GOOD LUCK WITH THAT, BILLY

Posted in Quick Hits on August 5th, 2013 by Ed

There are dozens of Intro to American Government textbooks on the market and I think I've been given copies of all of them at least twice. The funny thing about having so many entrants in a lucrative and crowded market is that they are all essentially the same. There are only so many ways to explain what a congressional committee is, how the Electoral College works, or why interest groups form.

I haven't done the math, but off the top of my head I'd estimate that 90% of the available textbooks begin with a chapter on the basic question of why organized government exists. This introduces 18 year-olds to basic concepts that Coach was supposed to teach them in high school but didn't – collective action problems, public goods, free riding, and so on. Most of them pick up very quickly an understanding of why getting a large group of people to agree on a single course of action and then stick to the plan is difficult at best, impossible at worst. Even if they don't care about or understand government, I think I get the point across to most of them. I hate to say it, but if they can't grasp this simple concept they might not be the sharpest of knives overall.

And it is those dull knives that come to mind when I see news items about the latest half-assed plan to undermine health care reform by getting literally tens of millions of people to disregard their own self-interest and act collectively to further the ideological goals of FreedomWorks and Koch Industries. The latest brainstorm is to convince young people to opt out of the insurance exchanges (which raises costs by taking the healthiest, least costly members out of the pool) to undermine the law.

This plan would have to improve markedly to qualify as idiotic.

This not only requires young people to live without health insurance for several years while this scheme takes effect, but also to pay a fine for failing to comply with the law. Their motivation to do this – and to ignore the prospect of being insured and the many subsidies available for people with low incomes to buy coverage – will be their intense commitment to Tea Party principles.

The handful of complete knuckleheads who actually follow the lead of people – insured ones, mind you – like Dick Armey and Rush Limbaugh are so deeply misguided that it is only a matter of time before they die (uninsured) from touching a downed power line or when their inebriated friend Scooter mistakes them for a trophy buck and opens fire.