Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Resisting Statism

Tibor R. Machan

 A recent exchange between Michael Moore, the filmmaker, and Sean Hannity, the increasingly famous commentator at Fox TV-News, went surprisingly well, considering how both men are widely seen as unrestrained hotheads.  Instead of badmouthing each other, this time they actually debated a few important points—at least gave it a try, although without complete success since both insisted on interrupting the other no matter how he pleaded to be heard out.

Nonetheless, some points came across from both, which is probably more than what happens in similar circumstances (ever since Crossfire ruined the art of TV conversation).  One particularly important point that came up and is worth exploring occurred when Hannity tried to make the case for restricting the scope the federal government, especially as regards the current efforts of Obama & Co., to practically nationalize the health care/insurance industry. (By the way, “nationalization” as National Socialism has taught us, doesn’t have to involve actually taking over and running an industry.  It can simply involve making various industries subject to extensive government direction, regulation,regimentation, supervision or, as some would say, nudging!) 

In reply to Hannity’s expression of concern about this prospect, Mr. Moore gave the perfect answer: We already have the US Postal Service, AMTRAK, all the national and state highways, public schools—including colleges and universities—and a myriad other state run endeavors—Moore actually included the military—throughout the country.  So, the implication came across clearly, surely you cannot make any kind of principled objection to doing the same with healthcare/insurance?  Especially when you already have Medicare and have had it for decades without it being seriously challenged by Republicans, the only opponents or critics of Obama’ plan who are worth considering in the eyes of someone like Michael Moore and even Hannity.

Moore is right, of course.  To object consistently now to what Obama & Co. are embarking upon it would have been necessary for the opponents to protest most of the statist measures Moore rattled off.  Why do the Republicans accept so complacently that the federal government runs a postal service? Moore mentioned that this is a vital service that benefits the poor and so it is fully justified. Actually, of course, by that account the federal government should nationalize the shoe industry and hundreds of others that clearly provide goods and services to poor folks.  All of agriculture would have to be removed from the free or semi-free marketplace.  Grocery stores everywhere would also have to become state enterprises.  Poverty isn’t decisive and freedom is better for it, anyway,that is statism.

The point is that Hannity and his anti-Obama pals just have no leg to stand on when it comes to objecting to the state taking over any portion of the society, having completely acclimated themselves to public institutions galore.  What about parks, forests,lakes, oceans, highways, streets, museums, theaters, and on and on,endlessly?  What basis is there for the highly selective, even arbitrary opposition to the government’s takeover of the society?  Only newspapers and churches are provided with a reasonably solid protection against this trend, and only so long as the U. S. Supreme Court escapes being packed by someone like the president who appears to believe that everything is the province of the state,just as it used to be under monarchies of the past and in certain places around the globe globe today.

Of course, the American Founders had a much better,principled, consistent answer to Mr. Moore and all the others who believe that the feds and other governments really should be running everything.  As they put it in the Declaration of Independence, governments are instituted so as to secure the rights of the citizenry, and that’s it.  Today a few legal theorists, like Randy Barnett at Georgetown University’s law school,and most hard-nosed—or as Harvard University’s Amartya Sen calls them, “no-nonsense libertarians”—are in the position to argue against Obama & Co.’s runaway statism, along with the more incremental sort that’s been around for decades if not centuries.  After all, the all-powerful state cannot be dismantled in one fell swoop, so despite the Founders’ efforts,America is still hostage to its statist past, not to mention to all those who never found much wrong with statism from the outset (e.g., Alexander Hamilton).

What Mr. Hannity has to learn is to bite the bullet and fess up to the insight that human liberty is indivisible.  Unless this is realized, the statists are always going be able to have the logical upper hand.

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