Providing quality, universally affordable health care to the masses is achieved through acts of production not acts of Congress. It is achieved by driving prices DOWN through innovation focused on consumer desires not UP through government bureaucracy focused on ideological mandates. In support of that claim, compare the way the government rolls out programs to the way enterprises roll out products, specifically, a software product realized through what industry calls “agile methods”. Technologists, particularly software developers, ought to be aware of the agile manifesto, stated here for reference;
Individuals and interactions over processes and tools Working software over comprehensive documentation Customer collaboration over contract negotiation Responding to change over following a plan
Agile methods in software, and their lean analogs in manufacturing, are not the culmination of production techniques, however, they certainly represent substantial progress in these areas. Agile methods deliver tremendous value to the world at large as proof of the theory on which they’re based.
Comparing agile methods to how the government works supports the notion that the problem with Healthcare.gov is not technology, software or software developers but government itself. Let’s explore this further in the context of each guiding principle of the agile manifesto.
Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
When the government, particularly the U.S. government, makes economic policy, its impact is wide reaching, if not global. Individual desires, requests or whims and serving the “long tail” of consumer wants with custom products and services that can be summarily rejected by the populace at its discretion are not its focus nor its intent. Government methods are heavily driven by process and it generally relies on its most powerful tool, the use of force, to get things done. Minority driven ideology routinely trumps interaction with the citizenry.
Working software over comprehensive documentation
It should suffice to say that Healthcare.gov, a.k.a. non-working software resulting from thousands of pages of documentation, is the apotheosis of not adhering to principle number two. It’s important to make the point, however, that the documentation represent regulations and mandates to rule the “individuals” that were not “interacted” with in principle number one of the agile manifesto.
Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
Given government’s failure in principles one and two, it should be clear that customer collaboration is non-existent. Also, since the goal is to implement the ideology of the party in power, negotiation is not an option. If this is not clear from the history of the Affordable Care Act, it will certainly become a painful lesson now that the precedent of using the nuclear option to obliterate political opposition has been set.
Responding to change over following a plan
Finally, let’s compare how a community goes about changing the behavior of a corporation compared to changing the behavior of government. It’s not an outrageous claim to say that if enough consumers pulled back on their expenditures of Microsoft software or Walmart’s products by say as little as 20% in a quarter’s worth of time, these giants in their respective industries would rapidly address whatever issue was at hand. Try getting that kind of response, or exercising that level of control on the Federal government.
Looked at from another point of view, when it comes to economic issues, the government was specifically designed to be slow to respond to change because it has the legal power to use force. Its activity in the sphere of economics and influencing civil liberties was meant to be limited precisely for this reason. Government authority over its citizens was also meant to be curtailed by a notion, which is the exact opposite of principle number four of the agile manifesto. The government is supposed to follow a plan and that plan is the Constitution of the United States. As it pertains governments, following a plan is a good thing. The Constitution is our bastion of individual liberties preserving the freedom of voluntary interaction. When the government follows its plan, its power over the people is limited as it should be. Individuals are free to collaborate and respond in agile fashion to each other’s needs as producers, partners or consumers. Through principles of free market Capitalism, such as mutually beneficial exchange and VOLUNTARY cooperation, they interact, collaborate, respond and they make things work!
Michael Malgeri is the creator of the “Johnny Profit” series of children’s books, which teaches young people about capitalism. He authored H.R.422, a Congressional Resolution that creates awareness of the superiority of Capitalism as an economic model. His website is www.Kids4biz.com