Common Sense (kŏm’ən sĕns) n.
- Sound judgment not based on specialized knowledge; native good judgment.
- The ability to make sensible decisions
- A pamphlet written in America by Englishman Thomas Paine, published on January 10, 1776. It called for American independence and a union of the American colonies, and as propaganda, it influenced colonists to pursue both in the Revolutionary War.
I am currently reading the Common Sense classic by Thomas Paine. It was a well timed missive (published in January 1776) that has subsequently been regarding as the keystone public discourse in rallying an undecided American populace that the “call to arms”. Paine laid out, in terse and satirically biting language, a clearly articulated and compelling simple series of arguments as to why a clean break, via revolution if necessary, was required to help the new country achieve its potential. 120,000 copies were published in the first four months with approximately 500K ultimately being distributed.
In retrospect, Paine’s pamphlet was quite prescient, and with the 20/20 perspective of history we can accept his convincing arguments at face value. However, it was not a foregone conclusion that the American people would be able to congeal the backbone necessary to make the stand. Furthermore, Paine published this at the peril of his own life as the treasonous treatise would surely earn him the hangman’s noose. Undaunted, he pressed forward, and the rest as they saying goes, is history.
So, 233 years later, I make the same appeal to the American populace regarding the common sense that should be applied in the design, implementation, and management of a health system that will truly increase the health of our people. We are at an important juncture in our national history, wherein the traditional values that have held our country together (family, faith, and freedom) have come under increasing scrutiny for a variety of reasons. The sheer size and growing complexity of the health care system, when coupled with incompatible objectives of simultaneously maximizing the holy trinity of health care goals (access, quality, and cost), puts America at an important point of decision: Will the ongoing quasi-free market system be allowed to self-correct through innovation or will we choose to have a paternalistic governmental solution? Will we exhaust all options and reach a half-baked compromise? Will we swing radically toward a socialistic state trying to equalize the system for all while simultaneously by definition creating a bifurcated, two-tiered system?
I believe there is an opportunity for a Thomas Paine of Health Care to step forward, make the compelling arguments that clearly articulate a position that resonates, and that can serve as a rallying cry. Clearly we have excellent writers, policy thinkers, and social agenda tinkerers but I have not seen anyone put forth the case that can catch the imagination and hope of the American people that we can once again rally to do something great. No doubt this individual will be hailed a heretic by some and a hero by others. But in the end, it will be the ability to communicate key concepts to the American populace that will be the spark that rally’s the people to the hard decisions, the difficult sacrifice, and ultimately the sweeping reform that will be required to create the next generation Health System.
Quill and ink, anyone?
PS – I would be interested to be referred to any Common Sense treatises that have been put forth? I like Porter and Teisberg conceptually myself (although their work is certainly not a pamphlet to be consumed by the masses). What other manifesto’s are out there along the lines mentioned above?