The Peter Principle

Those of us old enough to remember the 1960s probably remember the “Peter principle,” which was the title of a book as well as a phrase that was common in pop culture for a time. The Peter Principle (the book), published in 1968, was in some ways a harbinger of the “how to succeed in business” popular genre of books that eventually would include such best sellers I never read as The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.

Anyway, the Peter principle is that “In a hierarchy, every employee tends to rise to his level of incompetence.” In other words, people keep getting promoted to more and more difficult positions within a company until they reach a position that’s beyond their competence level. I understand the book was humorous, but people took the premise seriously. I don’t know if this principle is as true as it was in 1968, if only because people just don’t stay with one company and rise in a hierarchy the way they used to.

I bring it up because Erick Erickson of RedState seems to think the “Peter principle” refers to the Apostle Peter’s denial of Christ. Erickson is complaining that righties are spending more time throwing each other under the bus than fighting the left, and he comes very close to saying that for a conservative to diss Rush Limbaugh is tantamount to Peter denying Christ.

Come to think of it, maybe the Peter principle is still valid.

The comments have devolved into a philosophical debate over whether pronouncing “Sotomayor” correctly is somehow betraying the nation’s Anglo-Saxon heritage. Good times.

14 thoughts on “The Peter Principle

  1. The comments have devolved into a philosophical debate over whether pronouncing “Sotomayor” correctly is somehow betraying the nation’s Anglo-Saxon heritage. Good times.

    Shouldn’t they be arguing that if Erickson was a real American he’d spell his first name without the “k”?

  2. My favorite thing is that the guy who brought it up is named Krikorian. A name where either none of the syllables have an accent, or it’s on the middle syllable – KriKORian.
    If I were interviewing this idiot and be mentioned she should pronounce her name SOtomayor, I would have said, “Thank you, Mr. KRIkorian.” and see if he protested, or if he ‘got it.’ My money would be on the fact that he wouldn’t, and we’d have an argument.
    These jackasses are really stretching on Sotomayor. But, I guess they have nothing better to do now that they’re out of power (THANK GOD!!!).

  3. DoG help us all if they latch onto Stephen Potter’s “Oneupmanship” although it is probably safe to let them have “Gamesmanship, (or the Art of Winning Games without Actually Cheating)” since they cheat by habit.

  4. As long as we’re on the subject, John McCain should have been forced to drop the “Mc” – you’re in America now, John, get with the program. You to, Mich McConnell.

    And what kind of a name is Newt? That’s not an American name, not by a long shot. Bobby Jindal? Well, at least he got the “Bobby” part right, but he’s only half-way home.

    (Limbaugh … That’s a Germanic name, isn’t it? Home of the hated Nazi’s, part of pansy Europe? Change it.)

    Everyone who wants a public sector job, man or woman, should be forced to change their name to Bob Smith, a solid American name. Everybody likes Bob Smith, he’s a good guy. And every Right-wing WASP will be able to crawl out of his or her cave knowing exactly how to pronounce it and that particular threat to their manhood – that one among countless others – will have been neutralized. Problem solved.

  5. Uh… I’m guessing Erickson hadn’t heard of the other Peter Principle. I’ve long felt that the Bush administration raised the Peter Principle to the level of Biblical plague. (But that’s more probably too generous, in that it grants good faith to scoundrels who spied on and screwed over even members of their own team.)

    Rush doesn’t need to compare himself to Jesus when the dittohead faithful will do it for him.

    Also, the Biblical Peter betrays Jesus because of fear of punishment and possible death. It’s a failure of loyalty, but kinda understandable. That’s a very different dynamic from questioning one’s beliefs, policy positions, etc. which is what the GOP badly needs, and has for decades. It’s not surprising that the same crowd that tried to lead a witch hunt against those conservatives unconvinced of Sarah Palin’s divinity would turn to religion once again for an affirmation of their own Righteousness rather than as a spur for deeper reflection.

    As for the name thing, I used to work with some people who could be kind and decent, but had rarely traveled further than New England, and truly believed that the natural state of humanity was a moderately conservative, prudish, stuffy, middle to upper class WASP – and all other human beings were lesser, pale (or rather, darker) imitations. I have to go back to Will Rogers (part Cherokee), who back during an ancestry craze and bragging rights over when one’s family came to America, quipped – “My ancestors didn’t come over on the Mayflower, but they were there to meet the boat.”

