Monday, August 3, 2015

Shorting the progressive machine

At the American Spectator, David Catron rips into progressivism in a perfectly titled article, “O’Malley, Obamacare, and the technocracy myth”:

When Democrat Martin O’Malley announced his presidential bid, the media billed him as part of a new generation of talented technocrats. The former Maryland governor, as one outlet put it, “helped pioneer a data-driven approach that made government more efficient.” These people have evidently forgotten the spectacular failure of Maryland’s online Obamacare exchange, which crashed moments after launch because O’Malley and his administration studiously ignored ominous data provided by its technical experts. In other words, O’Malley’s “data-driven approach” didn’t involve looking at actual data. It consisted primarily of telling the media that Maryland’s exchange would be a “model for the nation.”

Meanwhile, the danger signs mounted. As the Washington Post reported at the time, “More than a year before Maryland launched its health insurance exchange, senior state officials failed to heed warnings that no one was ultimately accountable for the $170 million project and that the state lacked a plausible plan for how it would be ready.” And these concerns continued to be ignored right up to the go-live date. Even when the top information technology official resigned, O’Malley and his people somehow failed to get the message. This avoidable debacle culminated last week in a settlement requiring the IT firm Noridian Healthcare Solutions to refund $45 million of the $73 million it was paid to bungle the project.

But the moral of this tale transcends O’Malley’s obvious limitations and even the multifarious flaws of Obamacare. The meltdown of Maryland’s exchange will help to explode the myth that a new breed of technocrats can deliver good government where mere politicians encumbered by inconvenient laws cannot. It was this fallacy that motivated the Democrat-controlled Congress that created Obamacare to cede much of its power to executive branch bureaucrats, and it is behind many of the illegal executive orders issued by the President. O’Malley’s pratfalls are a useful reminder the hyper-competent technocrat is a myth. And the other state-run exchanges provide an equally telling catalogue of incompetence and waste.

The problem is when technocracy works perfectly, it still fails. Even if progressives have complete knowledge of their subjects, their systems of control exclude the unforeseen and the miraculous. Formulaic systems drain capital away from real innovation and deprive the irreplaceable, unquantifiable elements of human flourishing. In their place progressives hold up a soulless secular humanism or secular materialism, to which we reply with Calvin Coolidge: “Prosperity is only an instrument to be used, not a deity to be worshiped.”

Effective government and data-driven solutions sound sexy and unideological. They promise order and predictability to the chaos of the marketplace. They’re actually a front for secular, liberal, post-democratic dictatorship that dehumanizes the individual for the sake of the whole. The whole of what, though? Not millions of individuals, but society for its own sake, society redesigned in their image.

The “chaotic” marketplace is formed by the talents and desires of people, which are so surprising they short whatever system progressives set over it to control it. George Gilder writes that what progressives call chaos is information, the signals on the free markets lines of communication. Impeding its flow prevents communication between producers and customers, in turn impeding mutually beneficial transactions, in turn impeding wealth creation.

Progressives think their noble cause (“prosperity,” “happiness,” “equality,” etc.) can wash out the innumerable variations among people. If each person is a hill with unique contours, with unique parts in shade and unique parts in light, then the progressive’s noble cause is the light that shines on every shadow—or tries to and fails.

“Grandmother, what big data you have!” “The better to control you with, my dear.” Paul Sperry writes at the New York Post:

A key part of President Obama’s legacy will be the fed’s unprecedented collection of sensitive data on Americans by race. The government is prying into our most personal information at the most local levels, all for the purpose of “racial and economic justice.”

Unbeknown to most Americans, Obama’s racial bean counters are furiously mining data on their health, home loans, credit cards, places of work, neighborhoods, even how their kids are disciplined in school—all to document “inequalities” between minorities and whites.

This Orwellian-style stockpile of statistics includes a vast and permanent network of discrimination databases, which Obama already is using to make “disparate impact” cases against: banks that don’t make enough prime loans to minorities; schools that suspend too many blacks; cities that don’t offer enough Section 8 and other low-income housing for minorities; and employers who turn down African-Americans for jobs due to criminal backgrounds.

All in pursuit of equality of result, a totalitarian enterprise. The hubris is classic. Only one light can bring all men together: the revelation of God’s son Jesus as the atoning sacrifice for our sins. Only Jesus’ righteousness on the cross provides the absolution and the acceptance necessary for diverse people to live together as one.

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