Sunday, April 26, 2015

Old Boy's Club as a toothless tiger

From *How Elite Students Get Elite Jobs* by Tyler Cowen
…individual sponsors did not need to be high up in the organization. HR professionals and school teams typically trusted the recommendations of even the most junior firm employees. Insider-outsider status was more salient than vertical position within a firm. First-year analysts or associates could successfully push through an individual they knew from class, athletics, extracurricular activities, their hometowns, or word-of-mouth to the interview phase, provided that they could successfully get the application on the “right desk,” in person or via email…In addition, the tie to an individual sponsor did not have to be strong.
I'll keep my eye open for this book. Could be interesting.

For all the talk about Old Boys Clubs and other such mythical beasts of the fevered imagination of Social Justice Warriors, the above description reads much more true. Sure, there are group affiliations but rarely of a singular nature. In other words, it is imagined that there is discriminatory favoritism based on where you graduated from school, what social club you belong to, etc. As with all imaginary root causes, it does have a grain of truth.

People in dynamic, competitive, uncertain systems always face the issue of dealing with strangers (as peers, subordinates, bosses, clients, suppliers, etc.) about whom they know very little. It costs time and money and risk to get to know them in greater depth, an action also constrained by the reality that there are only 24 hours in the day. Faced with this dilemma people do tend to fall back on heuristics and stereotypes but they also fall back on affiliative groups.

If I am hiring a new staff consultant, there is only a small amount I can glean from an interview and a resume and even from a background check. I will know something more than nothing, but not near enough to make an accurate prediction as to whether this person will be net additive to the organization's value. However, if someone I know also knows this candidate and is willing to endorse them, all of a sudden I have a lot of indirect information. The recommender has skin in the game because they would not make a recommendation that might put our own relationship in jeopardy. Consequently such a recommendation carries a lot of weight. In addition, someone from my affiliative social network who also knows this candidate is able to match knowledge of me and the candidate in a more impartial fashion.

Where Social Justice Warriors and others go off the rails is in imagining that the Old Boys Club consists of some insular, selective, restricted group based on historical stereotypes. The reality is that we are all members of many and disparate voluntary self-selected affiliative associations including church, business, university, high school, sports teams, professional associations, clubs, neighborhood associations, political groups, volunteer associations, etc. The number is effectively limitless.

If I am in business I look to all these affiliations, in which there is usually some form of intra-group facilitation and assistance, for business leads, introductions, wisdom, experience, recommendations, endorsements, etc.

The old trope that business deals get done in an Old Boy's Club is true to the extent that the Club is all natural social affiliations any individual has and is false to the extent that it is intended to indicate some stable group of individuals tightly linked and mutually reinforcing at the expense of everyone else.

By positing some fixed, stable and exclusive group of decision-makers constituted of individuals that club together based on birth or education, SJWs send people down the wrong path. That is not how decisions are made and until individuals recognize that much more of the outcome rests in their own decisions, then they will be wasting their time attacking the chimera of the Old Boys Club instead of building their own affiliative social networks and they will not progress.

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