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Ed Driscoll

Why ‘Progressives’ Always Get Tech Wrong

October 7th, 2013 - 2:59 pm

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“There are two Americas, all right, Glenn Reynolds notes in his latest USA Today column. “There’s one that works — where new and creative things happen, where mistakes are corrected, and where excellence is rewarded. Then there’s Washington, where everything is pretty much the opposite:”

That has been particularly evident over the past week or so. One America can launch rockets. The other America can’t even launch a website.

In Washington, it’s been stalemate, impasse, and theater — the kind of place where a government shutdown leads park rangers to complain, “We’ve been told to make life as difficult for people as we can. It’s disgusting.” Well, yes. The politics don’t work, the websites don’t work — even for the people who manage to log on — and the government shutdown informs us that most of government is “non-essential.” Instead of correcting mistakes or rewarding excellence, it’s mostly finger-pointing, blame-shifting, and excuse-making.

Meanwhile, in the other America — the one where people have their own money and ideas invested, and where they get the credit for their successes and pay the price for their failures — things are going a lot better. Just a couple of examples:

Read the whole thing, to coin an Insta-phrase. (And yes attempting to reward the parasitical half of America, USA Today is still featuring their insane “Cost of the Shutdown” counter on their homepage, as if government were something that makes money, instead of simply printing it and spending yours.) And then check out fellow Michael Malone in Forbes, who explains “Why Progressives Always Get Tech Wrong:”

If we have learned anything (not least from Progressivism’s crazy cousins Fascism, Nazism and Stalinism) over the last century it is that none of this is true.  Human beings are messy and unpredictable creatures, with 10 billion different perspectives and opinions about how to live a good life.  There are also more good ideas, intellectual capital, in those 10 billion brains – especially regarding some problem at hand – than in the combined faculty of Harvard and Stanford.   Moreover, some people actually prefer liberty to comfort, freedom to happiness. That’s what Steve Jobs was trying to say; and that’s what’s going unsaid at those select Valley dinners with the President.

So, instead of a healthcare Twitter, we get a gigantic mess as the government tries to impose a single, software-driven system on 300 million Americans.  Anyone who has ever worked on or, worse, bought a big software application – and this is one of the biggest in history — could have told HHS that the final result would be buggy, late, unsatisfying to users, unable to live up to its billing, and most of all, resistant to upgrades, much less wholesale changes.  In the real world, you can’t just order “Make it so!”

Whatever else it was, Progressivism was a top-down, mass-control, limited-freedom political philosophy that has only grown more anachronistic as the decades have passed and as, ironically, technology itself has increasingly supported de-centralized, networked, and bottom-up institutions.   Corporations learned that a generation ago (or they disappeared).  In successful corporations today, management works best when it is the servant of employees and customers:  look at the backlash from a billion users every time Facebook or eBay tries to impose some new rule or pricing scheme from above.  And what are open systems and crowd-sourcing but the next evolutionary step in the inversion of the old top-down model?

That leaves the federal government the last true bastion of late 19th century command-and-control thinking.  It can build as many websites and social networks as it likes, but as long as it tries to impose mass solutions from the top in a world of personalized solutions from the bottom, it is doomed to fail – and our nation continue its slide into debt and enfeeblement.

And along the way, plenty of astonished “I was sure it would work this time” reactions from “Progressive” true believers. Responding to Silicon Valley Obama supporter Cindy Vinson’s now-legendary cri de coeur in the San Jose Mercury that, “Of course, I want people to have health care. I just didn’t realize I would be the one who was going to pay for it personally,” Neo-Neocon writes, with an assist — and a little diabolical laughter –from Monty Python, “No one expects The Obamacare Sticker Shock!”

But it’s that last quote from Vinson that seems to encapsulate a common liberal mindset on Obamacare—or on government-funded benefits in general—that so infuriates conservatives. Who doesn’t “want people to have health care”? But the real question—and the real difference between the approaches of conservatives and liberals, inflammatory rhetoric aside—is how such a thing would be paid for, and especially whether it is possible to do so without putting an undue burden on the wage-earning tax-paying public.

Vinson, like so many people, uses the term “health care” to mean “health insurance,” but let’s gloss over that and stipulate that most people couldn’t afford the former (particularly if a major health problem were to arise) without having the latter. Vinson probably isn’t saying that she didn’t expect to pay for her own health insurance. She is saying that she expected to pay only for her own health insurance, not for the health insurance of those others she “of course” wants covered.

