Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Now It Makes Sense

Last week, John Tierney suggested that older Americans were greedy and lazy for not working past standard retirement age. Today, he tries to redeem himself, holding out President John Quincy Adams as an example:
Most workers could keep going longer if they and employers reconsidered the old assumption about a career trajectory. They could learn from the example of John Quincy Adams, who was elected to Congress after serving as president. He dismissed objections that the new job was beneath him, and voters didn't discriminate against him for being overqualified.

Adams started his new career at age 63, just about when the typical American man now retires. He wasn't especially spry, once calling his body "a weak, frail, decayed tenement battered by the winds and broken in on by the storm." Yet he stayed on the job until his death at age 80.

He accomplished so much in those years that he is remembered as a better congressman than president. You could call him an inverse example of the Peter Principle, someone who succeeded by being demoted below his level of incompetence.
So I guess the next time I see a person, past the retirement age, clearing tables at McDonalds or working as a "greeter" at WalMart, I'll keep in mind Tierney's suggestion of the "inverse Peter Principle" - that they were probably not competent at their jobs before they took the more humble work - and that they could be serving in Congress had they not found that particular job to be beneath them.

Oh, how sad it must be to be a former President, with so few income opportunities available to you - and all of them so demeaning. Tierney sure knows how to blow the wind out of the sails of a song like "Fortunate Son".


  1. Mr. Tierney ought to be rather careful about scolding the elderly. He's going to be old one day, so he'd better start praying his genetics hold up.

  2. Of course, in JQA's day, presidents had to cover their own entertainment expenses, and usually left office broke. Former president James Monroe was destitute at the end of his life, and died in a garret in a relative's home in Greenwich Village, NYC.

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