Why do arseholes succeed?

I’ve just finished reading an article about why many of us love Über despite the fact that it’s run in an extremely douchebaggy way by a complete douchebag. (More Über douchebaggery analysis here; more Silicon Valley douchebaggery examples here.) 

The main answer can be found in these paragraphs from the first link:

Amazon — more than any other company, more than Google, more than Facebook, more than Apple — taps into what people desire in a terrifyingly primal way: We want a thing, fast and preferably cheap. Not much else matters. We know Amazon’s not a nice company, and that the people who work there are treated poorly. We don’t always like it, but there is absolutely, definitively, nothing we will do to stop it. We are happily addicted.

And that, in the end, is the real reason so many people hate Uber: Because whatever we do, we can’t stop ourselves from making it bigger and more successful and more terrifying and more necessary. Uber makes everything so easy, which means it shows us who, and what, we really are. It shows us how, whatever objections we might say we hold, we don’t actually care very much at all. We have our beliefs, our morals, our instincts. We have our dislike of douchebags, our mistrust of bad behavior. We have all that. But in the end, it turns out that if something’s 10 percent cheaper and 5 percent faster, we’ll give it all up quicker than we can order a sandwich.

So all those years ago, when Bill Bernbach said that a principle isn’t a principle until it costs you money, he was right and we haven’t changed by a single atom.

But I think the guiding fundamental of human behaviour here isn’t that we’ll fold our principles like a cheap suit when money and/or convenience are on the line; it’s that we are creatures of cognitive dissonance, and that’s hard to get our heads round. That link says we like to reduce the internal conflict we often end up facing (‘So the CEO of Über is a giant prick; but if I didn’t use it then those nice drivers wouldn’t get paid’) because the overall effect is mentally stressful, but we still take it on, day after day.

And unfortunately, life isn’t a series of binary choices where one thing is good and another bad. We have to add up the contributing factors then make a choice based on what comes out on top: ‘I really hate being hit by my husband, but if I leave him I’ll have the discomfort of living somewhere shitty and having no money to bring up the kids, so I’ll stay.’ ‘That chocolate bar is unhealthy but if I exercise tomorrow I can negate its effect’. ‘Facebook seems kind of dodgy, but I love sharing cat videos with my friends more than I worry about my private information being sold to random corporations’. You do what you do because you prefer it to the alternative, and sometimes that’s hard to accept.

So there’s the bugger. Interestingly, this guy seems to think mean people fail, but the annoying thing is that many of them succeed, so there’s no incentive to be a nice guy, and anyway, who decides what behaviour is bad or wrong?

You pays your money, you takes your choice then you live in the world you help to create.