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Professions Usually Worsen Problems They were Meant to Solve

The interactions of human motivations, capitalism, perverse incentives, fake jobs, technology and system inertia have been the subject of many of my older posts. It has been clear to me, for some time now, that nothing good can come out this mixture- except perhaps by accident. However most people still do not subscribe to my worldview largely because it is somewhat depressing. They would rather keep on believing ambient comforting lies than think for themselves. But I am not giving up and here is another attempt to make a few more people question their beliefs. It starts with a simple question.

Why do professions created to solve problems often end up causing more damage than the problems themselves?

Here are a few contemporary examples to better illustrate my point. Take school teachers.. why has increased funding and employment in the pre-university education sector not increased the quality of education? Why do teachers keep on insisting that more money, power, rules and guidelines will solve the problems? What is the problem anyway? Are human beings naturally not inclined to learn new and personally useful skills? Are children not naturally excellent observers, very curious and enthusiastic? So why do most of them hate school? Could it possible that schools, in their current form, discourage learning? Is it a coincidence that school architecture and procedures increasingly resemble prisons?

Or consider the legal profession.. why has public perceptions about the level of judicial dysfunction gone up in parallel with the number of people employed in that sector? Shouldn’t an increase in the number of people employed to solve a set of problems result in their diminution? Shouldn’t spending a larger fraction of your financial resources on legal costs make things flow more smoothly? So why do we end up with an ever-increasing number of laws, bylaws, rules and regulations whose sole purpose is to make things stickier? Why has the size of even simple contracts exploded within the last 30 years? Why are most ‘criminal’ convictions in the USA based on plea deals and mandatory minimums rather than something old-fashioned like a trial?

The medical profession provides more examples of this problem in action. Why has most of the money invested and spent within the last 30 years on medical care and research not yielded any large-scale improvements in outcomes? Why is most of the health care money spent on procedure and equipment of dubious efficacy, while we ignore problems such as development of newer antibiotics, better vaccines and truly innovative ways to treat diseases that are as yet untreatable? Why has all the money spent on finding a cure for various types of cancers, Alzheimers, Parkinsonism etc not yielded anything worthwhile after two or three decades? Why have rates of obesity and other metabolic illness gone up at the same rate as people adopting the dietary guidelines created by credentialed “experts”? Why are medical mistakes officially the 3rd and probably the 2nd largest cause of death?

Professions involved in maintaining “law and order” provide yet more examples of the problem. Why do we keep hiring more cops and other assorted law-critters when the rates of minor crime have been falling for over two decades- almost all over the world. Why are people not involved in gangs more likely to killed by a cop than a criminal belonging to some gang? What about all those barely reported unnatural deaths in judicial custody or jail? What about property forfeiture of innocents, rigged red-light cameras and a host of other rent-seeking behaviors? Does any of this increase the safety of most people? What percentage of simple property crimes do cops solve anyway? Do they protect people from large-scale financial fraud and economic crimes?

But is this a relatively new phenomena?

Certain vocations and professions have, since the beginning of human history, almost always worsened the problems they were supposed to solve.

Emperors, kings, dukes and feudal lords have been promising protection and peace to their subjects since the beginning of history. Oddly enough, things almost never worked out that way. Recorded history is full of accounts of constant skirmishes, mass persecutions, disastrous wars, endless palace intrigues and the construction of costly palaces or tombs. It is very doubtful if the presence of rulers improved the security of their subjects and the converse is likely true. Yet all these rulers claimed divine, semi-divine or otherwise special ancestry and fitness to rule.

Priest are another example of a professional class that promised people everything from a great afterlife to seeking divine intervention for stopping plagues, preventing earthquakes and ensuring bountiful harvests. Today we know that all those sacrifices, prayers, chants and other assorted bullshit were utterly useless and often counterproductive. Let us also not forget the role of the priestly class in supporting wars based on whose invisible sky-friend could piss further. Did I also mention that priests became priests through a lengthy process of being born to the ‘right’ parents, having the ‘right’ mentors and spouting the ‘right’ brand of lies and bullshit.

Scholars, philosophers and intellectuals are yet another example of a group that has not delivered. Under the guise of investigating the human condition, these sophists came up clever arguments to justify the oppression and abusive behavior of whoever paid their salary. The world would be no worse of if every ancient philosopher of every single tradition never existed. The same can be said about ancient scholars who were the PR guys and talking heads of their eras.

