Saturday, July 30, 2011

The present debt ceiling crisis

Like most people I am distressed by the present crisis regarding the nation's debt ceiling. Our nation must turn the corner and it is, of course, a difficult corner to turn.

Four thoughts cross my mind when trying to make sense of the present state of things. One is former President Clinton's unusual response to a question asked by senior White House reporter Sarah McClendon years ago in the context of possible UFO disclosure. He is reported to have said, "Sarah, there's a government inside the government, and I don't control it." In this context, the point is that there are probably very large hidden budgets sapping the resources of the federal government of the United States for purposes known to very few.

My second thought is that our nation's present situation is in part a result of the fact that because it has limited powers our national government is left to try to implement policies by creating incentive systems that produce patterns of behaviors. There are at least two problems with this. One, carrots are expensive! Two, incentive systems almost always produce unintended behaviors that undermine the intended results.

Third, when government pays for something with the best of intentions it is likely that more of whatever is intended to be addressed becomes manifest. We assume that the solution addresses the need when in fact the solution may drive up the need.

Finally, major breakthroughs in various kinds of medical research would be disruptive to both existing research communities and existing specialist medical providers. I want to believe that all researchers and providers want what is best for patients and for the nation than want to sustain a status quo in which they have become well adapted.

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