by Rod D. Martin
July 2, 2015

House Republicans, intent on repealing and replacing Obamacare, are going beyond the Administration’s focus on costs and control: like Mike Huckabee recently, they are focusing on curing the underlying diseases.

A key part of their strategy is a page out of Peter Diamandis‘ book: prizes. First up: a whopping $1 Billion prize for the first team to cure Alzheimer’s.

First, the cure approach. I cannot stress this enough: the cure is cheaper than the care. We haven’t spent a lot on polio lately, nor have many people’s lives been ruined, productivity destroyed, inventiveness wiped out, families infected. Cost containment is a paltry substitute for cures, and the more you focus on the accounting side, the more policy makers tend to lose sight of that essential fact.

Both parties have been pretty bad about this, but that’s changing, fast.

From the Charlotte Observer:

(Rep. Robert) Pittenger says he also hopes the latest plan will get some juice from the addition of a $15 billion, eight-year medical breakthrough fund to encourage research into heart disease, cancer, stroke, Alzheimer’s and diabetes. Included in that is the billion-dollar Alzheimer’s prize, pattered on the Xprize for innovative technology, a summary of the act says. The prize “will use free-market principles to spur private investment into finding a cure or vaccine for a disease that is projected to cost Medicare and Medicaid more than $500 billion per year within the next three decades.”

Prizes work, shockingly well. The Orteig Prize incentivized multiple teams between 1919 and 1927 to attempt what then seemed almost impossible: to fly a heavier-than-air craft across the Atlantic. Charles Lindberg bested many more famous men and ushered in a new era. The Rise of PrizesThe Ansari X-Prize led some of the world’s smartest people to spend many times the amount of the prize they could win (a relatively paltry $10 million) to create something revolutionary: a private manned spacecraft that could fly to space, return, and fly again in two weeks time.

Not knocking that — I absolutely love that — but how much more significant would a cancer cure be? And how many more people would compete to win that level of distinction?

Socialism tries to force people into a mold that doesn’t work and never can. Capitalism works because it deals with man as he actually is. Man doesn’t merely want profit: he needs it, to solve his next set of problems, to fund his greater ambitions, to achieve his hopes and dreams. Man seeks recognition, always, even if it is only the warm acceptance and affirmation of a spouse. Man competes, and finds his very best self in the struggle. The left wants to “spread wealth,” to give every child a trophy and to affirm “collective action” above all else. There is a reason America is the innovative engine of the world, and Russia is reduced to selling commodities.

Prizes work. Prizes also tap the creative brilliance of people who might not otherwise engage. Government usually seeks answers from their own bureaucrats and favored contractors. Prizes open things up to everyone. And at the scale government can fund them — far beyond the resources of an Orteig or Ansari — a government sponsored prize could mobilize astonishing talent and action.

It’s rare for anyone in government to think outside the box. Congratulations to the House Republicans for doing so. On this at least, they’ve earned their pay.