Obamacare and the Hubris of the Technocrats

Will the Obamacare fiasco temper their technocratic ambitions, or will it merely lead to more government control?

And the mandate problem is going to pale in comparison to the trouble that awaits the federal government when trying to implement a law that affects millions of Americans and one-sixth of the economy. The economy is too big, too unwieldy, and too complex for the technocrats to manage. Yet a cadres of mediocre politicians and civil servants think they can implement what the most brilliant business leaders in the country couldn’t pull it off. These technocrats are driven by pure hubris and an unshakable faith in the transformative power of government.

 
Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) was one of the key architects of Obamacare and one of the legislation’s greatest champions. But now he fears a “train wreck” as the Obama administration implements its signature healthcare law. In a recent hearing he asked Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius for details about how the Health Department will explain the law and raise awareness of its provisions, which are supposed to take effect in just a matter of months:

“I’m very concerned that not enough is being done so far — very concerned,” Baucus said. He pressed Sebelius to explain how her department will overcome entrenched misunderstandings about what the healthcare law does.

“Small businesses have no idea what to do, what to expect,” Baucus said.

Citing anecdotal evidence from small businesses in his home state, Baucus asked Sebelius for specifics about how it is measuring public understanding of the law.

“You need data. Do you have any data? You’ve never given me data. You only give me concepts, frankly,” he said. Sebelius said in response that the administration is not independently monitoring public awareness of specific provisions but will be embarking on an education campaign beginning this summer.

Sen. Baucus seems to think that the problem is a lack of understanding about the law. But I suspect if you were to give the senator a written test about Obamacare, it’s implementation, and it’s affects on the economy, it would reveal his own lack of understanding. Sen. Baucus may be a smart man but the law is too complex for any single person—even its architect—to fully comprehend.

The reason small business owners are concerned is that they recognize it will affect them in ways that the Obama administration is going to claim were “unforeseeable” (though those same challenges were predicted by the law’s critics). Consider, for example, the simple matter of the HHS mandate. Who could have foreseen that some of the most significant legal challenges to the legislation were going to be about religious liberty? Actually, almost anyone—except perhaps Sec. Sebelius who seems to have been caught completely by surprise.

And the mandate problem is going to pale in comparison to the trouble that awaits the federal government when trying to implement a law that affects millions of Americans and one-sixth of the economy. The economy is too big, too unwieldy, and too complex for the technocrats to manage. Yet a cadres of mediocre politicians and civil servants think they can implement what the most brilliant business leaders in the country couldn’t pull it off. These technocrats are driven by pure hubris and an unshakable faith in the transformative power of government.

But they’ll soon face the harsh reality of what Sen. Baucus rightly calls a coming “train wreck.” Will the Obamacare fiasco temper their technocratic ambitions, or will it merely lead to more government control? I fear we may already know the answer, though I hold out hope that even prideful technocrats will learn from this impending colossal failure.

This article appeared on the Acton Institute’s Power Blog and is used with permission.

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