Yet more errata

Time for another update. Woo hoo!

1. I passed the National Healthcare Quality Board’s certification exam on Friday — thus, I am now a “certified professional in healthcare quality,” with the ability to add CPHQ after my name in professional correspondence.

2. Had dinner last week with my mother, grandmother and aunt. Quite pleasant. Granny seems to be settling in well to her new condo.

3. A friend put me into an interesting ethical dilemma last week. She and I had lunch one day, and she casually mentioned what should have been a highly confidential HR matter at work — a matter that could potentially impact me and my boss and my entire division. What to do? I didn’t solicit the information, but once in my possession, I incurred a duty to act on it so as to avoid a potential problem down the road. I occasionally hear things that I shouldn’t know, and I just file them away without further relaying. But this was different. Ultimately, I mentioned it to my boss (who was quite correctly horrified that I knew); she is better positioned than I to minimize the potential of a future problem. That said, I absolutely hated to tell her. Workplace gossip has its place, and sometimes sharing certain types of information can serve a useful social purpose. But some things should never be the subject of gossip.

3. It feels like Washington is slowly merging with Hollywood. Showboating, superficiality and irrationality are the rule of the day, and even traditional sources of wisdom (e.g., National Review) are becoming predictable in tone as well as substance. The increasing polarization of the ideological spectrum is making the political space more shrill and less interesting. While the egos fight, the mild voices of reason (no matter their place on the axes) are being shouted out. What a shame; some of today’s political controversies are not insignificant.

4. A while ago, I stopped my participation in all of the political simulations in which I had played (some, for years). I broke trend a few weeks ago to assist in the development of a simulation called the “Commonwealth of Antibia” — a constitutional monarchy based on a completely made-up nation-state, with its own history, laws, and culture. My role was to serve as the first High Lord Treasurer and Antibian Economic Director, building the game’s economy. I have since resigned from Antibia because of irreconcilable differences with one of the founders, but the experience has prompted some reflection:
– The desire for control is often rooted in the very best of intentions. However, no person can control everything, and the less willing people are to give up control for the sake of the greater good, the more likely it is that the greater good will suffer. Sometimes, there must be an environment where no one has control, in order to maximize the odds that the free marketplace of ideas will promote the wisest course of action or development — think, for example, of a river. You can dam it to control it, or you can let it run its course and accommodate whatever waterways should result. Western Michigan University’s first president, Dwight Waldo, understood this. After the first buildings were erected, he decided to wait to lay the sidewalks — he wanted to see where students and faculty actually walked, and then he paved those trails. He did NOT pave what he wanted and expect that people would follow those paths.
– Authority without responsibility is meaningless. Those tasked with action must have the ability to complete that action on their own initiative, without being micromanaged by those who are not part of the process. While it’s certainly possible for authority to be centralized in a small, highly functioning group, authority cannot be so decentralized such that the process itself confers authoritative legitimacy. PEOPLE, and not processes, hold authority.
– Proceduralism is not a guarantee of fairness. Just because a system has a series of checks and balances doesn’t mean that the right outcome will be inevitable, or even better than the alternative. A system that depends on consensus can be better than a system that relies on individual power — or not. It all comes down to who sits in the majority. And if the majority is a cohesive group that does not welcome outside input, then no amount of procedural recourse will be enough to ensure an outcome that wasn’t preordained by that majority.
– Competition is healthy. Stifling the competitive urge in order to foster a spirit of cooperation will remove a critical aspect of community that provides the more cooperatively minded with a foil and a dynamic that keeps the community moving.
– Complexity can lead to richness, but it can also lead to disorientation. In general, a system should tolerate only as much complexity as is needed to promote a goal; there is decreasing marginal utility to complexity that can be counterproductive if unchecked by common sense.
– Limiting access to power means that there is less of an incentive for competitive-minded people to participate in a system.

I wish Antibia well, whatever should happen.

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