One Size Does Not Fit All

By Tom Dardick

Can you think of an article of clothing where one size truly fits all? I can’t. Well, okay – maybe a MuuMuu. How about other products or services? Is there anything that is perfectly suited for everybody? Lefties, you know what I’m talking about; by the way, Happy Lefthanders Day (August 13th).

Upon further reflection, we should probably clarify what we mean by “fits” and “all.” I mean, does “all” really mean every single person, without exception, from the tiniest newborn to Andre the Giant? Must it equally apply to a person in a large family as well as to someone living alone? And does “fits” mean that it perfectly suits, or does it merely do the intended job? When advertisers say that one size fits all, they really mean that their product generally covers most people most of the time.

Let’s face facts. If you are going to an important function, are you looking for “one size fits all” clothing? Of course not. The more important the occasion, the more customization you want. Just look at how much money is to be had in the wedding dress industry.

And in other consumer goods, do you gravitate toward items that claim one size fits all? Not likely. The march of progress has been toward more individual options, not fewer.

So let me ask you – when it comes to policy, whether in private institutions or legislative measures, why do we go for one size fits all solutions? Collective bargainers seek to standardize labor terms. Politicians push ever-higher minimum wage policy which would equalize wide varieties of jobs. The ACA (Obamacare) standardizes health insurance. The TSA requires everyone to take their shoes off at the airport. Marriage is now the same no matter who is involved in the wedding.

Usually, proponents of these kinds of policies seek equality and fairness. One set of rules for everybody. This seems like justice.

So it’s right and good that everyone has the same health care, right? Proponents of the ACA certainly argue this point. Some even go further – that there should be a single-payer, fully socialized medical system. This seems most fair because then everybody will be taken care of equally. Fair.

If this is fairness, why stop there? Some say the reason is because medical care is absolutely necessary and expensive. We won’t go into why it is expensive, as it wasn’t always so, but let’s concede the necessary part. Other things are necessary: food, shelter, clothing, cable… Well, maybe not clothing, depending upon where you live. But, not everybody is able to afford the same quality/quantity of these necessities, so why wouldn’t we want to socialize these goods? (Oh, that’s right. We largely have: Food stamps, government assistance programs, etc.)

The problem is this this: One size never fits all. It doesn’t match reality. As in the case of Obamacare, those in power always exempt themselves. CEOs in large companies don’t get fired the way you do – they get paid to leave. To the extent that one size is made to fit all, quality and function suffer. Those with means get theirs. Everybody else gets the shaft.

One size fits all policy appeals to leaders. It’s easy to pitch. The fact that it doesn’t work in reality doesn’t really matter much to them.

Credit: Tom helps organizations with their People Strategy. To see more from Tom, subscribe to his blog: or visit his website: