Treat the disease not the symptoms

“In solving a problem of this sort, the grand thing is to be able to reason backwards. That is a very useful accomplishment, and a very easy one, but people do not practice it much. In the every-day affairs of life it is more useful to reason forwards, and so the other comes to be neglected. There are fifty who can reason synthetically for one who can reason analytically. […]  Most people, if you describe a train of events to them, will tell you what the result would be. They can put those events together in their minds, and argue from them that something will come to pass. There are few people, however, who, if you told them a result, would be able to evolve from their own inner consciousness what the steps were which led up to that result. This power is what I mean when I talk of reasoning backwards, or analytically.”—Sherlock Holmes, A Study in Scarlet

ducklings

Like the early House’s ducklings, people who just want to look at the symptoms and not the causes will often end up just treating the wrong thing.

In medicine there are two basic ways to deal with illness: you can treat the illness or you can treat the disease.  If you know what is causing the symptoms and have a cure you treat the disease—you cut out tumors, prescribe antibiotics, remove necrotic tissue and other unwanted foreign objects.  You only treat the symptoms when you have no other choice—“we’re not getting at that brain tumor, have these pain killers until it kills you,” or “as this is an episode of House we’re going to treat symptoms until we come up with a wacky idea of what might be wrong.”*

And this should be a guiding light in politics and economics as well…you should fix the cause of the problem not all trying to fix the myriad effects it has.  Regrettably nothing this sane seems too desired by several factions in politics. Now obviously liberal’s solutions to any problem (the root cause or the effects) is usually worse than the problem itself…libertarians seem to have an argument akin to just let the festering gangrenous wound heal itself.  Meanwhile, there are the populist and social conservative wings of the GOP they are the kind of idiots who think that you can spend time, energy, and all possible resources to pass laws that only treat the symptoms but end up only extending the power of the government further for liberals to use later.

What do I mean by that?  Well, let’s look at a few issues.

For instance abortion, the favorite issue of liberals and social conservatives everywhere. Now both real conservatives, social conservatives, and even quite a few libertarians would like to get rid of abortion.  But the problem is that social conservatives want to treat this particular social ill by treating only the symptom (the actual abortion) by outlawing it.  Let me explain how well this will work in very simple terms: it won’t.  There is a desire for abortions and as such you could outlaw it completely and there still be a black market because you can’t stop people from getting to things they want…and trust me medical science has made the black market for this a much more interesting field than clothes-hangers since Roe was first passed. Also if you did get Roe overturned it would revert to a state’s rights issue…hmmm who wants to bet that everyone will be within one state’s distance of a state that will do an abortion (okay maybe not Alaska).  So social conservatives would like to expend massive amounts of time, money, and political capital to outlaw something that will remain completely in practice (or do you think that the government will have better results with abortion than it does with drugs).

Or you could treat the disease itself?  And before any social conservative says abortion is the disease, no, no it’s not. It’s the symptom of a few things.
•    A welfare system that incentives being pregnant but not to have children (this is the primary reason for late term abortions, people will take all the money they can from the welfare system and then abort at the last possible minute to get the last dime out of the system).
•    The lack of stable marriages and family life…which is itself a result of things like the welfare system that rewards being single and punishes marriage.
•    A general culture of promiscuity….which is, at least in part, a symptom of the previous two points helping to remove the inherent advantages to stable long term relationships.
So if we treat the symptoms, going after abortion itself, you will continue to see abortions (trust me, if you keep the welfare benefits you will see a wave of late term “miscarriages” come up—if you keep the incentive you will keep the corresponding action) or you can adopt real welfare reform, remove the incentives to not get married, remove the incentives to have children up to the last minute and remove the incentives to be dependent on the government.  Fighting the disease itself would remove the incentives for the behavior, and any understanding of economics will tell you that when you remove incentives you change behavior.

But this is not the only case for this problem, look at immigration.  We are wasting valuable time and effort arguing over how many illegal aliens we are going to deport. Guess what, for a good portion of them, if you deport them they’ll come back.  And you’ll deport them and they’ll come back.   And you’ll deport them and they’ll come back.  And then I guess you could throw them in prison (which will cost more) and then deport them, which of course will lead to…you guessed it.  The problem isn’t getting rid of the illegal immigrants who are here, the problem is that they get here in the first place.  If you stop them coming then the illegals who are here are a workable and short term problem.  The real problem is border security and the ease at which illegals can get into entitlement programs.  Closing the border is more important than amnesty concerns.  Working to ensure that you have to be a US citizen (or at the very least here legally) before you can receive government benefits (especially education, you need to stop public education for children who are here illegally) before you worry about e-verify and you will stop the way they come and the reason they come.  You close the border and you will see the number of new illegals drop; you end the entitlements and you will see self-deportation far faster than e-verify or active deportation could ever hope for.
But that would be solving the disease and not treating the symptoms.

Just as it would be to:
Separate the religious institution of marriage and the legal institution of civil unions rather than bickering over how the government should define marriage.
Get good teachers who can teach well to any standard or under any administration by stripping the teachers unions which keep the bad ones in and getting rid of the ridiculous amount of certification BS which keeps qualified people out rather than bickering about standards and tests.
Just get out of the way of economic development which will grow the middle class for all groups rather than talking about race relations and institutional racism.

Just go back to having Senators picked by state legislature which make it much harder to bribe with campaign finance and reduce pork spending rather than talk about term limits, campaign finance reform, and useless amendments about Congress having to apply to its own laws.

Income inequality, cost of college, unemployment…all symptoms of cronyism and government intrusion into the economy.

Some days it seems that America does nothing but argue about which symptoms to fix in ways that will make everything worse for every other symptom…there seems to be no understanding of what root causes are (some days the best you have is lunatics on both sides claiming the root cause is something that has nothing to do with anything).

This needs to stop.  And if it’s going change it needs to start somewhere and you my dear readers are as good as anywhere to start.  With any, ANY issue, before you advocate any policy, make sure that it is working against a root of a problem.  Certainly you can consider if it has any hope of working…but even if solving a root problem is going to take more work than getting a law that solves some minor symptom of that problem, the benefits make that harder fight a far, far more economic investment.

Look the root disease to solve not just some symptom.

*Okay you also treat symptoms for short term things like colds when they’re things that will go away on their own, but we all admit that all the drugs we use to treat the symptoms of colds are nothing compared liquids, vitamins and a good night or two of sleep…and there is not much comparable to a cold in politics…unless you want to take the way liberals treat small economic hiccups as things we need to have major social reorganization over…but that’s like having a cold and a doctor prescribing chemo, open heart surgery and possibly a lobotomy (liberal reactions to most things are stupid).

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