August 21, 2015

Age and experience: Why are we throwing away the only things worth recycling?

Tim BallRebel Columnist

Everyday we are bombarded with evidence and made to feel guilty about living in a throwaway society. It was a creation of the environmental movement to force recycling. The problem is no proper total cost benefits analyses of recycling are done, and programs are failing.

Recycling programs, which began 10 years ago with high hopes of addressing the nation’s solid-waste problem, have failed to live up to expectations for profitability and consumer acceptance.

Instead, programs quietly disappear, or they transfer costs to other parts of the budget. Meanwhile, the Left practice the worst kind of throwaway of all. They direct their focus and policies almost exclusively to subsidizing and enslaving the young, while pushing early retirement and marginalizing the elderly.

Early retirement sounds attractive. The problem is society assumes once you retire your brain shuts off and you have nothing to offer. Worse, you are less likely to have facility with cell phones or computers. The net result is society throws away experience, its most valuable asset. It is the real throwaway problem.   

Most people are familiar with the Peter Principle. Proposed by Vancouver-born educator Laurence J. Peter. The main concept says,

"In a hierarchy every employee tends to rise to his level of time every post tends to be occupied by an employee who is incompetent to carry out its duties...Work is accomplished by those employees who have not yet reached their level of incompetence."

It is built on the idea that when management seeks a person for a position they pick out the person performing best in their job. Those doing an adequate or poor job stay in place – they have reached their level of incompetence. In government or very large unionized businesses, they continue in their incompetence, but in smaller businesses pruning is required or the business fails.

I always thought this a good explanation of what happened. I never gave the concept any thought until I heard an interview with a former Chairman of the Mitsubishi Corporation. Asked if he understood the Peter Principle, he said no. The interviewer then began to explain. He stopped her and said, “I know what it is, but I just don’t understand it.”

The interviewer then said that Japan must have a similar problem because there are hierarchies with people promoted to a level of incompetence. The Chairman said the problem is you are punishing the wrong person. The real problem is management made a mistake by misjudging the abilities and assuming because a person does a good job in one area that will apply elsewhere. After that, management compounds the error by firing the person.

He said his practice was to apologize to the person for the management error and then put them back at the job they did well. There was no shame involved because people knew who made the mistake. Any financial gain remained with the employee as compensation for the error. He asked why you would compound your error and throw away an already proven experienced person because you made a mistake.

For many years, I taught a non-credit University course for seniors titled "Contemporary World Issues." Every week approximately 300 attended a two-hour session. The first hour put news stories in historic and geographic context and the second hour covered a different topic, such as climate, geology, water resources, geopolitics, and environmentalism each year.

The frustration for the people involved was being told that when they got old their experience would add great value to society, only to have it ignored or, worse, belittled. They knew that things appear to change but in reality don’t, that the Bible worked because it was stories of people, personalities and circumstances that are timeless. They knew that Shakespeare’s works were a collective secular bible that transcends time and cultures. They are told their wisdom, experience, and perspectives they accumulated have no value.

A larger percentage of the elderly are conservative, so there is a political advantage to left wing politics in early retirement. There experience made them conservative. As the familiar quote, generally attributed to Winston Churchill, but more likely from Georges Clemenceau, explains:

A young man who isn’t a socialist hasn’t got a heart; an old man who is a socialist hasn’t got a head.

Today, the young dominate politics and the media and use that power to “throw away” the most valuable resource of all, the wisdom of their elders. The solution is not to extend the retirement age, but to do a proper cost benefit of resources in the society.


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commented 2015-08-24 10:10:22 -0400
I agree Dr. Ball, it seems that once your hair has turned grey, they seem to think our brains have turned to stone too. In many blogs, I read about those wanting to write off those of us who are old, those with life experiences, to offer those who are up and coming. I find that the intelligent ones, are more than willing, to listen to experience. And those, who for some reason, still possess the arrogance of youth, don’t want advice, and it is to their own detriment. Those that build on the experience of their elders, turn out to be more rounded in their knowledge, and are more successful in their lives, for gaining insight, that only experience can provide.