Someone asked me what I think about health care reform. I’ll respond with a story.
An economist’s young daughter had been potty-trained, but it didn’t “take.” The child was having accidents and frustrating her parents. The economist thought he could solve the problem with incentives. He offered an M&M for every time she went to the bathroom properly. Within hours, the young lady was perfectly regular. Problem solved, he thought.
Only, a couple days later he noticed that every 10 minutes or so his daughter was going to the bathroom just a tiny amount and earning loads of M&Ms. Within days this 3 year-old had learned to game the system. She now had the power to earn enough chocolate to make herself sick.
That’s what worries me about changing the incentive structure for a vast swath of the economy with millions of producers and consumers. Even if we get the incentives just right, there’s a lot of smart people who will figure out how new system works and game the rules to earn more M&Ms. That’s not the intent of the new law, but that doesn’t matter. The rules are the rules.
This kind of thing is usually small potatoes. But not this time. That’s why I’m worried.
Douglas R. Tengdin, CFA
Chief Investment Officer
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