Thursday, June 27, 2013

intelligent national health care system not possible

Kevin Williamson makes some excellent points in his National Review article (May 20, 2013 issue) titled: “iPencil: Nobody knows how to make a pencil, or a health care system“:
Complex though it is, the iPhone is also a remarkably egalitarian device: The president of the United States uses one, as does the young Bengali immigrant who sold me my coffee this morning. But you can bet that her children do not attend schools as good as those that instruct the Obama daughters. The reason for that is politics: not liberal politics, not conservative politics, not bad politics, but politics per se.
The problem of politics is the problem of knowledge. The superiority of market processes to political processes is not in origin moral but technical. The useful knowledge in any modern society is distributed rather than centralized — and, as modern scholars of complexity studies confirm, there is no way to centralize it. Ludwig von Mises applied that insight specifically to the defects of planned economies — the famous “socialist calculation problem” — but it applies in varying degrees to all organizations and all bureaucracies, whether political, educational, religious, or corporate. Markets work for the same reason that the Internet works: They are not organizations, but disorganizations. More precisely, they are composed of countless (literally countless, blinking into and out of existence like subatomic particles) pockets of organization, their internal structures and relationships to one another in a constant state of flux.
We do not have the U.S. Steel Corporation, a tightly integrated and hierarchical operation overseen by a CEO with an omniscient command of his operation. We have lots of U.S. steel corporations, and a worldwide steel industry, and many worldwide industries making products that are substitutes for steel, from aluminum to carbon fiber to nanotubes. But we do have the U.S. Postal Service,the Social Security Administration, and the government-school monopoly in your home town. These agencies underperform consistently when compared with such benchmarks of innovation as the software industry or the biotech industry. They fail because they attempt to substitute a single brain, or a relatively small panel of brains organized into a bureaucracy, for the collective cognitive firepower of millions or billions of people. Put simply, they attempt to manage systems that are too complex for them to understand. Complexity is humbling, but politics is immune to humility.
Which is something to keep in mind the next time somebody promises to “solve” our health-care challenges or unemployment. Washington is packed to the gills with people who believe that they have the ability to design an intelligent national health-care system, but there is not one who does — no Democrat, no Republican, no independent. The information burden is just too vast.Washington is not only full of people who do not know what they are talking about, it is full of people who do not know that they do not know what they are talking about. That is no model for social change. Your pencil and your phone are.

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