So the trillion-dollar question is: who did she expect would pay for their insurance?

As Moe Lane wrote yesterday, “The most expensive thing in the world is something that’s free, Ms. Vinson. And if you sit down at the poker table and you don’t know after a half hour which person is going to be taken to the cleaners, it’s going to be you.”

“PS: No Republican voted for Obamacare,” Moe adds — presumably with a little diabolical laughter of his own.

Related: Speaking of “Progressives” getting tech and the rest of the business world wrong, “Repeat after me: Politicians don’t matter when your nation is run by unelected unionized bureaucrats-for-life,” Kathy Shaidle writes. As Mark Steyn wrote in late October of 2010, when the polling data made it obvious the GOP would return to the Congressional House after four years in the wilderness, “Where do you go to vote out the CPSC? Or OSHA? Or the EPA?”

At Ricochet, Troy Senik writes that “Populism’s Hard When You Don’t Like the People.” And the left truly dropped the mask last week. But will enough of the “Progressive” religious faithful such as Ms. Vinson discover over the next few years just how much they’re loathed by the leftwing ruling class?

Comments are closed.

Top Rated Comments   
Boss Tweed was a Democrat. Nothing has changed.
28 weeks ago
28 weeks ago Link To Comment
Because we all know places like Chicago are 100% controlled by Republicans,,,,,Moron.
28 weeks ago
28 weeks ago Link To Comment
Progressives will always get tech wrong because their favorite tool, coercion, doesn't work on computers.

(And now for something completely different) So many people recently voted for higher taxes ON OTHER PEOPLE and higher insurance premiums ON OTHER PEOPLE. What they have recently discovered is that there are not enough OTHER PEOPLE to pay for their lavish plans. The OTHER PEOPLE turn out to be THEM. I'd add diabolical laughter of my own, but as I well expected, I also have to pay for their stupidity.
28 weeks ago
28 weeks ago Link To Comment
All Comments   (17)
All Comments   (17)
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It was a deliberate plot by the people who coded the site.

And I give it three days, before we hear about Computer Programmers, and IRS audits.
28 weeks ago
28 weeks ago Link To Comment
Who believes Cathy Vinson is paying her own way now? Both federal and California state law force men to subsidize her health plan bills. Workplace sex discrimination laws forbid charging females more for their health coverage even though females consume health care at over double the rate men do. (Same goes for retirement bennies, by the way.)
28 weeks ago
28 weeks ago Link To Comment
I think most people, including conservatives believe in what I call "Friedman's fallacy." When Milton Friedman discussed what was wrong with collectivism he would start out by explaining that socialist bureaucrats weren't malicious just misinformed. They were educable.

To this I say BS. There only two philosophies of government. One is based on representative government and markets (not Capitalism and Freedom as claimed by Friedman) and rule by an anointed elite. Progressivism is modern replacement for autocracy without the moral underpinnings of the Monarch. After all the King, who ruled by the will of God, was ultimately answerable to a higher power. Today's autocrats are answerable to no one. Progressivism, Socialism, Fascism, Nazism or whatever you want to call was born bad and will only produce evil. It is based on the exploitation of the many by the few.
28 weeks ago
28 weeks ago Link To Comment
BUT like most Protests end in violence there are an approx. 50% who really believe collectivism will WORK if they are in charge- then you have 30% who are followers and +-20% at the back end who will start the fights, rob steal burn and pillage those are our radical lefties like Bill Ayers or Black Panthers etc. a good read on why / how Socialisms / Collectivism fails- read about THE FARM where hippies went in 60-70's to set up a Liberal Eutopia in Ark or GA and 30 years later Nat Geo went and did an article and found it to be a FAILURE
28 weeks ago
28 weeks ago Link To Comment
Interesting comparison. I think kingship and collectivism can both work if the people in charge are humble. When a king gives himself permission to do anything he wants in his own name or in God's, he becomes a tyrant. When collectivists give themselves permission to do anything THEY want in the name of Progress or the Revolution or the Workers or the People or the Masses, THEY become tyrants.

The problem is giving people power and expecting them to know their limits - and the limits of Reality. Powerful people often suffer from the illusion of control - that power means you can solve all your problems. Their clumsy efforts to do this have often caused great suffering.

When they set out to Change the World, they make things worse. Then things get better. The question is, did they get better because of the World Changers or in spite of them?

