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The Need for Legislative Experimentation

The long-term success of any system is in its ability to adapt through trial and error.

With the Democrats looking at the filibuster, looking at the country’s legislative needs, and looking at the henceforth reluctant Republican side of their chambers, the need for experiment by legislation endures.

The best way to find solutions to our problems involves careful study followed by trial followed by more trial to fix the problems from the previous. We need to begin to establish as a practice, as a tradition, the kind of cyclical experimentation that will drive America into the future: Try Something ↔ Evaluate Result.

That’s a system that’s stalled for too long, on any major issue. It’s a system where the Republican party too often opposes any meaningful effort, and the Democrats have their narrow approach that means if anything happens it can’t go very far.

The Democrats are being bold, and that’s certainly a great change. But sooner or later the Republicans have to get some ideas of their own. Things like college and healthcare and senior care and drugs are too expensive without real changes to regulation and approach. The Democrats want to help people pay for these things, but there’s not enough effort to make them cheaper while doing so. The Republican party doesn’t seem to be interested in making them cheaper, they just want to exclude those who can’t afford them.

This is the kind of issue that a BNP, a brand new party, perhaps a moderate-conservative party, could champion. Make college cheap by finding ways to standardize many courses, letting professors focus more on the edges than the middle. Push for more automation in nursing homes, so that there’s less grunt work and the workers can focus more on elder care than on cleaning. Push for a formula applied to drug prices, so that they can be under patent longer if they’re cheaper and shorter if they’re more expensive.

On healthcare, automation is also key. Subsidization has its place in helping ensure broad coverage, but also in targeting particular equipment and surgical methods, particularly when private insurance lags in covering them, in order to get to scale faster, to move prices down faster. If you have a new surgery that insurance won’t cover for five years, but it has better outcomes and reduces hospitalization, the government stepping in can mean quite a lot of savings.

(Better outcomes includes faster recovery, fewer drugs, more productivity… I think the military types call that a force multiplier.)

Insurers don’t want to adopt techniques and technologies too soon, when they’re still expensive. It’s not cost effective for them to do so. The initial buildout stage is something that government can do, a kind of infrastructure investment that both accelerates medicine and lowers costs.

One of the biggest failures of government is to not plan for the future in the a priori sense. If you do not know what future will come, there is still planning that can prepare you. That’s the planning of learning how to build experimentation and flexibility into the system itself. The founders understood the flexibility part. They had some experience with experiments, but today we are far more versed in the powers of evolution. We just have to build it into our systems.

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