Thursday, November 17, 2011

The Flabby State of Liberal “Thought”

Matt Miller, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, does us the favor of exposing the flabby and disingenuous assertions that pass for serious thought among the acolytes of the Church of the All Powerful State in a column in yesterday’s Washington Post about the constitutionality of Obamacare.

It is a central article of faith among Miller and his fellow communicants that the only way society can address the myriad of problems inherent in our humanity is by government action.  And since our humanity is the source of endless and often vexing problems, government must be given endless authority to meddle in the lives of the citizenry, because we can’t solve our problems on our own.

While the Recovering Bureaucrat finds this way of thinking to be revolting and inimical to human progress, he is also convinced that giving Mr. Miller and company full rein to do things their way would be self-defeating because they are based upon false and unsustainable premises.

Mr. Miller graciously offers them for us to examine and refute.

His very first assertion is that the constitutionality of Obamacare is inconsequential compared to the magnitude of the lack of health insurance among Americans.  He writes that “the number of uninsured are now equal to the combined populations” of 25 states, and then asserts that “[w]e’re the only rich nation on the planet where getting sick can mean going bankrupt.”

Here for all to see is the central flabbiness of liberal “thought.” 

Because Miller and company have determined that the inability of an individual to obtain health insurance or, worse, necessary health care because of financial constraints is a national blight, the government must fix that problem regardless of whether we have constitutionally given that government the authority to do so.

In other words, to coerce a solution to a problem that some of us face personally is more important than adhering to our founding principles.  For our leftist friends, conniving at unconstitutional tyranny—which impacts all of us—is less destructive to our society than the health care challenges of some of us.

The efforts of Americans over the past two centuries to establish an outpost of the rule of law, consent of the governed, and the primacy of individual liberty have no meaning for them.  They forget that our nation was born out of a world of royal and oligarchic governments based upon the divine rights of kings and aristocracies, not of people “created equal, . . .  endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights.” 

In spite of the fact that the vast majority of humanity still suffers from varying degrees of official lawlessness and suppression of personal freedoms, the Church of the All Powerful State believes that fixing the problems of daily life is more important than adhering to and defending a system of governance that derives from the free choices of a free people framed by constitutional constraints.

Mr. Miller compounds the error with a tu quoque argument.  “The individual mandate is a Republican idea,” he writes. “The late senator John Chafee made it the centerpiece of the GOP alternative to Clintoncare in 1994.”  That Republicans offer stupid policy ideas doesn’t make them constitutional.

(It should come as no surprise that our friend conveniently fails to mention that Mr. Obama campaigned in opposition to an individual mandate.  So while some Republicans were in favor of government coercion before they were against it, President Obama was against it before he was for it.)

The origins of bad policy are irrelevant—although the Recovering Bureaucrat is second to none in his disdain of Republican governance since the Reagan administration.  He more often than not agrees with the witticism attributed to the late M. Stanton Evans:
We have two parties here, and only two. One is the evil party, and the other is the stupid party. I’m very proud to be a member of the stupid party. Occasionally, the two parties get together to do something that’s both evil and stupid. That’s called bipartisanship.
Mr. Miller heaps on the non sequiturs by citing Switzerland’s health care system.  He quotes a former Swiss health minister explaining why that country’s health insurance mandate is not a contradiction for a country Miller describes as “known for ardently defending personal freedom” (thus showing Mr. Miller’s unfamiliarity with Switzerland).
“We will not let people suffer and die when they need health care. The Swiss believe that in return, individuals owe it to society to provide ahead of time for their health care when they fall seriously ill. At that point, they may not have enough money to pay for it. So we consider the health insurance mandate to be a form of socially responsible civic conduct. In Switzerland, ‘individual freedom’ does not mean that you should be free to live irresponsibly and freeload from others.”
The Swiss constitution, the RB should note, is not based on individual sovereignty, but rather on that of the local community, the gemeinde. Thus their understanding of “individual freedom” is significantly different from the American, and has an explicitly communitarian aspect.  Mr. Miller probably prefers this to that of his own country; nevertheless he is comparing apples to oranges.

