Thursday, April 8, 2010

Ol' Mark

Ah, Mark Steyn. This whole health care evilness has really got him down. Still, we ignore him at our peril, I think. From a recent column (please do yourself the favor of reading the whole thing):

Is America set for decline? It’s been a grand run. The country’s been the leading economic power since it overtook Britain in the 1880s. That’s impressive. Nevertheless, over the course of that century and a quarter, Detroit went from the world’s industrial powerhouse to an urban wasteland, and the once-golden state of California atrophied into a land of government run by the government for the government. What happens when the policies that brought ruin to Detroit and sclerosis to California become the basis for the nation at large? Strictly on the numbers, the United States is in the express lane to Declinistan: unsustainable entitlements, the remorseless governmentalization of the economy and individual liberty, and a centralization of power that will cripple a nation of this size. Decline is the way to bet. But what will ensure it is if the American people accept decline as a price worth paying for European social democracy.

Is that so hard to imagine? Every time I retail the latest indignity imposed upon the “citizen” by some or other Continental apparatchik, I receive e-mails from the heartland pointing out, with much reference to the Second Amendment, that it couldn’t happen here because Americans aren’t Euro-weenies. But nor were Euro-weenies once upon a time. Hayek’s greatest insight in The Road to Serfdom is psychological: “There is one aspect of the change in moral values brought about by the advance of collectivism which at the present time provides special food for thought,” he wrote with an immigrant’s eye on the Britain of 1944. “It is that the virtues which are held less and less in esteem and which consequently become rarer are precisely those on which the British people justly prided themselves and in which they were generally agreed to excel. The virtues possessed by Anglo-Saxons in a higher degree than most other people, excepting only a few of the smaller nations, like the Swiss and the Dutch, were independence and self-reliance, individual initiative and local responsibility, the successful reliance on voluntary activity, noninterference with one’s neighbor and tolerance of the different and queer, respect for custom and tradition, and a healthy suspicion of power and authority.” Two-thirds of a century on, almost every item on the list has been abandoned, from “independence and self-reliance” (40 percent of people receive state handouts) to “a healthy suspicion of power and authority” — the reflex response now to almost any passing inconvenience is to demand the government “do something,” the cost to individual liberty be damned. 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. Look at what the Great Society did to the black family and imagine it applied to the general population: That’s what happened in Britain.

As he ends the piece he writes:

But, as Charles Krauthammer said recently, “decline is a choice.” The Democrats are offering it to the American people, and a certain proportion of them seem minded to accept. Enough to make decline inevitable?

My observation about all of this is that we have to decide whether we are selfish or not. Do we (and when I say "we," I am talking about the adults of my generation) want to sit back, do nothing, and force our children and their children to pay for our profligacy? Americans have never been content to do that before and I am forcing myself to believe that we are not at that stage yet. Sure, plenty are--when just under half the population pays no federal income tax you know that something is amiss in the self-reliance department--but aren't there enough of us left who believe in the implicit value of hard work? I think there are. I pray there are.

More later...

1 comment:

  1. Have you paid off any of the debt left to you by past generations? Why then, do you think we will either? There is not even an attempt being made to pay off the national debt. It's something that I'm confident will never happen.

    The problems to talk about are the failing health system we'll be left with--even the NY Times is talking about death panels now!

    The tremendous tax burden, etc.

    Debt is not something we will worry about, it is a problem of the perpetually "next" generation.