Monday, March 8, 2010

Mark Steyn on ObamaCare

One of the harder things about being a liberal in good standing is having to pretend that you don’t enjoy reading Mark Steyn. With a little enhanced interrogation, you could probably find liberal writers who’d sell their soul to write as well as he does. But it would take more than waterboarding to get any straight-laced liberal to excuse what Steyn says just because he’s so good at saying it. He takes far too much pleasure in saying things that don’t belong in polite liberal conversation for that.

All of that is a little strange in light of the strikingly similar way that Steyn and “pass-the-damn-healthcare-bill” liberals understand the way the political world works in general, and how healthcare reform is likely to work in particular. Those liberals know perfectly well how unpopular ObamaCare currently is. They insist that liberal politicians should have the grit to pass it anyway because otherwise they'll squander a historic opportunity that may not come again for another generation. The theory is that, once they get used to it, Americans will grow to love ObamaCare as much as they now love Social Security and Medicare. What good are progressive politicians, these liberals ask, if they aren’t ready to stick their neck out in the name of progress when history calls?

When it comes to predicting the socio-psychological effect of ObamaCare’s enactment, Steyn couldn’t agree more. That puts him at odds with more complacent ideological comrades who believe that pushing “government-controlled” healthcare through in a reliably center-right country may well finish off liberalism as a governing ideology. Even if Democrats suffer a short-term electoral penalty by passing ObamaCare, Steyn warns, they’ll be laying the groundwork for political dominance in the long run by changing the relation between the people and the state:

“American exceptionalism would have to be awfully exceptional to suffer a similar expansion of government and not witness, in enough of the populace, the same descent into dependency and fatalism. As Europe demonstrates, a determined state can change the character of a people in the space of a generation or two.”
Liberals are inclined to believe that the winds of history are at their back.  They have a progressive reflex encoded in their ideological DNA that inclines them to presume that each generation is likely to be more enlightened, and therefore more liberal, than the last. Steyn’s conservatism is progressive liberalism’s mirror image; his reactionary reflex inclines him to presume that each generation will be more liberal, and therefore have less civic virtue, than the last. In this, it harks back to the pre-Reaganite conservatism of the 1950s, when people like William F. Buckley were determined to “stand athwart history, yelling Stop.”  They thought history was moving in the same direction as liberals did and that the best they could hope for was to slow it down a little.

Of course, what liberals celebrate as a democratic majority collectively taking control of its healthcare destiny, Steyn deplores as the descent of a free people into “dependency and fatalism.” That’s a big difference, maybe the biggest difference there is. But before liberals dismiss Steyn out of hand, they should remember that he’s one of the few remaining conservatives reacting to the same world that they are.


Ted S. said...

I've never met an American who "loves Social Security and Medicare".

I've met many, many Americans who have spent their lives being involuntarily charged for Social Security and Medicare and want their money back when the time comes.

But that's a long way from "love".

Anonymous said...

Well said Ted S.

Mr. Obama is an Alinskyite and an effete intellectual. One hopes that the coming Republican majority will finally find enough backbone to rescind whatever this oaf "accomplishes."

Jack Kint said...


There is no "democratic majority collectively taking control of its healthcare destiny." Instead, a Congressional majority of Democrats is about to impose a governmental takeover of health care in the face of lopsided public opposition. This reminds me of a quote from one Old Labour loon in the days before Tony Blair rehabilitated that party's image: "[n]o compromise with the electorate!"

And Steyn's long-term analysis is on the money. He is right about most things.

See you in court,

Jack Kint

Anonymous said...

Congratulations on being Mark Steyn's reader of the day. I've scanned your blog, and while we are on opposite sides of the ideological divide, you come across as a very reasonable, intelligent and thoughtful person. Would that there were more like you in the Democrat Party--the country would be better for it.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Replogle, have you not noticed that you keep very bad company in today's misnamed "liberals" who are liberal only with morals and other people's money but positively fascistic in their desire to control everyone? To this end they support blatant corruption like global warming junk science and an unseemly rush to pass a dog's breakfast on the health care file, anything will do as long as it advances state control over fellow citizens' lives.

What does loving unsustainable entitlements like Medicare and Social Security and wanting to load on more say about the cognitive capacity of the lover?

You seem too intelligent for the above crowd as your mind is open a crack toward good argument like Steyn's. Leave the dark side and come further into the light. Thomas Sowell is another writer who leaves a worthwhile trail of bread crumbs to follow out of the thickets of leftist incoherency. The Fall of the Roman Empire brought about by the no limit progressives of their day is also food for thought.

Karl Hungus said...

Congrats, Ron on being the only honest liberal on the web who can tie his own shoes. Put this honesty with your high IQ and I give you about two more years of reading Steyn and you, too will be voting for the lovely and talented (and total piece of ass) Sarah in 2012!!

Richard C. Lambert said...

The Fall of the Roman Empire brought about by the no limit progressives of their day is also food for thought. when can i sign up for obamacare