Saturday, May 24, 2014

The Tortoise (ObamaCare) and the Hare (The Free Market)

I am writing this aboard a train headed from Old Saybrook to New York City.   I am headed for a meeting between two people who advocate fast moving free market medicine as an antidote to slow moving government medicine. Because of Memorial Day congestion, the train is crawling along. I am reminded to Aesop's tale of The Tortoise and the Hare.

The government tortoise leads the health care  race right now.  But the VA scandal is shortening its lead.   The VA personifies the workings of the socialistic government tortoise.   The death while waiting scandal may show where ObamaCare may end up – as a single-payer rationing system encased within the government’s shell.

The tortoise moves ponderously and lumberingly.   It takes one heavy  step at a time.  It has a long life span.  Its shell covers its multifarious activities  and protects it against outside scrutiny or surveillance.   The shell hides what occurs within.  Bureaucratic shell games reside therein. But alas, the thick shell restricts its growth, and the shell's weight slows its pace.
The tortoise rarely sticks its neck out.    It has limited and skewed tunnel vision.  It can only look forward and sideways and never backward to see what it has left in its wake.  It sees what occurs to the left of it, but rarely sees what’s going on to the right of it.    Consequently, traffic coming from the right may squash it when it tries to cross the road. Either that, it gets caught in the middle of the road, unable to move.   Its point of view is that slow and steady wins the race, and no amount of hare trickery or hare speed will overcome its lead. Steady as she goes, if she goes at all.

In this case, the hare is the  free market.  It moves fast, but it often fails.  It calls its failures innovation, a concept alien to the tortoise.    The hare  may  turn on a dime, if things don’t go its way.  But it knows a dollar when it sees one.   It  believes its change of direction do not matter if it keeps one end in sight – to please the customer and to speed economic growth – it will win the race. 

The hare  may be lean and fast and flexible, but it has does not have the bulk  or the inner resources or the power of the tortoise.  The tortoise can concentrate its resources inside its shell.   But it cannot move sideways or upside down, and it cannot cover much territory.  It is a terrestrial animal in a vast continental decentralized nation.  And it has hard time adapting to the needs of its constituencies. It  relies on its shell  protection and its leadership  and its ability to head in the proper direction.

But divining the proper direction depends upon many variables, not upon what lies directly ahead from a linear point of view.

Tweet:  The race toward health system increasingly is a race between the forces of government tortoise and the free market hare.

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