This appearance by Nancy Pelosi on The Daily Show starts to run off the rails almost immediately. Jon Stewart starts off by asking Pelosi about why people talk about politics rather than policy, to which Pelosi answers by … complaining about Republicans. Stewart doesn’t take the bait, though, and starts pressing Pelosi for answers as to why big-government politicians can’t produce competent government — and gets stunned by her admission that she can’t explain why ObamaCare failed:

Stewart said that Democrats are then required to make a stronger case. He said that Democratic governance now appears “chaotic” and their execution of legislation appears to “lack efficiency.” When Pelosi again blamed Republicans for this condition, Stewart became even more agitated.

When he asked why it was so difficult to get a company to execute the Affordable Care Act’s insurance exchange website “competently,” Pelosi replied, “I don’t know.”

“What do you mean you don’t know? How do you not know?” Stewart asked laughing.

To which Nancy Pelosi responded: “It’s not my responsibility.” Hmmm. Who ran the House when the ObamaCare bill passed, with only votes from her party? Who claimed at the time that we couldn’t know how awesome this bill would be until it passed, because you couldn’t expect politicians to actually read a 2800-page bill before they voted on it? Given that this passed entirely on votes from her own party, and with some procedural chicanery thrown in for good measure, does she feel no responsibility at all for the results of this legislation she herself championed?

That’s a pretty good answer to Stewart’s broader point. He cites the ongoing problems at the VA as evidence that there is “clearly something systemic” in government incompetence:

“Do we have a foundational problem? Is there a corruption in the system that needs to be addressed?” Stewart asked. Pelosi went on to detail the issues with bureaucracy and the failure of departments to communicate with each other. “Okay, do something about it,” Pelosi said.

“I was actually going to say that to you,” Stewart interjected.

The systemic problem is the fact that big-government regimes like ObamaCare won’t work because central planning of large economies never work, for reasons laid out by economist F. A. Hayek decades ago in The Road to Serfdom. History has only proven Hayek correct over and over again, while utopians keep insisting that the problem is just the people involved in its implementation. And Hayek predicts why incompetents and bullies end up at the top of those systems, too. Maybe Stewart should read it. It’s far too late for Pelosi.

Update: Here’s a rebuttal from someone who doesn’t grasp the difference between ObamaCare and, say, SNAP or Social Security:

From Road to Serfdom, pages 148-149:

There is no reason why in a society which has reached the general level of wealth which ours has attained the first kind of security should not be guaranteed to all without endangering general freedom. …. [T]here can be no doubt that some minimum of food, shelter, and clothing, sufficient to preserve health and the capacity to work, can be assured to everybody. … Nor is there any reason why the state should not assist the individual in providing for those common hazards of life against which, because of their uncertainty, few individuals can make adequate provision. 

    “Where, as in the case of sickness and accident, neither the desire to avoid such calamities nor the efforts to overcome their consequences are as a rule weakened by the provision of assistance – where, in short, we deal with genuinely insurable risks – the case for the state’s helping to organize a comprehensive system of social insurance is very strong. There are many points of detail where those wishing to preserve the competitive system and those wishing to super-cede it by something different will disagree on the details of such schemes; and it is possible under the name of social insurance to introduce measures which tend to make competition more or less ineffective. But there is no incompatibility in principle between the state’s providing greater security in this way and the preservation of individual freedom. 

The product of approximately 30 seconds of Google searching. You should issue a correction for misrepresenting Hayek’s work. But you won’t. You won’t respond to my email to explain why you won’t issue a correction either. You aren’t interested in being right, only in winning. But feel free to prove me wrong on any of these counts.

Of course I’m aware of this passage. I don’t disagree with it, either; I’m not a Randian. But the key difference is that social-insurance programs like SNAP don’t impose top-down control over the economy or a significant part of it. ObamaCare explicitly does do that by issuing mandates for coverage, mandates on employers, and mandates on people to buy it. Central control over this economy is its main purpose. SNAP, Medicaid, and even Medicare (in principle) don’t force everyone under the rubric of that control, either; there is no “grocery insurance” mandate, as an example. They are voluntary programs which allow for people to choose entry or refuse it for the regular marketplace. ObamaCare controls exert force universally in the health-care market, thanks to its mandates.

Just as Hayek argued, when government takes top-down control of economies, they remove choice, innovation, and get things incredibly wrong — because central controllers cannot possibly know the proper choices in the millions and billions of transactions in those economies.  Innovation dies quickly, especially when people try to work around it to actually have their needs met, and it gets more dysfunctional rather than less. Furthermore, the dysfunction and failures in the system will always get blamed on lack of cooperation, resulting in escalating punishments and intrusion – and more arbitrariness in following the law, which we’re already seeing. The people getting rewarded in those systems end up being the people more willing to abuse power in order to achieve the political ends of the top-down central controllers — and become less and less accountable as that process moves forward.

This is what happens when one Googles for excerpts rather than reading and comprehending the entire work. It reminds me of people who Google Bible verses to use in arguments with no comprehension of their meaning.