Obamacare, “The March Of Folly,” And The Ethical Obligation To Accept Unpleasant Facts

Charge+of+the+Light+Brigade+Cavalry+Charge

Today, while listening to the furious efforts of such liberal talking heads as E.J. Dionne (NBC’s Meet the Press), Donna Brazile (ABC’s Sunday Morning With George) and Juan Williams (Fox News Sunday) to explain why the Affordable Care Act disaster is not really a disaster and why it should be full steam ahead even as the legislation is unraveling before our eyes, my mind kept jerking back to two disparate sources. One was Barbara Tuchman’s “The March of Folly,” the celebrated historian’s 1985 examination of how governments persist in doomed policies long after it is obvious to all, including them, that the effort is not only futile but disastrous. The other was “Peanuts:”

Sincere

For this is what the bitter-enders regarding the Affordable Care Act have become. Because the absurdly flawed and over-reaching legislation was well-intentioned, and because it was sincerely designed to help people who need and deserve help, and because the hearts of those who rammed it through the process, ignoring warnings, systemic checks and balances, prudence and common sense, were pure, the law just has to work. Former White House spokesperson Robert Gibbs literally said this to David Gregory on “Meet the Press” this morning. There’s just no choice, he said. The administration just has to make it work, that’s all. Anyone who has read Tuchman, or who has been alive longer than Justin Bieber, should get chills to hear sentiments like that.

“The March of Folly” was a cold-eyed retrospective of  how supposedly brilliant people in power can follow through on destructive and objectively stupid policies;how a mission, ordered by a trusted leader, travels the arc from aspiration to compulsion to obsession, and how the public, paralyzed by deference to authority, inertia and restraint, accepts flawed premises long after the damage they are doing and will continue to do are obvious and undeniable. Tuchman calls this lethal tendency of policymakers  a “process of self-hypnosis.” She concentrates on its long and bloody history using examples spanning the Trojan War,  through the British handling of the American rebellion and the Vietnam War. In another publication, she applied similar analysis to the infamous Charge of the Light Brigade. This is what is going on with the Affordable Care Act, and I doubt whether anyone with the necessary influence will stop it until it becomes a chapter in another historian’s sequel to Tuchman’s classic.

To anyone with a modicum of objectivity, the prospects for the AFA are worse than even its worst doomsayers predicted. Incredibly, the Administration is making a dizzying number of changes to the law as it rolls out, the equivalent of trying to make major repairs on a jetcraft full of passengers in flight, because it would be humiliating to admit that the flight took off with defective equipment. While rushing to try to forestall the disastrous results of some aspects of the law, the Administration is denying others, like alarming evidence that that the Healthcare.gov website is not secure and that the Obamacare “navigators” are wretchedly vetted and trained. Meanwhile, the cautionary proposition that a 2000 page, hopelessly complex law that nobody read or could explain sufficiently, aimed at reforming a sixth of the nation’s economy, could not possibly be implemented by the current dysfunctional government bureaucracy without a wave of crippling unanticipated consequences looks more prescient daily.

The hardest thing to do, in management and leadership, as in all aspects of life, is admitting you were wrong, that you wouldn’t listen to those who warned you, and made a terrible, expensive, embarrassing mistake that if not addressed quickly and well, will lead to disastrous results. Even the greatest of leaders have had a difficult time embracing this courageous and necessary act, leading to death, tragedy and destruction across the pages of history. Yet leaders have an ethical obligation to do it. It can be, and often is, the most important part of their duties. Yes, it is humiliating, and yes, it undermines trust, and yes, critics will cheer, and mock, and use this fully ethical act as a weapon against the leader with the integrity to do it. Nonetheless, it is part of the job, an ethical obligation, and essential. As a people and a species we admire perseverance and fortitude, the ability to refuse to accept defeat and press on to victory. For that quality to be virtuous rather than irresponsible, however, requires the willingness to accept and objectively analyze reality. In the absence of that, we don’t get the unexpected rally from certain defeat to shocking victory. We get the Charge of the Light Brigade—bravery, stubbornness and stupidity combined in a recipe for disaster.

______________________

Sources: Slate, New York Times, Bloomberg, Forbes

 

28 thoughts on “Obamacare, “The March Of Folly,” And The Ethical Obligation To Accept Unpleasant Facts

  1. Fully enactment, I say…

    The american people elected people such that the law would never be repealed, and thus must be made to learn.

    Experience is, after all, the only teacher man will admit to.

    Let. It. Burn.

    • I fervently wish I could disagree with AMS. The Sunk Cost Fallacy is going to be reiterated by mewling weenies for years, while the burning is happening. The usual revisionist history will be foisted on us and our descendants by romantic Marxists as yet unborn. The burning I can take, it’s the commentary that I dread.

  2. “Even the greatest of leaders have had a difficult time embracing this courageous and necessary act, leading to death, tragedy and destruction across the pages of history. Yet leaders have an ethical obligation to do it.”

    Is there any act or statement by Obama that would cause anyone to believe he is ethical in any way? I, unlike AM, don’t want it to burn. But it will.

    • I don’t want it to burn, but I understand that it is the only way.

      The system will never, ever be changed without first complete collapse – we are not proactive, we are reactive.

      It wasn’t until December 7th, 1941 that we realized that we might have a foreign policy problem with Japan, after all.

      We, as a people, will not allow or accept a reduction in what we get from the government – just look at the rage that mere suggestions to modify social security brings.

      Change will only come after catastrophe. Accept this, and you too will welcome the coming cataclysm.

