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[P]
The Perfectionist

By Gutza in Culture
Tue Nov 06, 2001 at 09:09:39 AM EST
Tags: etc (all tags)
/etc

Why do we have so little time today? Life expectancy is higher than ever but results expectancy is lower than ever. Why is that? A parallel between two worlds - the communist failure and the democracy success - is drawn in this article, along with a couple of the author's conclusions.


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Ok, maybe some part of the intro is somewhat biased just to make you read this :-). But I do believe we expect too little of ourselves compared to what we should.

I live in Romania. We were 'communists' in my 'youth' (I am currently 26). You know the bad things about communism. Almost nobody in the western world knows anything about the good parts of the communism as it was implemented - you just know it didn't work. And that's true, but I won't go into that in this article. Just to get it out of the way, if you're curious what I really think about communism you can find it here. What you don't know is that there were a couple of good things about it. One of the good parts about communism was that is was rigorous. Every text I ever read as a teen was spelled right. Every mathematical demonstration was correct. There were next no social scams. Obviously, we didn't do so good when it came to politics, but the rigor in our education did have results: the gymnasts in Eastern Europe and Russia are among the best in the world (I sometimes wonder why Romania, such a little country, excels in this field). Eastern Europeans and Russians are also very good at math, physics and exact sciences in general. I have no doubt this was the result of the communist upbringing, rather than our being "more intelligent".

Ironically, when we were 'communists' - it's quoted because very few among the regular people really believed in communism - there were a lot of things which made learning a very unfortunate trend. For one, the ruling class was the working class. But that was only the theory. In fact, the people ruling the communist countries did not consider themselves working class. And they were not - actually they were much worse than the working class - they came from the working class but they reached a point where they were rich, stupid, didn't work and lived in luxury - now, if you can call that working class... :-)

One other stupid thing about the communist ideology: a very well-known quote by Lenin says "Learn, learn, learn!". Ok, now if you did not listen to Lenin - i.e. you didn't learn - you got to be part of the working class, right? But the working class was - in theory - the ruling class. So then, what was the conclusion? Don't listen to Lenin and you'll be part of the ruling class? Is that stupid or what?

Back to the topic: since education was such a controversial issue in the communist agenda, the most incompetent people were chosen to decide things in this area. This resulted in good old teachers being thrown out of education (they represented the capitalists (?)) and the pay for being a teacher got to be lousy. What happened was that intelligent people usually wanted to become anything else but teachers and only university failures chose to be teachers because that was the only place where they had a chance.

And then again, that's the theory. Although it is true that old, wise teachers were thrown out of the education system, it's not entirely true that the new teachers were stupid and incompetent. Most of them were, but being a teacher is more than a job for most of the people really doing this job - it's more like a vocation, something they needed to do. So many competent, intelligent people became teachers in spite of the lousy pay and the really big problems which arose when trying to do something different from the party policy.

Another big problem with being educated was that the pay for being educated was lousy (it still is - that's why so many educated easterners immigrate). Another problem with being educated was that if you were educated you were more exposed to the party politics (which was even lousier than the money).

The overall conclusion is that, in communism, being educated was generally not only difficult because of lousy teachers but it also didn't pay in the long run. The surprise is that a lot of people were educated in the aforementioned conditions! This was an experience which, I think, proves that people are different within and that democracy and market economy are not the only thing driving humans to a goal or another - in fact, a lot has to do with their own determination.

Back to the topic again: in the conditions above, seeing American movies in my teens, I often wondered why English spelling was often depicted as a problem: we did not have that problem in Romania. Only my poorest school colleagues were unable to spell difficult words in Romanian - the rest of 90% didn't have any problems with that - and that happened in primary school! By the time I started high school (true, I was in one of the best high schools in Bucharest - no bragging) I couldn't imagine any of my colleagues have any problems spelling Romanian words. As a matter of fact, I have a hard time believing any of them had spelling problems in English - so the spelling problem in the American movies became an even bigger mystery. Then the Romanian Revolution came - and democracy came along.

After the revolution private companies started publishing magazines and books. A lot of them printed books with obvious spelling problems. I shamefully remember one particular thing short after the revolution when I borrowed a book and returned it with the spelling errors outlined in red - it was that shocking for me that someone published a book with spelling and grammar errors. Books like that continued being published. I got used to reading them without outlining the errors :-) Reading enough of those spelling-tainted books, I started having problems with spelling myself - problems I didn't have when I was seven!

