Comprehensive government solutions only create comprehensive problems

Kelly Sloan

Democrats find themselves standing shell-shocked among the ruins of their signature socio-economic achievement of the past decade. Sure, they’re putting on a brave face, frantically spinning each new revelation of just how complete the failure of Obamacare is becoming, fanatically combing hill and vale for some snippet of… well, if not good news, then at least less bad news concerning the almost comically bad rollout.

But underneath, Democrats are haunted by the persistent question, born more of confusion than anything else: What the ____ happened? Everything was designed, planned, and modeled. Modern social theory was applied. The whole thing was worked out by hand-picked experts. How could it have gone wrong?

The temptation among the right is to answer, somewhat sardonically, that that was the problem.

The abortive launch of the oxymoronically titled Affordable Care Act — now so laughably ironic that even Democrats call it “Obamacare” — points to the central failure of left-liberal thought. It has been mentioned, often, that health care constitutes 18 percent of the American economy. The sheer magnitude of the interactions and complexities involved is staggering. To think that these could be centrally managed — all at once, by a single (albeit 2,400-page) law, no less — is at best quixotically naive. At worst, foolishly arrogant.

Among Washington’s other problems is a growing fascination with “comprehensive” solutions to complex issues — immigration, for instance, or energy or banking, to name a few. All of these are highly complex matters with many intricate working parts that naturally resist any sort of central guidance.

Instead of addressing individual components of the larger issue and applying solutions (more often than not, a withdrawal of government action), the lure is to concoct a grand program that neatly deals with the whole shishkabob in one fell swoop. The results range from ineffective to disastrous, but rarely, if ever, result in the intended outcome.

Generally what is left is a mess of bad policy that results in more (generally bad) policy being formulated to deal with the problems created by the initial master planning attempt. We’re already seeing this with Obamacare, as President Barack Obama rather desperately issues an impossible executive order to insurance companies to re-institute policies they were forced to cancel as if nothing ever happened. Over the course of the following months, we’re bound to be witness again to the spectacle of laws needing to be created to micromanage solutions to problems created by micromanagement on a larger scale.

This is precisely how the tax code grew to several volumes that no one person can possibly comprehend. Erasmus himself, faced with discerning the U.S. tax code, would have thrown up his hands in disgust and frustration and consigned himself to life of farming or pottery.

The problems with Obamacare, of course, transcend simply the scope of the legislation. The attempted approach to lowering health care costs was exactly opposite to what is needed to lower health care costs. The Obama plan artificially increases demand for health care services both by inflating Medicaid rolls and attempting to force others onto insurance plans that offer more for ostensibly “free” — free checkups, health screenings and so forth. All of this ignores the actual costs of providing that health care — or more accurately, transfers the costs to people the administration deems “wealthy” — which, partly due to the failure of the government to be able to manage health care like a Nintendo game, increasingly includes more and more of the population.

In their frantic efforts to paint a happy face on the mayhem the inaugural weeks of Obamacare have become, some are trying to make the case that people losing their insurance plans, contrary to solemn pledges by the president himself that such occurrences were beyond the pale, represent only a fraction of the population — only the people in the individual insurance market. But weren’t they specifically who Obamacare was supposed to help? If you were lucky enough to have insurance through your employer, you weren’t part of the oppressed underclass that needed help from the government, right? That meant people in the individual marketplace were exactly who the law was tailored to. And they are the ones suffering the worst under it.

Obamacare, whatever its eventual disposition, struggles as it does because the scope of the issue is beyond the capability of any central entity to manage, especially in a “comprehensive” package. As some of us have been pleading all along.

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Kelly Sloan is a Grand Junction resident, freelance journalist, small business owner and Centennial Institute fellow on energy and economic policy. He specializes in public policy and political communications.
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Posted by on Nov 20 2013. Filed under Opinion. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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