Tuesday, March 13, 2018

The Shirky Principle

Clay Shirky is an American writer, consultant and teacher who specializes in analyzing the social and economic effects of Internet technologies, and his name has been applied to one of those "laws" that the world seems to follow without realizing it.

The "Shirky Principle" is fairly straightforward. It reads,

“Institutions will try to preserve the problem to which they are the solution.”

For instance, an organization that wants to simplify its procedures forms a committee or stands up a new office to figure out how to simplify things. But adding the extra layer of bureaucracy maintains the already-complicated nature of the organization.

A recent example of the Shirky Principle in action is the announcement by the Trump administration of a commission chaired by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos to recommend policy and funding proposals for preventing school violence*.

By the way, the announcement of the establishment of this commission comes less than a day after Trump told a raucous rally in Pennsylvania that, "We can't just keep setting up blue-ribbon committees," because they do nothing but "talk, talk, talk."

No chaos, nothing to see here, folks, just move on.

I believe the Trump administration's constant rollback of environmental regulations and restrictions on the financial services industry, and its gutting of the Affordable Care Act, are also prime examples of the Shirkey Principle. After all, if you do something that makes a problem go away, it's bad for the people with a vested interest in perpetuation of the problem ... and that's bad for the political and financial support you get from those interests.

Have a good day. Watch the Shirkey Principle in action around you, and cry.

More thoughts tomorrow.


* It goes without saying that restrictions of any sort on firearms or the ownership thereof are not on the table. 


Mike said...

Sadly very true.

allenwoodhaven said...

I hadn't heard the name of this principle but had known of the concept. Glad to know its name!

eViL pOp TaRt said...

They will talk it to death, but no action.

Duckbutt said...

The Shirky Principle has intuitive validity. And some people just love belonging to committees.