Regulation ratchet

Bill Shear wshear at EMAIL.HSC.EDU
Wed Oct 2 08:47:53 CDT 2002

In this discussion of curators' private collections, the focus seems to be
on anecdotes of outstanding abuse of curators' rights to keep such
collections, or on the sins of unethical curators who have exploited their
positions for their own gain--either in specimens or in cash.

The response, at least to the latter, is to institute new regulations
targeted at the specific case--which may never recur.  Then the next abuse
happens, and more new regulations are needed.  Of course, once on the books,
such regulations can never be rescinded.

I call this the "regulation ratchet" which results in more and more
burdensome loads of rules and regulations, until, perhaps, the institution
has to hire someone simply to keep track of them and enforce them.

Regulation is the dark side of the moon of ethics.  The Judaic Ten
Commandments are ethical statements; the absurd thicket of law prescribing
infinite gradings of penalties for minute variations of crime are

Perhaps a good place to begin would be: Thou shalt not exploit museum
resources for personal purposes.

Unfortunately most museum (and university!) administrators are interested in
regulations, not ethics.  This is the sort of person that is attracted to
such an otherwise distasteful job.  After 40 years of observations, I am
afraid I see no way out of this dilemma of ever-expanding, ever more
repressive administration, except to demolish our institutions and start
over (preserving the collections, of course).

Remember, nihilism is nothing to worry about.

Asa Kreevich (pseudonym of BS)

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