Only Mark Steyn could describe how creeping socialism has enervated peoples throughout the Anglosphere by citing perhaps the greatest Python sketch ever, and follow it with a new insight: even those who have tried state-controlled health care have never tried a one-size-fits-all across a continent of 300 million people.
Disexceptionalizing America [Mark Steyn]
…American exceptionalism would have to be awfully exceptional to suffer a similar expansion of government and not witness, in enough of the populace, the same descent into dependency and fatalism. As Europe demonstrates, a determined state can change the character of a people in the space of a generation or two.
And not just Europe. John O’Sullivan once suggested the entire post-war history of Canada could be summed up in Monty Python’s “Lumberjack Song”: The eponymous lumberjack hymning the manly virtues of a rugged life “leaping from tree to tree.. down the mighty rivers of British Columbia” in the preamble has morphed by the third verse into a transvestite in high heels, suspenders and a bra. From Canada 1945 to Canada 2000 in nothing flat.
Or take Scotland. Most anywhere you go around the planet, from Hong Kong to Hudson’s Bay, almost everything that works was created and developed by Scotsmen. Now the whole joint’s a statist swamp where government spending accounts for 75 per cent of the economy and the menfolk idle away their days on a diet of drugs and fried Mars Bars with a life expectancy in the less salubrious parts of Glasgow getting down to West African standards. They’ll never make any contribution to the world again.
Second Amendment types insist the same thing could never happen here, but they underestimate the transformative power of government at their peril…
What the Dems are doing makes perfect sense. For them.
… Once the state swells to a certain size, the people available to fill the ever expanding number of government jobs will be statists — sometimes hard-core Marxist statists, sometimes social-engineering multiculti statists, sometimes fluffily “compassionate” statists, but always statists. The short history of the post-war welfare state is that you don’t need a president-for-life if you’ve got a bureaucracy-for-life: The people can elect “conservatives,” as the Germans have done and the British are about to do, and the Left is mostly relaxed about it because, in all but exceptional cases (Thatcher), they fulfill the same function in the system as the first-year boys at wintry English boarding schools who for tuppence-ha’penny or some such would agree to go and warm the seat in the unheated lavatories until the prefects strolled in and took their rightful place.
Republicans are good at keeping the seat warm. A bigtime GOP consultant was on TV crowing that Republicans wanted the Dems to pass Obamacare because it’s so unpopular it will guarantee a GOP sweep in November. Okay, then what? You’ll roll it back — like you’ve rolled back all those other unsustainable entitlements premised on cobwebbed actuarial tables from 80 years ago? Like you’ve undone the federal Department of Education and of Energy and all the other nickel ’n’ dime novelties of even a universally reviled one-term loser like Jimmy Carter? Andrew McCarthy concluded a shrewd analysis of the political realities thus: “Health care is a loser for the Left only if the Right has the steel to undo it. The Left is banking on an absence of steel. Why is that a bad bet?”
Indeed. Look at it from the Dems’ point of view. You pass Obamacare. You lose the 2010 election, which gives the GOP co-ownership of an awkward couple of years. And you come back in 2012 to find your health-care apparatus is still in place, a fetid behemoth of toxic pustules oozing all over the basement, and, simply through the natural processes of government, already bigger and more expensive and more bureaucratic than it was when you passed it two years earlier. That’s a huge prize, and well worth a mid-term timeout.
I’ve been bandying comparisons with Britain and France but that hardly begins to convey the scale of it. Obamacare represents the government annexation of “one-sixth of the U.S. economy” — i.e., the equivalent of the entire British or French economy, or the entire Indian economy twice over. Nobody has ever attempted this level of centralized planning for an advanced society of 300 million people. Even the control-freaks of the European Union have never tried to impose a unitary “comprehensive” health-care system from Galway to Greece. The Soviet Union did, of course, and we know how that worked out.
This “reform” is not about health care, and certainly not about “controlling costs.” As with Medicare, it “controls” costs by declining to acknowledge them, or pay them. Dr. William Schreiber of North Syracuse, N.Y., told CNN that he sees 120 patients per week — about 30 percent on Medicare, 65 percent on private insurance plans whose payments take into account the Medicare reimbursement rates, and about 5 percent who do it the old-fashioned way and write a check. He calculates that, under Obamacare, for every $5 he now makes, he’ll get $2 in the future. Which suggests now would be a good time to retrain as a Realtor or accountant, or the night clerk at the convenience store. Yet Rep. Louise Slaughter (Democrat, N.Y.) justifies her support for Obamacare this way: “I even had one constituent — you will not believe this, and I know you won’t, but it’s true — her sister died. This poor woman had no dentures. She wore her dead sister’s teeth.”
Is the problem of second-hand teeth a particular problem in this corner of New York? I haven’t noticed an epidemic of ill-fitting dentures on recent visits to the Empire State. George Washington had wooden teeth, but presumably these days the Sierra Club would object to the clear-cutting. Yet, even granting Congresswoman Slaughter the benefit of the doubt, is annexing the equivalent of a G7 economy the solution to what would seem to be the statistically unrepresentative problem of her constituent’s ill-fitting choppers? Is it worth reducing the next generation of Americans to indentured servitude to pay for this poor New Yorker’s dentured servitude?
Yes. Because government health care is not about health care, it’s about government. Once you look at it that way, what the Dems are doing makes perfect sense. For them.
How Exceptional? [Rich Lowry]
Britons carried guns as casually. and as widely, as Americans well into the 20th century. The story of the Sydney Street siege in London, 1911, is illuminating in that regard. There, the unarmed police, finding themselves under fire by radicals barricaded in a building, armed themselves by asking random passers-by for guns, and so armed themselves rapidly. Gun control began exactly as it did in America and followed the same trajectory, only earlier. Looking at the history of socialized medicine, it is striking how few years separated the NHS in Britain (1948), nationalized health insurance in Canada (1962-1966), and US Medicare (1965). The left fully expected to finish the job by the 70s. It’s only since America’s great U-turn in the late 70s, when we stopped Carter, that we started to pull away from our cousins. How and why we took that U-turn is part of the story of American exceptionalism within British exceptionalism.
It’s important to understand exceptionalism correctly. We are not immune to following the same path as other English-speaking countries; we just have a few more speed bumps in our road.