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An Open Letter to CBS Newsman Bob Schieffer
Posted By Don Boudreaux On December 14, 2009 @ 9:49 am In Complexity & Emergence,Health,Hubris and humility,Man of System | Comments Disabled
Dear Mr. Schieffer:
Interviewed on Friday by WTOP radio, you observed that “none of the senators really knows what’s in the health-care bill they’re debating.” You then excused this ignorance by noting that “the problem they’re tackling is very complicated.”
While you’re correct that trying to engineer an industry that’s one-sixth the size of the U.S. economy is indeed very complicated, such complexity – far from excusing Congress’s ignorance – should be Exhibit A in a criminal indictment of Congress and the White House. Our world is full of complexities that defy human engineering. Can Congress engineer winter snow away from Minnesota or summer hurricanes away from the Gulf Coast? Of course not, and any attempts Congress might make to do so would be seen immediately to be hubris of the highest and most hazardous sort.
Attempts to consciously re-design the health-care industry are equally hubristic and hazardous. That industry is one of billions of unique, often personal, relationships, each of which is part of countless long chains of efforts to transform raw materials and human effort into life-improving and life-saving drugs and treatments. Like weather, these long chains of human relationships weren’t designed by anyone. Like weather, they change and evolve. And like weather, their all-important details are beyond the comprehension of would-be re-designers. These long chains of human relationships cannot be undone and reassembled at will by politicians and ‘experts’ without risking enormous unintended catastrophe.
Want proof? Look no further than your own lament that the very ‘engineers’ – the members of Congress – who are now attempting to redesign the details of the health-care industry cannot as much as read and grasp all of the words on the bill that they’re debating.
If an engineer can’t read and understand even his own blueprint, why should we trust him to understand the vastly more complex reality that his blueprint allegedly represents? And, more importantly, why should we trust that engineer with the task of redesigning that reality?
Donald J. Boudreaux
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