Obamacare and the left's noble lie

Jonathan Gruber???s revelations about the true nature of the Affordable Care Act confirmed once again what opponents have been arguing since its inception. Obamacare was sold to the American public based on gimmicks and lies. More importantly, they also demonstrate the prevailing ideology of today???s left-wing elites. Instead of trusting people to govern themselves, they would rather plan their ideal society at the expense of our liberty and prosperity.

The scheme was simple: hide the taxes, costs, and negative policy implications while trumpeting the more popular provisions such as forcing coverage of pre-existing conditions and allowing individuals to remain on their parents??? health insurance until age 26.

First among all the deceptions was the infamous assurance that ???if you like your healthcare plan, you can keep your healthcare plan.???

Then, during the debate over the ACA, Democrats repeatedly touted the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office???s projections that Obamacare would somehow lower federal deficits in the first ten years. At the White House???s healthcare summit in February 2010, Paul Ryan warned that the CBO???s ???job is to score what is placed in front of them??? and that the bill that was ???full of gimmicks and smoke and mirrors.??? Former CBO Director Douglas Holtz-Eakin offered his own analysis in a New York Times op-ed, saying that the Obamacare numbers were all ???gimmicks and budgetary games??? and the post- reconciliation Senate version would actually raise federal deficits by $562 billion.

In the days before the bill passed, Politico obtained what was supposedly an internal Democratic memo instructing staffers to ???not allow yourself (or your boss) to get into a discussion of the details of the CBO scores and textual narrative. Instead, focus only on the deficit reduction and number of Americans covered.??? Democrats disputed its authenticity.

Now we have Obamacare architect Gruber admitting that the bill was ???written in a tortured way to make sure CBO did not score the mandate as taxes??? because if that happened, ???the bill dies.??? Gruber notoriously credited the ???stupidity of the American voter??? for allowing them to hide the cost of the bill and perpetrate this fraud.

They knew exactly what they were doing. And they didn???t care. It was all for the greater good. Today???s ruling class of progressives is filled with brilliant and highly accomplished individuals. Yet many of them were raised inside the Beltway and went directly from Sidwell and St. Alban???s to Harvard, MIT, and Columbia, and back to Washington without ever being exposed to opposing viewpoints orencountering, much less understanding, those they intend to govern.

They have become the philosopher-kings from Plato???s Republic, telling the noble lie to the rest of society to preserve harmony, political stability, and, most importantly, their power while guiding the ship of state.

On the whole, they are sincere people who care deeply about the future of this country. This quality is admirable, and often in short supply. However, they suffer from a dangerous hubris that leads them to believe they can solve complex societal problems through centralized decision making. Nobel laureate economist Friedrich Hayek labeled this ???the fatal conceit.??? Whether it is reforming healthcare, preventing the next financial crisis, or fixing our education system, there???s nothing Washington???s 1% won???t regulate or mandate, rather than trusting individuals and markets.

But that theory of governance was specifically rejected by the Framers of our Constitution. Our Founders acknowledged that the reason of man is fallible and unchecked democracy could lead to tyranny, but they also understood that the same human fallibility made a philosopher-king just as unviable. In Federalist 10, discussing the complicated problems arising from the competing interests of diverse factions, James Madison called it ???vain to say that enlightened statesmen will always be able to adjust these clashing interests, and render them subservient to the public good.??? Further, Madison argued that ???nor can such an adjustment be made at all without taking into view indirect and remote considerations, which will rarely prevail over the immediate interest which one party may find in disregarding the rights of another or the good of the whole.???

Almost two centuries after Madison and his colleagues enshrined the principles of limited republicangovernment in our Constitution, Hayek would echo our Founders by writing, ???The case for individual freedom rests chiefly on the recognition of the inevitable ignorance of all of us concerning a great many of the factors on which the achievement of our ends and welfare depends.???

Rather than derogating and deceiving the American public, Mr. Gruber and his ilk would do well to examine their ignorance of their own limitations.

Christian B. Corrigan is a Washington lawyer working in public policy.