Grimly Amusing Headline
James Kalb: The Tyranny of Liberalism

See! See! I Told You!

Obamacare is a bonanza for lobbyists.

...the United States is a large and undisciplined country and includes far too many people who would see the system only as something to be exploited. And I don’t mean only the sort of shiftless people who always exploit welfare, social security, etc. as recipients—I mean doctors, lawyers, corporations, and bureaucrats who would approach the system as vultures would approach a big dead pig, and probably be much greater abusers, in terms of sheer dollars, than the mere dishonest recipients.

--me, four years ago

I didn't specify "lobbyists," but clearly they fit that general prediction.


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It's so great that you need a "Navigator" to help you sign up for it. I didn't read much of it, partly because I tend to react with rage to this kind of institutional b.s., but I did get as far as the Customer Service guidelines, which are darkly amusing when you consider the way the monstrosity was put into law, and the manifest contempt of the administration for those who object to the contraception mandate.

Having now experienced the American bureaucracy first hand I think this whole Obamacare is terrifying. I don't believe it's likely to really help the little guy - I think it will make a lot of middle men richer/better off. It will probably make sick people suicidal.

And I'm not actually against socialised medicine!!

That's not to criticise your country in general, Maclin - America still has many good things about it. Lots of good people for a start.

Don't worry, I'm not offended at all. We Americans have a weird gift for creating insanely complicated bureaucratic structures. I don't really understand it, because in many ways we can be very efficient. Maybe it's because we try to make them do too much and cover too many exceptions.

Somewhere in one of the C.S. Lewis sci-fi books there's a reference to something of "more than American complexity." I often think of that. There is a certain kind of person who just loves that kind of regulation, gets some kind of pleasure out of creating it and being an expert on manipulating it.

Maybe we make it so complicated because we are oh so afraid that someone will get away with something, which is funny because everyone gets away with anything because it is oh so complicated.

I dunno.

I give up.

(Anyone seen an ad for land in Montana?)

That's very plausible. But I dunno, either.

I'm sure they would get you in Montana, too.

Are all the complex regulations at least partly because the U.S. is so huge and so diverse that any federal program has to cover so many different types of situations?

One of the things that's nice about New Zealand is that its bureaucracy still has a human face to it and the rules and regulations are not very complicated. But the population here is only 4 million, about the size of Kentucky and just a little larger than San Diego county alone in California.

Montana’s state and local bureaucracy just might not be too bad. From personal experience, I know that the state of Virginia, for example, has a much less crazy and out-of-control bureaucracy than the commonwealth of Massachusetts.

That's probably part of it, but as you suggest even the state bureaucracies can be crazy. Virginia has a higher population than Massachusetts. I would expect a more "liberal" and urban state to have more extensive and intrusive regulations. A state like Alabama (population-wise in the class with New Zealand) is probably less efficient but maybe less imperious, too (regulation-wise).

I don't really understand it, because in many ways we can be very efficient.

I know. I don't understand it either. Americans always give me the impression of being very practical.

I know, that's what's so weird. It's supposed to be our specific charism, so to speak, that we have no patience with elaborate formalities and hierarchies, and are willing to cut through petty rules to Get The Job Done.

In addition to the size of the country, I think there's also an expectation that we have a lot of people who will cheat, or as Robert said get away with something.

Maybe it's an inappropriate application of the can-do spirit. We can create the perfect machine bureaucracy! (the term that's actually used to describe the way all our large institutions operate: policies and procedures replacing human judgment wherever possible)

Maybe it's an inappropriate application of the can-do spirit. We can create the perfect machine bureaucracy!

Well the machine is such a long way from perfect, I wonder if the can-do spirit is a little over-zealous! :)

Very over-confident. This actually touches on the book I'm reading, The Tyranny of Liberalism, which I just quoted a bit from in another post.

This is a point P. Blond makes in Red Tory. If the state exists merely to guarantee individual rights and to prevent one individual's rights from intruding on another's, a bureaucratic, surveillance government is inevitable. Everybody must be watched, lest they intrude on someone else's space.

You also need an ever-expanding notion of rights. As long as it's just policing property rights and violent crime, it isn't that complicated. And there's also the effect mentioned earlier, that as the services provided by the state and the resultant rules proliferate, so does the need to police those. Also, the growth is enable by technology. Now you can literally put a camera on every street corner, as I hear is the case in parts of the UK's big cities.

Blond cites some stat, like there are more surveillance cameras in London than in the entire state of California or something ridiculous like that.

On the British crime shows there is very frequent recourse to "CCTV" recordings to establish things like whether someone walked down a certain street at a certain time.

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