The price one pays for pursuing any profession or calling is an intimate knowledge of its ugly side.
-- James Baldwin
Here's the problem. By the time you figure out a solution to the problem, somebody has already gamed your solution. So the proper thing is to act, and that's all. Not act and then setup a policy. What I'm talking about is inefficiency and the logic of its exploitation.
It occurred to me the other day that consultants are with us forever. That's because only consultants have the experience of solving similar problems over and over again. It's what I do, so I know at least that much. There is a certain narrow class of problems that are fairly complex that I can do in my sleep. It works out nicely that these are problems that tend to be rather prolific in our society, and so I'm fortunate to have the skill and experience. But there's a downside. So let me tell you about the consultant's curse.
The curse is the same as that for any adept who helps relatively ignorant people out of the ditches they drive themselves into. The consultant's curse is that he's hired by people who want to be smarter than they are. Nothing wrong with that, except people hire consultants like they go to restaurants. They think that the services of a consultant are like the services of a chef. You get the fanciest thing on the menu and no matter how fancy it is, you figure that your stomach takes care of it all the same. The problem is that with a consultant who builds a management program or a set of contracts or a computer system or a financial instrument or an aortal bypass or whatever workaround you needed because of your relative stupidity - well your system simply can't digest it. If you had the enzymes you would have never needed a consultant in the first place. But you don't have the enzymes and sooner or later, you're going to barf up the precious jewels you overpaid for. You can't handle P90X. You're just shocking your system, and six months later you're going to be on your lard ass again. Meanwhile, the consultant will be off cooking up another recipe for another sucker. The consultants never starve because there's always somebody whose eyes are bigger than their stomach.
It sounds like a pretty good deal for the consultant right? Wrong. Because the consultant actually knows better. Like your widowed aunt, she knows what wrong with every man who walks in the room. None are as good as her late John, and she's right, and she's lonely because she won't compromise. But your consultant's life is full of compromise because your average consultants, like lawyers and all professionals are hyenas. They are scavengers. They have a taste for the best zebra, but they're really not fast and energetic enough to take one down. That's the lioness' domain, and there ain't many lions.
What all I'm saying, my pedigree chums, is that there is a very slim and fine meritocracy in these United States, and they are living large all around me in Chevy Chase, Fairfax and Bethesda. They are, as I've indicated, the Slice - the lionesses who work directly for the lions. They are the ones who invented the supply chain logistics for GM and made FedEx do it even better. They are the ones who know what they're doing and have become so efficient that they have time to sit around and wait for the rest of the little beasties take some leftovers. They are the top consultants, and like the smartest females anywhere, they know how to feed the lions what they want, crossing them at their deadly peril. The rest of the American meritocracy is squishy, and not really predatory, but as I said, scavenging.
The smart money already knows where to hedge. The rest of us are just guessing.
But there is a hierarchy in that guessing, and that's where the interesting inefficiency lies. The average consultant is squeezed out of the lion's share, but the hyena is no slouch. He eats very well and is not to be trifled with, and yet. He knows he will never be the lion. His meat is never quite warm enough, except for that time in '98, ooh that was a time. They are no more and no less than masterful hedgers those hyena consultants because most of the time, they don't don't know what the lion knows about the migrations of zebra. The hyena knows what the lions do. The vultures know what the hyenas do. The grave mistake is to confuse the act of scavenging with the act of predation. Prey is alive, moving, dynamic. It take more than a good nose to track them, but as you might imagine in a vulture's tiny brain, the smell of victory is the same as a whiff of carrion. That's not hunting. That's finding.
But in a squishy meritocracy such as we have, the aim of the peasant is the same as the aim of a savanna scavenger. It's to eat, and having satisfied that desire for millions, we in the US take a great deal of pride on having supported a broad and deep middle class. Lots of diners, a few great great gluttons and a few hunters.