Tuesday, August 21, 2007

A few weeks ago, a Boston Globe article about women's health briefly mentioned a terrific point about Cheney's "One Percent Doctrine." In a nutshell, this doctrine prescribes that even if an outcome has just a 1% chance of occurring, act as if it's 99% certain to happen and do everything necessary to stop it.

Sound rationale? Like something that will realistically sustain through time? With regards to health care, the authors of the article state, "By focusing maximum resources on preventing an extremely rare but potentially disastrous outcome over necessary preventive care," our health care system "misallocates resources and undermines primary care."

In other words, there instead should be a 99% doctrine. By focusing on the rare 1%, we divert needed dollars away from the much more commonly-occurring problems to address the statistical outlier. This tendency is inefficient. Yes, such outliers can happen, though remote, and they can be devastating, but again in the long-run given the limitation of finite budgets and the needs dictated by the 99%, we simply can't devote the bulk of time and money on low-probability chance. Better to focus on the 99% while doing everything possible to minimize the effects of outliers.

Example: stock portfolios are diversified to negate the occasional, though inevitable, steep price decline in a holding. One usually never knows where or when it will occur, but it does, and diversification (99%) helps greatly in negating the impact.

Perhaps this thinking will change with the exit of this guard.

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