings fans for enjoying their fantasy worlds, after all?
It is a huge problem if these clubs maintain their fantasy world not with their own money but with taxpayer money though. And that's why I mentioned navies as one of the examples.

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