Why regulated academics don’t identify with regulated businesspeople

Missed this outstanding Jacob Levy post from 2014, you should really read the whole thing but here’s an excerpt:

A lot of people a lot of the time underestimate how burdensome, onerous, and intrusive complicated bureaucratic rules and regulations are. …Politically we associate this kind of talk with business owners and managers complaining about government regulation, and that’s not a class to which academics are (as an overall pattern) especially warmly inclined– but goodness knows that academics understand these dynamics when it comes to the administrative micromanagement of our own professional lives. Time that we should be spending researching or teaching is instead spent asking for permission to do so, by humbly seeking to prove ourselves innocent of all sorts of potential malfeasance. No, I didn’t buy a glass of wine with that grant money. No, I haven’t given an in-class exam during the two weeks before finals. No, my study of Plato does not involve potential harm to human subjects or laboratory animals. No, I haven’t made up publications to include on my CV for my performance review. Yes, here’s the proof in triplicate.

I think this is a case in which our biases between groups we like and groups we don’t is especially strong. We are mainly honest competent adults trying our best to do what we’re supposed to do, and they keep getting in our way with these insulting burdensome rules; they don’t take seriously the cost to our time and energy of having to prove compliance constantly, both by paperwork and by subordination to the administrative officials who monitor all of us in order to detect wrongdoing by a tiny few. You are basically suspect characters to begin with, and if we let you get away with it you’d all be running wild, and the other ways you were going to spend your time we don’t really like anyways, and we’re dubious enough about you that monitoring you closely is a good idea anyway even if some of you aren’t technically violating the rules, and the moral cost of even one of you getting away with this terrible thing is so great that we simply have to prevent it, and anyway what are you complaining about, if you obey the rules like you supposed to, there’s no harm to you.

As I say, read the whole thing, which also includes an analysis of the actual likely effects of a typical venture in legislative posturing, a ban on dispensing food stamps to lottery winners.

One Comment

  • Interesting and he doesn’t even go to the flip side of this.
    How many government jobs are created because of the need to administer and enforce these regulations? These jobs create no wealth, in fact they do the exact opposite in the form of higher taxes and fees. People complain about the cost of health care. How much of the cost is caused by having to comply with these regulations and the paperwork they generate. My doctor has one person to handle scheduling, one assistant to help with patients and four people to comply with the paperwork for insurance, Medicare and Medicaid. Then there are the people who process this paperwork for the Government. When my Mother was alive we received identical forms and notices from both the State and Federal Government. You can call me a conspiracy theorist, but, I believe that this is a coordinated effort. The article mentions “academics” the majority of which are Liberals. They create the regulations which require government employees to administer. In my experience the majority of these “employees” are themselves Liberal. They belong to the public sector unions, who contribute to Liberal politicians, who perpetuate the cycle.