The Wall Street Journal‘s Jason Riley recently interviewed Dr. Ben Carson, U.S. Department of Housing an Urban Development (HUD) Secretary.
The former neurosurgeon talked about advocating a surgical procedure that wasn’t standard at the time, a character trait that no doubt helps him deal with criticism of his political views and his lack of experience running a government agency.
When [Dr. Carson] first talked about using a different surgical procedure on children with achondroplasia, at a medical conference in Rome in the mid-1980s, many objected: “The geneticists said, ‘You surgeons. If you would just leave these people alone, only 7% of them would die. But you guys think you can do anything.’ ”
Back home at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore, colleagues complained to the hospital president that “Carson’s a wild man. You’ve got to stop him.” But Dr. Carson didn’t stop. “Finally, I had done enough cases where I was able to reveal the data. None of [the patients] had died, and they were doing well. And even though I’d gotten all that pushback, now it’s a standard procedure.”
Dr. Carson grew up poor, and he’s not against people looking to government for help.
“We have an obligation to take care of people who can’t care for themselves—the elderly, the disabled, the mentally ill—and certainly at HUD we’re going to take care of those people.” A case in point, he added, is dealing more effectively with the homeless population. We’re doing a better job at sheltering them but not at diagnosing why they became homeless in the first place and then treating it. “If you don’t do two and three, then you’re wasting your time.”
But he believes helping people help themselves is better.
He envisions an agency that’s much more focused on enhancing human capital. The objective isn’t to make people on government assistance as comfortable as possible. The objective is fewer people on government assistance. It’s an approach that may not be outside the box, but it’s certainly outside the Beltway.