Breaking Glass

Designed to Fail

Over the past year, American elites have spent a vast amount of time discussing proposed reforms in healthcare, arguing about the social and financial costs of producing an apparent social good.  In March, Congress approved a law that many observers see as a potential catastrophe, in terms of its devastating effects on our economic future, the growth of national indebtedness, and the long-term impact on the liberty of families and individuals.  ObamaCare is a very bad policy indeed, so atrocious that the obvious question arises as to why any reasonable person would have supported it.  Of course, we should never underestimate the power of human stupidity, but a larger and subtler agenda is at work here.  Healthcare reform actually offers an excellent case study of a principle that is all too familiar to students of crime and justice: It is designed to fail.

The concept of “designed to fail” was formulated back in 1979 in an influential study by leftist scholar Jeffrey Reiman entitled The Rich Get Richer and the Poor Get Prison.  Following Marxist theory, Reiman argued that the goal of the criminal-justice system was not to suppress crime but to promote and sustain acceptable levels of social misbehavior, with the aim of enhancing the power and resources of official agencies.  Crime, in short, is useful, even essential, for the preservation of state power.  Reiman was not postulating a conspiracy theory...

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