I have lined up my Christmas presents this year for our President, Barack Obama, and for his Secretary of Health and Human Services, Kathleen Sebelius. I will send them both a copy of the last book written by one of greatest economists of the last century, and winner of the Nobel Prize in economics in 1974, F.A. Hayek. The book is called The Fatal Conceit: The Errors of Socialism.
Although the language and discussion of the book is not all that simple, the basic point is, I think, pretty straightforward. Hayek summed it all up in his acceptance speech for his Nobel Prize.
He noted the critical importance that we know what we don't know. Thinking you know what you don't and can't know, the illusion that men can plan, organize, and control things far beyond their understanding, is the "fatal conceit" of socialism.
And, Hayek concludes, that knowing what you don't know, "ought to teach the student of society a lesson of humility which should guard him against becoming an accomplice in men's fatal striving to control society – a striving which makes him not only a tyrant over his fellow, but which may well make him the destroyer of a civilization which no brain has designed but which has grown from the free efforts of millions of individuals."
Take a walk through the mall or the supermarket. Look at the almost infinite varieties of products in stores and on shelves designed and engineered to meet the unique tastes and desires of millions of different individuals.
You don't need a Nobel Prize or a Ph.D. to appreciate that no supreme bureaucrat with all the power in the world could ever conceive that vast array of products and decide they should be produced.
This is the product and beauty of freedom. Free people deciding what they want and living how they want. And free people deciding to take risk, go into business, and become entrepreneurs and produce and deliver these many varied products.
This approach – freedom – has produced bounty as never has been produced anywhere under any other arrangement.
But the "fatal conceit" is a powerful force. It is a powerful force because there will always be haughty, arrogant people for whom humility is a challenge and who are convinced that the world would be better off if they designed it rather than letting free private individuals run their own lives.
This is totally what the debacle we now confront with the Affordable Care Act – ObamaCare – is about.
Anyone who follows these things and knows just a little bit of history knew from the day President Obama signed this law in 2010 that what is happening today was inevitable.
Neither President Obama nor HHS Secretary Sebelius have ever done anything in their lives except work in one way or another in politics. Neither has ever run a small business, let alone a big one. Neither has a day of experience of being an entrepreneur, of taking personal risk and taking a loan to make a product to serve customers and to meet a payroll.
But both have been supremely confident that they could take over and redesign one sixth of a 16 trillion dollar economy.
Nothing is more unique to each individual than his or her personal health profile and needs. Yet a couple supreme bureaucrats in Washington have used their power to decide what kind of health care hundreds of millions of unique American individual citizens need and how to deliver it.
Can it be any wonder that it is all collapsing?
The only wonders are that there are still those who maintain that this socialist monstrosity can still work and that so many Americans have been willing to give up their precious personal freedom and turn their lives over to arrogant, pretentious, and deeply confused bureaucrats and politicians in Washington.