I think the mass of humanity is self-correcting. Leaders screw things up, either with good intentions or bad, but the people always pick themselves up and go on with their lives.

I just wish our Betters didn't have to put us through all that time after time.
28 weeks ago
28 weeks ago Link To Comment
But the fact is that people in charge, when they are not particularly accountable to the folks always lose their humility. History is full of examples and there are no (or very few, I can't think of any) counterexamples. Power corrupts, period. So while kingship and collectivism might work in some other universe, with actual people they never do. It might take a while for the failure to become painful but it always does in the end. When there were no alternate churches in Europe, even the Catholic popes became corrupt, and it was the rise of protestant alternatives that forced a change.

That is why the IRS and NSA scandals are so frightening - they give power both to the unelected bureaucrats and to the party machines, think the Chicago way on steroids.

Why would we want the government to be in charge of our health care? It is an insane idea. It never works well wherever it is tried.
28 weeks ago
28 weeks ago Link To Comment
I think progressives have an illusion about the collective "We." Somehow, if "We" all pitch in for entitlements, the effect on them as individuals will be negligible. Millions of small contributions go into the public till, to be used for doing Good Deeds. I think reasonable people understand that principle. We're all on board, up to a point. It's how some things get done.

Unfortunately, progressive politicians have an irresistable compulsion to do Good Deeds. With every new program, every new entitlement, every new Fundamental Transformation, the taxpayer's individual contribution has to increase.

Since the progressives will NEVER stop improving the world, the taxpayer's individual contribution will NEVER stop going up. Eventually, all money everywhere will be earmarked for the government's use.
28 weeks ago
28 weeks ago Link To Comment
Progressives will always get tech wrong because their favorite tool, coercion, doesn't work on computers.

(And now for something completely different) So many people recently voted for higher taxes ON OTHER PEOPLE and higher insurance premiums ON OTHER PEOPLE. What they have recently discovered is that there are not enough OTHER PEOPLE to pay for their lavish plans. The OTHER PEOPLE turn out to be THEM. I'd add diabolical laughter of my own, but as I well expected, I also have to pay for their stupidity.
28 weeks ago
28 weeks ago Link To Comment
"Progressives will always get tech wrong because their favorite tool, coercion, doesn't work on computers."--Dalrymple Reader

Computers require an understanding of logic, math, and material reality -- a prog's triple nemesis. You could have stopped after your sixth word, Mr. Reader.
28 weeks ago
28 weeks ago Link To Comment
The problem with the title of this piece is that tech people are, much more often than not, progressives...especially at the senior level. (I travel in those circles frequently.)

It's true that many of them want government to take a hands-off approach when it comes to their own stuff, but that seems to be true of most progressives, anyway.
28 weeks ago
28 weeks ago Link To Comment
Exactly.

Aside from being based upon a false premise, the article is good red meat.

If righties want to place blame for our government's problem with implementing new tech, try looking at cronyism and systemic corruption, instead. You'll find your answer there.

28 weeks ago
28 weeks ago Link To Comment
Which is 100% supported by Unions, Fed workers, State workers and Dems who are the party of the Lawyers & ambulance chasers
28 weeks ago
28 weeks ago Link To Comment
Because we all know places like Chicago are 100% controlled by Republicans,,,,,Moron.
28 weeks ago
28 weeks ago Link To Comment
Boss Tweed was a Democrat. Nothing has changed.
28 weeks ago
28 weeks ago Link To Comment
And in Venezuela, the one time oil-fueled socialist success story now rations toilet paper. It's a lesson people have to learn over and over, in country after country, in generation after generation. Perpetual motion machines and socialism simply don't work.
28 weeks ago
28 weeks ago Link To Comment
I'll bet that 90% of the population doesn't know what a perpetual motion machine is and why it can't work. Therein lies the problem: an uneducated society in the way the world works.
28 weeks ago
28 weeks ago Link To Comment
Only 90%? More like 99%.

This illustrates one of the things I've been saying for a while. Fooling the public about various issues becomes more difficult when the majority have at least a solid grounding in maths (particularly statistics - consider the importance of choosing which average to use, for example) and science.

Which is, IMHO, the reason why such a grounding is not provided by public education; this applies to the UK, where I live, as well. I don't think that the truly appalling state of public education in both countries is an accident.
28 weeks ago
28 weeks ago Link To Comment
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