So, is there a link between the politicians, bureaucrats, teachers, physicians and cops from our era with the various rulers, priests and scholars of previous eras?

Yes, there is and it is called credentialism. Vocations and professions that require extensive credentialization and approval from prior members almost always tend to create far more problems than they are supposed to solve, if they can even do that. But why is that so? Isn’t credentialism meant to keep incompetent people out and promote people from within based on their merit?

While the founding myth and official story line about credentialism often portray it as the best way to keep incompetent people out of important and financially lucrative professions- it is anything but that in real life. To understand the “why” let us have a brief look at the psyche of people who crave endless amounts of power, prestige and money. Such individuals are typically the most self-centered, narcissistic and sociopathic individuals in any given society. They are also the least altruistic and humane in that system.

The very idea that such people are even capable of caring about anybody but themselves is laughable.

Credentialism is therefore just a scam to protect rent-seeking vocations by making them look official and natural. Insiders to any credentialism-based scam have no interest in actually solving problems or making the lives of other people better. It largely exists to put a pleasant facade on what would otherwise be seen as parasitic extortion and abuse. It allows the parasites to maintain the status quo and keep on exploit their position. The money and status obtained through credentialism also allows them to temporarily insulate themselves from the adverse consequences of their actions.

At this point, I can almost hear some of you saying- “but.. but would you let an unlicensed surgeon perform surgery on you?” Here is my answer.. when I talk about credentialism I am also referring to restricted admission in the vocation or profession. You cannot compare somebody who barely has some experience to someone who was admitted and trained in that vocation or profession. Furthermore, as I said before, medical mistakes are the 3rd or 2nd largest cause of death. So the original question is meaningless.

A far better question would be- “Is a surgeon trained in a well-funded medical program in India as competent as one trained in a similar program in USA? and my answer to that question is – Yes. The same is also true of individuals who got their degrees from a state university rather than some ivy league institution. The presence or absence of specific paperwork is really about optimal rent-seeking rather than the ability of an individual to perform a particular job.

Having said that, a larger problem still remains. How can you get people to reduce the incidence of problems if their remuneration is linked to the number of problems they supposedly solve? Wouldn’t eliminating problems also eliminate their cushy jobs? Furthermore, creating new problems is the easiest way to increase your income- regardless of their effect on the rest of society.

What do you think? Comments?

  1. euneaux
    September 19, 2013 at 4:03 pm

    It’s all bullshit

    Nothing new, but what can be done about entrenched interests that do everything they can to protect their turf and lock out competition? Short of a revolution? Even after a revolution the new cadres of the vanguard set things up so they and their offspring retain position and privilege.

    For most fairness and mobility will forever remain an illusion.

    Some sort of automatically executed solution with considerable collateral damage? Or making the system attack and degrade itself?

  2. euneaux
    September 19, 2013 at 7:33 pm

    I have grown more aware how there indeed exists a class of rent-seekers on the top of society, whose privilege to extract the scarce fruits of actual labor is in little relation to its actual contributions. The list of professions outlined is a good start. The fetish in the US for credentialed education results more for the access to resources and privileges that it confers than the actual content of the training that might equip a person to add genuine value in the society or economy. In many ways the power of the Cathedral in modern society is even more analog to that of the clergy in feudal Europe than many realize. I still recall in school how nobody could fathom how a profession could be so attractive that adds so little to the medieval economy and society and entailed many social sacrifices (celibacy!). The clergy was nonetheless such a desirable vocation for families in feudal Europe to push on their their offspring for the social mobility it promised. We might argue about how many souls the clergy really saves, but there is little doubt that the job, then as now, was preoccupied mostly with bullshit. The Cathedral, then as now, functioned to provide hope for social mobility and has excelled at being able to mint status out of thin air.

    The problem has become credential inflation, and there are only so many spots that the insiders jealously guard from uncredentialed competition.

    There is no hope that revolution can change human nature. People may say they hate slavery, but they live as if they hate equality more. Nobody really dreams of being equal; everyone wants to be lord. I was thinking that the frustration and tension we experience in a society like ours is a result of the inevitable disappointment after having been promised a Disney happy end of social mobility, progress and growth. But isn’t this concept of social mobility predicated on assumption of radical inequality? In order to step up in status, you have to step on someone first.

