Thursday, July 22, 2010

Bureaucratic Triage

I'm musing on a question, stimulated by the Sherrod uproar: is it ever right for a bureaucrat to discriminate (in the technical sense, not the pejorative sense) among his clients/customers/public and, if it is, for what reasons? We all agree a bureaucrat working on behalf of the public should not/may not discriminate based on race, religion, etc. But what discriminations are appropriate and why?

I'm thinking about MASH, or other hospital shows, which show a triage process.  If you consider the medical staff to be bureaucrats, then they're discriminating among their clients, but using criteria which normally we'd endorse. 

There used to be a field called operations research, coming out of the whiz kids and WWII, which tried to evaluate different strategies for handling customers: first come, first served; express lines, etc.  Is first come, first served discriminatory?   Or is giving priority to the simple cases, which speeds average throughput, be discriminatory?  Is it okay if you're transparent about your algorithm?

We all know, I think, that some people get treated better than others for reasons of personality.  Is that ever right?

No answers today, but it's an interesting question.

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