What's the conclusion of this (way too long) story? I think it's that if one gets used to a certain standard, one doesn't fall behind. But if the standard is lowered that person instantly lowers his/her standards to the acceptable level.

I think that is the problem with the western society: the standards are really low for the time being and I don't think we'll see them go much higher on the short term. The immediate result is that people don't strive to do the best they can - they only satisfy the standard, which, in my opinion, as stated above, is way too low.

Take a look at the e-mail messages you receive (and most probably at the ones you send, too). Do you see any capitals in the title? Do you see capitals at the beginning of sentences? Usually not. Is it so hard to press that BIG Shift key? Not really. But if the standard doesn't require that, why bother?

Do you have a work-related hobby? What I mean is, do you do hobby projects - which would potentially be required in your job - by yourself, with no request from your business environment? Didn't think so. You know these things would make you a better professional, but why bother? You're good enough anyway, right?

Do you write code? If you do, is your code always nicely formatted? (not to mention commented)

These were just a few examples which prove our society doesn't breed perfectionists - although I think people should be perfectionists in the examples above. Why aren't we? Because "we don't have enough time to". That is simply not true. I really do think that if people were more perfectionist and would do their jobs more thorough rather than faster, our world would have evolved a lot more by now. That's because I think that any problem solved JIT doesn't provide all the answers for the individual solving it. In the long run, that individual will solve that problem just in time each time, never learning enough about it to solve it before time. So then, in a time-oriented economy perfectionists would be bred whereas in a money-oriented economy, quick solvers are bred. But then again, time is money, right? Why don't we understand this thoroughly?

If you wonder why I started with the examples about communism, I did so because I learned about this problem in the western society only after being exposed to it. Before that I was 100% convinced that people are driven far enough by the capitalist self-interest - which was not present in a communist society - to be perfectionist by their own. I was terribly disappointed when I found that's not even by far the case. I found that perfectionists are driven by self-determination rather than interest in money - that's because they can apparently make the same money by being lousy professionals.

Please don't just start criticizing my theory just because you don't like it - or because you're not the kind depicted in the paragraphs above. Take a moment and think how the world would be if people would be perfectionists (without excess, which would be another big problem - unfortunately we generally aren't exposed to that).

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Poll
Perfectionists:
o Pain in the ass 10%
o Dislike them 10%
o Want more of those 15%
o One of them 52%
o Created the concept 10%

Votes: 46
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The Perfectionist | 27 comments (22 topical, 5 editorial, 0 hidden)
On the other side of the coin. (4.50 / 2) (#1)
by dram on Mon Nov 05, 2001 at 09:01:43 PM EST

In Western societies people are not as specialized as they were in the 2nd world (Communist) countries. In a capitalist system if you are not exceptional at something, if you are merely good at it, or, worse yet, average, then somebody that is better than you can come along and take your job away from you. This requires people to have the ability to change jobs and to do that they need to be more versatile. A person can never know exactly what a future employer might need, so the person must employ a wide range of skills, hoping one of them might be needed by somebody in a position to give them a job.

That being said, I do feel that may people in the West would find it very advantageous to master and use the language that they are working in. However, being a perfectionist is not the most noble goal, imo. Striving to make things exceptional, so they would have arÍte, to use the Greek word, is a noble goal, but at some point the cost/benefit scale is tipped too far and even if you could make it a little better it would not be worth the effort.

-dram
[grant.henninger.name]

Small quibble about common misconception (none / 0) (#11)
by StrontiumDog on Tue Nov 06, 2001 at 06:11:46 AM EST

In a capitalist system if you are not exceptional at something, if you are merely good at it, or, worse yet, average, then somebody that is better than you can come along and take your job away from you.
No. Unless you are exceptionally poor at your job, you will not lose it to someone who is better at it. Even in capitalistic societies.

People get fired for all kinds of reasons in capitalistic societies, but outside of clearly defined meritocratic niches like professional sports, rarely do they get fired because the boss has found someone who can do the same job marginally better.

My cable company helpdesk is living proof of this.

[ Parent ]

I dissagree (none / 0) (#14)
by dram on Tue Nov 06, 2001 at 12:29:50 PM EST

Take a look at many of the blue collar factory workers that have been laid off in the past 20 years because their company found a better work force. They went to third world countries where the labor was cheaper.

