Gentle Regulatory Despotism

Chidem Kurdas

The costs of Obamacare have started to show up. Insurance premiums and government subsidies are expected to rise substantially this year. Doctor networks are more restrictive, there are fewer hospitals and some drugs are not covered, in keeping with decrees emanating from federal bureaucrats. While American healthcare is being remade, affordability and choice are two attributes it is not acquiring, despite the shrill claims made for the new system.

As large numbers of citizens herd into government-approved insurance policies – as required by the 2010 law – the sellers of those policies do well. After all, their product is now mandatory. But they face the risk of losing control of the government.

It reminds me of an old paradox. From Ponzi Regulation:

“Like most ideas, the idea of gently herding the population in the right direction goes back in history. Alexis de Tocqueville in 1840 warned against the danger of a “gentle” despotism in the administrative sphere, the rise of ‘an immense protective power’ that watches over citizens and claims to provide for them what they supposedly want but cannot achieve on their own.

Tocqueville described the strange paradox this poses in democratic societies. … Democratic despotism infantilizes the citizenry as wards of the state, unable to fend for themselves, yet the same citizenry is expected to decide who will run the government.”


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