February 27, 2009
Deep Obama

More lifted from Matt Steinglass at Accumulating Peripherals. When I was his age I was easily half as smart as him, but there’s been considerable slippage since. As an extra bonus, the next-to-last paragraph contains an excellent example of an infinitive that had to be split in the interest of clarity.

One of the things that chess grand masters encounter when they play machines like Deep Blue that can’t be beaten by humans is that the machine sometimes makes moves that don’t appear to make any sense. Humans play chess by “clustering” classes of moves that tend to work well according to higher-level strategic insights built up over long experience in playing the game.

Machines play chess by calculating, with brute force computation, which moves lead to the best possible outcomes over the next hundred-odd rounds of play. So machine moves occasionally look weird, from a human point of view; humans simply can’t calculate far enough out to see why they work.

When Obama was running against Clinton and Edwards in the primaries and adopted the position that mandates were a bad idea, many health policy wonks were baffled. At the time (January 2008), a theory occurred to me, which I proposed to a journalist friend over dinner.

Everyone knows that the problem with instituting community rating (i.e. everyone pays the same price for health insurance) without mandates is that healthy young people will opt out of buying health insurance. This in turn makes health insurance more expensive, leading yet more healthy people to opt out, creating a gradual death spiral for insurance companies.

Meanwhile, if, as in Obama’s plan, a government-funded insurance plan has been set up that offers taxpayer-subsidized affordable coverage, private insurers will soon be unable to compete. So, if you institute community rating and a public plan without mandates, who will start pressing you to institute mandates? The private insurance companies.

You shift the political landscape so that your enemies start to use their strength in the service of your goals. Jujitsu! And meanwhile, since the public mostly opposes “mandates” because they sound mean, you can use your anti-mandate stance to beat your primary opponents. Double jujitsu!

Of course, this seemed too conspiratorial and deep to be an actual explanation for what Obama was doing … But I think we are starting to get a lot of evidence of how Obama views politics, and one thing he does religiously is to not get out ahead of his constituency. Another thing he does is to try to rearrange conflicts so that interests are aligned with each other, not freezing each other into gridlock — so that his side can win without having to beat anyone.

Anyway, Obama is now saying mandates are going to be a part of the health care solution proposed in the upcoming budget bill. Apparently he now thinks he has the political strength to do the whole reform at once, universal care, mandates, and all. Maybe he’s wrong, but he hasn’t been wrong yet.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at February 27, 2009 03:06 PM
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It's my conviction that Americans don't want healthcare insurance, Americans want healthcare. Screw the insurance companies, they're no different than mandatory tire studs back in the fifties: some corporate entity giving some politician a blowjob and getting legislation to its financial gain at, naturally, the (captive) taxpayer expense.

Posted by: Ten Bears on February 28, 2009 1:13 PM

Comparing Obama to Deep Blue? Are you in love?

Every Obama-endorsed bill has laid out the administration's plans clearly. If you didn't see universal health care coming with what was contained in the "stimulus" bill you need to pull your head from your posterior. Unfortunately due to the fact that doctors will now have to make their decisions through the government and use the "most affordable"(not best) options to treat patients for the "public good"(part of the electronic record system with government oversight that was established in the bill) because it will allow the government(or should I say China and Russia through our deficit) to pay for health care. The use of experimental medicines have also been banned. Biden said himself that the administration seeks to slow the development of medicine and medical technology to make it "more affordable". Anyone with more than two brain cells can surmise that the quality of our health care will falter as it has when similar measures were put into affect in many other countries. All that is left is for the Obama administration to bring us further into debt and drag our economy further toward collapse by forcing us to fund a socialist health care program.

To the above comment:
Health insurance is expensive because we have the best health care in the world(for the time being that is). High quality goods and services are expensive. To see some sort of corporate conspiracy would seem to show you as naive and buying into socialist propaganda.

Posted by: Constitution Advocate on February 28, 2009 10:57 PM

Loved your last paragraph, Advocate. There is not a single reputable and reliable statistical ranking or analysis in the world that shows U.S. health care at the top or anywhere near it. Generally we're ranked in the 40s or lower, a national disgrace you choose to overlook, or of which you are blissfully ignorant. You could look it up. But of course you won't.

Posted by: Furber on March 2, 2009 2:29 PM

Fact. America pays the most and gets the least when it comes to healthcare. As pointed out reputable studies show that we are at or near the the bottom of industrialized countries when it comes to the provision health care to its citizens.

People spouting jingoistic nonsense are either uninformed (haven't taken the time to investigate the facts), charlatans (have an interest in promoting falsehoods) or idiots (don't have the capacity to understand reality).

Constitution Advocate, which are you?

Posted by: dee on March 5, 2009 1:54 PM
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