We must realize that 'better' in a capitalist society is really just the maximization of profits. And maybe that's what I missed in my first reply to this story. In much of the west we don't care to make good products, we care to make cheap products that can sell. Sales-Costs=Profit. The higher the profits the better the company is doing. And the same goes with individuals, Salaries-Effort=Profit. Once again we look for the maximization of profits.

The only way to really change this would be to have all of the buyers of a product only go for high quality items. If nobody looked at value and instead looked at quality, then this system would change, but nobody is going to do that, at least not anytime soon.

-dram
[grant.henninger.name]

[ Parent ]

Nitpicks (4.40 / 5) (#5)
by quartz on Mon Nov 05, 2001 at 10:37:20 PM EST

A few nitpicks, in no particular order:

  • Most educated Romanians don't have a spelling problem not because of their high standards, but simply because the Romanian language has no concept of spelling. Apart from a few exceptions, like the groups "ch" and "gh" and the use of the dash to signal partial omission in some pronouns and verbs, Romanian is spelled exactly the way it sounds, one letter for one sound.
  • "Learn, learn, learn" and "the dictatorship of the proletariat" are not really conflicting concepts. Remember what used to happen to students once they graduated college? They got their asses hauled to the countryside to help "build the Socialist ideal" with the most rudimentary of tools and in almost degrading conditions -- hardly the appropriate treatment for "true intellectuals". Actually, the obedient intellectuals got the same treatment as common proles, while the dissenting intellectuals were put under house arrest or sent to forced domicile in strange locations, like Noica in Campulung-Muscel. So whether you learned or not, you were still a prole.
  • Your communist textbooks may have had perfect spelling, but what about the content? What about the draconian censorship that only let textbooks makers print doublespeak gibberish? What about all the "protocronism" bullshit in literature textbooks? What about the rewriting of history? What about the president's picture and "words of advice" on the first page on each and every textbook? I don't know about you, but I'd rather have quality information riddled with spelling errors than utter crap that's perfectly spelled.
  • The pay that you got for being educated under communism was not lousy. It was actually substantially better than most blue-collar workers got (with the possible exception of miners and other high risk professions)
  • The problem of low standards is not specific to Western society. Does "we pretend to work, they pretend to pay us" mean anything to you?
  • And last, but by no means least: you're an engineer, aren't you?


--
Fuck 'em if they can't take a joke, and fuck 'em even if they can.
Answers (4.33 / 3) (#7)
by Gutza on Mon Nov 05, 2001 at 11:12:28 PM EST

A few answers, in a particular order:
1. You sound like a Romanian who left the country for some time. You should come back some time and read some texts in Romanian before saying it's such an easy language to spell. The only problem with Romanian - as you correctly noted - the dashes - seems to be a huge problem nowadays even for professional translators working for major tv stations and editors.
2. Correct. My logic, though, was following this overused concept: "working class". You should remember that was used at least as often as "the proletariat" if not more often. But you do have a point I never thought of.
3. I'm not saying anything in the article opposed to what you say. I just didn't stress the bad parts of the regime because on one hand, I think most people have a pretty good idea about the censorship and on the other hand it would have made this article really huge and really lacking focus. ;-)
4. Correct at the first glance. But should I have instead started a whole nonsense theory about not being able to buy anything with the money you got? I'm sure I would have had to use a lot of space to explain to these people why that happened - but the result was the same: your pay was lousy in that the money you got had almost no buying power - unless you wanted the crap they were selling. Yes, you did get more than the blue collars, but did that make you richer?
5. That is indeed 100% correct. But I was talking about the professional level - and if people would have been motivated to work, they would've worked very efficient, I'm certain of that. Unfortunately, that doesn't even happen now!
6. Yes, I am. Is it so obvious? :-) Actually, my studies make me an engineer - in reality I am a site designer and never was a real engineer (long story here...)

Who's your vendor, who's your vendor? — Scott Adams
time is K5
[ Parent ]
Good article, but suggestions... (none / 0) (#9)
by Anoymous 22666 on Tue Nov 06, 2001 at 03:15:14 AM EST

Good article. I agree with you on a lot of it. I don't pretend to have a deep understanding of communism though. :-) But as for the lack of perfection and laziness, I totaly agree.

However, I did find it a little lengthy and did take a long time to get to the point. But you do admit that yourself, so at least you're aware of it.

