The book and movie How to Succeed Without Really Trying would not have been funny if everybody didn't realize that a lot of going up the corporate ladder has nothing to do with ability. The following line is getting awfully familiar to you:

People KNOW that, but they don't THINK about it.

If you watch Back From the Future, you will note that the man expected to own a business in the 1980s was Japanese. Japan had rocketed from Oriental poverty to a per capita income on a par with the US since its destruction in WWII.

Then How to Succeed caught up with Japan. To succeed in the New Japan you had to fit in. As a result a very cozy relationship developed in which loans and financial dealings got totally out of hand.

It got to the point where the only thing that would break the silence was economic catastrophe. The catastrophe hit. Japan suddenly ceased to be the Way of the Future. People stopped marveling at the Japanese corporate culture.

To put it simply, Japan had been counting on the phenomenal growth it had for a generation to allow time and elasticity to shake out any inconveniences. In the midst of rapid change there are inevitable problems. Like the pollution in Tokyo, things that would have been serious elsewhere were taken for granted.

But Japan should have read BUGS. When they reached what, in terms of money exchange, was an American per capita income, their ability to copy from the Aryans had been reached.

In the 1980s Japan had been expected to go right into orbit, continuing its phenomenal growth which was actually a copy of the West.

Sometimes it is enormously costly when people can't tell each other the truth.

There is a great similarity to what happened to Japan in the 1980s and what is occurring in the American corporate - and mortgage - culture right now. Those who were paid enormously salaries for suiting up, showing up and doing things right in terms of the corporate culture turn out to be almost unbelievably poor when it comes to actual paperwork.

The more one rises by fitting in, the more requirements develop about what You Should Say and What You Shouldn't Say, Who You Know Not What You Know, the less able your executives are going to be.

The more veterans' preferences you have, the more ethnic quotas you have, the less basic competence matters.

This eventually, here as in Japan and everywhere else, can only be exposed by a catastrophe no one can keep under cover.

And that is what we are facing today.