Money is the root of most evil and the source of a lot of pleasure often to the wrong people.
This message is likely to lose me a lot of friends, but it needs to be said.
What I say is not new at all, but it is in a new context, which suggests that it is more important than ever to truly and seriously begin to address the problem systemically.
Let’s start with money in politics. This is the easy one. When the Supreme Court effectively lifted all limits on political money in Citizens United, the flood gates were opened and we have seen just the beginning of a tsunami that could very well drown our system of a truly representative democracy. The legal question was whether spending money was the equivalent of free speech. The Court ruled that it is and therefore cannot be curbed.
To most people in this country it seems absurd to conflate those two very different things. By effectively eliminating limits a very small number of people can obtain much, MUCH louder voices by spending vast amounts of money, which in due course, is bound to warp our political system to increasingly favor big money interests.
Personally I have no problems with “big money” –in fact I like it — unless I see it undermining the overall public interest. I worry that when [not if] things get really out of hand, the basic sinews of our society will be sorely challenged to the point that even the owners of “big money’ will become BIG losers in a revolutionary fervor. That is why I worry. I have a lot at stake too.
Modern airplane wings are made to be flexible just to prevent them from breaking by being too stiff. The stiff rule that there cannot be too much money in politics could break the wings of modern society.
The sooner we deal with this problem, either by getting a Supreme Court to reverse Citizens United or by a Constitutional Amendment -or both – to protect the long run, the sooner we may begin to solve the dysfunctions in Washington.
The next important sector in our society harmed by money is the law.
Typically lawyers keep track of the time they spend every day and allocate it to the matters they are working on including the time of all their supporting lawyers. And as time has passed the hourly rates many lawyers all over the country charge routinely have been in four figures.
Go figure. What happens is that as time passes the number of hours grows exponentially. The lawyers have almost total control over the time they spend and their basic incentive therefore is to work methodically and even slowly as well as carefully. They have gotten away with that process for a long time.
Things are beginning to change because they silently slipped by an invisible line of tolerance and serious push back is finally under way.
The fact is that the old model was always seriously flawed despite its seductive attraction of being the metric most easily at hand.
Now the question is: where does the effort to correct the corrosive effect of money go? Perhaps some combination of outcomes, time, pages and agreed incentives to reward expeditious results for the client.
Whatever it turns out to be, it should be better than what came before AND serve the world needing lawyers well.
Medicine is vastly more complicated than the law because it involves insurers and the government who are integrally involved in virtually all the costs of medical care.
The biggest variables in medicine are procedures and tests. Non doctors are more or less disqualified from important decisions about procedures and tests . So — guess what — more and more outstanding experts are pointing out that looking over all data there are far too many procedures and tests being performed across the country. Who wants to play God about any or all doctors’ choices in this matter.
The current vogue of how to approach that problem has been to try to move toward doctors becoming self-insurers [via concierge arrangements] and/ or outcome arrangements where the better, faster and cheaper care gets the money roses.
Money really is and has been the root of a lot of evil. Some might say that the inevitable is happening spontaneously. Hopefully that is right and the system may end up being satisfactorily self-correcting.
In the meanwhile the more visible the underlying problems become clearer, the sooner we should all be better off.