Obama's Grand Illusion
The public's lasting, indeed rising, hostility to ObamaCare has come as a surprise to the President and his fellow travelers in Congress, but then omniscience has never been their strong suit.
In 1959, Charles Lindblom, then an associate professor of economics at Yale, penned a highly influential article entitled "The Science of Muddling Through." There he analyzed the workings of modern democracies and offered a compelling explanation for why incremental policy change is a prerequisite to effective policy change, and why radical policy change founded on abstract theories untethered to a real-world understanding of how people behave, and what motivates them, will ultimately fail.
Lindblom argued that modern democracies are viable because such changes are informed by experience, trial and error, and the input of affected interest groups. Mandate and fiat used as tools to force people to alter their behavior inevitably fail because when a major policy shift is suddenly forced upon the public, that shift has not been sufficiently vetted to assess how people will react to it. Lindblom explained that no theory exists from which policy makers can draw valid conclusions about a policy's real world consequences. In making this point, he wrote:
The assumption of [policy-makers as theoreticians] is that theory is the most systematic and economical way to bring relevant knowledge to bear on a specific problem. Granting the assumption, an unhappy fact is that we do not have adequate theory to apply to problems in any policy area....
He ultimately concluded that careful and ongoing evaluation of how free individuals alter their behavior in response to existing policy and modest changes in that policy over time is the measure by which effective, lasting adjustments to the policy should be formulated. Such an evaluation is possible only if the policy shift is sufficiently limited to allow its effects to be sorted, and analyzed separately from, other factors that may be in play.
Anyone familiar with what happens to tax revenues when confiscatory tax increases and tax rate increases, such as Maryland's millionaires' tax, are imposed in one fell swoop can attest to Lindblom's observation. The philosophical basis for such a tax is bogus but, if Maryland's intent was to increase state revenues at the expense of the, by implication, "greedy rich," the tax should have been implemented in stages, over a period of years. Because it wasn't, revenues actually fell and many of those who would have been subject to the tax changed their state of residence, thus depriving Maryland of all the tax revenue it had previously collected from these individuals.
To leftist liberals, gradualism, which is synonymous with incrementalism, is a dirty word. Nothing will ever persuade them otherwise, which is why leftist policy proposals are routinely adopted through deceit and legislative sleight of hand. Voters ordinarily will not buy a pig in a poke because, having been burned all too often over the years, they are innately skeptical of what their elected representatives have in store for them. Given the competing social and economic interests that exist in every society, incrementalists recognize that the more sudden and radical the change, the more, and the more intense, the opposition it will face. People will simply not accept government compulsion that forces them to accept a sudden and substantial change in their expectations and lifestyles. Lindblom made this point as follows:
Decision-making is ordinarily formalized as a means-ends relationship: means are conceived to be evaluated and chosen in the light of ends finally selected independently of and prior to the choice of means. But it follows that such a means-ends relationship is possible only to the extent that values are agreed upon, are reconcilable, and are stable at the margin.
Obama, of course, sees such a view of the world as an obstacle to his ability to impose upon the rest of us what may be best characterized as a "grand illusion." His hostility to incrementalism is patent. Anyone who uses Marx and Alinsky as guides cannot help but see the American political system as anathema to "progress" and "social justice." ObamaCare is a prime example. There were no public hearings, no vetting of its provisions in the public realm, and no complete version of the legislation made available to members of Congress before the Democrats forced a vote. Obviously, Obama and the Democrats knew it could not stand on its own if subjected to public scrutiny. They were also aware that they were forcing on Americans just the type of abrupt and radical change Lindblom warned against. How ObamaCare would work in the real world was never of concern to its backers. It was sufficient for them that it fit their master plan for what a "just" healthcare system should look like. As is becoming clearer by the day, however, their respective "chickens" are now "coming home to roost."
All the grand plans to remake the country in Obama's "progressive" image are failing, because the leftist view of how people behave under compulsion has been tested and vetted for nearly a century and has proven to be an utter failure. He must be the only person alive who missed the fact that there is no more Berlin Wall. For that matter, he seems to have overlooked the fact that of tens of millions of innocents caught up in Communism's "grand" social experiment were either murdered, worked to death, or starved to death. He even seems clueless to the fact that many of those Western European nations that once looked to the East for guidance in social and economic policy ceased doing so years ago.
In the past, most Americans paid little attention to politics, in part because they saw little need to. As they saw it, the two major parties fought their battles between the forty-yard lines and, so, they expected each new day to be pretty much like the day before. But last November's election signaled the start of a great awakening. Tens of millions of normally apolitical people sat up, took notice, and started "taking names." Obama, Pelosi, Frank, Reid, Boxer, Waxman, and the other "usual suspects" have now brought into the sunshine what eighty years of social engineering has wrought upon the country, by trying to shove ObamaCare down the country's throat. It is now being shoved back in their faces and they are at a loss to figure out how to deal with that.
The President's polling numbers confirm all this, of course, as does the fact that, of late, the sycophantic class has begun searching for someone else's glow to bask in. Like Icarus, Obama's wings are melting away and his efforts to defy the law of gravity have failed. If he ever thought Christmas tree bulbs bearing the face of Mao, and presidential advisors who prefer Mao's Little Red Book over Kant's Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals, would send a tingle up the leg of your average Joe, or for that matter, your average Joe the Plumber, he was sadly mistaken. In short, President Icarus has met his match in ordinary Americans who go to work every day and want their kids to do better than they have done.
It is fitting that Leon Trotsky, nearly a century ago, made famous the phrase "the ash heap of history." Little did he know that that would be the final resting place of Bolshevism. It now appears that the ash heap will be bulked up a bit in the very near future. Embers are already falling from the sky.