An interesting column from Glenn Reynolds, AKA the Instapundit, at the Washington Examiner noting the failure of the regulators in Congress to anticipate the consequences of their health care takeover, in spite of much effort:

…both Generally Accepted Accounting Principles and Securities and Exchange Commission regulations require companies to account for these changes as soon as they learn about them. As the Atlantic’s Megan McArdle wrote:

“What AT&T, Caterpillar, et al did was appropriate. It’s earnings season, and they offered guidance about, um, their earnings. “So once Obamacare passed, massive corporate write-downs were inevitable.

They were also bad publicity for Obamacare, and they seem to have come as an unpleasant shock to House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., who immediately scheduled congressional hearings for April 21, demanding that the chief executive officers of AT&T, John Deere, and Caterpillar, among others, come and explain themselves.

Obamacare was supposed to provide unicorns and rainbows: How can it possibly be hurting companies and killing jobs? Surely there’s some sort of Republican conspiracy going on here!

More like a confederacy of dunces. Waxman and his colleagues in Congress can’t possibly understand the health care market well enough to fix it. But what’s more striking is that Waxman’s outraged reaction revealed that they don’t even understand their own area of responsibility – regulation — well enough to predict the effect of changes in legislation.

In drafting the Obamacare bill they tried to time things for maximum political advantage, only to be tripped up by the complexities of the regulatory environment they had already created. It’s like a second-order Knowledge Problem.

FA Hayek and his beloved 1978 Catalax

FA Hayek and his beloved 1978 Catalax

None of this comes as a surprise to those of us who understand that the health care market in the United States is too large and complex to be “managed” from Washington and should instead be made more free than what it has been in order to give individual health care consumers more options, thus placing downward pressure on prices and so forth – Hayekian Catallaxy in action. (I’ll have to check with HR, but I’m pretty sure I get some sort of a cash bonus for using the term “Hayekian Catallaxy” in a blog post.)

In an interesting riff off of Reynolds’ column, the Blogprof notes that part of the problem is that even in government, we all have to deal with the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics:

But the 2nd Law doesn’t end in the physical world. It extends to other aspects of nature. Unless intelligent energy is expended, relationships decay. I’ve lost touch with some of my best friends from high school and before. There was no falling out. At some point, intelligent energy wasn’t expended to maintain those bonds and they naturally decayed. Divorce is more common now than ever before for precisely the same reason. It’s just a natural function for decay to occur. On a societal level, some of the greatest civilizations in human history are all but gone, with only relics remaining. The Roman empire, the Persian empire, the Egyptian empire, more recently the Soviet Union. Just decayed out of existence. Nearly the entirety of human civilization was corrupted beyond redemption before the great flood. In our own country, I don’t think anyone argues that we are not on a path of increasing decay. Intelligent energy isn’t being applied by our leaders in maintaining this country, and it is decaying. Depravity is going mainstream. God is being devalued. Life is being devalued. Christian principles are being devalued. All natural occurrences of a civilization in decline.

Can it be stopped? Slowed down? Reversed? As a matter of fact, it can. But it won’t be easy.

I know that I, for one, often feel a sense of fatigue about the direction of my country – a sense that many of the social and governmental trends that I abhor have been around far longer than I have, have only become more pronounced since I have been aware of them, and have a real feeling of inevitability about them. But we just celebrated Easter, and if Easter teaches us anything it’s that nothing is inevitable. The Apostles took the basic, powerful truth of Christ’s resurrection, and in the face of insurmountable odds began a movement that would utterly change the course of world history. Our task – proclaiming the truth about the inherent value of the human person in the eyes of God and defending the ability of that person to engage freely in economic matters – is almost nothing by comparison. It’s not easy, to be sure, but it’s worth it.


  • http://blog.acton.org/ Jordan

    Dave Cooper’s the only one I know giving kickbacks for blog post plugs (or “product placement”) and last I checked “Hayekian Catallaxy” isn’t on his list. Try to work in “animal husbandry,” though, and you’re gold.

  • Roger McKinney

    “I know that I, for one, often feel a sense of fatigue about the direction of my country…”

    I was listening to Glenn Beck the other night and he said that the country is headed in a much different direction than it was 15 years ago. I can see why he and others would be discouraged if their perspective is only 15-20 years. But if you take a broader view, say the past century, you will see that the so-called Reagan Revolution was the aberration, not the current administration.

    FDR advanced socialism in the US more than any president. LBJ added to it with his “Great Society” and war on poverty in the late 1960′s. Even Nixon contributed greatly to socialism with his price controls and removing the US dollar from the gold standard. Reagan did not reverse anything; he merely slowed the advance of socialism. In fact, his huge military buildup and budget deficits probably aided socialism. Reagan talked a good game, but was short on implementation. Bush II actually advanced socialism with his “no child left behind”, “Medicare Part D” and his wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and their budget busting costs. In the same way that “only Nixon could go to China”, so only a Republican president could pass such socialistic legislation. Again, Bush talked like a free marketeer, but governed like a socialist.

    The country as a whole is very socialistic. Even the Tea Partiers are more socialist than they admit. They don’t want smaller government; they want to use the money and power of the state to accomplish their goals.

    The US began its march toward socialism in the late 19th century with “progressivism.” The popularity of socialism is inversely proportional to the popularity of traditional Christianity. Capitalism was a child of traditional Christianity and flourished with it. But as people turn away from traditional Christianity, they become suckers for socialism.

