It seemed almost beyond repair, but a group of private sector engineers from Silicon Valley firms were able to come in at the lowest point in the crisis and essentially do in six weeks what the government couldn’t do in three years (and was probably never going to be able to do). And yet somehow, the president and others are trying to have people draw from this the lesson that the government actually can handle huge, complicated projects well after all.
Obamacare’s basic policy architecture is similarly technocratic. It expects federal bureaucrats to ably manage from the center a mind-bogglingly complicated system and assumes such management would be more effective than a decentralized market-oriented approach. The fact that the people charged with making all this happen could not properly manage the development of a web site does not prove the proposition false, of course, but it surely ought to raise big red flags. The early failure of the enrollment site also created real and practical obstacles to the implementation of the new system, which the administration has had to respond to with a variety of legally dubious kludges and workarounds that still continue. And the way in which the website was saved offers a lesson for that larger system too.