But, again, popularity is overrated. The relevant economist on this point isn't Higgs but Mancur Olson, who argued that modern societies tend to produce interest groups (also known as lobbies) that undermine the public good for private gain. Virtually everyone wants to get rid of mohair subsidies, but almost no one cares about getting rid of them as much as the subsidy's recipients care about keeping them. Large majorities of Americans oppose racial preferences, but few are willing to take on the activists -- and journalists -- eager to demonize critics of such policies. Head Start doesn't work very well, but it's politically immortal.
The White House hopes that Obamacare will create a coalition of interests -- including such diverse groups as people with preexisting conditions and hospital conglomerates -- that will defend the law, regardless of the social costs.
No one knows if that strategy will work. Obamacare is different than the typical program that concentrates benefits while diffusing burdens. It creates new constituencies eager to protect the law, but it also creates huge constituencies eager to get rid of it (at least for them).
Meanwhile, the supposedly addictive subsidies conservatives fear and liberals are pinning their hopes on don't in fact go to individuals. They go to insurance companies. All consumers see is a discounted insurance plan that may or may not be less expensive than what they used to get or what they hoped to get. And millions of young people are likely to decide it's in their interest to pay the fines and go without insurance.
I have no idea how it all will play out, but one thing is clear already: The fight didn't end on Oct. 1. It heated up.