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A Mathematician Reads the Newspaper by John Allen Paulos

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Senators Eye Hawaii Health Care Plan

Scaling Up Is So Very Hard to Do

Moving from the local or personal to the national or impersonal is a feat. It’s not just a matter of “the same thing, only bigger.” Friendly, considerate people may not finish last in public life, but neither are they noticeably more effective than the disagreeable, ruthless ones. Strategies and designs useful in small-scale situations often fail when tried on a broader canvas.

An example is provided by the headline above. Hawaii is a tiny archipelago with a little more than one million people, so any health program that is effective there is not necessarily going to work in a vast country with a population more than 200 times as large. Likewise, the story of a flourishing ...

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