It’s not the American way to delay a lucrative deal while waiting for studies to say it will be safe. If a poorly conceived project or defective product ends up harming someone, we resolve it after the damage has been done, in court.

Stewart’s Law of Retroaction (i.e., it’s easier to get forgiveness than permission) summarizes our national “damn the torpedoes” view of potential negative consequences. This helps explain why many enterprises avoid making full-disclosure environmental impact statements. Get ‘er done now; settle up later.

True, many consequences cannot be foreseen; in construction, we cover the potential costs of accidents and malfeasance by bonding the contractor; money in escrow, up front, for unknown damages later.

We should view Medicare for All the same way. Sometimes, injury or illness is caused by the actions of others; sometimes by our own carelessness. Most often, though, without better information, stuff just happens. Here, all stuff happens within an all-encompassing economic system, regulated by the government to protect our health, safety and welfare. Government, therefore, assumes an implicit responsibility for what happens as a result of any economic activity.

Market capitalism is America’s chosen economic system; its rules of competition apply to everyone, thanks to public regulation. But, Stewart’s Law is still baked in. America does not wait for definitive impact studies for driverless cars, pesticide use, new plastics, artificial intelligence or oil patch leasing. It expects anyone harmed within its economic universe to somehow find relief on their own, often in court at great personal expense.

We should think of Medicare for All as a necessary element of capitalism, as an escrow account, where the federal government provides all citizens with a well-regulated economic system – and bonds itself against all negative health effects that occur within that system, regardless of fault or cause.

Jay Moor

Bozeman