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In a message dated 97-03-01 01:46:50 EST, chrisw(--nospam--at) wrote:

<< They're no more high principled than the codes of professional conduct
you're obligated to adhere to as an engineering registrant. As a Minnesota
registrant I'm obligated to snitch on anyone I have good reason to believe
has violated any statute involving the practice of professional engineering.
That covers a lot of ground.
Florida specifies as actionable such things as expressing an opinion publicly
without being informed or being competent to form such an opinion; permitting
use of his/her name in connection with a fraudulent or dishonest business
venture; failure to notify proper authorities if engineering judgement is
overruled resulting in a threat to public 
safety. There's your strategic plan, already written into the law all us PE's
said we'd uphold. Realistic enough for you?>>

The above argument actually supports my skepticism better than any examples I
could have come up with.  These statutes and canons of ethics have been on
the books for decades.  Why, then, have the levels of professionalism
remained so low?  A major reason is that, for most people, laws don't change
behavior - incentives do!  On the one hand, there is an incentive to obey the
registration laws because we don't want to be disciplined or have our
licenses revoked.  On the other hand, there is an incentive for financial
survival or even a modicum of success, and if we don't take a flexible
approach to these laws, those who do will eat our lunch.  The first incentive
is a weak one at best because the risk of punishment is so low - see my
posting yesterday to R.L. Foley on the woeful record of the California board
(BORPELS) in prosecuting unprofessional performance.  The second incentive is
strong in most folks, and needs no elaboration.  I don't see anything on the
horizon to change the calculus of these two incentives anytime soon.  The
"plan" offered above, however solid its legal underpinnings, is unrealistic
because it ignores the human element.  People often have a feel, intuitively
or through experience, about which side of the risk/reward line is most
advantageous in a specific set of circumstances, then place pretty sensible
bets most of the time.

A reality check for Chris:  Request the Minnesota and Florida boards to
provide you with a list of registrants who were disciplined or had licenses
revoked in the past two years for providing incomplete, incompetent or just
plain crummy design documents and services to clients (the standard of care
issue, not mal/misfeasance cases).  Although they are unlikely to have hard
data, also ask if they would venture a guess on how many of these cases were
initiated as a result of leads from other licensees (snitches).  If
disciplinary cases exceeded a handful, and if the snitch cases exceeded one,
I'll be mighty surprised.  California, with probably some 50K active CE and
SE licenses, had lower case numbers than that.

The challenge remains to develop a better balance between group interest and
self interest so that almost all registrants will have sufficient incentives
to support and comply with the spirit of the laws noted above.  It is a very
daunting challenge, appropriate for the bright minds that inhabit this
listserv to tackle.  I look forward to reading your contributions.

Franklin Lew, SE

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Subject: Re: building code minimums for wood frame
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Richard Lewis, P.E.
Missionary TECH Team

The service mission like-minded Christian organizations
may turn to for technical assistance and know-how.