30th May 2008
I think much the same thing is happening in the adoption process and at the local animal shelter. It’s not that adoption case-workers or pet shelter volunteers are consciously wasting peoples’ time to make themselves feel more powerful. I’m sure they sincerely believe that their efforts are helping kids and cats, respectively. But I think they’re wrong.
A big part of the problem is that people have a natural tendency to over-estimate their own importance. Nobody takes a job he believes is a waste of time, and people self-select into professions they happen to think make a big difference in society. So TSA security screeners believe they’re making air travel safer, even when the evidence says they’re not. Patent attorneys believe they’re promoting innovation, even in industries where the evidence says otherwise. And adoption officials naturally believe that they play a vital role in ensuring kids get placed in loving homes.
This is in continuation of his previous article on the same subject, which is also worth review.
The concept in question, of course, is “Primum non nocere”, “First, do no harm”, which few employees of governments or similar Serve The Public Good organizations seem to have on their radars. The CPS rampage in San Angelo is a fairly obnoxious case in point. No one doubts that these do-gooders have the best of intentions, but, in the classic phrase, that road leads to Hell. The problem is not their intentions but their effects, and the arrogance that underlies the assumption that good intentions will necessarily lead to a good result.