If the United States were small like Denmark, Congress could enact comprehensive solutions all day long. But it is arrogant to imagine that 100 U.S. Senators are wise enough to reform comprehensively a health care system that constitutes 17 percent of the worlds largest economy and affects 300 million Americans of disparate backgrounds and circumstances. Political scientist James Q. Wilson says that the law of unintended consequences causes the failure of such huge schemes. This is not an argument for doing nothing, he recently wrote, but ... for doing things experimentally. Try your ideas out in one place and see what happens before you inflict it on the whole country.
The path to a successful health care summit is to put the 2,700-page comprehensive bill on the shelf, set a clear goal of reducing costs and take a few steps in that direction. Then perhaps we can agree on a few more and start solving our countrys problems in a way that re-earns the trust of the American people.
Sen. Lamar Alexander (Tenn.) is Senate Republican Conference chairman.