Tuesday, 22 May 2007

What's Taken For Granted

In an effort to live up to that 'largely after the fact' bit, I'm finally getting around to something I spotted last week. This story was much like any other (well, much like the ongoing Wolfowitz saga, writ smaller, anyway), but the last few paragraphs caught my eye.

"No one is arguing about Ms Swaffield's qualifications for her positions ... but the perception in the House is that quite possibly the best applicant was not appointed." It's a bit of a Clayton's accusation of corruption, isn't it? She was qualified for the positions she was promoted to, but they're still unhappy.

Why is it, do you think, that sufficient is no longer seen as sufficient? She could do the job, but maybe somebody better could have done it too. But wait, if somebody more capable had been appointed, wouldn't that have been a waste of their greater ability anyway?

The whole idea of merit advancement was an Enlightenment-era reaction against their equivalent of jobs for the boys, the preferral of the aristocracy for anything that mattered. The rising middle classes wanted access to the plumb jobs, and thought that merit was a better means for selecting people. And hey, they had that right.

But does it really mean that you take the most overqualified person? Isn't it really meant to guard against getting a moron with good connections? I suspect that the pendulum might have been pushed too far on this score.

As for the next quote, "I treat all anonymous letters with the contempt they deserve." What makes anonymity contemptible, I wonder? A priori, that is, without any consideration of the reason for anonymity? I'd hate to have amnesia and have to write to this guy. Does he read the mail he gets from the government? His tax refund? Conversely, does he really believe the Readers Digest letters about how he's WON THE ULTIMATE whatever, simply because they have a signature printed at the bottom?

Or does he just like it as an easy cop-out for not doing his job...?

As for the idea of the same individual being in charge of the Sydney Opera House and Foxtel...

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