From the indomitable Michael Flynn:
This illustrates any number of threads on this blog: from Politics to How Businessmen Think to Hegel. Specifically, the strong tendency to pat one’s self on the back for having done the Right Thing even if it doesn’t actually work, and to dismiss any who challenge this course of action based on how the means are unlikely to, or even demonstrably fail to, achieve the stated ends as reactionaries trying to turn back the clock.
So: poor people deserve our help – no issue there. This means that the government now has a duty to provide this help. (Ummmm….). And – here’s the kicker – we must keep providing this help even if it doesn’t, you know, help. And only a heartless meanie in the pay of Big Business would ever dream of pointing out that the Emperor is buck naked.
Obamacare seems to me the quintessence of this: no matter how badly the execution, no matter how much the little people suffer (not, of course, the people who have exempted themselves and their friends from its provisions) the end of universal healthcare is so holy that anyone who challenges Obamacare on any level is the enemy and pure evil. Everything from the Mathematical Challenge (the economic assumptions are pure fantasy) to the Procedural Challenge (pulling this off requires by far a higher level of competence on a larger scale than anything the government has ever pulled off) to the Legal Challenge (under what theory, exactly, can the federal government effectively seize 1/6th of the economy?) to the Opacity Challenge (we needed to pass it to see what’s in it) – these are not signs of a cooler head asking exactly the right questions *in light of the end to be achieved* – nope, it’s the sign of Evil Intent.
Returning to the War on Poverty – this chart also handily illustrates Jerry Pournelle’s Iron Law. Once you’ve got a nice big bureaucracy set up to fight the war on poverty, it behooves such a bureaucracy to make sure the war never ends – easy to do, especially if you get to define what poverty is. So that chart may largely represent the continual redefinition of poverty. Has a non-trivial government agency ever performed its task well enough to put itself out of business? I’m not thinking of any off the top of my head.
So, our faith in the Spirit unfolding in History, or the Dialectic swinging our way in the material world, or merely our feeling that Progress is Magic we need to be On The Right Side of leads to a view that it is only our duty to pick the right end – the Spirit’s or the Dialectic’s or merely the one that feels the most like progress – and absolves us from any responsibility for the outcomes that actually happen. Failure is stone proof that Bad People have cast a counter-spell, after all, as otherwise Progress is magically inevitable. We need to keep doing the same things until they work, because they will work eventually, evidence and collateral damage to the contrary notwithstanding.