Saturday, August 1, 2009

Steyn Reads Shaving Leviathan?

Apparently Mark Steyn, always one of the better conservative columnists, is now embracing an idea I've been arguing in blog comment sections for more than two years now. (I don't claim it's original, though.)
[H]ealth care is the fastest way to a permanent left-of-center political culture. That's its attraction for an ambitious president: It redefines the relationship between the citizen and the state in a way that hands all the advantages to statists – to those who believe government has a legitimate right to regulate human affairs in every particular.

That's not why it's tanking in the polls, of course. It's floundering because Obama sold it initially on the basis of "controlling costs," and then the Congressional Budget Office let the cat out of the bag and pointed out that, au contraire, it would cost $1.6 trillion, and therefore either add to an unsustainable deficit, or require massive tax increases, or (more likely) both.

All of which is true. But to object to the governmentalization of health care on that basis implicitly concedes the argument that, if we could figure out a way to bring the price down, it would be fine and dandy.

Right now, there are a lot of wonkish and utilitarian objections to what the Democrats want to do, and they're gaining traction. In The American Spectator, Brandon Crocker points out that this is exactly the way things went over Hillarycare in 1993: Americans took against the plan on practical grounds but not against the underlying principle.

"Since we did not win that philosophical argument in 1993," Mr. Crocker writes, "we now have to fight the same battle today." And, if we win on utilitarian grounds today, we'll have to fight it again in 10 years, five years, maybe less – until something passes, and then everything changes, forever: As the IRA famously taunted Margaret Thatcher, we only have to get lucky once; you have to be lucky every day. [emphasis added.]
Or, as I've been putting it for some time: It's not about the money; it's about freedom. So it is with Cap-and-Control, TARP, the auto bailout, and every other Federal intervention for the past year century.

Arguing the details is always helpful. It undermines the opposition. But at the same time, it's essential to argue the underlying moral case. It's the only way to permanent victory, the only way that Progressives can be permanently denied a seat at the table of public debate, as they should be.

You can't just kill the enemy, you have to remove their means of doing battle by interdicting their supply lines and conquering their will to fight. In this case, that means removing any and all public support for Progressive ideology, ethics most of all. Do that, and the Feds will retreat to the small sphere to which they belong. Then, mirabile dictu, they might actually become once again an ally in the protection of individual rights, rather than their chief contemporary violator.

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