Sunday, January 2, 2011

Too big to understand

If you're an adult and you have a pulse you've heard the phrase Too Big to Fail in the past two years as the American financial system nearly imploded taking the world with it while bureaucrats and financial geniuses raced to stop that.
As the health care bill wended it's way through the house and senate and I listened to conservatives and liberals talk about it. To some it's the "nightmare before Christmas" to others it's the "most important piece of legislation since Medicare"  These can't BOTH be true (can they?).  And let's assume that above average intelligence, thoughtful, and rational people are making these diametrically opposite statements.  Why is that?
It's not just health care either.  It's global warming/climate change, it's MFN status for Zambia (not that we're doing that), or the farm bill.  So is it just that our political discourse is just too eristic and that the way to really find sincere debate that leads to consensus is in the public market?  But it's not just public and political either.  I've seen similar dynamics at work too; two ways to solve a problem one the anti-Christ the other the second coming.
I think these problems are are "too big to understand".  We can't assess them in their entirety; no one's mind is big enough to hold all of the details together at once and evalutate the whole thing fairly.  So instead we hold the parts in our head that we like and talk about it like those are the only parts.  I don't know that this is necessarily a problem but perhaps a couple of other solutions are in order:
  1. Make things smaller.  Don't pass ENORMOUS bills.  Break them down and pass them in bite-sized chunks.  Hmmm...  America is too impatient.  Politicians want to pass a bill, says "health care is FIXED" and then move on.
  2. Get REALLY patient.  Stop sniping at the "other side" focus our effort on making sure that we can agree on some minimal common ground.  Then let history be the judge.  I don't know whether the health care bill is a colossal mistake or a legacy maker for Obama, but I am sure that history will be a pretty good judge in 10 years.

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