It’s easy to sum up 2013 in the international arena: The US crept back and away everywhere.
Domestically, three important things happened in the US in 2013.
First, it became clear that abundant energetic resources are multiplying within the United States. This will have many good consequences if environmentalist extremists can be beaten back. I would be the first one to be pleased if one of these consequences were that the US spend less time and less interest in bad neighborhoods of the planet. Also, for once, I would favor a kind of protectionism. I mean a sort of oil and natural gas union between the three north American countries now that Mexico is vigorously de-nationalizing its oil industry, after 70 years. (Free trade is not a moral principle, it’s an expediency; violating the principle just costs money.)
The second important thing is that the federal government supposedly shut down and no one really suffered. I wish it happened more often and more deeply although this time, it may have been bad for the Republican Party. I mean that commentators overwhelmingly blamed the GOP for the non-existent suffering resulting from the phony closing of the federal government. I believe that it it happened more often, many people would learn that: 1 It’s almost impossible to close any significant portion of the federal government; 2 With the major exception of national defense, the federal government does not do anything well that matters to many people. Yes, this is highly qualified. What it does that matters, like guarding the borders, it does not do well. What it does well is either not important or it affects adversely many of us. Forking out my tax money to large producers of soybeans and corn would be an example. Making impossible rules to protect aspects of the environment that don’t need protection would be another one. Make your own list; you will be amazed!
And third and not finally, you can bet on it, the Obama administration gave Americans a masterful demonstration of why Big Government should not be trusted with Big Reforms. The Obama administration and the core of the Democratic Party attempted to force on Americans – for their own good – something for which there was little demand and no enthusiasm. It did not work out, not much because of the actions of opponents. I refer of course to the debacle of the implementation of the 2,500-page so-called “Affordable Care Act” (which President Obama used to claim as “Obamacare.” I heard him with my own ears.)
Complying with the new law turns out to be dauntingly difficult in spite of the several illegal measures the administration has taken to make it easier to conform to the law and to mask major failures. Among major failures: No savings materializing, higher deductibles, sometimes much higher failure of the alleged targeted beneficiaries to join (the uninsured) to join, the unwillingness of the young and healthy to be shorn to benefit the same uninsured, the creation of brand new categories of uninsured (dropped through government action by the insurance companies with which they were satisfied).
There are also persistent rumors of MDs leaving the field but I have not seen solid data so it remains a rumor. It’s a rumor that bears watching because it makes intuitive sense. If I were an MD, I would not welcome an increase in the already heavy burden of regulations, complexification of insurance matters, plus lower payments for some of my services. If I could afford, it, I might just leave. I think I would look into moving to a warm water resort in Mexico and seeing well-heeled American expatriates one afternoon a week to pay for my Pacífico.
Note that I have uttered not a word about the sincerity of anyone involved. Note that I have resisted the urge to speculate about the quality of the care the new system will eventually deliver. (Though, if they can’t put together a website, I doubt things look good in connection with really sophisticated medical technologies.)
Whatever reforms we need (if we need any) the federal government should not be put in charge of them because it will probably use force to botch them up. Look at the IRS, look at NSA, look at one of the oldest government organization in the world: I give you the US post office where “lunch hour” really means “lunch hour,” although that’s the best time for many people to go to the post office.
Here is a tiny anecdote to further illustrate my point here. It’s about the giant government of the State of California, not the fed: I spend 20 painful minutes on my old knees today scrapping my car’s license plate in order to affix to it its new California tag. There is no other way, I am told. The state has used the same prehistoric method for dozens of years. Why should anyone in the state bureaucracy care? If you balk and fail to affix the new tag, if you knees protest too much, the state has an army of law enforcement officers who will be happy to punish you over and over again for your trespass. Now, imagine a private, profit-making outfit being put in charge of annual tagging competing for your patronage with others of the same kind. How long would it take before a new tagging system emerged that did not involve my hurting my knees?
I have only addressed practicalities and efficiency. That’s actually my smallest concern. Government in general, the federal government in particular should also not be in charge of anything big because it’s inimical to individual liberty. Remember, elections are a necessary but small part of a democratic society. Democracy is a day-to-day thing.