Vocational Bias

One of my intellectual hobbies is heuristics, useful little mental tools for gauging truth. I don’t understand why this isn’t one of the core pillars of a modern education, but that’s a rant for another time.

One modifier I’ve learned to apply to debates is something I’ll call “vocational bias”. Stated simply, it’s the tendency for everyone to overestimate the importance of their own area of speciality.

Farmers will advocate for protecting the American family farm. Teachers will usually argue for any measure which increases salary and job security for teachers. Doctors argue in favor of having all births performed in a hospital. Certified hairdressers advocate licensing requirements for other hairdressers. Etc.

I’m convinced that most cases of vocational bias stem from the best of intentions. While some people are undoubtedly maneuvering for job security for themselves and their friends, most people who have spent years mastering a craft simply have a hard time believing that anyone who hasn’t put in similar time could do the job as well. Or that their craft in it’s present form is anything otehr than vital to the nation’s interests. Or that it’s safe for consumers to be able to choose a provider of services less skilled than themselves.

There are exceptions. Every profession has a few outcasts who rose to the top only to start arguing against the very establishment that supported them. They tend to get sidelined pretty fast.

I guess the important point here is just that most policy debates aren’t between a “good guy” with the community’s best interests at heart, and a “bad guy” with essentially self-serving motives. They are usually between two points of view which are both equally well-intentioned, and both equally self-serving.

And if you find someone arguing *against* his or her own interests and the interests of their friends, pay heed. Either you’ve missed something, or they may be person of greater-than-normal intellectual rigor and moral integrity.

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