    If it’s not really possible to ascend to the overclass, then they need to do away with that fiction that only leads to the frustration and disappointment that feed our social tensions. Feudal notions of Christianity claimed “the meek will inherit the earth,” which enabled the peasants to suffer their inequality by promising them a wonderful vision of heaven that needn’t ever actually be delivered. The fiction that the nobility were on top in this life and the poor on top in the next kept the social peace. If social and class mobility are becoming an illusion in the contemporary west, we need a similar fiction to promote social tranquility among our modern serfs. Because we don’t really sincerely believe in the life hereafter in heaven anymore, they needed to come up with a an empty promise of reward on this side of the mortal abyss. Perhaps that’s why the Lifestyles and Cribs of the Rich and Famous Celebrity Trash work so well. Instead of praying in vain to a mute god in the sky, they now offer their devotions to a fickle god of fame in the ether hoping to one day become a celebrity as well, and if not that, at least a star among their peers in their chosen social circle. They’ve got all the rednecks, thugs and tramps so well brainwashed and anesthetized, that they don’t mind supporting a nobility that extracts so much of the fruit of their labors, because they themselves dream one day to ascend to their ranks.

    What is it about that notion of fame that drives us all, bloggers, twitterers, instagrammers, and yes pseudonymous commentators on fringe blogs?

    • eradican
      September 19, 2013 at 10:35 pm

      Well said but religion isn’t as worthless as people think. Historically it served as a “constitution” that limited even nobles and kings.

  3. P Ray
    September 19, 2013 at 7:47 pm

    In the same vein:
    http://www.listener.co.nz/commentary/the-internaut/the-triumph-of-bullshit-jobs/
    Gawker, meanwhile, has stumbled on one new job that almost certainly satisfies the BS definition: book therapist.

    P.S. People become teachers because the bar is so low.
    but people can only become lawyers AFTER they qualify at the bar … NOT just because they have a law degree.
    It’s possible some of those people calling themselves lawyers and teachers – are frauds.

  4. Rum
    September 19, 2013 at 8:17 pm

    As you know, I spent many years making obscene amounts of money as a Medical Doctor in America. It was a lot of fun, actually. But now I am semi-retired and working for less pay in the field of risk analysis and risk reduction. If my organization can succeed in reducing un-necessary procedures, improve clinical outcomes, save money, etc , we are in for a big payday.
    Please do not pass this on,, but no one I know or work with has a plan that is much better.than..”hold them off with smoke screens and BS until we have a clue how to really fix this.”
    When Obamacare collides with reality on Oct 1, I will be laughing. at their prat-falls. They should have known better. They will deserve every lash.cut they receive.

  5. Thought Trials
    September 20, 2013 at 5:31 am

    This is one reason why the GMI (Guaranteed Minimum Income) idea is so appealing. The notion that one needs to “earn” their ability to eat is what drives the urge to create so many useless jobs in the first place.

    Logistical constraints make it impossible for everyone to find a useful occupation that suits them. It would be much more efficient to just pay them off.

    • Webe
      September 20, 2013 at 10:50 am

      True. We shouldn’t take half measures. Either everyone shares in the dividends to progress in production instead of it accruing to some mythical wealth creator caste (the “stewards” of accumulated historical capital). Or we should just shoot them all for being leaches on the body politic.

  6. Webe
    September 20, 2013 at 11:16 am

    The astonishing thing is that every so often there is a story of some esteemed colleague, like a surgeon or a professor, who turns out to be a fraud, having no official qualifications. But apparently also practicing the profession in such a way as to be indiscernible as a fake. People never draw any consequences from such successful imposters.

    Everybody knows inuitively that although you cannot become a concert pianist or a soccer star or an actor without practice, you cannot set up an academy that churns out concert pianists or soccer stars or super star actors and musicians by making people practice. And everybody knows that there are a lot of fully credentialed piss poor teachers (who cannot be fired for being “unqualified” unless they actively molest the children sexually as well as intellectually).

    Nevertheless, there has been an explosion of credentialism — I remember years ago seeing an opening for an assistant luggage salesman in a department store requiring a commerce degree and an additional certificate from the national suitcase institute! There is almost nothing that does not require some perfectly useless course anymore whereas actual performance is immaterial.

    If you were to try and get a position by offering to perform the job free of charge for a month, everybody recoils as if this is unnatural sex, precisely because they are afraid you are going to show them up. Going through school I suggested being allowed to have a trial run at the exams for every course for the degree, and only attending courses for exams I didn’t make. The board eventually blocked the experiment (supported by some staff members) because they were afraid of creating a precedent — in other words, of success.

