The Costs of Ideological Correctness

In the United States, slavish adherence to “moderate” positions is often construed as exhibited “pragmatism” that’s in distinction to the more “ideological” views of people with less centrist views. In fact, moderation can reflect ideology ever bit as much as extremism can. I’ve had occasion to observe in the past that they best model for recapitalizing distressed financial institutions is provided by Sweden’s response to the early-1990s Nordic banking crisis. And nobody seems to seriously dispute that the Swedish model worked very well. But it’s too left-wing for the United States for basically reasons of ideological correctness.

Similarly, the Commonwealth Fund has a write-up of some Lewin Group analyses of different congressional health care bills. Here’s how much they do to expand coverage:


Pete Stark’s bill, the most left-wing of the lot (it’s sort of a “Medicare for many more” proposal) covers the most people. And here’s their impact on health care costs:


Stark’s is the best again. And yet there’s no chance whatsoever that we’ll actually do this because his plan, though the most practical, is also the most left-wing. Far too left-wing for the United States of America

Some folks, of course, will oppose the Stark plan because they’re right-wingers who don’t want to expand health care coverage. And some folks, will want to focus their energies on other, worse, plans because those plans have a better chance of passing. But what’s incredibly frustrating is that a lot of people who claim to want to change public policy to expand health care coverage and better control health care costs will nonetheless fail to embrace Stark’s plan or anything similar for no real reason other than ideological posturing. It just can’t be the case, as a matter of centrist dogma, that the best solution is actually the most left-wing solution. It’s a far more ideological stance than anything you’ll ever hear from Pete Stark or from me. But the people hewing to it will insist on being called pragmatists.