+1 anyway. It's worth a read.

I just farted... And I blame the fiction section. - Psycho Les


teacher pay (5.00 / 1) (#10)
by ruylopez on Tue Nov 06, 2001 at 04:47:07 AM EST

You speak of the problems with communism and mention low teacher pay more than once. Believe me, this is not a problem unique to communist societies. Teachers in capitalist countries like the United States are low paid as well. Many of them, like you said, do it more for vocational reasons than financial reasons.

As far as having gone through rigorous courses in math, physics and so forth, I tend to agree. I get that impression when meeting Eastern Europeans and Russians. In the book "Searching for Bobby Fischer", it was said that the reasons so many top chess grandmasters come from Russia (and Eastern Europe) is not because they're naturally smarter than everyone, but because they have more rigorous training. It may be tough while learning, but the genius in chess, math and physics which results is worth it in most cases.


Where you get athletes (2.33 / 3) (#12)
by Otter on Tue Nov 06, 2001 at 11:14:38 AM EST

Obviously, we didn't do so good when it came to politics, but the rigor in our education did have results: the gymnasts in Eastern Europe and Russia are among the best in the world (I sometimes wonder why Romania, such a little country, excels in this field).

India is (IIRC) the second most populous country in the world, but earns almost no Olympic medals. Why? Because it's only totalitarian countries that test every eight year old, assign the top performers to specific sports and send them to sports academies for 10 years for constant training and systematic drugging. And starves the rest of its population to do it.

It's not obvious to me that that's a good thing.

Check your facts before posting! (5.00 / 1) (#13)
by Gutza on Tue Nov 06, 2001 at 11:49:48 AM EST

Although it may be true that India doesn't get any medals, you cannot say "only totalitarian countries test every eight year old [etc]". Take a look at this page - can't find any better right now. Andreea is Romanian, Svetlana is Russian. Andreea is 18 and Romania has been a democracy for the last 12 years. New talents are being trained right now, and people in Romania aren't starved so top performers get their drugs, the way you put it (which would be kind of funny if you weren't serious).

Who's your vendor, who's your vendor? — Scott Adams
time is K5
[ Parent ]
Err, let me rephrase that. (none / 0) (#16)
by Otter on Tue Nov 06, 2001 at 03:18:09 PM EST

OK, I posted that hurriedly and left out some stuff. Let me amend that a bit.

1) Yes, I realize that Russia, the former DDR and other countries continue to churn out international athletes years after Communism collapsed. Still, that's mostly due to the sports machinery of training facilities, teams and coaches that was put into place under Communism, and the athletic culture that was created then. There's a reason why Eastern Europe has these things and Nigeria, Indonesia, Pakistan and other large countries don't.

2) Gymnastics isn't the best example as that (I think) is a sport that was genuinely popular among Romanians and Russians. I was referring more to the mass production of lugers, Greco-Roman wrestlers, equestrians and every other type of athlete for the purpose of inflating medal counts. (Just as India and Pakistan produce cricket stars, but not ski jumpers.) I'm thinking of the Chinese aerial freestyle skiiers, converted gymnasts, like the woman who could barely stop at the end of her silver medal winning run in Nagoya.

Come to think of it -- isn't that your point? That Communism was able to create a culture of tremendous athletic achievement, if a largely artificial and typically totalitarian one?

[ Parent ]

Somewhat true, but! (none / 0) (#17)
by Gutza on Tue Nov 06, 2001 at 03:31:38 PM EST

I'll start replying from bottom up: it is somewhat true that I wanted to point out the commies' culture ability to create great athletic achievement. But I can't be 100% certain that is wrong - unless, of course, drugs are involved or inhuman training. I also can't totally agree with your view simply because athletes are not the only good results of this culture: as hinted in the article, take a look at scientists in the western universities and you'll find a lot of names you'll have a hard time spelling. And that was not done "for the [only] purpose of inflating medal counts" because, if you can imagine that, these people usually couldn't use their brains in their respective countries - with a few notable exceptions, such as Russian astronauts and space engineers (or whatever they're called). I don't think the process was as artificial as you make it sound or as absurd as you think it was. I think most of these people became what they became simply because of the environment.

