Tuesday, May 24, 2005


Long time ago I was learning about constitutional crises in anglo history, and in particular the limits of the executive in dispensing with laws (the classic example being why ambulances are not prosecuted for breaking the speed limit; with the classic counter-example being why king wossisface couldn't dispense with a law and act outside it - the law applied equally to everyone, and could not be circumvented for procedural tricks alone).

Scientists, for some strange reason, have this thing about stuff being consistent and following comprehensive rules.
Makes it hard sometimes to fill out IRS forms, but such is life.
Personally, I find not just rules, but meta-rules to be important; and while finding tricks to circumvent rules may be clever and daring, it is not good when playing classical iterated games.

On a related note: it is a truism that a successful politician who wants to stay in office must do what it takes to get the resources to run and the votes to win; but, a society that survives must have leaders who can transcend their personal ideology to work on what is truly good for society as a whole in practise, not theory. This may sometime mean that the personal goals of leaders clash with those of the society they lead (unless you believe that there is no such thing as society, just a emergent clump of individual priorities - in which case you should read up on theory of altruistic collaboration in evolutionary context, but I digress) - in those cases, either the leaders must give way, or society will lose. Too many societal losses and the society dies, no matter how great and glorious the leader.

Interestingly, the same set of issues comes up when dealing with academia. The Professor as feudal lord beholden only to the Dean as long as the tithing come in makes for a convenient administrative model - leaving the independent labs to handle most of the oversight of staff, with only unseemly inter-lab squabbles and inheritances of failing duchies and baronies to be settled by the greater powers. But, the interests of the individual professor or research group may not align with the interests of the College or University. Great, persisitent Universities handle this; wannabes don't.

Tomorrow: so, how does this all relate to universal consistency and the peculiar USAin problem of creationism and science.

Personal note:
school photos came back - they're good. Will be off in the mail soon.
Diddi is eating well, moved on to Avocado. Messy. Sleeping better except
for occasional gas, should probably have skipped the tabasco... worked with his sister!

Regular photo service will resume when our home comp disk is upgraded.
Applications for the e-mail list will be accepted ;-) (family and close personal friends only)!


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm not sure I see much evidence that professors feel directly beholden to the dean -- there is the small matter of the chair in between. Sure, the dean holds the resources, and the faculty want the resources. But the chair controls teaching assignments, space allocations, and often salary recommendations, and most days those are the things that matter. --resident dean

1:13 AM  
Blogger Steinn said...

well, the barons are beholden to the duke who is beholden to the prince who is beholden to the king who is beholden to the emperor.
Some departments are local minarchies or democracies of property owners, others are pure dictatorships with work unit managers. The Dean is just short hand for another level in the hierarchy.
As we know, some Deans are wise and great; and some are not ;-)

10:47 AM  

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