Power Broker Bioethicists

Alice Dreger has a new post up discussing How to be a Bioethicist. She admits, upfront, that she sort of sucks as one, and not for reasons the snarkier or more vindictive readers of this blog might assume. Rather, she sucks as a bioethicist because she has a penchant for naming names and citing her work, because she is concerned about principles, and because she hasn’t figured out how to get a staggeringly high salary, regardless of currency. (Of course, she missed the fourth reason she makes a bad bioethicist: her unfortunate affliction with XX Syndrome.)

Sarcasm, and even personal issues aside, I think Dreger raises a very interesting point about North American bioethics as a whole: what I rather jokingly referred to as the advent of “power broker bioethics” before I realized that this, indeed, was actually and precisely the correct phrase.

A power broker, for those of you who missed the 80s or anything to do with Wall Street, is “a person who is important by virtue of the people or votes they control; a power broker who does you a favor will expect you to return it.” It, in many ways, describes the behavior Dreger details: attempts to suppress dissent via appeals to authority; trading favors for benefits; obfuscating financial details in an effort to hide paper trails; and always, always looking for ways to inflate one’s sense of self via title and position.
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who are you?

I received my Census form today, after receiving a note last week telling me I would be receiving a Census form this week. I’ll spare you my rant about government redundancy and costs, but you can make up your own and insert it here.

I have to say that, after filling out my census form – the first one I think I’ve ever filled out, since I have absolutely no memory of the 2000 census – that I am somewhat disappointed in the lack of information being collected these days. In the last few years, as I’ve done more and more research into genealogy and my family history, released census forms have been an incredible wealth of information. They’ve listed birth country, residency, occupations, educational levels, disabilities, languages spoken in the home; this is all data that helps build a rich tapestry of knowledge, and often offers valuable insight and information about people with whom we have little to no tangible connections.

In 72 years, all anyone searching for my data will learn is where I lived. While that might prove useful for someone who is trying to trace the nomadic tendencies that appear to run in my family, it’s hardly going to offer the sort of rich background that the 1930s census offers about my great-grandparents.