VOL. 126 | NO. 107 | Thursday, June 2, 2011
Quote Unquote L.J. Peter
I’ve been browsing “Peter’s Quotations: Ideas for Our Time” (1977). I’ve owned two copies for years. It’s never more than arm’s length away. It’s the most valuable quote book ever. Its compiler, Dr. Laurence J. Peter, co-authored “The Peter Principle,” a 1969 treatise on hierarchiology. He’s a genius.
Peter held that in any organization, a person tends to rise to the level of his or her own incompetence.
In other words, people who are good at what they do get promoted to something new. If they are good at that, they get promoted again. When they get to a job that they cannot do, they get to keep it.
But back to “Peter’s Quotations.” Interspersed among the words of hundreds of others are comments from Peter himself:
“During a campaign the air is full of speeches – and vice versa.”
“The only race in which the most people pick the winner is an election.”
“History teaches us the mistakes we are going to make.”
“Nothing modernizes a home so completely as an ad offering it for sale.”
“Some are born good, some make good, and some are caught with the goods.”
“Humility is the embarrassment you feel when you tell people how wonderful you are.”
“Life isn’t all beer and Skittles; few of us have touched a Skittle in years.”
“[T]he good life starts only when you stop wanting a better one.”
“Money can’t buy love, but it improves your bargaining position.”
“The incompetent with nothing to do can still make a mess of it.”
“The customer who’s always right probably waits on himself.”
“Ignorance has its virtues: Without it there would be mighty little conversation.”
“[A]ccording to obituary notices, a mean and useless citizen never dies.”
“There’s only one thing more painful than learning from experience, and that is not learning from experience.”
“By the time a man realizes that his father was usually right, he has a son who thinks he’s usually wrong.”
“A fool and his money were lucky to get together in the first place.”
“Fortunately, the wheel was invented before the car, otherwise the scraping noise would be terrible!”
“The most useful of all social graces is the ability to yawn with your mouth closed.”
“Facts are stubborn things, but statistics are more pliable.”
“The trouble with resisting temptation is that you may not get another chance.”
“Two can live as cheaply as one – if they both have good jobs.”
“A censor is an expert in cutting remarks.”
And with that, it is time to cut out.
Vic Fleming is a district court judge in Little Rock, Ark., where he also teaches at the William H. Bowen School of Law. Contact him at email@example.com.