It is clear that with the start of 2014, the Obama Administration — as many (including myself) predicted — wants to declare victory with Obamacare and go home. It is also clear to many of us — but apparently not to the mainstream media — that the Obamacare trainwrecks just keep on coming and are likely to do so for months to come. Let’s talk about why.
Complexity theory emerged from the effort to explain how intelligent or adaptive behavior arises from large groups of independent agents. Ponder for a second a flock of birds swooping and changing direction abruptly while flying through the sky. Why don’t they run into each other? No one bird can see the whole flock, and yet the flock as a whole moves as if a single organism. As it turns out, a small set of carefully chosen rules can effectively model “flocking” behavior. Similar adaptive behavior can be observed in shoals of fish, various insect colonies, and so forth. Such groups are referred to as complex adaptive systems. If you put an obstacle in the middle of a trail of ants, the ants automatically adapt to that obstacle without committee meetings or drawn-up plans. Thus, intelligent adaptive behavior of the entire system can arise spontaneously by individual entities — agents — following their own simple rules.
As you have probably already realized, the same concepts apply many different situations, including groups of humans responding to external situations. Think about the efforts of Congress, the Administration, and the IRS to collect funds and shape social policy via the US Tax Code, and the adaptive response of millions of accountants, tax lawyers, and US citizens to find ways to minimize or avoid payment of taxes. This struggle has been going on for a full century now; the IRS has over 100,000 employees, the US Tax Code is almost 75,000 pages long, and there’s a separate court system devoted just to litigating tax claims. When new tax regulations are passed, thousands of individuals separately began to look for ways around it, or at least to minimize its cost and impact, and that information starts to spread.
So, now we come to Obamacare, in all its awful glory. It took the US Tax Code roughly 40 years to reach 10,000 pages, while Obamacare managed that before it ever went into effect. Furthermore, based on results to date, it is unclear that Obamacare will benefit the vast majority of Americans — it really does appear to be a redistribution scheme, and a poorly drafted one at that. Millions of Americans are discovering that under Obamacare, they will have higher premiums, greater out-of-pocket medical expenses, and fewer options for doctors and hospitals, assuming they still have insurance policies at all. So what will they do?
They will find ways to subvert, change, attack and/or work around the system. That’s what complex adaptive systems do in the face of top-down control. The real question is: how will that look?
Well, to start with, the Obamacare individual
mandate tax is pretty small and toothless, when compared with, say, state and Federal income tax. The IRS can only take it out of any tax refund you might have. As many have noted, young people — those required for Obamacare’s financial soundness (as if it could be financially sound) — are staying away in droves, as well they should: it has nothing to offer them but higher costs for less money. I suspect that lots of older people will stay away as well, or look for alternatives. Many who have had their existing policies cancelled may find that they cannot afford the new policies available, or that those new policies will not let them use their existing doctors, and will either go without insurance or simply sign up for the cheapest catastrophic plan. Organizations and groups will continue to litigate against certain aspects of Obamacare, while politicians of both parties will seek to modify it. Many of those previously uninsured will play a waiting game, figuring that the Obama Administration has caved on or delayed just about every onerous aspect of Obamacare except for the individual mandate tax for those who were previously uninsured, and that it will cave on that as well. Many other will hope for a Republican takeover of the Senate (and hold on the House), followed by a repeal or partial dismantling of Obamacare.
In other words, they will do their best to adapt to, ignore, change, or delay compliance with Obamacare. Loopholes and avoidance strategies will be rapidly disseminated via social media. Healthcare provides who opt out of Obamacare will come up with new mechanisms to serve consumers who likewise opt out. Many will just refuse to play along and dare the Federal government to do anything about it. To paraphrase John Gilmore’s famous quote about the Internet and censorship, Americans will interpret Obamacare as damage to their financial and healthcare assets, and do their best to route around it.
And finally, the Good Lord willing, the Democrats will pay a high political price for their hubris and grasp for power.
To reuse a clip I posted a few months ago:
2014 should be an interesting year. ..bruce w..
[made some minor edits and additions]