Who's your vendor, who's your vendor? — Scott Adams
time is K5
[ Parent ]
Oh, come on. (none / 0) (#25)
by ghjm on Thu Nov 08, 2001 at 12:52:43 AM EST

Russia (both pre and post communism), Eastern Europe, *Western* Europe, and the USA all produce(or produced) gold-medal winning athletes. Why? Because, for whatever reason, cultural norms dictated that they spent a lot of money on athletics.

The idealized modern Western state (by which I mean representative democratic government, appropriately restrained free market economics, and a well-founded system of liberal laws) is capable of huge economic productivity. Soviet-style communism (by which I mean bureacratic command economics, single-party government, and authoritarian [but not totalitarian] rule of law) cannot match the overall level of economic productivity, but what it can do instead is provide much tighter focus of available resources. The net result is that in areas of international competition that are broadly supported within the democratic competitor(s) [i.e. where the Soviet-style state actually has a challenge], the communist competitor is able to rise to a level that equals or exceeds that of the democracy. Hence Russian conventional arms superiority throughout the Cold War, Russian hockey players winning the Canada Cup, the Russian/Chinese gold medal record, etc.

Basically, it boils down to, lots of money equals lots of achievement, and it doesn't matter if your GDP is only $500 billion instead of $6 trillion, you'll still find $10 million for a state-of-the-art athletics center if your national pride is on the line.

Why so few gold medals from India (etc.)? Cultural unimportance. The Olympics are less of a big deal in India; hence, less money; hence, less achievement. But, as mentioned, don't try to beat them at cricket.

-Graham

[ Parent ]
So then (none / 0) (#27)
by Gutza on Fri Nov 09, 2001 at 08:30:00 PM EST

Ok, I'll give you that the Western state, for whatever reason, wants to have winning athletes. I'll also agree that money make a difference. But you have no idea how wrong you are when you say that money is all that matters! I know, I start being annoying with the example about Romania, but that's what I know best. Dude, there was no money pouring into athletes as you think! The conditions were miserable! I should know, my primary school was one of those schools where they "recruited" future talents - I did four years of swimming and four years of athletism. And, apart from the nice "gang" feeling there was nothing - no dollars spent on improving the swimming pool, no ROL (our currency) spent on modernizing the stadium. And I saw the older swimmers and athletes doing their training in the same conditions, don't imagine otherwise!

What you are 100% right about is the motivation: you aren't probably motivated to do athletism in India - and you're not motivated doing cricket in Romania! But that's where it all ends! The rest is training and talent.

Who's your vendor, who's your vendor? — Scott Adams
time is K5
[ Parent ]

The low-bidder mentality. (3.50 / 2) (#15)
by IHCOYC on Tue Nov 06, 2001 at 12:40:46 PM EST

Every public building in the USA, anymore, was built by the lowest bidder in a ritual bidding process. The one who claims they can build it cheapest is supposed to win. This was done originally to prevent those in charge from handing the contract to their nephew or somebody. That, however, seems to be yesterday's problem.

We're now aware that the rentacops who perform airport security work for the minimum wage. The airlines saw a place to cut costs, so they cut them.

Perfectionism is paradoxically a function of "slack." It requires leisure to take the time needed to be a perfectionist. If those who can do it faster and cheaper reap the rewards and leave you busted by the curb, perfectionism simply will not happen. The virtue of communism was that it built in more slack. On the one hand, you had queues to buy shoes; on the other hand, what did get done may well have been done right, at least in some areas. It seems to me these are two sides of the same coin.


--
"Complecti antecessores tuos in spelśis stygiis Tartari appara," eructavit miles primus.
"Vix dum basiavisti vicarium velocem Mortis," rediit Grignr.
--- Livy
Random thoughts (3.00 / 2) (#18)
by epepke on Tue Nov 06, 2001 at 04:05:06 PM EST

This is an interesting discussion. It is always pleasant to talk to someone from a different culture. Well, maybe not always, but usually. Here are some random thoughts sparked by your thoughts.

What you don't know is that there were a couple of good things about it. One of the good parts about communism was that is was rigorous. Every text I ever read as a teen was spelled right. Every mathematical demonstration was correct. There were next no social scams.

I think that we never-communists are aware that communism got education down pretty well. However, I wouldn't overstress the rigor. On the flip side, a lot of pretty shoddy goods were made by communist countries, such as Chernobyl, for example. Also, you have to consider Lysenko and the rejection for a long time of the theory of Relativity because of seeming conflicts with "dialectical materialism." Overall, though, I think the education record of communism has been pretty good.

