Our Entitled Descent Began Long Before Obamacare
By Bill Flax March 26, 2010
Many decry Obamacare as the death of our republic. Such esteemed thinkers as Thomas Sowell pronounced it a turning point in our dismantlement. Dr. Sowell is a hero and inspiration. With sincere respect, what turned?
Surely it can’t be the attitude of entitlement. It can’t be wealth redistribution achieved through confiscatory taxation. It’s not the overhaul of our Constitution from a protector of natural rights to an enforcer of positive rights. It wasn’t the hypocrisy of mimicking the Selma March complete with apparently false accusations of racial harassment. It can’t be that lobbyists from Big Business, unions and other power brokers authored much of it. Nor can it be the particularly egregious abuses of power embodied in the legislation’s passage.
These betrayals of the precious freedom bequeathed to us by our forbearers have been frequent. This culmination of progressive arrogance may be extreme, but it certainly isn’t unique. The Welfare State is not new. Neither is the Nanny State.
The proportion of families paying little or no income tax has been rising for decades while those receiving handouts, subsidies or working in the public sector has risen commensurately. Any hardship, any pain, any negative consequences will be mollified by the taxpayer no matter how irresponsible or negligent was the recipient.
Taxpayers already finance approximately half of all medical expenses. Even those at the lowest rungs of the economic ladder have long accessed advanced treatment regardless of their ability or willingness to pay. Economic dependency is their goal, not healthcare.
Sanctimonious progressives have always tried to equate passage of the entitlement du jour with Civil Rights. Paying unwed mothers for numerous illegitimate children sounds bad. Preying on the emotions of neurotic liberals with harrowing tales of healthcare denied sounds better.
The Constitution might as well be the doormat at the Capital Building’s entrance. Political intrigue is ubiquitous because man’s heart is deceitful. Politics attracts sleazy characters. What else would anyone expect when the rule of politicians trumps the rule of law? Precedents abound even if this usurpation of liberty was particularly brazen in its accomplishment and dire in its impact.
If the government can interfere with our hiring practices, our business practices, our associations and our property why shouldn’t they also dictate our purchasing habits? The whole pretense of legal positivism is that those in Washington know better than we how to live our lives. Why wouldn’t they mandate the purchase of insurance?
We didn’t elect “Change.” We elected “Acceleration.”
America was built on unalienable rights derived from God, not government’s arbitrary pleasure. Natural rights deem the only appropriate sphere of government is protecting our rights through the rule of law. The economic manifestation of this is free enterprise.
Positivism suggests that government’s legitimate purpose is guaranteeing certain outcomes, i.e. access to medical treatment. Government has no abilities or resources except what it extracts from its citizenry. It is absolutely incapable of enforcing positive rights for one without first abrogating another’s rights. These natural rights: life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness are incompatible with legal positivism. It is an impossible conclusion that both natural rights and unconstrained positive rights can coexist. Any powers yielded to government must be defined and limited by law.
Elitists in Washington have a long history of self-righteousness. Political demagogues then parlay this into gifting the property of others to their supporters. Legal positivism rests on shifting sand. It ascribes to government powers incompatible with freedom. The economic outgrowth of this is socialism. Capitalism ensures profits derive from meeting a customer’s needs. Socialism ensures political favoritism and corruption.
To say that we can have natural rights in certain aspects and positive rights elsewhere is also misleading. We opened Pandora’s Box long ago. We now have only Hope and maybe Nostalgia tucked back in. If any of our rights are subject to the interpretation or expediencies of politicians and their bureaucratic henchmen, then all of them are. Those rights retained by the people are no longer unalienable. The box lies open. Our remaining liberties are merely those which politicians have not yet absconded.
Everyone wants to find some happy middle-ground on the continuum between capitalism and socialism. As if somehow we can retain the material opulence generated by markets, but still enjoy the safety-nets and alleged fairness of the socialist, redistributive state. Unfortunately, the benefits of socialism prove illusory in practice and serve as a gremlin gumming up the capitalist engine.
Nor is it realistic that we can pick a happy medium. Once you hurl yourself off a cliff, gravity has a reliable way of ensuring your fall continues. Man is fallen. Power corrupts. Yielding expanded power to the sort of ambitious souls who venture into the political sphere supplies the gravitational pull. Health reform is but the latest example.
Sure, some will benefit by socialism and the markets will continue churning out higher standards of living for all, but this point in the continuum will expire quickly as our fall proceeds. Utopia proves fleeting because it denies the certainty that mankind is inherently selfish and reverses the imperative of impartial justice. There is nothing just or moral about government diktat.
Everyone’s ideal amalgamation of laissez-faire and central-planning differs. My feet are planted firmly above the cliff, making little allowance for government intrusion. For others, the ideal is some stop on the journey down, but the real choice is likely one of extremes. We can’t have our cake and eat it too. We can eat part of the socialist cake, but it tastes good. Something for nothing. Our fallen nature betrays us. Quickly we devour the rest just as yielding power to the state quickly transitions from beneficence to power to tyranny.
Obamacare merely reflects another milestone in our descent. Last weekend’s political machinations were only a turning point if they motivate Americans to defend their rights against government encroachment. We’ve been falling off this cliff for decades and will continue falling until we either re-establish the rule of law over the imminently corruptible rule of men or we hit bottom. The logical endpoint is totalitarian oppression.
Obamacare wasn’t a turning point, but let’s hope it triggers one.