Complex Systems

One of the things you learn quickly when working with complex software is that one tiny change in one area of the program can result in unexpected behavior in another, unrelated, part of the software. Even when you know the software in detail, you are often surprised by the results of small changes. The reason for this is complexity does not grow linearly. Every new condition added to the program, results in multiples of processes and outcomes. The possible results easily exceed your ability to keep track of in your head.

Anyway, the social planners never seem to get this or even recognize it exists. They are so confident in their power to model the new socialist man they blithely assume all sorts of things about the human condition. ObamaCare is a good example. They started with one goal in mind. They wanted to transfer the costs of giving middle-class health care to the poor from the government to private business. The obvious solution was to force employers to pay for their employees insurance, as part of their regular compensation.

Then they realized that the unemployed and seasonal would not get coverage so they came up with the individual mandate to solve that one problem. This sounded like a brilliant solution. If you did not have health insurance, then the IRA would chase after you and maybe some other agencies would harass you. Then some one noticed that the people in the underclass could not afford insurance and were no scared of the IRS. After all, the IRS only terrorizes taxpayers and no one in the ghetto pays taxes. What to do.

The solution was expanding Medicaid and subsidizing private insurance. This means passing new laws and regulation to force states to expand Medicare. On and on it went until the result was a 2,000 page bill requiring tens of thousands of regulators writing tens of thousands of pages of regulations. All of which would be layered on top of the existing tens of thousands of regulations. A massively complex system was going to bolted onto an already massively complex system the legislators did not understand.

Since becoming law, we have been treated to a series of unexpected results. Employers are afraid to hire, not knowing the consequences. Their lawyers quickly figured out a way out of the mandate by moving full time people to part time. Hundreds of thousands have lost benefits because they are now considered part time. Now, cities in financial trouble will follow suit by throwing their workers onto the government system to avoid paying health care bills. It turns out that more complexity was not the answer to the problem.

The result of all of this is pretty much the opposite of what the ObamaCare designers expected. Instead of decreasing the cost to government, costs will go up faster. Instead of more people with insurance, you will see fewer people with insurance. Doctors, seeing their earnings prospects decline are leaving the system and finding ways to carve out private systems for upper middle-class clients. On and on it goes. A myriad of unexpected outcomes accelerating the collapse of the health care system.

Wisdom is knowing what you don’t know. The opposite of that is being in Congress.