Why government ‘care’ will never, ever work

By Ilana Mercer

At every opportunity, Jedediah Bila, a regular among the pig-ignorant panelists paraded on the Fox News and Business channels, parroted Bill O’Reilly’s “not ready for prime time” line. The premise of that fatuity is that given time, Obamacare could be readied for prime time.

A “scandal” bleated another cipher in a skirt – a Republican, naturally – about the error-riddled Obamacare website, when she should have been explaining that HealthCare.gov not working is no more a “scandal” than waste, fraud and abuse in Medicare and Medicaid, perpetrated by program administrators, program recipients, elected and unelected officials alike.

Failure and fraud is business as usual in government.

Liberals are incapable of grasping economic truths. That goes without saying. But why are “conservatives” every bit as dumb about the dynamics in a nationalized enterprise as opposed to the workings of a market society? Republicans appear incapable of articulating why it is that centrally planned systems fail.

The gold standard for stupid is this Republican riff: “Government would work much better if it were run like a business.” It is in violation of the Law of Identity. A is A. Things are what they are. Government is government; it is not business. The task of a rational man, advised Ayn Rand, is to perceive reality, not to create or invent it.

Rep. Fred Upton does Jedediah Bila one better. “Hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars [have been] spent for a system that still does not work,” complained the Republican from Michigan.

Wrong. Government spends trillions of taxpayer dollars on systems that don’t work (the military included). That’s what government does by definition; by virtue of being government.

The problem is not so much the 55 contractors involved in designing Barack Obama’s signature Web portal, but the Central Planning Board that selected inept coders – and the kinky incentives to which any federal agency in charge will subject any and all contractors under its control.

The same Web developers generally do a great job on each of our personal computers; in other words, when handling private property. If they don’t, we withhold payment until they do, sue them, seek arbitration against them, or turn to the competition, causing the offenders to shape up or go belly up. In a word, when they work for us, contractors work well, because they’re not administered by a collective and bankrolled in perpetuity by taxpayers whose property has been forcibly seized by the same coercive collective.

As private property owners, we control the purse strings.

A monopolist, moreover, doesn’t have to please consumers, because he has them cornered. Therefore, in a politburo, political decisions trounce considerations that would win out in the marketplace. Consider: HealthCare.gov was coded with the goal of harvesting sensitive information from applicants while concealing rip-off prices from them. Why would the Central Planning Board (aka the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services in charge of Obamcare) care that such coding has created a hacker’s dream, when their ultimate dream is to share data culled through HealthCare.gov with the IRS, the DHS, the TSA, on and on?

Like the communist elite, the Congress elite seldom subjects itself to the same health care or the same laws as the people.

Unsurprisingly – and by legislative sleight of hand – lawmakers have used their privileged positions to pass laws exempting themselves and their lackeys from liability. “Governmental immunity” is designed to “stop people from suing the government and government employees and officials in many cases.”

With taxpayers ponying up for any surgical slip of the scalpel and responsibility collectivized – fear of being fired or penalized is non-existent among the ruling class. Government failure will never see the closing of a government agency, or the firing of nasty, inefficient, over-paid, affirmatively appointed officials.

In the bureaucracy, incentives will forever be inverted. Failure results in success: in more funds, more training, more time off. “We don’t have profits and losses in the civil service. Success in the civil service is measured by the size of our staff and budget. A bigger department is more successful than a smaller one,” smiled the marvelously sardonic Sir Humphrey Appleby, superstar of the satire “Yes, Prime Minister.”

Since it “manages” money not its own, government has no real incentive to conserve resources, ensure a job is properly done, or deliver on its promises. Entrusted with the administration of assets you don’t own, have no stake in; on behalf of people you don’t know and who have no real recourse against your mismanagement – how long before your on-the-job performance mirrors that of the government?

Republicans can vaporize all they like. There’s nothing they can do to change the perverse incentives that are at work in public works. Peace and prosperity follow when, as Ludwig von Mises counseled, private property owners are at liberty to exchange goods and services for money.

Failure to keep health-care services out of the hands of socialist central planners will see all Americans pinned down like butterflies by “service providers,” whose sadistic displays of power are honed in a state monopoly.

Order lIana Mercer’s brilliant polemical work, “Into the Cannibal’s Pot: Lessons for America from Post-Apartheid South Africa”

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