In view of SCotUS’s decision that the only cure for Obamacare is through the political process (that is, repeal in one form or other), I bring you a bit from Sam Karnick, editor of The American Culture, where I pop up from time to time.
As I have expressed consistently over the years, my belief is that individual liberty and personal responsibility are right, and that no amount of utilitarian concerns can ever change that. For a group of people to gang up on others in order to force them to provide presumed benefits for still-other people is to me an abomination. And that, in sum, is what governments tend to do, in the name of democracy. And when they do so, they are fundamentally illegitimate and tyrannical, regardless of whether one thinks the policies will do some good.
I wish I could somehow wave a magic wand and get conservatives to drop the “personal responsibility” rhetoric and focus exclusively on the issue of liberty.
At this point, there are hundreds and thousands of people who have literally gotten rich off Big Government — as administrators of programs, as beneficiaries of boondoggles, etc., etc. Are we going to take those people’s money away? If not, doesn’t the rhetoric of “personal responsibility” ring a little hollow? There are millions of people who are turned off by conservatism because what they perceive in it is a kind of hypocrisy, wherein the reality of an increasingly unequal and *unfair* society is denied or ignored. These people suspect — I might even say *know* — that lots of their compatriots have done very well for themselves for reasons that have little to do with the exercise of “personal responsibility.” That would push people toward leftism at the best of times; the impulse in that direction becomes even stronger when conservatives seem to talk as if the less fortunate just need to man up and stop expecting the political system that has enriched so many others to do anything for *them*.
Take healthcare. The Democrats have enacted a horrible system that will go a long way toward wrecking the country. Many Republicans, when asked how they would replace Obamacare, seem unable to evince much enthusiasm for anything but tort reform, as if everything that’s wrong with health care could be fixed if were harder to sue doctors. That’s not a very attractive message, politically, and I doubt the assumptions behind it have much purchase in reality. But if the Republicans could manage to come up with a more straightforwardly redistributionist plan that didn’t involve huge distortions of the market and massive new bureaucracy, my bet is that an overwhelming majority of Americans would want that instead of Obamacare. But conservatives are so viscerally anti-redistributionist that such a plan is unlikely to be forthcoming from the Right.
And what’s true of healthcare applies to lots of other issues as well. So many conservatives are so hostile to idea of taking from the rich to give to the poor that they permit the Left to win votes just by promising to let people have a few of the scraps that fall from their betters’ tables. The bureaucrats and cronies prosper, the middle class dissolves, the Constitution erodes, but conservatives bemoan the excesses of democracy instead of revising their own tactics, let alone their own world-view,
I’m sorry to go on at such length, and to say things that are so unwelcome to so many on the Right. But I think we’ve come to a pass where conservatives need to hear that the Left is winning in part because they’re acknowledging real problems of inequality that conservative rhetoric about “personal responsibility” is totally inadequate to addressing.
Some kid – the dad was a cad, and the mom let things take their course, and now the dad’s in the slammer and the mom is a barely if at all minimum wage quality worker. I want that kid to have some plausible way to make a life for herself. That includes dental care, so she is not one of the greeters at Wal-Mart who is missing a bunch of visible teeth, or a kid who dies because her abcesses go into her brain. Incompetent parents are not her fault.
Probly I am not so happy to be paying for orthodontia and nose jobs for this girl. Making her into Paris Hilton is not the public’s responsibility. I think this probably argues for a public provision of a not-swell health care (Sears useta say ‘good-better-best’. This would be ‘good’). Some way to put downward pressure on price would be good.
Dave — I actually worked at Sears when GBB was the terminology, and I think your answer is the most humane one. Pure libertarianism falters on the ground that some people actually are incapable of self-care (kids being the most obvious example, and the one you’ve selected).
The Victorians had the concept of “Less Eligibility”, which was along the lines of “It beats a snowball” — a necessary minimum, but no more, on the grounds that this was incentive to improve one’s lot in life. While this, like anything, was open to abuse from both administrator and client sides, I think it may be a concept worth revisiting.
I believe, however, that such a move would be met with shrieks of horror by the folks who see inequality of outcome as an absolute evil. Then again, most moves are. Again, thanks for your humane comment.
This makes perfect sense, but I think the provision of “good” may be trickier than it appears. In practice, if the government decides which costs are covered and which aren’t, then you have to have a lot of political fights (should abortion be subsidized? contraception?), you have to pass a lot of complicated laws, you have to hire more state officials….
Why not just redistribute income, i.e., tax the rich and mail checks to the needy? We’re going to do it anyway. The only question is whether a class of bureaucrats, lawyers, and politicos are going to get rich and powerful in the process. If conservatives are going to preserve the liberty of Americans (and who else will?), I think we need to work for ways to redistribute wealth while keeping government small.
Tory wet, dassme
Dang, I’ve missed Alpheus’s presence in the blog world. Just sayin’.
Thanks, Jeff. I’m still *reading* (your blog as well as this one, regularly), even if I’m not writing very much. Partly it’s being busy, partly I just don’t have that much new to say.