Proposal: A Simple Solution for What Ails the North Carolina Workers’ Compensation System

March 9, 2012, by Michael A. DeMayo

In recent blog posts, we have been talking about the roots of North Carolina workers’ compensation problems. On both an individual level and a societal level, we have examined how simple problems (such as dietary choices, exercise choices, ergonomics, etc) can cause profound problems for workers and for the system as a whole. We have also looked at how complex problems can often “give way” to relatively simple solutions. Both of these ideas are relatively counterintuitive. But both find support from emerging research in respected disciplines like complexity theory.

Today, we are going to examine speculative ways to “knock out” many of the seemingly impossible to dislodge problems with the North Carolina workers’ compensation system as a whole. These problems, as this blog and others have enumerated, can include:

•    Exorbitant premiums which exhaust employers and lead to fraud and other kinds of malfeasance;
•    Complicated bureaucracy which intimidates beneficiaries;
•    Suspicious and at times aggressive and malevolent insurance companies, who can make beneficiaries jump through hoops unnecessarily and even deny legitimate claims;
•    North Carolina government bloat – too many worker’ comp cases consume significant government resources;
•    Lost productivity – when workers get sick and injured, they lose capacity to be productive (or as productive). The result? A huge drain on the state’s coffers, productive capacity, and overall spirit and confidence.

Complexity theory tells us that simple solutions (provided that they are the proper ones!) can potentially knock out many of our complex problems.

For instance, let’s continue to roll with our earlier speculation about the efficacy of low carbohydrate diets. As authors like Richard Bernstein, Mike Eades, Robb Wolf, Mark Sisson, Gary Taubes, and others have argued, carbohydrate restriction might be a “magic bullet” when it comes to treating chronic disease, obesity, and metabolic syndrome. If these guys are right, what would happen if North Carolina changed its dietary guidelines to come into line with the “low-carb” perspective?

First of all – and again, this is assuming that they are right about the science – North Carolinians would rapidly be able to reverse the state’s obesity and diabetes epidemics. So we wouldn’t spend nearly as much money or time or energy battling those problems. That would free up money to spend elsewhere. Second of all, we would create a stronger, more robust work force.

Acute events (e.g. slip and falls) as well as long-term stresses (e.g. bad workplace ergonomics) would still be a problem. But even THOSE problems would be significantly helped. A muscularly strong, healthy man with a strong lower back and good immune system is likely to “bounce back” from a fall or from a typing injury than is a compatriot who is significantly obese, diabetic, and weak.

In any event, this is an interesting thought exercise. And, again, the concept that massive, diverse, and seemingly unrelated problems can be solved by “magic bullets” like a well formulated low carbohydrate diet is not science fiction. Indeed, Complexity Theory suggests that “simple solutions to complex problems” almost certainly abound out there.

More Web Resources:

What if “low-carb” really is a magic bullet? What problems could be solved?

Complexity Theory: Simple Solutions to Complex Issues


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