Technocratic success and other oxymorons.

…Well.  Just the one, really.

Megan McArdle pretty much nails it here:

The technocratic idea is that you put a bunch of smart, competent people in government — folks who really want the thing to work — and they’ll make it happen. But “smart, competent people” are not a generic quantity; they’re incredibly domain-specific. Most academics couldn’t run a lemonade stand. Most successful entrepreneurs wouldn’t be able to muster the monomaniacal devotion needed to get a Ph.D. Neither group produces many folks who can consistently generate readable, engaging writing on a deadline. And none of us would be able to win a campaign for Congress.

Yet in my experience, the majority of people in these domains think that they could do everyone else’s job better, if they weren’t so busy with whatever it is they’re doing so well.

Continue reading Technocratic success and other oxymorons.

“Failure is ALWAYS an option*.” #obamacare

A free hint to my fellow liberal arts majors: outside of our own, rather narrow, academic disciplines, it really doesn’t matter how hard you wish for something. You’re not gonna get it that way:

The idea that “failure is not an option” is a fantasy version of how non-engineers should motivate engineers. That sentiment was invented by a screenwriter, riffing on an after-the-fact observation about Apollo 13; no one said it at the time. (If you ever say it, wash your mouth out with soap. If anyone ever says it to you, run.) Even NASA’s vaunted moonshot, so often referred to as the best of government innovation, tested with dozens of unmanned missions first, several of which failed outright.

Failure is always an option. Engineers work as hard as they do because they understand the risk of failure. And for anything it might have meant in its screenplay version, here that sentiment means the opposite; the unnamed executives were saying “Addressing the possibility of failure is not an option.”

Continue reading “Failure is ALWAYS an option*.” #obamacare

#obamacare and the ongoing death rattle of the technocratic ideal.

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. Continue reading #obamacare and the ongoing death rattle of the technocratic ideal.

Tweet of the Day, Nah, @BarackObama’s A Technocrat edition.

Which is like being a liberal, only far less competent*.

Moe Lane

*Actually, quite a bit of the art, music, literature, and architecture that I like and respect comes from liberals. They just can’t govern worth a tinker’s dam, that’s all.

#Obamacare Watch: This Is What Technocracy Looks Like edition.

And this is why we left that particular political philosophy in the Thirties, where it belongs.

Grim reading on the Obamacare exchanges here from Yuval Levin (short version: the exchanges are in one whole joojooflop situation), with an important caveat:

The character of the conversations I had with these very knowledgeable individuals in the last few days reminded me of something: It reminded me of the daily intra-governmental video conferences and calls in the wake of hurricane Katrina in 2005. I was witness to many of those, as a White House staffer. What I saw in the first days of the disaster quickly fell into a pattern: local, state, and federal officials on the ground would report on what they knew directly—which was often grim—and then they would pass along information they’d heard but hadn’t gotten first hand, which was often much more grim but almost always ultimately turned out not to be true. Some of these stories went public (remember the shootings at the Superdome? They never happened). Some didn’t. They were often reported with a kind of detached authority that made them believable, and they were a function of living in panic amid an unbelievable situation over time.

[snip] Continue reading #Obamacare Watch: This Is What Technocracy Looks Like edition.

Some free advice for liberals and progressives. No, really. #obamacare

I offer it because I know none of them will take it, so here goes: the Left thinks it has a love affair with technocracy.  What it actually has is an intensely dysfunctional relationship that involves lit cigarette ends. Stuff like this

The federal agency in charge of the exchanges signed agreements this summer with several e-brokers to sell health plans in the 36 states where the feds are running the new individual marketplaces. But the online brokers, eager to tap a new market of people who’ll qualify for federal subsidies, learned shortly before the Oct. 1 launch that they wouldn’t be able to offer exchange plans right away.

The brokers say the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services didn’t act fast enough to let them integrate their websites with the IT systems supporting the federal insurance marketplaces. They hope to get everything linked up with the feds in the coming weeks.

Continue reading Some free advice for liberals and progressives. No, really. #obamacare