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September 06, 2005

The Eternal Puzzle

Avedon Carol has been trying to find out who originally said this:

"Any sufficiently advanced incompetence is indistinguishable from malice."

Whoever it was, they were right. If you were sitting on the roof of your New Orleans house last week waiting to drown, you probably weren't wondering whether the Bush administration was acting out of incompetence or malice or a heady combination of both.

Farther away from the destruction, though, it's hard not to ask: idiots? evil? evil idiots?

In any case, it's good to remember that this is a conundrum that has arisen throughout the ages in many countries. For instance, here's George Orwell, writing more than sixty years ago:

It is still very uncertain what plan they acted on... and they may have had no clear plan at all. Whether the British ruling class are wicked or merely stupid is one of the most difficult questions of our time.
Posted at September 6, 2005 02:45 PM | TrackBack

"Any sufficiently advanced incompetence is indistinguishable from malice."
Thats our bumkin in chief all right or as my ol man use to call all boneheads, "Non Comus Menace".

Posted by: Marshall Rogers at September 6, 2005 03:16 PM

"Mr. Sideshow came in earlier and quoted to me a permutation of Arthur C. Clarke's famous formulation that I'd never heard before:

Any sufficiently advanced incompetence is indistinguishable from malice."

Posted by: thicketed at September 7, 2005 01:15 PM

did you hear this one:

from the former Miami-Dade emergency management chief commenting on FEMA director Brown:

"He's done a hell of a job, because I'm not aware of any Arabian horses being killed in this storm"

Posted by: thicketed at September 7, 2005 01:49 PM

Quoting Orwell is all very well and good, but at a time like this, the best quotations may be found from Ayn Rand.

But since people hate Any Rand, and anyone who's worth anything has already read Atlas Shrugged and doesn't need to be reminded how well that applies, I won't bother putting anything in quotes.

Posted by: alexis S at September 8, 2005 08:57 AM

I ran across something similar to this in Idries Shah's book Reflections, which I read maybe 20 years ago - something to the effect that

"You would be surprised how often your thoughtlessness is interpreted as malice, and vice versa."

Posted by: mistah charley, ph.d. at September 9, 2005 04:52 PM