Pragmatism and Cooptation

Back in 2007 I had a rather spirited debate with Dr. Robert Graboyes, an economist who is a healthcare advisor to the NFIB.  You can find this discussion here, here and here.

To summarize this debate, the NFIB took the position that we need to be pragmatic about healthcare reform.  Here is what they said at the time about keeping healthcare in the private sector:

To the greatest extent possible, Americans should receive their health insurance and health care through the private sector.

And my response:

“To the greatest extend possible”??? You can drive a freight train
through that loop hole! Liberty is a foundational principle in our
system. It is sad that we seem to be finding more and more convenient
reasons to compromise on our freedoms, particularly our economic

Their goal was to get a “seat at the table” to help shape healthcare reform.  And how does the meal of healthcare reform taste that is being served to them now that they have a seat at that table?  This is from their press release issued this week:

Brad Close, vice president of federal public policy for the National Federation of Independent Business…released the following statement in response to the House health reform discussion draft:
“As the U.S. House officially begins to discuss and develop its approach to addressing the healthcare crisis, one thing is clear – small business owners need meaningful reform that increases access to quality, affordable healthcare. Sadly, many of the provisions in this draft bill fall far short of achieving those goals. In its draft form, the bill will raise rather than lower costs, decrease rather than increase competition, and eliminate rather than expand choice.”

There is a term for what has happened to those who thought that compromise and pragmatism are the wise path to take — cooptation.  Sadly, this is a term from sociology and politial science that seems to have faded from use.  

Cooptation is a term that was used to describe the process used to get people to go along with the sweeping powers given to the TVA in the 1940s.  Here is a simple description from

A term devised by Philip Selznick to refer to a political process found especially in formally democratic or committee-governed organizations and systems, as a way of managing opposition and so preserving stability and the organization. Non-elected outsiders are ‘co-opted’ by being given formal or informal power on the grounds of their élite status, specialist knowledge, or potential ability to threaten essential commitments or goals.

Cooptation is a strategy to bring your opposition to the table, giving them the illusion of power, but with the intention of controlling them by making them feel like they are part of the process.

Market capitalism, free enterprise, property rights, and even our basic liberties have been consistently eroding for decades.  Those who have assumed that bi-partisansim, pragmatism, and compromise can slow down the freight train taking us to socialism need to wake up.  You are being coopted.