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Obama's Wasted Year Irving Kristol and the Future of Conservatism

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Why Democrats Want Single Payer

by Christopher Chantrill
September 17, 2009 at 11:57 am


MANY CONSERVATIVES may not understand the logic of President Obama’s preference for the “public option” that leads to “single payer” government health care for all.

So let me tell you about some Democratic neighbors of mine. They are a fiftyish childless couple. He works as a contract technical writer. She’s overweight, doesn’t work, and already rides an electric buggy down the aisles when shopping at the supermarket. Bad joints, you see. When you talk to her, you quickly discover that she experiences the world as a victim.

Let us call these folks “slacker liberals.” They aren’t the only ones. There was that couple that hit the news back in 2007 that could afford private school tuition and late-model cars, but could not afford health insurance. So they enrolled their kids in S-CHIP.

We are not talking here about people that belong in the true Dependency Class, people whose whole lives are defined by government benefits. We are not talking about people who have lost their homes through no fault of their own. We are just talking about people that don’t want to pull their weight, and have rationalized their way into justifying it.

We should not be too hard on the slacker liberals. They didn’t come up with this stuff on their own. They are just picking up cues from elite liberal opinion.

Our elite liberal culture, led by what I call the “progressive educated elite,” has two main currents. There is the rational enlightenment stream, that has given us the rational administrative state with variants from the revolutionary to the merely bossy. These folk believe that you can organize a just society with democracy and a rational, enlightened legislating elite. The other stream is Romanticism. Born as a reaction to the excessive rationalism of the Enlightenment, the Romantics emphasized the importance of feeling and instinct rather than reason. Victor Hugo told it like it is: “Tear down theory, poetic systems… No more rules, no more models… Genius conjures up rather than learns…” This attitude leads directly to the full-blown German Cult of Creativity and its ideal type, the Creative Artist.

The problem faced by the creative artist is that art does not pay. Art is, after all, the personal vision of an artist, which may be genius, or probably is not. In either case, other people may not choose to pay money for the artist’s creative vision, as they do to people that actually make stuff they want.

If our artist doesn’t make art that people want, it is not hard for him to be persuaded that they ought to want it, or at the very least, they ought to support him while he “follows his bliss.”

As you work your way down the food chain, you get to the slacker liberal who isn’t a creative anything, doesn’t really follow his bliss, but still buys into the support concept.

For slacker liberals like my neighbors that exhibit less than heroic work effort and that have already passed the point in their lives where chronic disease has become an organizing principle, government health care makes complete sense. After all, if you can’t work because of your joint pain, and you can’t exercise because of your disability, then you have to think seriously about who is going to pay for the serious expense of your chronic disease. If you are that kind of person, then President Obama’s relaunched “Stability & Security for All Americans” and its laminated talking-points cards make a lot of sense.

Of course anyone can promise stability and security to all Americans in health care. The question is: would you want the government to do it, or would you want the private sector to do it? Do you want to put the monkey on the back of American individuals and families, creating a world that rewards their hard work with affordable health care? Or do you want to rely on the federal government to deliver health care through rational policy analysis and government benefit programs?

Conservatives believe that when government makes promises about providing stability and security through government programs you get, if you are lucky, something like public education in which the nation’s children get less and less education each year for more and more cost and poor children get totally shafted. If you aren’t lucky you get something rather like the Fannie/Freddie system of affordable housing. You start by siccing ACORN activists on the bankers. You continue by gunning the credit system with subsidies to deliver on your promises. You end by hitting the wall when the whole plan blows up on you in a mortgage meltdown.

It’s hard to blame the slacker liberals that vote for other people to pay for their health care. It makes practical sense for them to use the political system to get money to pay the bills for their chronic health conditions. But for the rest of us, the folks that expect to pay for our own health care, there’s got to be a better way.

Christopher Chantrill blogs at www.roadtothemiddleclass.com.

Buy his Road to the Middle Class.

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Responsible Self

[The Axial Age] highlights the conception of a responsible self... [that] promise[s] man for the first time that he can understand the fundamental structure of reality and through salvation participate actively in it.
Robert N Bellah, "Religious Evolution", American Sociological Review, Vol. 29, No. 3.

Taking Responsibility

[To make] of each individual member of the army a soldier who, in character, capability, and knowledge, is self-reliant, self-confident, dedicated, and joyful in taking responsibility [verantwortungsfreudig] as a man and a soldier. — Gen. Hans von Seeckt
MacGregor Knox, Williamson Murray, ed., The dynamics of military revolution, 1300-2050

Civil Society

“Civil Society”—a complex welter of intermediate institutions, including businesses, voluntary associations, educational institutions, clubs, unions, media, charities, and churches—builds, in turn, on the family, the primary instrument by which people are socialized into their culture and given the skills that allow them to live in broader society and through which the values and knowledge of that society are transmitted across the generations.
Francis Fukuyama, Trust

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Liberal Coercion

[T]he Liberal, and still more the subspecies Radical... more than any other in these latter days seems under the impression that so long as he has a good end in view he is warranted in exercising over men all the coercion he is able[.]
Herbert Spencer, The Man Versus the State

Moral Imperatives of Modern Culture

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Charles Taylor, Sources of the Self

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Society and State

For [the left] there is only the state and the individual, nothing in between. No family to rely on, no friend to depend on, no community to call on. No neighbourhood to grow in, no faith to share in, no charities to work in. No-one but the Minister, nowhere but Whitehall, no such thing as society - just them, and their laws, and their rules, and their arrogance.
David Cameron, Conference Speech 2008

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Pope Benedict XVI, Speech to European Peoples Party, 2006

Never Trust Experts

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Conservatism's Holy Grail

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presented by Christopher Chantrill

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