Friday, March 19, 2010

No pain, no gain: on sweetness of hard-won victory, US health care reform

Here's another detour from the usual technical content. Just for fun, let's talk about some lighter subject: subjective feeling of rewards, in context of some bigger thing like, say, US health-care reform.

As background, I admit that while I have significant interest in on-going process of getting universal health-care available here in the United States, I don't have much to say about goal itself or road there. Much has been said; most of essential aspects, and ton of crap beyond that. So it is enough to state that my father is an M.D (outside of US); that I have been familiar with amounts US overpays for its health-care (100-150% higher per capita than any other country -- this has been widely known since 90s); and that I am aware of how much good that spending has done to national health, statistically (wrt. infant mortality, life expectancy -- very little). And from this you can deduce what I think is the right way forward.

But regardless of my personal opinions, there are still things I find interesting about the meta-process. Here are some easy predictions to make, assuming reform bill passes (which seems quite probably at this point):

  • Sky is not going to fall: it is enough to look back in history for all significant changes, from end of Prohibition, to US social security system bootstrapping to civil liberties, to welfare system reform. Things are not going to be altogether different, even if things got royally clustered on short term (wrt. systemic changes)
  • Rate of improvement is going to be slow: system doesn't even kick in for couple of years; but beyond that, well, there is always huge inertia with bigger changes

These are trivially obvious things. But there is one more easy prediction to make, something based on basic behavioral psychology, that I find more interesting:

  • People who are rooting for the reform will find passage of the Health-care bill VERY rewarding, especially so on short term.

Why so? Isn't it "known truth" that this bruising long process takes joy out of victory? That there's long process of healing yadda yadda?

No: absolutely on contrary! It has been proven time and again that the reward one gets from achievements is proportional to effort that was needed to get it done (in case of outside observers, effort may well just consist of following up on events and of emotional attachment, worry and so on -- nonetheless more involvement than with most political causes)

So if the reform had passed easily, it would have gotten at most lukewarm feeling of accomplishment, soon to be diluted by other matters. Bigger the fight and fiercer the resistance, the sweeter is overcoming of these obstacles.

And guess what? Both sides know this, at some instinctive level. Why they don't seem to know it at conscious level I don't know. Or perhaps it just seems better not to spell it out. But to figure this out, you just have to read, say, "Predicably Irrational" (chapter about trying to buy season tickets from no-lifers who have spent almost a year doing stupid stunts, to get the tickets; and value them almost an order of magnitude higher than ones who did NOT get the tickets, after similar amount of effort), or about any other recent pop behavioral science book.

Actually, given this, I'm pretty sure Obama team knows this; and possibly made good use of it during campaigning (they won it, and supporters got nice kick out of prolonged battle -- this, too, was researched [I saw a reference from SciAm, forget where the study was published]). They seem well-versed in theory (and perhaps practical art) of basic behavioral patterns.

Maybe it wouldn't be a bad idea to host parties like ones they have after one's national team has won soccer world cup or something. :-)

ps. Of course, if the effort was to fail, its opponents would get similar highs, enjoy the rewards. Hitting the brick with your fist only hurts if the dang thing does NOT break.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Sponsored By

Related Blogs

(by Author (topics))

Powered By

About me

  • I am known as Cowtowncoder
  • Contact me
Check my profile to learn more.