Folks, it takes a certain amount of conceit to express opinions day in and day out, but it is not an unlimited commodity. I would even go so far as to say what Twain’s Hank Morgan said:
Now what a happy idea that was! — and so simple; yet it would never have occurred to me. I was born modest; not all over, but in spots; and this was one of the spots.
Well, this is one of my spots: I do not draft highly technical policy proposals. I’m a pretty fair hand at deciding what works and what doesn’t in somebody else’s policy proposals, and suggesting improvements. But I lack the confidence to take a blank sheet of paper and sketch out a full-blown projet, as the French would call it.
bud and Doug, our regular correspondents, probably have their own humble spots. This isn’t one of them. Both of them have recently sketched out a number of smart ideas about how to improve health care in this country. I admire their ability to pull something like that from thin air. I particularly admire the tiered approach that bud came up with (no offense, Doug; yours was good too).
The two of them are constantly hitting me up for projets of my own, but my brain just doesn’t roll that way — and if it did, the kind of time I would have to spend on something like that to feel confidence in it would demand that I publish it first in the actual newspaper. Dismiss me for lack of seriousness if you will, call me the critic who never creates, just criticizes. But hey, I can praise, too. That’s something.
Part of it is the aforementioned humility; part of it is my attention deficit problem. I am endlessly fascinated by everything, and I am dependent on other people to call my attention to a particular thing in order for me to focus on it effectively. Once I’m staring at it, I can get creative and sometimes even clever. But I’ve got to have that focal point.
Anyway, back on this post bud challenged me again to come up with my own original plan, and this is all I can say in reply (I tried to post it as a comment, but my browser collapsed, and I decided then that this was worth a separate post on what this blog is and what it isn’t):
bud, if reform is dependent on me coming up with the details, we’re
Maybe if I quit my job (thereby
losing my expensive benefits) and spent a year immersing myself and
sweating over it, I could come up with something that would satisfy you, but I’m not sure I would succeed even then. But it’s a moot point. My job, and my life, demand that I address many different things a day, every day.
We all have our strengths and weaknesses. That’s one of my weaknesses. I drown in unlimited possibilities.
I can react to your details because they are finite. If I try to
come up with my own, I would never be satisfied that THESE were the
right, proper and inclusive things to consider. To give but one
example, I would NEVER have confidence in my ability to compute the
costs of a plan. A lot of people tell me they would be intimidated at having to write
a column for the newspaper. I am not. Different
Anyway, the subject is so complex that it’s taken me a lot of years
to get to the point that I can say with confidence that what we have is
fundamentally flawed (that it’s not just case of a few uninsured; it’s
a bad deal across the board), and that the biggest thing that is wrong
is that we expect private employers to help us purchase insurance from
for-profit providers, and do so from the relatively weak position of
having purchasing pools no larger than the companies’ respective
rosters of employees.
That leads me to single-payer (and if you want to see that spelled out as a specific proposal, see HR676),
and the way I approach that — knowing how complex this is — is by
asking my readers to help me find flaws in it that maybe I’m missing.
After we go through that for a while, and I’ve heard lots of pros and
cons. I might gain the confidence to say that yes, I endorse that
bill.The bottom line is, I’m not as arrogant as I look. So if you’re
waiting for detailed plans to come from me like Minerva springing from
the brow of Zeus, you should go to another blog.
Sure, I’ve come up with "proposals" in the past. But when you see me set out something like my suggested platform for the Energy Party or the UnParty, what I’m doing is selecting from among ideas that are already out there, and which I’ve had plenty of time to mull over. I didn’t invent the gas-tax increase idea; I was persuaded to it by a lot of people whom I regard as smarter about it than I am.
I wouldn’t attempt a health care plan from scratch without a team of experts from various disciplines helping me.