    The rise of freedom in Asia gives me hope that freedom will have a revival in the US, but people need to experience first hand the horrors of socialism because they refuse to learn from others. Things need to get much worse before they can get any better.

    Meanwhile, organization like the Acton Institute need to keep blowing on the embers of freedom so that they don’t die out completely. Maybe in a generation or two people will be willing to listen to the truth.

  • Neal Lang

    “The rise of freedom in Asia gives me hope that freedom will have a revival in the US, but people need to experience first hand the horrors of socialism because they refuse to learn from others. Things need to get much worse before they can get any better.”

    Just where in Asia is freedom on the march? Certainly not China that is anything but a “free market.” As for Christianity being on the assendency in China, I suggest you ask the Christians there about it.

    Be careful what you wish for. In India’s “Free Market,” medical providers get paid for their services like minimum wage earners here. That is why medical care in India is so cheap, the best doctors are in the US.

    Freedom requires a National respect for First Principles. However, in a secular society the most important First Principle, the equality of all men under God, is not present. Without God there is only the State, and it is a very poor imitation and substitute.

  • Neal Lang

    “Even Nixon contributed greatly to socialism with his price controls and removing the US dollar from the gold standard.”

    You left out his biggie – Baseline Budgeting. Only in the Kafkaesque World of Washingto, DC is a budget increase considered a “cut.”

  • Roger McKinney

    Neal: “Just where in Asia is freedom on the march?”

    China has become much more free over the past 30 years than it was before. So is India. Of course they’re not perfect, but the trend is in the opposite direction from ours.

    Neal: “I suggest you ask the Christians there about it.”

    The author of “Jesus in Bejing” did. Christianity is rising rapidly there.

    Neal: “In India’s “Free Market,” medical providers get paid for their services like minimum wage earners here.”

    I wouldn’t characterize India’s market as free. It is freer than it used to be, but still hampered by state intervention. Besides, if doctors make minimum wage in a free market, what is wrong with that?

  • Neal Lang

    “China has become much more free over the past 30 years than it was before. So is India. Of course they’re not perfect, but the trend is in the opposite direction from ours.”

    Really? Is suppose it is all relative. Do you actually believe the common man in China can determine fror himself what he should do with his life? Do actually think that a Chinese family can determine for itself the number of children it will have, or where and how it will praise God? If you do, you are more part of the problem than the solution. Just how do you define “freedom” anyway? The freedom to work in any government owned “sweat shop” the government chooses for you and buy what the government allows you to buy? Since when is a “free market” driven by a government minipulated currancy?

  • Neal Lang

    Neal: “I suggest you ask the Christians there about it.”

    “The author of “Jesus in Bejing” did. Christianity is rising rapidly there.”

    And the government is rapidly trying to quell it! Is you concept of “religious freedom” the ability to serve God anyway the government allows you to? My God, man, there is no more “religious freedom” in China than there is in Cuba!

  • Neal Lang

    “I wouldn’t characterize India’s market as free. It is freer than it used to be, but still hampered by state intervention.”

    Relative to when? Under the British Empire? If you think that India’s market is free, I am sure you will just love ObamaCare.

    “Besides, if doctors make minimum wage in a free market, what is wrong with that?”

    Ask an Indian doctor who moved to the US and voted with his feet, what is wrong with government price and wage controls, and socialized medicine.

    Do you understand what the term “freedom” and “free market” really means?

  • Roger McKinney

    Neal, you’re arguing absolutes while I’m talking about trends and relatives. No. China and India are not absolutely free market countries. Never said they were. But neither is the US an absolutely unqualified free market. Americans are less free today than they were 50 years ago and we lose freedom every day. The trend has been toward less freedom for over a century. The trend has never reversed and shows no signs of reversing.

    China was much less free under Mao. With Deng’s reforms it has become much freer. Is it absolutely unconditionally the freest never in the history of mankind? No. But that doesn’t detract from the historical fact that Chinese have much more freedom today than they had 30 years ago and the trend is toward greater freedom.

    The same goes for India. India was heavily socialist until about 20 years ago. Reforms broke some of the socialism and made Indians much freer. Is India the most free nation in the world, or in history? Absolutely not. But that doesn’t change the historical undeniable fact that the trend in India has been toward greater freedom and the trend appears to keep going.

    The trend in the US and the trends in China and India are in opposite directions. Those are historical facts. If the trends don’t reverse, and they are unlikely to in the near future, China and India will one day be much freer than the US.

    “My God, man, there is no more “religious freedom” in China than there is in Cuba!”

    I never said there was religious freedom in China. Did you even bother to read my posts? I wrote that Christianity is growing rapidly in China by all reports I can find. When Mao took over there were a few thousand Chinese Christians. Today the estimate is that over 100 million Chinese are Christian and the number is growing rapidly according to Christian leaders inside China.

    Besides, Christianity does not need freedom to grow. It tends to grow fastest under persecution.

  • http://www.theinductive.com Christopher Carr

    I don’t get all this talk about national healthcare taking away our freedoms. The only freedoms that get taken away are the freedoms of insurance companies to charge exorbitant fees on patented drugs, the freedom to cartel to manipulate insurance markets, and the freedom to suddenly increase premiums without just cause.

    We pay taxes, don’t we? National health insurance is just a way to mandate that our pooled dollars go towards something that will directly benefit our own citizens. There are plenty of reasons to disagree with the new healthcare bill. Loss of freedom is definitely not one of them:

    http://www.theinductive.com/blog/2010/4/9/pelosi-the-hammer-hogberg-and-the-savage-nation.html