"It profits me but little that a vigilant authority always protects the tranquillity of my pleasures and constantly averts all dangers from my path, without my care or concern, if this same authority is the absolute master of my liberty and my life."

--Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Jon Gruber, Rent-Seeker

The recent kerfuffle surrounding Youtube comments from Jonathan Gruber, the MIT professor of economics who consulted with the Obama administration on the design of Obamacare, is instructive on many levels.

As a political matter, it of course shows how dishonest the proponents of Obamacare were.    From "if you like your plan, you can keep your plan" on, Obamacare, as Glenn Reynolds of Instapundit is fond of saying, was Potemkin villages all the way down.   Gruber's admissions that the bill was written and sold based on a conscious "lack of transparency" (his words) merely confirms what we knew all alongg.

As a cultural matter, it also has shown in nearly crystalline form how the coastal liberal elites view the rest of us.   What kind of person routinely talks about the "stupidity" of his fellow citizens, as Gruber habitually does?   They look on the rest of us as rubes, as plebeians who need to be governed by an avant-garde of intellectuals from the Harvards of the world.   This is not a new phenomenon -- FDR's Brain Trust was similarly populated by Ivy Leaguers -- but it's become more open.   Gruber is apparently the kind of fellow who might tell you his SAT scores from thirty years ago.... and thinks that it's OK to do so.   He's also the kind of guy who apparently demands that you call him "Dr. Gruber."   As a Ph.D. who wouldn't be caught dead referring to myself as "Dr. Regular Guy" (my rule has always been that, if I can't help you when you're having a heart attack, I shouldn't call myself "Doctor"), all I can say is.... pathetic.

Finally, and perhaps more sadly, as an economic matter Gruber reflects a sad truth about our civilization as a sputtering engine of economic growth.   Truth be told, he undoubtedly is a very smart fellow.   But he went to MIT and then straight to graduate school at Harvard and then straight back to MIT in 1992 at the age of 27 as an assistant professor, without ever pausing apparently to GET A REAL JOB.    What has this smart man ever built or manufactured or invented?   Instead, he has apparently become famous and relatively wealthy (witness the consulting fees he's garnered from federal and state governments) by leveraging his status as an "expert" on health care... by rent-seeking.   To the degree that our civilization's best and brightest find their paths to success in law and lobbying and consulting and crony capitalism and education and government... rather than in business, manufacturing, entrepreneurship... we are likely doomed to a slow and inevitable decline.  

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