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Independent and Impartial Assessment

Per the electronic NYT of July 8, 2016:

““It’s (scandal at Yale) about a lot of things,” he said. “But really it’s about ethics.””

And from another NYT article of the same date:

“A federal judge ruled that the county (Westchester) had “utterly failed” to meet its obligations.”

What these cases involving the independent and public sectors illustrate is, among other things, the effect of bias in assessment and the exercise of professional judgment. Anyone can review daily dozens of articles published in the press that highlight failures of process in reaching independent and impartial judgment. These processes involve interpretation, flexibility, and ambiguity. They are political, yet they need to project the appearance of objectivity and fairness to retain legitimacy. However, these processes fail and do so without publication of a scientifically determined error rate.

Consider the difference between an accusation that one has acted unethically against an indictment that one has violated the law. The obligation to obey the law is enforced (at least in the U.S.) by millions upon millions of financial resources and thousands upon thousands of human resources. Enforcement of ethics lacks this inspection and oversight layer. One may readily get the impression that ethics is generally voluntary, at least when compared to the force, effect, and operation of law, especially where the stakes are high (e.g., getting the public / private sector contract).

Children basically familiar with specialized statistical metrics can render informed opinions about the comparative performances and talents of modern baseball players based on professionally accepted statistics. The underlying acts seem uncontroversial (e.g., how many hits in how many at-bats?) The scoring rubric (i.e., the specs) is transparent and verifiable, and the concept of omitted variable bias seems unimportant. However, in the cases of star professors, influential taxpayer bases, etc. the process and assessment get muddied and tilted, especially from the perspective of those perceiving that they have been harmed by the result. Since the stakes are high, the path is uneven. As I was (accurately) told at Quantico, VA in F.B.I. training in the autumn of 1985 – the worst corruption risks among us were those that had admitted of no potential for personal corruption: The person without an admitted / contemplated price would inexplicably have the lowest price (!?)

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