Megan McArdle notes something:
…Obamacare’s biggest problem, as I have written, was that the architects of the law demanded an enormously ambitious software project on an impossibly hubristic deadline. Whatever slim chance this had of working was ultimately doomed — not by Republicans, but by the administration’s own paranoid and self-destructive decisions to manage a software project as if it were a top-secret campaign strategy rather than a mission-critical component of the most ambitious federal entitlement expansion in almost 50 years.
Remember that when Cutler wrote that devastating memo, Democrats still had control of both houses of Congress. The administration failed to rectify the shortcomings he identified because it did not understand that making a program happen is very different from writing out a description of it.
The administration did not refuse to issue key regulations and guidelines, or to announce the final number of states that would be building their own exchanges, because Republicans used secret mind-control rays or stole the notebooks they had used to write the draft memo. They delayed because they did not want Republicans to be able to tell the public about them before Barack Obama was safely re-elected to a second term.
I suspect that the reason that the Democrats thought that this strategy would work is because of a word that has suddenly gotten a bit of a revival recently: “technocracy.” It’s a vague word, largely because nobody has ever actually dared to fully implement a technocratic program, but I think that it can be conceded that its central conceit can be described as You can solve a particular policy and/or societal problem by using state resources to locate, enlist, and appoint relevant experts. The democratic (small d) process is only involved in electing people with the judgement and detachment – dare I say, ‘coolness?’ – needed to know when to step back and let the experts do their thing. Elected officials are not only not needed for oversight; the default assumption is that their involvement would only make matters worse.
And clearly the system will produce the experts it needs for any given crisis; after all, the system largely functions on its own in non-critical times, so there is a selection mechanism in place. This, I think, is what informed the President’s thinking on Obamacare: Barack Obama of course knows nothing about health policy, but there are lots of people out there who do, so all Barack Obama had to do was wave his hands, say, This must be done, and the system would handle the rest.
I would say that this sort of magical thinking was indicative of somebody smoking crack; but apparently if Barack Obama was doing that his personal numbers would be higher.