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Uhlmann’s Razor and the Blank Check for the Empty Mind

Today in my Constitutional Law class I’ll be taking up the famous case of McCulloch v. Maryland, the bank case from 1819 in which Chief Justice John Marshall observed that “the power to tax involves the power to destroy,” which immediately set my mind to thinking about . . . Obamacare.  Obamacare’s medical device tax—a tax not on profits remember, but on revenues—is doing its destructive work already.

The Wall Street Journal reported yesterday that “Funding Dries Up for Medical Startups,” noting that “Investment in the medical-device and equipment industry is on pace to fall to $2.14 billion this year, down more than 40% from 2007 and the sharpest drop among the top five industry recipients of venture funding.”  It seems we have to relearn every few years (such as the luxury boat tax of 1990, swiftly repealed when it killed the boat-building industry) the basic lesson that Jack Kemp and Ronald Reagan taught us: tax something and you get less of it.  Especially when you tax it like Obamacare, where the tax significantly reduces the after-tax return to investors.

It is a popular theory that failure is the deliberate design of Obamacare, the better to force us into a single-payer system.  True enough that Obama voiced this sympathy some years ago.  But I tend in these matters to go with Uhlmann’s Razor, the bureaucratic-age variant of Occam’s famous blade, provided to us by professor Michael Uhlmann of Claremont Graduate University: “When stupidity is a sufficient explanation, there’s no need to have recourse to any other.”  Remember that it was Congress—Nancy Pelosi’s Congress—that wrote most of the (Un)Affordable Care Act.

Our good friend and faithful reader Herbert Meyer agrees:

I’m not asserting that the president and his team are totally incompetent.  They do a better job of getting their base out to vote than any group of politicos have ever done before in our country’s history.  Their efforts to trash their political opponents are unfair and often vicious but — alas — they are astoundingly successful.  Their talents for deflecting blame and stonewalling investigations of their criminal mid-deeds are extraordinary.

It’s just that they have no idea how to run a government — which is what they were elected to do.

Author’s note to those readers who are already jumping out of their chairs and starting to type comments-to-the-editor suggesting, not very politely, that Herb Meyer is so stupid he doesn’t even realize that all these “failures” are actually brilliant maneuvers by the President and his team to destroy our country:

Yes, I know it’s a mistake to underestimate one’s enemies.  But it’s an even bigger mistake to overestimate your enemies and give them more credit than they’re due.  And this bigger mistake happens in politics all the time.

One day at the Congress of Vienna in 1815 — very possibly the greatest collection of diplomats in European history — an aide approached France’s brilliant and famously suspicious foreign minister, Talleyrand, and whispered in his ear that the Russian ambassador had just dropped dead.  Talleyrand thought for a moment, stroked his chin, then muttered, “I wonder what he’s up to?”  And how often have you heard some conspiracy nut insist that the imbecile George W. Bush organized the 9-11 attacks — without realizing that if President Bush actually had organized the 9-11 attacks, this “imbecile” would have somehow pulled off the greatest counter-intelligence operation in history?

Reader, I don’t like President Obama any more than you do, and I agree he’s a left-wing-radical-socialist-neo-Marxist who despises much of what made America great and who’s far too fond of the Muslim Brotherhood.  But he’s not a genius.  What we’ve seen in the Obamacare rollout, in Fast-and-Furious, in Benghazi and in so many other White House screw-ups isn’t willful duplicity, but incompetence.

End of author’s clever, delightful — and probably ineffective — effort to disarm his critics.

Footnote: McCulloch v. Maryland is the case where Marshall wrote that “we must never forget that it is a Constitution we are expounding.”  This line has been twisted ever after by liberals as a justification for their judicial adventures.  The late Alex Bickel of Yale Law School punctured this with the suggestion that we reorder the sentence as follows to see how we like it: “We must never forget that it is a blank check we are expounding.”  To the empty-headed people with a blank check view of government currently running the country, it makes perfect sense.

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