“Failure is not an option”

A good column from Matt Ridley, A Century of Marxism-Leninism.

Key paragraph:

The first communists meant well. Their crime was to bet the farm on an untried idea and then, when it failed (as Lenin’s half-hearted New Economic Policy conceded), to be pig-headedly insensitive to the negative empirical data coming back from the experiment.

Being ‘pig-headedly insensitive to the negative empirical data coming back from the experiment‘ isn’t unique to communists. It is also standard among politicians of any party, political parties and leadership of many organizations — public and private.

Why? Incentives.

Saying, it looks like we got that wrong and we need to adjust and adapt to improve, loses the confidence of those who empowered these folks.

They believed in “The One With The Answers.”

If it turns out that this leader doesn’t have The Answers, then someone else must and those people must be put in power.

A good way to stay in power is to pig-headedly claim that your answers are still valid.

So, the problem isn’t the pig-heads in power. It’s their subjects. Specifically, it’s their belief in The One.

As long as they believe in The One, they will continue to put people in power who claim to have The Answers and those people will cling to that power until the subjects change their mind.

Can you imagine voting for someone who says the following?

I don’t have all the answers. But, I think we should take a cautious try-and-see approach. We’ll start small and see if works. We’ll try to learn what we can from failures, as they burn themselves out, and let successes spread on their own merit.


But, that’s exactly who we should vote for.



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