Maarten Maartensz:    Philosophical Dictionary | Filosofisch Woordenboek                      

 I - Incompetence


Incompetence: Lack of competence: Important feature of governors and bureaucrats of all kinds at all times and places in history, so far.

About incompetence there is Peter's Principle: In an institution, everybody rises to his level of incompetence. This seems empirically well-founded, and especially about those institutions that are not effectively controlled by the public or by a more or less objective criterion: Governments and bureaucrats of all kinds.

In fact, for bureaucracies, especially governmental bureaucracies, the Peter Principle may be overly optimistic, since it presumes people start at a level of competence.

In any case, also e.g. with respect to specialists of all kinds: Everybody knows something, but very few know as much as they believe they do. (See: Falliblism)

In general, and with a few exceptions, the intelligent seek to understand, explain or beautify the world, while the incompetent rule it, whether as bureaucrats, politicians, priests or clergy. The reason is that it is much easier to deceive an average audience for one's own or one's party's benefits than it is to do good science or make great art and also - it would seem, from the normal course of history at most times and places - that there are more willing to abuse others for their personal benefit than there are with real talent and good will. And it is much easier to pretend to be a good leader than to be one.


See also: Bureaucrats, Democracy, Government, State,



 Original: Apr 8, 2005                                                Last edited: 12 December 2011.   Top