Monday, April 19, 2004

Correction. Reed's Rule.  

About a week back, I wrote about how decisions made in one context can become entrenched and near-impossible to change, even after the decision's design outlived its value, arguing that earned run average in baseball was an example that illuminated the mutant goofiness of employer-based health insurance.

I argued the employer-based system originated in the 1950s, but I was incorrect. Thankfully, Dr. Matthew Reed of County College of Morris corrected me:

A slight correction on your health-care metaphor: the employer-based system arose in the 1940's, not the 1950's, as a way to get around wartime wage freezes. Since companies couldn't raise salaries to attract workers, they used 'fringe' benefits, instead. President Truman saw the inanity of this strategy, and proposed a national health care system, but was defeated because the need hadn't yet become obvious.

(By the time it was obvious, the institutional interests against change were too strong.)

I'm not sure it really changes your point (it may amplify it, actually), but

Matthew Reed, Ph.D.
Division Dean of Liberal Arts
County College of Morris
Randolph, NJ

I argued in the piece that the environment in which employer-based health care was made was a time the inhabitants thought would go on forever, much as mid-1890s hitters thought the juiced ball they tattooed around band-box stadia would endure into the great hereafter, not knowing that the league's team owners would deaden the ball and bring about the thumpless Oughts, with punchless seasons in the mid-decade 1900s.

Reed's correction & observation that it might even amplify the point is an interesting addition on his part, and illuminating.

Because employers during the war didn't believe the war would go on forever. They created this system merely as a temporary improvisation, and that makes it more agonizing that we have this Albatross around our necks, an model as unpopular & unappetizing as Compassionate Stalinism, as lingering as a $50 million multi-year Mo Vaughn contract, as fragrant as Albany, Oregon, as popular as the deep-fried burritos at Baltimore's Memorial Stadium concession stands.


If processes and systems that are almost universally detested (¿isn't it interesting that people twitch in fear about "universal health care", but are passively accepting of "universally-detested & ridiculed & proven beyond-a-doubt both expensive and ineffective health care"?) are difficult to root out, it's no big surprise that we can't root out the merely silly or passé assumptions such as the "value" of earned run average, what I will forever now call Reed's Rule (not to be confused with Reed's Rules)

Thank you, Matt.

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