Articles and Features

Dr. Laurence J. Peter

by Michael Moncur, August 23, 2000

Welcome to the first Special Feature (formerly Quotes of the Week) of the new millenium, and please ignore the fact that we skipped the entire year of 1999. Sigh. We will be doing articles more regularly now, but we won't fall into the trap of calling them "of the week" again.

To start things off, I would like to throw the spotlight on Dr. Laurence J. Peter, an oft-quoted man of much wisdom and humor. Dr. Peter is the author of The Peter Principle, a cynical book about business that, while published 25 years ago, is even more true today.

This is a very readable, funny book (if it had been published 20 years later, I'm sure it would have been illustrated by Dilbert cartoons.) Despite its casual tone, it actually makes some very serious observations about the world of business, which certainly hasn't dramatically improved since the book was written.

Dr. Peter went on to write several more books, including The Peter Pyramid, before he died in 1988. Below I've selected some of my favorite humorous quotations from Dr. Peter, some of which are new to this site and will soon be joining my collection of quotations.

Competence, like truth, beauty and contact lenses, is in the eye of the beholder.

If you don't know where you are going, you will probably end up somewhere else.

Bureaucracy defends the status quo long past the time when the quo has lost its status.

Democracy is a process by which the people are free to choose the man who will get the blame.

In spite of the cost of living, it's still popular.

The man who says he is willing to meet you halfway is usually a poor judge of distance.

Speak when you are angry--and you will make the best speech you'll ever regret.

If a cluttered desk is the sign of a cluttered mind, what is the significance of a clean desk?

Every man serves a useful purpose: A miser, for example, makes a wonderful ancestor.

Equal opportunity means everyone will have a fair chance at being incompetent.

An economist is an expert who will know tomorrow why the things he predicted yesterday didn't happen today.

To further explore the world of Dr. Laurence J. Peter, check out the following books (in association with

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