New Yorker writer Malcolm Gladwell makes a fundamental error in his critique of Michael Moore’s movie “Sicko.” Gladwell says the health-care system is so complex that it can’t be fixed with one bold stroke such as Moore proposes. The best-selling author of “Blink” and “The Tipping Point,” Gladwell reasons thus:
Moore, he says, takes a Picasso-like approach, referring to Pablo Picasso as conceptual innovator who pioneered cubism’s bold break with more traditional painting.
Gladwell argues that the intricacies of the health-care mess require a step-by-step experimental approach like painter Paul Cezanne’s.
The flaw in that argument is that it’s problem-solving individuals, not problems themselves, that tend to be conceptual or experimental. Picasso, Orson Welles, T.S. Eliot, Bill Gates and Steve Jobs were conceptual innovators. Cezanne, Alfred Hitchcock, Robert Frost, and computer pioneer Grace Murray Hopper made their contributions as experimental innovators. In each field, both types of innovators flourish.
Was the never-ending problem of how to portray the world in art so complex that it took Cezanne’s experimental approach to solve it at the end of the 19th century but became simple enough for Picasso to solve conceptually and cubistically in 1907? Of course not.