Friday, October 09, 2009

The Desperate Defense of Obamacare

Tibor R. Machan

The political arena has abandoned all civility, it seems. It was coming our way once folks like Ralph Nader and Michael Moore got to be big wigs, speaking up in support of populism and a massive federal government.

The American citizenry tends to be middle of the road, championing a mixed economy but resisting either extensive statism or full freedom from coercive government. Most people seem to want the chance to get government to do their special bidding, so they will not sign up to restrain its powers completely. Neither, however, will they grant the government all the powers its most avid advocates would like. I have in mind the likes of Chuck Shumer and Henry Waxman among the Democrat politicians and some of the Republicans who border on authoritarianism.

But these days if you opposed government health care, you are a right-wing lunatic, a wild person or barbarian so there is use trying to argue with those who are committed to socialize the American medical system. They have dismissed all serious skeptics. The train must not be stopped as it is hurling toward full government involvement in all areas of society, at every level. This may not be objected to without getting those who love it to call you names and flatly ignore your concerns. Only compromisers will get some attention since they don't question the policies at their foundations.

I am a regular reader of the center left magazine The New Republic and even it is having a hard time remaining somewhat civil about opponents of President Obama's mission. In a recent issue the editors jump on board with those who have declare Americans who fervently oppose Obama's health care and insurance plans as racists of some kind. The writers said they don't much worry about this racism but insisted that it was that, not bona fide political disagreement about the direction the federal government is taking under this president. And The New York Review of Books, which I also read regularly, has rolled out Elizabeth Drew who tries to tarnish everyone who doesn't genuflect at the altar of medical statism.

Some in this administration are really quite un-American, seriously! I have in mind, among others, Obama's regulatory czar, Professor Cass Sunstein, who believes that (a) government is the source of our rights and (b) government should grant animals rights of the sort human beings have.

This is no small matter. After all, what is distinctive about the American political tradition is what it says in the Declaration of Independence, namely, that the rights everyone has, every human being, are ours by virtue of the fact that we are human beings. All of us except the hopelessly incapacitated have these rights, yet Professor Sunstein and his boss, we may assume, think that governments, in the fashion of monarchs of days gone by, hand out rights, meaning, grant privileges or permissions. (I always cringe when people say "Government allows us to...." because government as the American Founders and their teachers knew haven't any magical powers to allow anyone anything.) Government doesn't stand to us, the citizenry, as parents and nannies stand to children. Government is a group of hired administrators, not czars, kings or Caesars.

So when this president eagerly endorses the views of people such as Sunstein as he is charging ahead with transforming the country into something it had vehemently gotten away from when it was founded, opposition should be expected. And some of it will be loud, even a bit unruly.

Instead, however, of laying out a set of reasons for why this change ought to be undertaken and communicating them to us all, the critics are being denigrated, dismissed, and besmirched as right-wingers (which is a term that by rights should apply to people like Mussolini, Hitler and perhaps Peron, not to the likes of George Will and Dick Army). I am certainly no right-winger myself, having had a solid taste of Nazism in my early life. Nazism, by the way, refers to a German political party that worked to establish national socialism, not a system of private health care that's averse to collectivizing medicine.

But perhaps the hysterical attitude toward all who question Mr. Obama's rush to massive statism carries an implicitly hopeful message. The ideas behind this march are bankrupt so its champions will not talk them up. Instead they have to demonize those who are skeptical.

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