Back to the topic: since education was such a controversial issue in the communist agenda, the most incompetent people were chosen to decide things in this area. This resulted in good old teachers being thrown out of education (they represented the capitalists (?)) and the pay for being a teacher got to be lousy.

As others have pointed out, the same is true in most of the "first world." Secondary science education is particularly terrible. As far as the lousy pay, isn't that the idea? From each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs?

Reading enough of those spelling-tainted books, I started having problems with spelling myself - problems I didn't have when I was seven!

Heh. What ruined my spelling was having to code in FORTRAN and compress meaningful variable names into six characters.

Do you have a work-related hobby? What I mean is, do you do hobby projects - which would potentially be required in your job - by yourself, with no request from your business environment? Didn't think so. You know these things would make you a better professional, but why bother? You're good enough anyway, right?
Do you write code? If you do, is your code always nicely formatted? (not to mention commented)

Well, now that you mention it, yes. I think this is not a particularly appropriate audience for this notion, as there are quite a lot of people here who value craftsmanship. For the population at large, though, I think you are right.

If you wonder why I started with the examples about communism, I did so because I learned about this problem in the western society only after being exposed to it. Before that I was 100% convinced that people are driven far enough by the capitalist self-interest - which was not present in a communist society - to be perfectionist by their own. I was terribly disappointed when I found that's not even by far the case. I found that perfectionists are driven by self-determination rather than interest in money - that's because they can apparently make the same money by being lousy professionals.

I think that there's something important about the free market (which is different from capitalism, which we don't really have). Above all, it is supposed to be free. This means that people have the choice of being good, lousy, or mediocre.

Because there are market pressures pushing up and down all the time, goods and services tend to cluster around an are where they are most sensitive to market pressures, which usually means mediocre. People aren't going to pay more for something unless there is a significant marginal increase in quality, which means that the lower-priced product has significantly reduced quality. The average quality, therefore, is going to be less than perfect. It has to be, or else the free market doesn't work.

In many areas, of course, the market is not free. These are usually cases where the level of quality that a free market would produce would be at a level that is unacceptable to people. People can spend less money on a car that is less safe, for example, but only within certain limits, which are mandated by the government.

I don't think you're quite right to say that perfectionists are driven by self-determination. It's not that people can make the same money by being lousy professionals. It's just that the extra money that they can make by improving their skills is not enough to warrant the effort. This is a very different thing. Once one can have a reasonably comfortable life, becoming ultra-rich is not so appealing for most people.

It is still possible to make more money by being better, but there is a strong Puritan ethic in the U.S. which says that avarice is bad. I, personally, am motivated to make a lot of money, but I am unusual in that a couple of years ago I was extremely poor, and it has burned out my desire to be voluntarily impoverished. Nevertheless, I too am making enough that I don't see a lot of need to better myself for the purpose of making more money.


The truth may be out there, but lies are inside your head.--Terry Pratchett


Perfection Doesn't Pay (3.66 / 3) (#19)
by copo on Wed Nov 07, 2001 at 01:51:34 AM EST

I think I can explain why no one strives to do their best. Perfection just doesn't pay; it's an incredibly inefficient use of time and resources.

From an economics standpoint, one says that efficiency is reached when cost equals benefit. When you strive for perfection, you incur some really significant costs because you're devoting serious resources to even the most insignificant aspects. Once it's perfected though, what do you get out of it? You're not reaping any substantial benefits because the final, perfect product is pretty similar to a regular, functioning product. Perfection costs a lot, but you don't get much out of it.

I cannot imagine a circumstance in which a rational person would strive for perfection, and certainly no one striving to make a profit would choose perfection as their goal. Perfection is just too expensive. A rational person will continue a task until the cost of one additional minute of work isn't worth the benefit of doing that one additional minute of work. That is to say, you'll do something until the marginal cost exceeds the marginal benefit. If you don't do that, you're losing money and you're wasting time.

A competitive market doesn't drive anyone to perfection, but it will drive everyone to efficiency. If you're not efficient, one of your competitors will be, and he'll drive you out of the market. This is why no one strives for perfection: we're just seeking an efficient use of time.