He then proceeds to yet another irrelevant point.  “If GOP opposition were principled rather than political, the mandate’s alleged constitutional defect could be easily fixed.”  In other words, if the Republicans were willing to overlook the absence of any explicit constitutional authority for the federal government to take care of its citizens’ health, they too could be received into the Church of the All Powerful State.  He cites approvingly the George W. Bush-inspired expansion of Medicare’s (unfunded) prescription drug coverage as evidence of the GOP’s alleged constitutional hypocrisy.  Mr. Miller and company are always willing to forgive the penitant.

But, regardless, Obamacare does not include any of these nice constitutional evasions, so these observations are meaningless.

The next rhetorical trick is to equate Obamacare with Medicare, whose constitutionality “no one doubts,” and with which the Republicans are presumably loathe to tinker.  And so if the Republicans succeed in defeating Obamacare (by whatever means), “frustrated Americans will eventually say, ‘Just give us single-payer and be done with it.’”  (Or at least frustrated Americans happy with an ever-expanding nanny government.  This would not, you can be assured, include the Recovering Bureaucrat.)

Mr. Miller’s “logic” encapsulates the Left’s disdain for the American experiment with limited government and its origin in individual liberty.  The arguments are always about some notion of equity and fairness of outcomes, which emphatically are not the domain of American constitutional governance.  (And, of course, the Church’s notions of equity and fairness are the only correct ones.)  The Constitution promotes fairness and equity of the process of governance, because the outcomes are the property and responsibility of the citizenry individually.

This is also the mindlessness of the Occupiers “we are the 99%” sloganeering.  However income is distributed in American society lies outside the scope of government; we do not (yet) use political power to distribute income into some predetermined sets of percentiles.  To even begin to do so would require Leninist brutality and state terror, and even if successfully imposed would have the same outcomes as the Soviet Union: just a different configuration of the 1% and the 99%--only these 99% would be far poorer than the people the Occupiers fancy themselves representing.

A larger irony looms over the narrow vision of the adherents of the Church of the All Powerful State.  They simply cannot foresee the improvements in the political economy that investments in research, development, and innovation inevitably bring as solutions to any given set of problems.  While Mr. Miller attacks the Republicans as heartless Snidely Whiplashes lusting to turn widows and orphans out into a winter night's blizzard, he himself defends a system that he cannot see will be made unnecessary by the discoveries of biotechnology.

This will be made possible because of America’s entrepreneurs, not because of government.  (And don’t bore the RB with arguments about “government investments in R & D” through NIH or the military.  Those are all bought and paid for by the taxpayers.)  And because, as Ray Kurzweil has demonstrated in The Singularity Is Near, the rate of technological change is accelerating exponentially, it is folly to appropriate billions of taxpayer dollars for a multi-year program based on shaky premises, regardless of its constitutionality.

If the members of the Church of the All Powerful State truly cared about the hapless citizens of this country—rather than gaining political power for their Washington-New York liberal establishment—they would do everything they could to pave the way for the inventors and distributors of new discoveries and technologies to bring them to market as soon as possible.

But that would mean giving up their disdain for the constitutional limitations on government, and becoming willing to suffer the chaos of a society of free peoples engaging in the business of pursuing happiness in millions of ways.  But this boisterous, inventive, and unequal society was precisely what the Founding Fathers were determined to foster with their bold experiment in self-governance.

The world is obviously careening towards a crisis point.  The central issue is whether human beings can be trusted to pursue our own happiness with a minimum of governmental tyranny or, because the market place of our individual decisions creates uncertainty, chaos, and inequalities, human beings need to be disciplined and restrained by some superior intelligence.

The trap in leftist “thought” is that the “superior intelligence” they want to run things comes from the same humanity they think cannot be trusted to make fundamental decisions.  It’s time for those of us who trust our founding principles to vigorously reapply them to our own governance.

No comments:

Post a Comment