Why is Sicko So Good?

In What is Art? Tolstoy argued that the goal of art is to evoke emotion. According to a Blue Cross vice president, “You would have to be dead to be unaffected by [Sicko].”

Why is Sicko so good?

I have a theory: the Internet. At his website, Moore asked for health-insurance horror stories. He got 25 thousand submissions, I have read. With that much to work with, you can select some extremely moving stories. Not only that. In an article I wrote for Spy, my editor crossed out some comment I had made. “Sometimes the material is so good it speaks for itself,” she said. Moore’s material was so good it spoke for itself. Because Moore said less the diversity of voices was increased, a big artistic plus.

There is a connection with self-experimentation. I was surprised how effective my self-experimentation turned out to be — effective scientifically. Far more than my other research (just as Sicko is far better than Moore’s other movies). I came to believe that there was a large plodding element in effective science — to find new cause-effect relationships, you needed to be able to try lots of things. Self-experimentation worked so well because it made it easy to plod, to try lots of things. Sicko is so good because his website made it easy for Moore to gather lots of good stories.

Moore and Jane Jacobs.

5 Replies to “Why is Sicko So Good?”

  1. Your ideas remind me of John Dewey. Although Dewey did not specifically call for “self-experimentation”, he did champion the democratization of experimentation. Which is interesting because historically, he played a major role in professionalizing the sciences which, in my opinion, hurt the idea of democratic experimentation (like a previous post you commented on).

    there seems to be a parallel between Michael Moore and John Dewey. Both seek a more democratic environment, which is good. But I’m concerned about the idea that such an environment can be mandated from above rather than created in a more organic manner.

    Moore is so obsessed about criticizing the insurance industry, he doesn’t even ponder making a critique against the AMA (havn’t seen the movie, I’m just going to make a guess here he didn’t). The AMA artificially creates higher salaries for doctors by restricting their supply. Additionally, the AMA is hesitant to incorporate cost reductive medical methods.

    its not just insurance companies which are the problem.

  2. That’s an interesting point about “mandated from above.” For some strange reason, it does not seem to be possible that the solution not be “mandated from above.” Lots of things start small and grow but alternative health care systems do not seem to be among them.

    Richard Harris, a writer for The New Yorker, wrote an excellent book about the AMA and its lobbyists called A Sacred Trust, which you have made me want to re-read.

    My choice of who to blame for the health care crisis is researchers. A big reason people suffer from poor health care is that people are in poor health — obesity, diabetes, other chronic conditions. I think research on these topics could be hundreds of times more helpful than it actually is. Atul Gawande told freakonomics.com that we can now cure 70% of cancers. This is an example of what I’m talking about: We should be trying to prevent cancer, not cure it.

  3. I’ll have to read that book

    “For some strange reason, it does not seem to be possible that the solution not be “mandated from above.” Lots of things start small and grow but alternative health care systems do not seem to be among them.”

    yeah, that’s a good point. Health care has to be mandated from above in some form. but I guess what I would prefer is less federal regulations and more state or city regulations. Or maybe in areas with a sufficient amount of competition, less regulations all together.

    this idea by tyler cowen sounds exciting:
    http://www.marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2007/07/medical-free-tr.html

    But as a hospital administrator living in the Detroit area, I’d prefer the zone to be here rather than memphis.

  4. A big reason people suffer from poor health care is that people are in poor health — obesity, diabetes, other chronic conditions. I think research on these topics could be hundreds of times more helpful than it actually is.

    Perhaps. But so what? I think we know a lot of what is needed — IMHO a lot of obesity, diabetes, other chronic conditions are brought quasi-intentionally. That is, one has to know that eating Cheesy Poofs and watching TV all day can’t be good for you.

  5. “I think we know a lot of what is needed.” You are in good company. This is what many experts said and still say about obesity: Hey, just eat more, exercise less. Marian Nestle says this, for example.

    But I disagree. Let’s take depression: Is it obvious what it takes to not be depressed? I don’t think so. Is it obvious what it takes to sleep better? Well, it wasn’t obvious to me. Is it obvious how to prevent injury-causing falls? No.

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