  6. Ahh yes Redstate.HATE that’s quite a website. I love reading the comments when I need a good laugh (funny that the blog posts themselves are just as uninformed). Its like the blogosphere’s Jerry Springer show, lots of yelling, hate speech, they get some real winners over there!

  7. [Erickson] comes very close to saying that for a conservative to diss Rush Limbaugh is tantamount to Peter denying Christ.


  8. I am an American Indian, member of the Puyallup Tribe of Indians in Tacoma, Washington. My blood quantum is about three-fourths; thus, when I cut my finger, I don’t lose all of my Indian blood. Most of my tribe has Scottish surnames because the Hudson’s Bay Company men ran around marrying Indian women when they heard land was to be given out to tribal members. None of us have our real names because the White Man couldn’t pronounce our names and gave us White Man names. Some of my tribal members’ great-grandparents selected their names from a list of names provided to them by the White Man. Boy, can I identify with these idiots who want Sotomayor to assimilate. I say to her, “Don’t do it.” Names are very important to our identity; and, that should be respected by everyone. No one likes to have their name mispronounced; and, it is totally appropriate to correct people when they mispronounce your name. Additionally, in the late 1800’s to early 1900’s, in this area, it was ILLEGAL for Indians to speak their native tongue. When I was very young, I had relatives that actually had spent time in jail for speaking their native language. Obviously, these Republicans are related to the authoritarian White Men my ancestors had to deal with. I think they need a reminder that it is 2009 and the 21st Century.

    As for the Peter Principle, I read the book; and, I think the entire Bush Administration was a textbook example of the Peter Principle. It was named after one of the authors, Dr. Laurence J. Peter; and, had no Biblical connection whatsoever.

  9. Erickson describes the code the Right hopes to use to return to power. Without ever allowing that the far right now defines party idology, Ericson wants dissent to be heresy. The 11th Commandment: Thou Shall Speak No Evil (of conservatives).

    On the other hand, the GOP is the ‘Big Tent’ party for voters; if you favor gay rights, or women’s rights, or Health Care they want to welcome you! Discussion on any topic is welcome. If you are a candidate, you must be a rabid wingnut, true to EVERY core pricniple of the wingnuts in control. SO you will hear completely sincere defenses of party inclusion by the same speaker who advocates ideological purity. In one case they are welcoming potential voters, in the other, they are screening candiates.

    The next two election cycles will be a test. Can a party survive when the required positions of candidates (ideological purity) differ enormously from the positions held by a significant portion of the voters? The GOP has convinced itself they represent the GOP polling at 23% of voters AND the Independent voter who makes up 35% of voters. They have no intention of offering the swing voter a compromise position to vote for. What they do expect they can find an issue or scandal for any swing voter to vote AGAINST. The objective is a return to power WITH the radical agenda completely intact, an objective as ambitious as the extermination of the Jews by the Nazis..

  10. Leave it to a rightie to completely not get a pop reference (admittedly one that’s a little out of fashion), and then to stand in the public square (a blog) and unabashedly reveal their ignorance about it.

  11. I’m sure Erick Erickson was just trying to be creative with his Peter Principle title. But one thing that was obvious is that his head is really screwed up. He’s the owner of a troubled mind. He might have future intentions of breaking into the ministry and was practicing his homiletics with a spiritual/political edge to appeal to the Christian Right, but any tin horn evangelist with half a brain would know that you can’t bring together Peter’s denial of Christ and the dissing of Rush Limbaugh in any meaningful way. Different dimensions!

  12. I believe it was Christ who denied his peter and freed us from sin, quite different from the oxycontinental savior who freed only his pants. Mr. Erickson apparently was tripping throughout his remedial Sunday School class.

    Additionally, the point he was actually trying to make is there’s a formula to protect a party and build its strength. And that requires defending its biggest embarrassment no matter what. He didn’t get that from Lao-Tze but from a Bazooka Joe gum wrapper.

  13. It’s like the drunken priest who was supposed to announce to the congregation that there was to be a taffy pull at St. Peters, but instead announced that there would be a peter pull at St. Taffy’s.

  14. Scott Adams has made a persuasive case that the Peter Principle was superseded by the Dilbert Principle. IIRC, It holds that in the present day skilled workers are too valuable to promote into management, so the people who rise to the top in corporations are those who were never good at anything to begin with.

    I think the Bush admin embodies that much more than it did the Peter Principle – they didn’t rise to their level of incompetence, they were imbeciles from the very beginning, catapulted directly to the top without paying any dues.

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