For many years this writer has understood that one of the main problems with modern government is something that may be called “self legitimization.” It is a process by which government grows despite failures to effectively address problems that it claims are about to bring the world to a screeching halt more effectively than Michael Rennie did in The Day the Earth Stood Still.
This issue was was obliquely addressed in a bulletin that arrived the other day from the National Council for Freedom and Enterprise. The bulletin concerned Obamacare, and highlighted the recent failure of the state exchanges in Massachusetts, Nevada, Oregon and Maryland at a cost of $474 million. The cost will continue to climb because the governments involved, federal and state, will never admit that they have a problem. The problem can be summed up as follows: They tried to address an issue that could have been solved with a little fine tuning by throwing out the whole system and replacing it with a product that fails to provide what the public wants, at a price that is much higher than was previously charged. Then added a mountain of regulations interfering with the doctor/patient relationship and penalizing anyone who doesn’t buy this product.
If this model was followed in private business, anyone who tried it would not last long. The reason why government is able to do so is part propaganda, and part force of law. Thus, when administration flacks proclaim how wonderful their new creation is, and media toadies echo their statements, we see the propaganda process in action. Then, force of law kicks in. People are forced to take submit to government mandates, even when it is not in their best interest to do so. The submission to force adds apparent validity to the propaganda and the government folks go home happy, but the ordinary people have nothing but complaints. Finally, because the government doesn’t really care about the well-being of the people, the complaints go unnoticed and the situation deteriorates until another government solution is proposed to correct things, but actually makes things still worse.
What we are also seeing here is a replay of the blame game that characterizes essentially all authoritarian governments. The Harvard Lampoon gave an excellent example of what happened in Soviet Russia when one of their radio skits had a commissar telling a young boy that he couldn’t have any “Marxmas” presents because “Capitalist elves have sabotaged all the toy factories.” Likewise, Hitler blamed his generals and, in the end, the German people, for the disastrous outcome of World War II because they “had not proved themselves worthy of him.” The failure of Obamacare is now being denied but when it inevitably implodes the disaster will be blamed on the medical profession, the insurance industry, George W. Bush and the Koch brothers.
There are two major reasons why governments rarely admit to error. The first is that government functionaries are not willing to admit to their own fallibility for reasons of personal prestige. After all, they must be better than the average person or they wouldn’t be in the positions they hold. But more importantly, governments generally do not believe that they can trust the people with the knowledge that things aren’t perfect, or on the verge of being so. It is a practical application of that old adage about people not being able to handle the truth. But there is also a measure of fear at work, as the government brass becomes concerned over potential public reaction to the truth. None of them want to end up like Benito Mussolini. But the major reason why this fear exists is because the average official does not trust the public. Probably the most important reason for this distrust is because of what they would personally do in a similar situation. So, they proclaim success to preserve the peace now, but effectively kick the can down the road for some one else to face the consequences when the inevitable explosion occurs.
In the final analysis there will be an explosion at some point. When that occurs it will not be pretty. At that point the fears of the political class may be realized because nothing else is possible. If action had been taken earlier when remedies would have been effective and the public could be counted upon to act rationally, things might be different. Despite this, governments generally sow the seeds of their own destruction. Such as, for example, the lack of medical treatment being afforded at Veterans Administration hospitals. Lack of loyalty by a government to its soldiers may well spawn reciprocity. Maybe that’s why Obama wanted his own armed civilian force. Let’s hope we never have to find out.