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Slastdot post I'm proud of - Journal of Omnifarious

Feb. 20th, 2008

10:19 am - Slastdot post I'm proud of

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It is best understood in context. This is a response to an article about Richard Feynman, the Challenger, and engineering. And it is specifically in response to a post in which someone blames capitalism for the problem's Richard Feynman outlines in Feynman's Appendix to the Rogers Commission Report on the Space Shuttle Challenger Accident.

Blaming the shuttle disaster on capitalism is erroneous. I do not necessarily disagree with your assessment in general, but capitalism was not at fault in that particular instance. What was at fault was bureaucrats trying to look good to their superiors and present a positive public image at the cost of real engineering.

I would say that in general is the meta-problem, not capitalism. In its current form in the US capitalism has caused the existence of many large entities that use hierarchical systems of command and control. These hierarchical systems frequently make sub-optimal decisions because individual actors within the system act for their own benefit but against the benefit of the larger system they are a part of. Particularly egregious examples of this can be found, and they tend to be highlighted as aberrations, but they aren't. They are merely extrema of a problem that is widespread.

Bureaucracy in general serves to insulate actors from responsibility for the results of their actions. As I recall we didn't see any of the middle management of NASA held accountable for the disaster they caused by attempting to look good for their superiors and the public. And this failure of accountability is endemic to the kinds of hierarchical systems you see in most bureaucracies.

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