    This whole pretense that everybody is at the position they should be earning what they deserve (all working together for the common weal) never truly falls away until people are placed in a position where basic survival is all that counts — then the only thing that matters is who can actually get something done and help you survive.

    • P Ray
      September 20, 2013 at 12:31 pm

      Or the alternative is that you are bogged down with impossible tasks to perform for free and then labelled as “cannot do the work” , despite the people in paid positions not being asked (and have never done) to do the work that you were assigned.

      I blame idiot managers, there are a lot of them out there.
      Good thing I don’t need them anymore, and have gotten my reparations 🙂

  7. September 20, 2013 at 4:20 pm

    oh, AD, my sexy H1B misogynist…

    do you drive with one hand???

    this lady did…

    http://gma.yahoo.com/blogs/abc-blogs/school-bus-driver-suspended-cellphone-video-shows-her-133738455–abc-news-topstories.html?vp=1

    so what if she hurts some children? you want to hold womyn accountable when they are oppressed by the patriarchy? You are a kyriarchical misogynist.

  8. September 21, 2013 at 12:11 pm

    oh knoes…

    more lies by the kyriarcical misogynists at AVfM….

    http://www.avoiceformen.com/updates/news-updates/indian-girl-uses-acid-for-revenge/?source=delusiondamage.com

    Advipoops, please save feminism and fight against misogyny!!!

  9. Yusef
    September 23, 2013 at 10:38 am

    Is it a coincidence that school architecture and procedures increasingly resemble prisons?

    These are both institutions of control and confinement, as are the hospital and the asylum. They all resemble each other because they all originate from the same basic plan, the same basic intention. Education is to control the mind, not free it, but lucky for us, here and there we find an escape hatch.

  10. EvilOne
    September 24, 2013 at 12:44 pm

    OT: Unka Advi,
    How are you planning to die? I mean, if you spend your money on hookers and stuff… when you get old… are you planning euthanasia, or are you setting aside money for your old age so you can rot in a nursing home?

  11. Victor
    September 25, 2013 at 11:21 am

    Great oration without orating!
    For medical solution, just find out whole truth from a warrior, who fights 65 years in his life to reveal it after he was fired from NASA project just proving what Dr. Linus Poling said
    “All non communicational diseases can trace back to one or more trace mineral deficiency in the body”
    This doc is Dr. Joe Wallach who fired after proving CF is nutritional deficiency not a white European genetic disease that doctors have you believe.
    He fought FDA and sue FDA and won 2 cases to tell the public
    Cancer is preventable by using trace Selenium
    EFA is essential food for body function

    Also All NCD causes by abusing body with Wheat, Barley, Rye, Oat, Oil in the bottle, nitrate food, Well done meet, Sugar, Fried foods, and proceed foods. NOT GENETIC. He backed these reasons with truck load of researches around the world.
    Sorry if I distracted ur point but I have to backup your case in medical dogma
    All those medical dogmaticians want him disappear and put all barriers to him. He personally lecture 300 days year in US states to make people aware of this. He is a veteran, Scientist, Doctor and veterinary too.

    • EvilOne
      September 26, 2013 at 2:06 am

      “All non communicational diseases can trace back to one or more trace mineral deficiency in the body”
      ——————-

      Well, to be die hard honest, Im glad so many are suffering. It improves my relative position.

      • P Ray
        September 26, 2013 at 3:57 am

        Don’t forget that saying: If you can’t be an example, maybe you were meant to be a warning.
        I chuckle at all those “manly” fellows with alcohol addictions who then proceed to develop cirrhosis, lose their hair or have impulse control problems.
        Remember, if you’re the best looking 60 year old around, have no shame in looking for a legal teen.
        Women want men to be rich?
        Well, men want women to be pretty and young.
        Every interaction is a transaction

      • EvilOne
        September 27, 2013 at 1:18 am

        Personal belief example post (AKA whether you agree with me or not depends on your beliefs): http://imgur.com/gallery/wkcesPw

        I like stupid people defending the establishment like this. When I was younger, I would try to argue with people whos I felt were being self destructive. Now Im glad they are. Gives me an edge.

  1. October 13, 2013 at 2:22 am
  2. December 6, 2013 at 8:52 pm
  3. November 3, 2014 at 4:57 am
  4. October 29, 2015 at 1:04 am

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