Dynamist Blog

A "National Design Policy"?

Ever hungry for status (and business, but mostly status), designers are hoping for a national design policy. A "design czar" would do the trick, but they'd settle for legislation that declares, "Professional design standards shall be used in executing any reform efforts between government and citizens." What are "professional design standards"? Who gets to exclude the upstarts? And--to ask a question designers never consider--what are the limits of design? A process that works wonderfully in a competitive, decentralized marketplace, where new ideas have a chance to enter, would look very different as a single federal policy.

I suspect, of course, that this is not a serious policy proposal but, rather, the latest bid for the recognition designers are always desperate for. But it does suggest another industrial policy.

Since editors are suffering so terribly from the restructuring of the media business, perhaps we should campaign for a "national editorial policy" to employ professional writing standards in all government documents. We could turn Joel Achenbach loose on that health care bill...

Talking Kidneys & Crime

Mark Kleiman and I talk about kidneys, crime, and the intersection thereof on Bloggingheads. And you can see my post-chemo wavy hair--the world's most expensive Marcel wave.

Law, Legislation, and Health Care Sausage

Joel Achenbach has a good piece--with a good photo--on the mind-numbing detail of putting together the health care bill. The lead:

The bill, a work in progress called H.R. 3200, is already phone-book thick. The latest amendments this week swamped Room 2123 of the Rayburn House Office Building, home turf of the Energy and Commerce Committee. Some 250 amendments had appeared by Wednesday night, and the number jumped to 350 by Thursday afternoon. The amendments filled 39 file boxes on chairs, under desks and in the aisles.

An excerpt:

To really understand what a bill says, you'd need to have the existing laws memorized.

Here's a fairly typical passage from H.R. 3200:

Section 1834(a)(7)(A)(iii) of the Social Security Act (42 U.S.C. 1395m(a)(7)(A)(iii)) is amended

(1) in the heading, by inserting 'CERTAIN COMPLEX REHABILITATIVE' after 'OPTION FOR'; and

(2) by striking 'power-driven wheelchair' and inserting 'complex rehabilitative power-driven wheelchair recognized by the Secretary as classified within group 3 or higher.'

And that goes on for a thousand pages.

This is exactly the kind of detail that shouldn't be prescribed in legislation. Hayek's Law, Legislation and Liberty is not a fully successful book, but the distinction he makes between the general principles of liberal "law" and the excessively detailed and illiberal decrees of "legislation" is valuable as a heuristic.

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