My trip to the DMV was fruitful. Perhaps I should mingle with people who live outside my head more often.
The most fruitful part of it, arguably, took place while we were standing in line outside. Robert was studying for his MCATS which he takes later this month. Now, if you’re a creature built like the proverbial brick sh*thouse and about six one, reading about muscle groups in line, the people behind you – a very nice family with a young man probably 18 – are going to ask questions.
Robert told them he hoped to be an MD, and then proceeded to explain the process. For those who don’t know it: he’s in pre-med. He’ll have to try for admission to Medschool. Right now, if you don’t have perfect grades and near-perfect MCATS you might as well not try. If you have that you should be aware your chances are less than one in ten.
How do they pick once they have all these people with perfect grades? Well, mostly by people they “like” so a certain amount of political correctness is involved (and hopefully I haven’t shot the boy’s chances, and G-d do I self censor. You have NO idea.)
Why do they pick, you ask? If the school record AND test are perfect, why not admit them all?
Because our medical student numbers are capped by Federal decision (I’m putting decision because I don’t know what drives it: law or exec order.) They were cut in half under Clinton, and then again recently.
THEN, supposing you get into medschool, you have 50% chance of becoming an intern, without which you can’t practice medicine. You have a medical degree, but you aren’t really an MD. Not licensed. This too is centrally planned.
But – the family behind us, who looked fairly smart – said “Why not have ALL the doctors? Wouldn’t that make their services more abundant and therefore cheaper?” And we said “you got us.” We didn’t say “they want to keep the rewards high, so more people will study medicine” which I THINK is the idea, which makes it a bizarre piece of absurd central planning.
And it occurred to me that the point of this was FAR bigger than healthcare.
Look, the problem is that our society is complicated. REALLY REALLY REALLY complicated. Which allows pockets of utter irrationality to subsist because only the people suffering through them or under them know how absurd they are. And they often cna’t speak on pain of not having a job any more.
Take publishing. How long would it have subsisted had people known that the publishers controlled how many copies a book printed and what the distribution was? And the distributors then entered these numbers in the system, and after that it ruled the writer’s life? So that if your editor/publisher slated you for failure no one would even know your book EXISTED, no matter how good?
Well, people in general have great awe for “new york times bestseller” but would they still if they knew 99% of those are determined by the LAYDOWN? (That is how much money the publisher was willing to spend to print a massive number up front?) That it had nothing to do with how many books were bought? That in fact, point of sale data only covers a third of the sales and no one really knows how many books anyone sells? That being in good with your publisher was the fastest route to bestsellerdom? That in Great Britain not so long ago they found a “bestseller” had sold exactly two copies, and that our system allows for the same absurdity? That Terry Pratchett – a mega bestseller in Great Britain (and a real one. They can’t keep his books on the shelf) was selling low mid list here until he changed – not his writing style, nor his subject but – his publisher and agent?
Most of what drove people to buy what was pushed at them was the assumption that this MUST be the best of the best. If they’d known how sausage was made, given how bad or at least how bland the sausage had got towards the end (I was reading a book on Romania where before they kicked out their dictator, their sausage was mostly saw dust. Like that.) and before indie upended things, do you think people would have bought even as many of the books as they did? I don’t think so.
The same thing as if most people knew of the absurdity that is our doctor training process, and how much of it is dependent on being a good boy and playing along not just with the learning but with the superiors political prejudices and knee jerk reactions they’d go “But that’s ridiculous. We need doctors capable of independent thought. Also, wouldn’t have more doctors make it cheaper?”
These absurd practices exist in other places, I’m sure. Places where I don’t know things as well and can’t speak with as much knowledge. I CAN tell you that throughout the nineties the response to “IT company is in trouble” was ALWAYS “Fire the entire research and development team. Hire more managers.” I still wonder where that piece of nonsense came from. Maybe a lot of ex-government employees teach MBA courses?
I can also tell you when I came to the US with a newly minted teaching degree from one of the oldest colleges in Europe (not Bob’s school of teaching) I wasn’t ALLOWED to take the teaching certification exam. No one argued, mind, that my college didn’t have a good enough preparation. Certainly no one would put it to the test by letting me TAKE the test. They just didn’t give my college a number so I couldn’t take the computer-scored certification test. Which meant I foamed at the mouth when someone talked of certification as a guarantee of quality. Or for that matter when they talked about raising teacher’s salaries to attract professionals from other fields. What good is THAT if the professional has to be willing to go back to college, just to be ALLOWED to take the test?
Why do all these counterintuitive, not to say daft “processes” continue? Well, because the people affected CAN’T speak, and no one else knows. Indie has unmuzzled writers, thank heavens. Med students? I don’t know. Teachers? I’ve said before, I’ll say again, that’s the next field innovation will hit hard.
Our society is really, really, really complex. Strangely, this allows pockets of utter irrationality to exist – irrationality that affects both providers and consumers and which in the long run affects society.
What you don’t know CAN kill you – and bore you. And make you ignorant.
A free society is ALWAYS a function of informed citizens.
Think. Read. Inform yourself. And TALK. We have the internet. Use it. Your first amendment is the best guarantee against needing to use the second.
NOTE: I’m continuing my interrupted timing workshop today at MGC — post will be up in a couple of minutes.