The Twin Paradox

If you study Special Relativity in Physics class you learn about the Twin Paradox. This is the one where one twin stays on Earth and the other goes on a trip to a star at nearly the speed of light. When the traveling twin returns he discovers his Earth-bound sibling is much older than he is due to the time dilation effect described by Special Relativity. It’s a paradox because Special Relativity teaches us there is no special or privileged frame of reference so, by symmetry, we could consider the twin in the rocket as standing still and the other one traveling instead.

But that’s not the Twin Paradox I’m puzzled by. I think I know the answer to that one and I’ll tell  you if you ask. But I’m really confused by another Twin Paradox. Let me describe it.

Let’s call this the Political Twin Paradox. Both twins are physicians, a pair of docs. One goes into private practice and specializes in cardiology. The other twin goes into government service and ends up on the new board that will determine if a treatment is ineffective or unnecessary. The first twin sees a patient and recommends a pace maker. The second twin is asked to review the case and decides that the patient is too old and shall not get a pace maker, mostly to cut costs.

The paradox is this: Although the situation seems symmetrical regarding the skill or sincerity of the two doctors, the public almost always sides with the government bureaucrat and regards his judgment as being pure and untainted by greed or bad intentions. So we allow a situation where the bureaucrat can overrule the private decision of a patient and a doctor.

Other possible examples include: One twin becomes a CEO of a corporation and the other twin becomes a government regulator. The regulator is considered to never have any selfish motives and only has the best interest of the public at heart. So the regulator is allowed to override the CEO’s decisions, including contracts between consenting adults.

All I can figure is there must be something about bureaucracy that turns otherwise identical, human and flawed DNA into some super strain of altruistic, government DNA.



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