I am often critical of conservatives for being ideologically committed to means rather than ends. For example, why does the average Republican support tax cuts? Maybe the college-educated ones will sputter something facetious about a goal ("to promote economic growth!") despite the paucity of supporting evidence. But for most of them, taxes must be cut because taxes are bad. There's no higher-level reasoning involved. We're not cutting taxes to accomplish anything; we have to cut taxes because we don't like taxes. This type of reasoning is largely responsible for the predicaments in which we so often find ourselves as a society. It makes no sense. We build dams to generate electricity or control flooding, not because we like dams. We pass laws to serve some specific purpose, not because "passing laws is a good thing."

I encourage everyone to bear this in mind before unsheathing the knives on Congress and the President for the alleged death of the "public option" in the healthcare debate. A very wise faculty member in my graduate program, someone whose academic interests had little to do with mine but who was a terrific mentor, taught me that goals are all that matter in public policy and we must be agnostics about methods. In this debate I am committed to a goal: giving every person in the country access to health insurance that is both affordable and useful. If this is achieved via a Euro-style single payer system run with an iron fist by the Federal government, I will be happy. If this is achieved via a co-op plan which caters heavily to the demands and interests of for-profit insurance companies, I will be happy. If this is achieved via an intricate system of lasers, mirrors, and rhythmic chanting, I will be happy.

It matters not how it gets done, only that it gets done. While I don't have a lot of faith in the Let's All Grab Our Ankles for Humana Plan, which is disturbingly similar to the failed 1994 effort at reform, I am willing to give it an opportunity to work. It has never been my position that everyone in the nation should get free healthcare from Uncle Sam. Instead I believe that we already have programs to cover the elderly and the destitute, so the goal is to find a way to provide affordable coverage to working people whose employers are among the growing ranks of shirkers who cut corners in ways that would have been unthinkable fifty years ago.