Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Understanding the ACA

Some people on the left seem puzzled by the polling result that the ACA is unpopular. They poll tested all the individual features and by and large they're very popular. It's only when you add the label and consider the collection of popular stuff as a package that all of a sudden it becomes unpopular. They seem to be having a hard time processing it. Good and popular thing A plus good and popular thing B plus good and popular thing C should yield a really popular legislation package. They seem to be suspecting Koch brothers black magic.

As for the ACA, I'd like a free pony too. The ACA promises a lot of them which is why the individual items are popular. That the ACA can't deliver on those ponies and makes things overall worse is just par for the course, but the US governing class seems to have lost the ability to detect that ahead of time so we have to live through it this round. The people are ahead of the curve here, polling out that they'd like free ponies on any particular ACA item but disliking the package where it becomes clear that it's an unsustainable mess that's chock full of unintended consequences.

This result emerges out of the different ways that the left and right view how politics works. The left is stuck in a sort of mechanistic world. C+I+G=GDP sums up the basics of their economics. They can't see dynamic effects very well because they've oversimplified down to a single term and can't tell the difference between a G chock full of unsustainable political payoffs and a similarly sized G filled with expenditures that secure the peace and fairly sets out rules of the game for society. It's a mechanistic intellectual world where every widget is the same.

The Tea Party and libertarian right are playing in more of a biological world where what's being discussed in economics are ecosystems that are complex and really easy to disturb in bad ways. Government interventions should be few and far between because the consequences are so unpredictable and knowing ahead of time their outcome is almost impossible. Competition and surviving it demonstrates fitness to purpose.

These two worldviews are on public display in major collision mode with the ACA.