Wednesday, January 10, 2007

What Makes Arnold Tick

Tibor R. Machan

Several years ago Arnold Schwarzenegger seemed to have embraced the libertarian thinking of the late Milton Friedman. He even contributed some work to Friedman’s famous TV program, Free To Choose, although I cannot recall exactly what that amounted to—an introduction to the DVD version or something.

I never had much hope for Arnie even back then because he never came right out and gave any clear statement of his political thinking. Moreover, although I am weary of reading people from afar, there were signs afoot suggesting that what Arnold Schwarzenegger is most interested in is being liked! Take, for example, the name he gave his famous restaurant in Santa Monica, “Schatzi.” In German it means “little treasure” and is used mainly as a term of endearment toward someone one likes very much—“Mein Schatzi” or “My little treasure.”

When someone is a political powerhouse but there is no real clue to what principles guide his or her conduct, it is difficult to tell what policies he or she is likely to support and oppose. That is when one is tempted to look to other factors to understand and explain the person, and this seems to be called for in the case of the current California governor. No one has a clue as to what he believes, what general ideas he adheres to, what his overall vision is. So then perhaps gaining a clue from his favorite German term is fair game.

But there is more. Consider that his massive spending plan, including the out and out socialist idea of universal health insurance to be paid for by the government, does not call for any rise in taxes. Instead he wants to pay for it by way of floating bonds, which is to say transferring the cost to members of future generations. What is noteworthy about this is that those members do not vote, they aren’t even alive yet, so they aren’t going to be angry at the gov much. And the current citizens of California will be able to continue the status of recipients of apparently free goods, delivered to them by their little treasure. He will, it seems, continue to be liked since the burden of his ill founded ideas will fall on people he will not have to face.

There used to be a famous slogan about taxation—there should be none without representation. Not quite what I would defend but better than how taxes were dealt with in the feudal past—more democratic, which is some progress. But now, as logic would suggest, politicians have become so habituated to promising and trying to deliver "free" goods they need not account for that they are willing to abandon the idea completely. Instead, "Let’s just charge it, so the voters will not have to experience the cost of their benefits."

I, as did the governor, came to America as a refugee, only not from Austria but communist Hungary where health care was provided to all—in dreadful shape, of course, as anything that costs nothing much must be. It was also peddled with the sentimentalist notion that everyone is owed it, which is a crock. Many people don’t want health insurance—I personally know quite a few such people. They’d rather save up for emergencies and do other things with money left over. And some simply haven’t managed to come to afford health insurance, just as they haven’t many other things they want and even need. None of this justifies having the likes of Arnold spread the cost on people who did make the needed effort to afford health insurance. And the idea that some are coerced to pay for the health care of others is criminal!

This dream of universal health insurance is no different from a dream of, say, universal fine dining or splendid vacationing or exquisite leather shoes. Health care workers need to be paid and the money doesn’t grow on trees, so if those who receive the benefits will not pay, someone else must either voluntarily help out or be made to do so. The last is exactly as the communist viewed the situation.

Maybe we ought to get a governor who really opposes tyranny, no matter what the excuse.

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