Wednesday, December 12, 2012

American Kludgeocracy

Political scientist Steven Teles puts his finger on one of America's worst political problems, our habit of government by kludge:
The dictionary tells us that a kludge is “an ill-assorted collection of parts assembled to fulfill a particular purpose…a clumsy but temporarily effective solution to a particular fault or problem.” The term comes out of the world of computer programming, where a kludge is an inelegant patch put in place to be backward compatible with the rest of a system. When you add up enough kludges, you get a very complicated program, one that is hard to understand and subject to crashes. In other words, Windows.

“Clumsy but temporarily effective” also describes much of American public policy. For any particular problem we have arrived at the most gerry-rigged, opaque and complicated response. From the mind-numbing complexity of the health care system (which has only gotten more complicated, if also more just, after the passage of Obamacare), our Byzantine system of funding higher education, and our bewildering federal-state system of governing everything from the welfare state to environmental regulation, America has chosen more indirect and incoherent policy mechanisms than any comparable country.
A straightforward, Canadian-style, single-payer health care system would be vastly simpler and much cheaper than the crazy public-private mess we have. But because socialism is not acceptable to Republicans, and doing nothing is not acceptable to Democrats, we have this bizarre and very expensive mishmash.

Compromise is a good habit for politicians in a diverse society, but sometimes it leads to monstrous outcomes.

1 comment:

leif said...

it's chimeral for sure. ultimately i don't feel that i can put my admittedly unimportant opinion behind this so-called obamacare due to its lack of a public option. the republican puppets of the insurance industry succeeded at making it truly monstrous, as you note, by requiring that citizens pay into an intentionally inefficient insurance framework. that galls me to no end.