April 3, 2005

Metrics...

My post on The Ownership Society that got all the attention started with criticizing an article by Ryan Sager. Turns out, Ryan has a blog, and mentioned me here. I posted a comment, and I think I'll post it here too, because it expresses some of what's on my mind...

I will be interested if you return to the subject. My point (probably not expressed well) is not that the Ownership Society is a sure thing, but that people like you need to address it if you are going to criticize the Administration for over-spending.

Burden of proof? I can't prove anything; the proof will only be whether it works. But it might be useful criticism if we were to establish some metrics. I would suggest for instance, that you could call HSA's a failure if they remain a mere niche in the health care world. And a success, or trending that way, if they continue to grow in popularity, start to be offered to employees instead of insurance, and start changing people's perceptions of how they pay for health care.

It might be fair to say that Private Accounts will be a failure unless they grow due to popular demand, and unless they trend over time to something like the status of 401-K's, which are de facto things you own, although de jure they are gifts of the government, and could be regulated out of existence.

Also, I'm not advocating huge spending increases as a usual trade-off--I think (hope) that that was what happened in the first few years of the administration, when it was almost impossible to get anything out of Congress without big concessions. Remember, when Bush was first elected, a lot of people thought he would be unable to accomplish ANYTHING, due to the disputed election and a closely divided Congress....

In a broader sense, there's no way to prove something will work, when what it's intended to do is start a long-term trend. We will have to wait and see. But I imagine the same questions were asked of some proto-socialist who asked his friends to make concessions to get the very first government welfare boondoggle. "Why are you abandoning The Revolution to gain this silly little program to give shoes to the children of red-headed coal miners? You say it's going to start a trend? Oh sure. Suuuure it is. And government's going to grow until it controls almost everything? Say comrade, have you ever thought about buying a nice big bridge?"

Posted by John Weidner at April 3, 2005 11:49 AM
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