Sunday, September 13, 2009

Don't trust his virtue

"If someone uses [the false choice ], and seems to do it deliberately, don't trust his virtue. He's not interested in a reasonable argument."
- Jay Heinrichs

"And I will not accept the status quo as a solution."
- President Barack Obama

So there we have it: the choice we have before us is to either forumulate and accept sweeping change, or keep the status quo. Incremental steps that introduce positive change, and that allow us to learn from and adjust as we go, are not an option. A plan that would allow us to gradually shift the responsibility of insuring from the employer to the person is not to be put forth. No, the President only gives us the choice between doing nothing and extreme reform.

I call that a false choice.

Few people object to health care portability-- that health care shouldn't be dependent on your job. To the contrary, most people believe that this arrangement has provided the misaligned incentives that have produced the miserable state of affairs we find ourselves in today.

Why not work on incrementally undoing the damage that our government has already caused in our health care system before turning them lose on their next best guess on what to do? The government has already proven that it can not create and maintain efficient and effective regulatory systems in banking, social insurance, limited health care (VA, medicare, medicaid), aviation (FAA), and, I argue, law. Why is the choice being limited to either doing nothing or letting the government birth another inefficient and ineffective system?

Give us more choices. Give us real choices. Give us smaller choices and you'll also be more likely to find more compromise and broader support.

Imagine if every time you had to buy shoes, you could only chose between $5 Velcro sneakers or $500 hand-made Ferragamos. It's not unreasonable that many would chose the $5 option. Likewise, it is not unreasonable that, given the choice the President is laying down before us, the status quo appears to be the better option.

In this case, the President's rhetorical False Choice may actually be working against him.

* quotes taken from Heinrichs, Jay. 2007. Thank You For Arguing. p. 178, and the President's speech before congress on September 10th, 2009.

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