Thursday, July 4, 2013

Obamacare: a technocratic nightmare

The Obamacare chickens are coming home to roost in earnest now. With each passing month, as more elements of the Affordable Care Act come into play, the problems inherent in the legislation become ever more apparent. The requirement for businesses of more than fifty employees to offer health insurance to their employees was due to take effect at the start of 2014. It has now been delayed--by executive fiat--until 2015 at the earliest. Why? Because the rules are too confusing, because some small businesses are prepared to cut their workforce rather than face the requirement, and because implementation of the requirement looks more like an economic drag than anything else.

The state insurance exchanges are mostly behind schedule as well, though the Administration still insists they will be open on October 1st. And of course, there is the growing list of companies and states who have been allowed to opt-out of key requirements in the ACA.

But the across-the-board delay on the business requirement, it cuts deeply into the mechanisms envisioned by the Administration with regard to funding the legislation, at least as it was sold to the American public. The CBO's analysis of the legislation's effects on the Federal Budget assumed this requirement would generate some ten to twenty billion dollars in revenue from fines on non-complying businesses per year (Table 2). That money--counted on to reduce the cost of the ACA--now has to come out of Federal coffers until the requirement is actually implemented. But what's another $10 billion or more between friends, right?

The ridiculousness of this all, of various elements in the ACA being ignored, delayed, or changed by fiat point to the underlying problem with it, a problem shared by the Stimulus Bill and other huge pieces of legislation: technocrats are running the show in Washington, D.C.

I've talked about the technocracy movement before. As I noted then, the fundamental assumption of the technocrat is the following:
The driving idea behind it is that things are too complicated, too diversified when it comes to government policies and laws for typical people to understand, thus decisions should be left in the hands of the experts in a given field.
Now couple this with an agenda, an expectation of specific results from government policy and what you get are things like the Stimulus Bill and Obamacare, massive pieces of legislation designed to achieve specific results and based on the ideas of so-called experts in fields like economics, healthcare, and of course the federal budget.

As I also noted previously, the movement is--at its core--Platonian in character. There is a built in assumption that those who know better should lead, though the technocrat bows to experts in specific fields, as opposed to a more general "philosopher-king." Still, it is not much of a step to see that philosopher-king as being the director of the technocrats. Yet the technocracy movement also draws inspiration from Marx, insofar as it is based on "theories" of labor, of value, and of how the economy actually functions.

Thus the technocrat is given to favor academic analysis over real-world experience. How to achieve a given result is a matter for the blackboard--or the computer--and conclusions so reached are treated as truths; human agency is practically ignored. To put this another way, the technocrat assumes the world functions in a definable way, such that changing a parameter of the system will have a distinct and predictable result. Legislation to achieve the result is thus fashioned.

Of course, even the technocrat recognizes the complexity of something like the healthcare system; he just deludes himself into believe he can understand that complexity and fully control the system, can account for every factor impacting it. Which of course leads to increasing complex legislation, as various adjustments are introduced to address various expected conditions or results.

The ACA currently clocks in at some 1000 pages, but the corresponding regulations produced for it exceed 10,000 pages already, with many more to come. As elements within it are adjusted, the interdependent structures anticipated by its technocratic authors unravel which only increases its complexity, not to mention undoing many of the promises made with regard to its effects. This is easily seen in the budgetary consequences, as I noted above. But things do not end there. Other aspects of Obamacare, other consequences, will reveal themselves. It is possible some will be positive, but it is far more likely that they will not. Compliance--already an issue--will become increasingly difficult, as other rules governing both individuals and businesses are changed with little notice to offset the already extant failures of the program.

In the long term, this means more "experts" in the field, people able to navigate the legislation and advise businesses and individuals of their responsibilities with regard to the ACA. Tax preparation and advisement is already a huge industry. Now, there will be another field: healthcare advisement. And neither field represents economic productivity; both are drains on growth. There's no way around this reality.

That will be the legacy of the ACA: negative economic growth. For that is always the legacy of the technocrat.

Cheers, all.

1 comment:

  1. Yep. At -2% over the last 4 decades, compounded annually. :D

    This also reminds me of RealID. Whatever happened to RealID, anyway?