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Monday, March 22, 2010

The Silver Lining

The Wall Street Journal ran a timeline of the many efforts to socialize medicine in America starting with Roosevelt's introduction of the first compulsory health-insurance bill in 1935. The 1954 Revenue Act excluded employer contributions to health plans from taxable income, thus further creating incentives to employer based insurance. The efforts have continued in modern times with the 1993 effort by the Clinton's for universal coverage culminating in last night's passage of another major effort towards socialized medicine.

Each time, broad sweeping efforts were rejected, yet incremental steps were taken. This is because the moral premises justifying the legislation remained unchallenged. In fact, as each broad effort failed, it actually strengthened the cynical notion that this legislation was "the right thing to do" but that the "fat cats" or some other scape goat stood in the way of "social justice." In other words, the Democrats were losing the battles but winning the broader ideological war. And, as long as they held the moral high ground on socialized medicine, they were able to inch their way towards their ultimate goal.

Of course, each incremental step towards socialized medicine wreaked havoc in the health care marketplace. The exclusion of benefits from taxation along with state mandates on coverage encouraged employer provided insurance stimulating artificial demand, increasing costs, and all but destroying the market for individual policies. The 1965 Johnson medicare and medicaid entitlements, while not full socialized medicine, artificially increased demand for services and costs skyrocketed. All of these policies and many more led to disastrous consequences which in light of the moral premises of altruism, only strengthened the left's resolve that "something needs to be done", i.e., the government needs to redistribute more tax payer earnings, enforce more crippling regulations, cut back on reimbursements to doctors, etc.

Of course, every socialist plan must end in a cost explosion/rationing death spiral as both economic logic and history demonstrate. When the profit motive is removed or reduced, supply decreases, entitlement demand increases, prices increase, leading to government price controls, leading to even less profit, more shortages, repeat until dead. This does not matter to them. As Obama has stated, they believe "it is the right thing to do." Historically, the right has basically agreed with them, arguing only that "it costs too much" or must be done in some limited form. This is why we have crept slowly towards socialized medicine. Both sides share the same moral premises.

Once again, the left has fallen short of their ultimate goal of government run health care, but is there any doubt that this bill will effect the same outcome? Naturally, it will lead to higher prices, shortages, and misery thus urging the introduction of even more government control until finally, we will have full government run health care.

What is different this time?

This time, the left won the battle, but those who advocate individual rights and capitalism, may have begun to win the war. Instead of a nominal political defeat amid cynical, "idealistic" resignation, the left has won the political battle but has lost the American people's ideological imprimatur. America is pissed. All the polls show that a majority of Americans oppose this bill. People are taking to the streets, lambasting their congressmen at town hall meetings, crashing their email servers and organizing grass roots protests. Polls show overwhelmingly that the Democrats are poised to lose seats in the mid term elections and perhaps, control of the House itself. This effort by the Dem's has resulted in the formation of a grass roots movement of pro-freedom advocates for the first since, perhaps, the American Revolution. There is a palpable sense that the American welfare state is corrupt, its treasury broke, and its policies a political dead end. More importantly, there is the sense that something is morally wrong with this bill and this regime. People are openly rejecting the idea that they should pay for their neighbor's doctors bill. They are asserting their right to make their own decision with their money and their health. They are beginning to challenge the heretofore unchallengeable: the moral premises of socialized medicine and the welfare state in general.

I don't want to oversell this. Many on the right only rejected this bill because it funded abortions and many only seem to oppose it on the pragmatic grounds that it costs too much rather than on the basis of more fundamental principles. However, this kind of outpouring of anger and hostility at the political process could not be motivated only by fleeting pragmatic concerns. Only morality can ignite this scale of angst - the sense that this bill and this regime is evil.

Fundamental ideas are what motivated our Founding Fathers. They did not simply argue that the stamp tax be reduced by 2.8%. They rejected the idea of monarchy as such - they rejected the notion that they were to be treated as subjects and instead, asserted their unalienable right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

If I am right, this event could be the beginning of the end for the left, not only politically, but for welfare statism as a moral ideal, and that would mean for good. What the Tea Party movement lacks right now is a clear and consistent ideological foundation to positively and articulately assert the principle of individual rights and rational self-interest. If the Republicans win in November without the proper ideology, they will repeat the same mistakes that got us here in the first place.

The Tea Party desperately needs leadership. Everyone concerned with their life and their freedom should be directly involved with this movement. Write, speak, donate money, whatever you can do. Now is the time. The mid-term elections will be the first major battleground. In the immortal words of a man who gave his life fighting for justice: "Let's Roll."

[update: states are organizing to sue the federal government to challenge health care on constitutional grounds. Urge your state representatives to pursue this path.]


Unknown said...

Bravo! I share your sentiments. I still adhere to the belief that the war of ideas can still be won, and the public outrage will be a golden opportunity for ideological activism, only we'll have to suffer to some extent beforehand given the cultural inertia that's already been established.

HaynesBE said...

I am watching the third season of Dae Jung Geum. Jung Geum was tricked by her co-workers and became stuck in a village quarantined with plague. She was feeling abandoned and defeated--but the young man who is in love with her reminded her that she is just meeting and another obstacle that she must over come...the obstacle of people. I can't remember exactly what he said, but it was the ancient Korean equivalent of "Never give up. Get off your tush and get back fighting."

I needed that!

The Rat Cap said...

Let me quote Addison's Cato: A Tragedy, a play well known to the American colonists and quoted often by Washington (who faced a much more dire situation than us):

Act I, Scene 2: "'Tis not in mortals to command success; but we'll do more, Sempronius, we'll deserve it."

mtnrunner2 said...

>Many on the right only rejected this bill because it funded abortions

I find that to be so pathetic. Their support for capitalism and individual rights is similar to their focus on the unborn: potential, not actual. An entire industry is about to be put under a government jackboot and that's all they can object to!

That's what happens when you focus on things that are not of this world: you no longer care about the here and now.

Although the vote was depressing, I think that Obama is going to be the "high" point of liberalism. There will be a Republican backlash, but it will be short-lived because they have no moral backbone (see above). It may even swing back again towards the liberals in the following cycle. Liberalism has a slight moral advantage now, which makes up for its utter lack of practicality.

However, better ideas are getting out there, and it's going to become harder and harder for our opponents to take advantage of people's ignorance. Liberals (and some conservatives) still think Ayn Rand is just a simplistic crackpot who had nothing to say, therefore they're not really paying attention. They won't even know what hit them until it's too late.

I think the whole battle is going to come to a head as a public moral showdown between egoism and altruism (and the underlying battle for reason). At some point, altruists will realize what's at stake, and they will fight tooth and nail to smear egoism and paint it as evil.

But it's not going to work, because we know what's right, and unlike current conservatives, we're not going to back down. And that's when we'll really start to gain ground.