Cody

unless... (5.00 / 2) (#26)
by jazzman on Fri Nov 09, 2001 at 05:36:37 PM EST

Someone wants to be a world champion, for instance. From an economics standpoint you are right, but I think perfectionism has it's uses. In sports 0.01 seconds can make all the difference between a world champion, and a non-world champion. Is wanting to be a champion irrational behaviour? Or wanting to become a star, or someone famous? You can find a lot of perfectionists among famous people. People who achieve something that nobody else has. Does the world need these people? From an economists standpoint, probably not, but spiritually yes.

[ Parent ]
I don't know what this guy is talking about (none / 0) (#20)
by the lizard on Wed Nov 07, 2001 at 06:41:44 AM EST

I'm a Romanian too and I know that during the communism, in Romania, a plumber could get a job as faculty dean, if he had good relatinons with the Communist Party.

And another thing... (1.66 / 3) (#21)
by the lizard on Wed Nov 07, 2001 at 07:39:18 AM EST

sometimes it's incredible how somebody can trash up the web with self-fulfilment discussions.

I think is crazy to think that communism was good in some way. It's so sad when I visit my parents and I see they are as stressed as they were before '89 because the terror is so deep in their mentality



Thank you for the nice words! (none / 0) (#22)
by Gutza on Wed Nov 07, 2001 at 04:37:22 PM EST

However, if you took the time to actually read my article you would have found my actual opinion on communism. If you will take a minute to think about the things I was talking about - as opposed to what you're referring to in your comment - you'll find that I'm not so damned stupid: think gymnasts, think scientists, think programmers.

Since you don't seem to understand what people are saying unless they're spelling it out for you, I'll do that: my opinion is that communism was a lousy and perverted system which stood no chance exactly because of the way it treated people (provided a link in the story to support that). I don't think that's different from your opinion in this comment. I also think that (quoting from the very article you're criticizing): "[in communism] the most incompetent people were chosen to decide things in [education]" - so I don't disagree on your previous comment either.

Read the article until you understand it (like most people reading it did, including Romanians) and only post comments after that. You should consider this when posting other comments on this site too.

But then again, maybe you are just a counterexample to my theory, and your existence in itself is proving my article wrong.

Who's your vendor, who's your vendor? — Scott Adams
time is K5
[ Parent ]
You're welcome (none / 0) (#23)
by the lizard on Wed Nov 07, 2001 at 08:47:54 PM EST

> I think that is the problem with the western society:

As I understood from this article (correct me if I'm wrong) is that you guessed what is wrong with the western society and that is:

> the standards are really low for the time being

It seems to me that you compare the western standards to some other. Would it be the Romanian standards? Or maybe the Russian?

You're saying:

> Eastern Europeans and Russians are also very good at math, physics and exact sciences in general.

Yes it's true. But Einstein was not Russian and the first man on the moon was not sent by the Romanians.

What I think is that every society has it's valuable people which rise to the top just because they are special and you're just overreacting.



[ Parent ]
That's more like it! (none / 0) (#24)
by Gutza on Wed Nov 07, 2001 at 09:23:41 PM EST

Ok, expected a flame here and reading your comment was a pleasant surprize. Why didn't you post this reply in the first place?

Anyway.

"It seems to me that you compare the western standards to some other. Would it be the Romanian standards? Or maybe the Russian?"
Yes, that's exactly what I'm doing. That is, within the context of the article: I'm comparing the standards of certain, clearly defined elements of the two cultures. And yes, I think that when it comes to rigor in education, communists were more rigorous. What's the problem with that? True, lots of the teachers were lousy (and you can find that statement in the article); yes, many times the rigor was absurd but MY ARTICLE WAS NOT ABOUT THE ABSURDITY OF COMMUNISM! Why can't you understand that? I was just talking about one single tiny thing that I think was better than it has been in the west for a long time and starts showing over here as well. That's all there is to it!

About the Einstein argument: dude, if that's your standard, I hope you buy Microsoft by the New Year's or else you might commit suicide.

And the first man on the moon argument is wrong. Not that the Romanians were - or could have been there first - but the Russians were just one tiny little step behind. And don't say "but they weren't" because that only made a difference then - it doesn't anymore.

Although your Einstein and moon examples are missing the point, I understand what you mean and I agree. But then again, I was talking about something else. I never said communism was good. Never!

Who's your vendor, who's your vendor? — Scott Adams
time is K5
[ Parent ]
The Perfectionist | 27 comments (22 topical, 5 editorial, 0 hidden)
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