Yuval Levin on the “Technocratic Hubris” of Obamacare

November 1st, 2013

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On the other hand, it seems that technocratic hubris about the capacity of government to manage complexity and arrange the world just right is turning out not to work well either. The technical failures of the exchange websites raise grave alarms about the technocratic vision at the core of Obamacare. That technocratic vision begins from the notion that we already possess the knowledge it takes to run an efficient health-financing system and all that remains is to apply that knowledge from the center, with the government defining the insurance product strictly and then compelling insurers to sell it, compelling consumers to buy it, managing the countless assorted variables and pressures involved, and calling what results a market. The idea that this kind of approach could address the immense problems of our system, could reach the right balance of risk in the newly created insurance exchanges, could avoid immense unintended consequences, and could result in a desirable balance between quality and cost is the dubious proposition that the Democrats, on a strict party line, have decided the country should test. The fact that the people charged with making all this happen cannot properly manage the development of a web site does not prove the proposition false, of course, but it surely calls for very deep doubts — and the failure of the enrollment site also raises real and practical obstacles to the implementation of the new system. The first and surely easiest test has gone far worse than anyone expected, though the ultimate outcome remains to be seen.