Seth Roberts opines on what’s ridiculous:
Freud is the classic rent-seeking expert. You are sick because of X, Y, and Z — and if you pay me for my time week after week, I will cure you, said Freud. Curiously no treatment that did not involve paying people like Freud would work. Curiously psychoanalytic patients never got better. Therapy lasted forever. You might think this is transparently ridiculous …
I loved this bit:
Evidence-based medicine advocates are among the newest rent-seeking experts. Like Freud, they focus on process (you must follow a certain process) rather than results. (What they call process in other contexts is called ritual. Rituals always empower experts.) Rather than trying to learn from all the evidence — which might seem like a good idea, and a simple one — evidence-based medicine advocates preach that only a tiny fraction of the evidence (which you need a Cochrane expert to select and analyze) can actually tell us anything. Again, this might seem transparently ridiculous …
Off I go to the orthopedic surgeon tomorrow. His recommendation of ibuprofen and specific exercises helped, but didn’t eliminate my problem. He refused to consult with me over the phone about whether I should try cortisone: I have to pay for an office visit to get the advice and shot.
The workhorses of the rent-seeking expert ecology — the ones that extract the most rent — are doctors. They are incapable of giving inexpensive advice ...
What should be your first clue?
One clue that you are dealing with a rent-seeking expert is that they literally ask for something like rent. Religious experts tell you to attend church week after week. Psychotherapists want you to attend therapy week after week … [emphasis added]
This got me thinking about academics. By this definition, clearly universities, colleges and departments are rent seekers.
But many professors are not: they’ll happily solve your problem once and for all, and be happy to send you on your way.
Ah … but then there are the professors who are rent seekers. You know the ones … with the pile of students outside their door every day, often the same students. These are the people who often get the stellar teaching evaluations.
But think about that a bit. Think about the professors you had that you always needed to scramble to see, because there was competition. Did you really learn more from them? Gosh no … the ones I actually learned a lot from I was terrified to talk to at all. I’m talking about you Jim Holmes (my dissertation advisor), and you Mr. Schanzer (11th grade English).