Incentives and knowledge

I recall that when I was in 10th grade I held a political view of the world that is much like the politician’s of today. I wondered, why doesn’t some politician wave their ‘magic wand’ and just fix the problems. Get to it. There is no shortage of politicians promising to do just that.

I was reminded of that this morning as I read the Wall Street Journal’s op-ed on Vermont’s failed single payer medical care system.

Since 10th grade I’ve learned why such things fail. But, it took me too long to do so. The answer is elusive and not discussed as often as I think it should be or too deeply buried in other words and phrases.

I never found it helpful to hear things like “that just doesn’t work” or “socialism/communism/central planning has been tried over and over and has failed over and over.”

Or the discussions get sidetracked in unproductive ways. “You don’t want to help the poor!” “Everyone has a right to [fill in the blank with some benefit that costs somebody something].” Or, on the other side, “Markets are just better.” ”

I’ve never been satisfied with those discussions. I’ve always been interested in why it doesn’t work.

I wish someone would have told me when I was in 10th grade to consider the incentives and the knowledge problem.


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