I have resumed traveling again after a few years of COVID restrictions. When I am traveling I am not working all the time (this is a rarity) and traveling gives me time to think.
This Christmas we spent some time in France, which is always enjoyable. What a beautiful country and such great people. We were having lunch with some French friends discussing politics (something the French can do without feigning moral outrage every 5 minutes). And we were describing our political positions to each other and after a few minutes the husband of the couple looked at me a little aghast and said “You’re a libertarian!”
I thought this reaction was a little amusing sitting, as were, in the very garden of liberte, fraternite and egalite.
In a recent taxi ride to another airport I started the application of my typical ‘libertarian’ thought to a recent interesting development.
In Canada the professional association that governs psychiatry has expressed a wish to either remove Jordan Peterson’s license or compel him to undergo self financed, at a cost specified by the professional society, social media training for an unspecified period of time, presumably ending in some public retraction and ideological mea culpa. His crime was, in part, retweeting the leader of His Majesty’s opposition in the Canadian Parliament.
This underlines my general reluctance to be a member of a professional organization. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, or used to be wrong with that. I know many very good engineers who are ‘professional by association’. I just have always felt a reluctance to put a label from another body on myself and my work. It appears to be, in small part, a version of the logical fallacy of the ‘argument from authority’. “I have the endorsement of this body therefore the things I say are correct”. The intent is to be some level of guarantee of quality of work and that is what it generally means.
However, if the integrity of the institutions degrade, they become a merit badge you can buy to supplement your authority, applying only the conferred social credit of the brand of the institution.
These institutions only work as intended if they are completely impartial and free of any fashionable, political or social influence.
I am lucky that in the area of engineering I am working, being a member of a professional association is not a requirement. I am free from the consequences if such a body were to withdraw their endorsement if I fail to comply with their social or political requirements.
I am free from a potentially Faustian bargain. If you rely on an endorsement from an external body for your livelihood then they have power over you should they wish to exert it. Everyone likes their livelihood after all. What would we do without it?
When such bodies are aligned with the state because they are licensed by the state, when the ruling party becomes entrenched, corrupted and politically infiltrates the institutions you end up with a set of institutions who will enact the political will of the ruling party.
For those in the industry who rely on the endorsement of an independent body for their career: There is no such thing as an “independent body” if it is licensed by the state it is just a matter of time until the manifestation of their political desire and your dependence on them apears.
I remember a discussion with some individuals on the left some years ago. Their firm belief was that everything is political and where it was not political it was imperative to make it so. When the state aligns with the left, the bodies licensed by and aligned with the state will be political. This is the stated philosophical aim of the left and it should not be surprising when it takes place. This is the problem of the ‘ethical state’
(Left and right are meaningless terms in any case, but as the nominal left are in the power that will do as a term, whether they label themselves conservative or liberal, communist or fascist)
If your personal and public politics align with the ideology of the state you have nothing to fear. However, having political beliefs which align with the state and the institution does not mean that I believe you endorse the politicization of these institutions. I assume that you are likewise deplored at the erosion of impartial standards in public life.
The Overton window is being jerked wildly to the ‘left’ and the political morals of the moment are considered retroactive with no statute of limitations.
Do you maintain your professional endorsements and associations in the hope that either your transgressions are minor enough or you will retire before the eye of Sauron rests upon you? Do you trust that the crocodile will eat you last?
What statements of fact will you be prohibited from uttering or posting to social media. What criticism will you hesitate to voice? How will you manage the complex patchwork or multi-disciplinary politically-correct self censorship necessary to maintain your professional endorsements?
When “all lives matter” and “a woman is an adult human female” are publicly unacceptable statements of fact, what’s next?
Ten years ago it was unthinkable that the government would legislate the permissible contents of private and peaceful conversations. If you innocently misgender someone in a private conversation there can be legal consequences in some jurisdictions. Words are now violence and you can be a violent offender at any time.
In this internet age your professional history is instantly accessible and court records are instantly accessible. News travels very quickly and you can get hundreds of almost instant recommendations or warnings through professional networking sites, court records, blog posts, etc.
The days are long gone where you would open the yellow pages and blindly select a professional based on the letters after their name.
There is no longer any need for professional associations. You can tell that they are surplus to requirements in the modern age because they are being turned to more politically useful tasks.
Just like we all laughed at the idea that social justice could ever be inflicted upon university science faculties (who’s laughing now?). We can all laugh now as someone else’s professional association is infected with politics. Funny, huh?