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  • Obamacare, the Wisdom of Rose Wilder Lane, and Why Nancy Pelosi Was Sort of Right

    Posted by David Foster on January 7th, 2014 (All posts by )

    The “Affordable Care Act,” aka Obamacare, seems to be full of surprises.  For example, it seems that many Americans are being forced onto Obamacare exchanges where most plans provide only local medical coverage…a bit of a problem for people who travel, change jobs, or have vacation homes.  To take another example, this Washington Post article says Obamacare may make it impossible for people living in American territories (such as Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands) to purchase health insurance policies at all. “Unexpected!” results of Obamacare seem to be almost daily news.

    These surprises especially strike those ordinary Americans who are the targeted users of Obamacare, of course…but  also, they seem to strike many of the creators of the program. Some members of the government classes, of course, simply lied about Obamacare’s effects…first and foremost this is notoriously true of Obama himself. But I also feel sure that there are many among those CongressCreatures who voted for this 2000-page bill who have been genuinely surprised by some or many of its outcomes. It is simply not possible to clearly predict in advance the effects of a piece of legislation so all-encompassing, so verbose, and so quickly pushed through.

    Rose Wilder Lane, still at that point a Communist, visited the Soviet Union in 1919. After she explained the benefits of central planning to a disbelieving village leader, he shook his head sadly and said:

    It is too big – he said – too big. At the top, it is too small. It will not work. In Moscow there are only men, and man is not God. A man has only a man’s head, and one hundred heads together do not make one great big head. No. Only God can know Russia.

    Indeed, one hundred or one thousand or ten thousand heads together in the form of CongressCreatures or health care bureaucrats did not suffice to make one great big head that would fully grasp the implications of Obamacare. Nancy Pelosi was sort of right when she said “But we have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it”…she should have carried it further and said: “We have to pass the bill so that we can find out what’s in it.”

    It is precisely this difficulty in predicting the outcomes of sweeping change, on a society-wide scale, that makes such sweeping and radical change something to be usually avoided..and when indeed necessary, to be conducted with caution and careful forethought. British statesman and political philosopher Edmund Burke made this point eloquently and famously. Nothing could be more anti-Burkean than Obama’s statement on October 30, 2008: “We are five days away from fundamentally transforming the United States of America.”

    After coming to realize that the defects of Communism are inherent and not just due to problems with one particular implementation of it, Rose Wilder Lane also became convinced that:

    Centralized economic control over multitudes of human beings must therefore be continuous and perhaps superhumanly flexible, and it must be autocratic. It must be government by a swift flow of edicts issued in haste to catch up with events receding into the past before they can be reported, arranged, analyzed and considered, and it will be compelled to use compulsion. In the effort to succeed, it must become such minute and rigorous control of details of individual life as no people will accept without compulsion. It cannot be subject to the intermittent checks, reversals, and removals of men in power which majorities cause in republics.

    Note how this comment ties in with the Obama administration’s tendency to adjust the healthcare insurance program via quick and arbitrary administrative rulemaking, rather than via the legislative process. RWL would say that this kind of behavior is inherent in a program intended to establish government control over vast swaths of society.

    She also notes that:

    Nobody can plan the actions of even a thousand living persons, separately. Anyone attempting to control millions must divide them into classes, and make a plan applying to these classes. But these classes do not exist. No two persons are alike. No two are in the same circumstances; no two have the same abilities; beyond getting the barest necessities of life, no two have the same desires.Therefore the men who try to enforce, in real life, a planned economy that is their theory, come up against the infinite diversity of human beings. The most slavish multitude of men that was ever called “demos” or “labor” or “capital” or”agriculture” or “the masses,” actually are men; they are not sheep. Naturally, by their human nature, they escape in all directions from regulations applying to non-existent classes. It is necessary to increase the number of men who supervise their actions. Then (for officials are human, too) it is necessary that more men supervise the supervisors.

    …and discusses the temptations of power to a leader who believes in expansionist government:

    If he wants to do good (as he sees good) to the citizens, he needs more power. If he wants to be re-elected, he needs more power to use for his party. If he wants money, he needs more power; he can always sell it to some eager buyer. If he wants publicity, flattery, more self-importance, he needs more power, to satisfy clamoring reformers who can give him flattering publicity.

     

     

    11 Responses to “Obamacare, the Wisdom of Rose Wilder Lane, and Why Nancy Pelosi Was Sort of Right”

    1. Michael Kennedy Says:

      As Winston Churchill once said: “Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.”