      • I do know it’s inevitable. It’s the pattern of history. I just don’t want my children and grandchildren to suffer because of it. Those with the least blame always pay too high a price for the stupidity of others. I’ve been saying “”Bring it on.” for quite a few years, but I still wish, futilely that the innocent didn’t have to suffer.

  3. “Incredibly, the Administration is making a dizzying number of changes to the law as it rolls out, the equivalent of trying to make major repairs on a jetcraft full of passengers in flight, because it would be humiliating to admit that the flight took off with defective equipment.”

    Your analogy is close, but a little inapt. It would be more akin to the CEO of the airline ordering specific repairs in direct contravention of required airframe and powerplant protocols.

    The law, as grotesquely flawed as it is, was passed in accordance with constitutional process. I have trouble believing that the executive branch’s subsequent changes to the law’s requirements by fiat won’t provide the basis for a number of highly entertaining, SCOTUS-worthy lawsuits.

    • Except that the thing is still flying, Arthur. You ground the plane first. I find this aspect of it incredible. This wa supposed to be a finely-tuned mechanism. Now they’re ripping out wires and throwing out gears left and right…mid air. Yeah, THAT will work…

    • To which I’d add: AMS has it right. As did Ulysses S. Grant, who once opined that “I know no method to secure the repeal of bad or obnoxious laws so effective as their stringent execution.”

        • That’s just it. STRINGENT enforcement, The ACA, as passed by Democrats and signed into law by the President. As upheld by the Supreme Court. in all its glory, with no rules changes, no exemptions, nothing that wasn’t in the original law.

          I calculate it wouldn’t take long.

  4. Anybody see a resemblance between “Mad King George” and Obama in their reactions toward the “American Colonialists”? “Taxation without representation” doesn’t work for foolhardy projects and our equivalent of the British Parliament with the exception of a courageous few is probably worse than the Brits passing the Stamp Act and the Tea Act of 1773.

  5. “… the public … accepts flawed premises long after the damage they are doing … are [emphasis added] obvious and undeniable”? The elisions should make the lack of agreement clearer (an easy slip – I myself nearly emphasised the wrong “are”). I think you are confusing “cheer” and “jeer” in the last paragraph, too.

  6. Obamacare is a symptom of an out-of-control government. Sadly, ablative is quite right…the only way this is going to get fixed is if the government itself collapses. Equally sadly, we have grown fat, lazy and dependent on our government, and in the process, we have lost our sense of humor, such that the collapse, when it comes, will have massive casualties.

  7. Once upon a time, the proper response to hucksterism as went into this creation was to heat the tar and gather the feathers, and ready the miscreant to be run out of town on a rail. Sorry, folks – looks like there aren’t any band instruments coming after all. This is less ‘Music Man’ and more ‘Monorail.’

  8. Thank God for Republican Hate Machine! If it wasn’t for that folly, President Obama might not have been re-elected, and the ACA would not be the law of the land.

    But it did, he did, and it is the LAW OF THE LAND… 50% of all personal bankruptcies are attributed to medical bills… Many decent people found their insurance cancelled and left defenseless to whatever unfortunate sickness befelled them.. And with it, that sickness takes down their spouse into Financial Hell. Not to mention the emotional collapse over not being able to keep up with mounting bills.

    Voters will decide in November if the ACA is what they expected it to be… And the Right Wing Hate Fest will have little say in the matter, per usual.

    • i think you need to focus on the “Paying Attention To What;s Going On Machine” Your comment reads like a concocted example of the phenomenon the post discusses. The “Law of the Land” argument was legally, historically and logically nonsense when it was first trotted out, but you might be the last conscious person on earth with the brass to trot it out now, with the President making extra legal amendments to it and non-enforcement calls daily. Yeah, people tend to hate it when laws are miserably drafted, foolishly passed and incompetently administered, and when, as a result, Americans get hurt.

      Citing why health care reform is needed is a really silly argument in favor of a lousy health reform law. Merry Christmas! May Santa bring you some bi-partisan common sense.

      • Cut JJ some slack. He’s been off of EA for awhile now. Let’s be gracious and give him the benefit of the doubt. Let’s assume he’s been trapped in the Arctic for the past 12 months, isolated from any sort of information, and just now got back to America, and not that he’s a blind imbecile. He hasn’t had a chance to update himself on the colossal failure that is his glorious leader and his glorious leader’s glorious plan.

        • No, he almost certainly has. Similar expressions of total fantasy have been expressed in higher places, like Fox News, where Juan Williams went on a classic rant about people being negative when the ACA intends such wonderful things. And people really really want it to work, just as people really, really want Obama to be the visionary, brilliant, honest and transformative leader he presented himself as, rather than the petulant, insecure, arrogant, amateurish, weak and inept hack that he has proved himself to be. The March of Folly.

          • I hate such people…

            Intentions mean nothing – if a thing does not work or in fact causes greater harm, then it is bad and must be disgarded.

            Why the Left wants to hurt people just so they can feel good is beyond me…

            • Or if a thing was mathematically provable NOT TO WORK before it was even implemented, but done anyway, because it looks good….

              It isn’t about “feeling good”….it’s about control.

    • Many decent people found their insurance cancelled and left defenseless to whatever unfortunate sickness befelled them

      All thanks to the ACA.

    • This was JJ’s final transmission. He was as perfect an example of ideology crippling objectivity and as we are likely to see—just talking points devised by others, lock-step fealty, and demonization of anyone interested in accountability and responsible leadership. What makes people like this? Parents? Lefty college professors? Fear? Too much tofu? I have no idea, but once the cancellations started and Obama’s signature lie was exposed, JJ fell silent. Maybe he’s learning. God, I hope so.

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