      We are still to see lots more pain and confusion. Hospitals, for example, have bought physician practices to become vertically integrated networks. But if the network is excluded ? I organized the trauma center in my old hospital and it gave them an advantage later when negotiating with insurance companies. Big insurance companies, like Blue Cross for example, would demand big discounts. Few people realize how big those discounts are. If the hospital balks at the discount, the insurance company will just exclude them from the network. My old hospital had a trump card; if a Blue Cross patient came in as a trauma, they would have to pay the hospital retail prices. It helped a lot in negotiations.

      I wonder how the insurance companies, under great financial pressure to go to cheap providers, will handle such issues. The Navy got into trouble a few years ago when a heart surgeon had a string of terrible results. It still affects the military. A few scandals with cheap providers will add spice to the stories yet to come.

    2. Michael Hiteshew Says:

      Hayek had these same insights and much more. Still, it’s good see others see it as well.

    3. David Foster Says:

      Definitely significant overlap between RWL’s ideas and those of Hayek. The publishing history (her book The Discovery of Freedom, was published in 1943, and was based in considerable part on an article she wrote for Saturday Evening Post in 1936; Hayek’s The Road to Serfdom was published in 1944) leads me to think her thoughts evolved pretty much independently of his.

    4. grey eagle Says:

      Sadly, the news media and our schools expect that the people we elect should be leaders. We don’t want leaders.

      Free enterprise is like a bunch of football games. Every game needs teams and every team needs leaders and skilled players. But every game needs referees and all the games must be played by the same set of rules.

      We, the players elect the referees. We elect them to be referees. We don’t want the referees to decide which plays the teams run, we don’t want the referees to decide which team should win. Referees are not leaders.

      What do you get when referees decide the plays, the score, and who wins? You get the “Sport” of Professional Wrestling.

      Central Planning is where the refs take over the game and create the morality play a.k.a. Professional Wrestling.

    5. VXXC Says:

      POWER. Who, Whom. They don’t care about the consequences to anyone lacking the clout to get an exemption.

      Please do not persist treating in trifling moralities with pyschopaths. They.Don’t.Care.

      “It is precisely this difficulty in predicting the outcomes of sweeping change” – Unless you know it increases your power, and you don’t give a fig about the consequences. Zero.

      RWL was complicit in genocide, the village headman she spoke to was most likely soon dead.

      You are that Village Headman.

    6. pst314 Says:

      “The most slavish multitude of men…are not sheep. Naturally, by their human nature, they escape in all directions from regulations applying to non-existent classes. It is necessary to increase the number of men who supervise their actions.”

      And to redouble efforts to turn men into sheep.

    7. Jimmy J. Says:

      ” The Navy got into trouble a few years ago when a heart surgeon had a string of terrible results. It still affects the military.”

      Yes, military medicine is much the same as socialized medicine. The doctors have little incentive to excel other than their own inner drive to excellence. During 21 years in the Navy I encountered three cases of medical incompetence that, fortunately, didn’t leave me dead. However, I still have physical issues that need never have happened. Those experiences are why I am so dead set against universal healthcare.

      Battlefield medicine has been greatly improved by the military, but when it comes to more routine care, it is far behind private medicine.

    8. ErisGuy Says:

      Centralized economic control over multitudes of human beings must therefore be continuous and … autocratic.

      And so we discover that technocracy and communism are identical. She could have omitted economic, as artistic and scientific control have also fallen within the government’s realm.

      Still, the subjects of the EU and their predecessors seem to like it.

    9. Sgt. Mom Says:

      I am pretty certain that the tide of discontent with the unAffordable Care Act is beginning an unstoppable rise. Yesterday, my daughter and I were in a certain retail outlet, and three ladies of certain age (two clerks and a customer) were all discussing it – they were all three distressed and mystified – and they were venting pretty loudly. When discussions about it are in a public place, you wonder how many of them are going on in private.

      I started to put down the name of the town and the establishment we were in, in drafting this comment … and then I thought – better not. How is that for paranoia running deep?

      I’ve been treated in the military medical system, also – and even if I can’t personally complain of any particularly damaging treatment, I’ve had friends and family members who have. The Army, especially, had some real winners when it came to medical talent – doctors who I wouldn’t ask to treat a splinter in my finger. Anyone whose been in the military has already had single-payer health care.

    10. VXXC Says:

      @Technocracy = Communism.

      Actually Pundita has a great series on how Macroeconomic policies means collectivism, hence we end up with collectivist governance and finance.

      I call it Bankers Communism.

    11. David Foster Says:

      VXXC…re Pundita, do you have a link for that series?