From Mark Steyn:
In recent years, speaking to audiences hither and yon, I’m wont to say something on the lines of “The lamps are going out on liberty all over the world.” It’s my update on a famous observation by Edward Grey, British Foreign Secretary, on the eve of the Great War. In August 1914, Sir Edward stood at his window in the summer dusk, and said, “The lamps are going out all over Europe.” He was speaking metaphorically. After all, his remark was prompted by the sight of London’s lamplighters going about their evening routine lighting the lamps in Whitehall. Metaphorically speaking, the lights of liberty were certainly dimmed by Roberts’ hideously convoluted Supreme Court decision: I don’t see why I should be fined $695 for declining to participate in an overpriced and dysfunctional “insurance” “market.”
But that’s a philosophical argument, and most folks just want to get on with their lives. And in that sense last week’s power outages are more relevant to where the U.S. is headed than what passes for John Roberts’ thinking in his Obamacare opinion. It was a reminder, as if you needed one, that in the American twilight the lights will be going out, literally. Last week, as the East Coast was fading to black, the West Coast was sinking deeper into the red: Stockton, California, became the largest U.S. city to date to file for bankruptcy. America is seizing up before our eyes, and the action necessary to reverse the sclerosis is stymied at every turn by rapacious unions, government micro-regulators, dependency-spreading social engineers and crony capitalists who know how to weave their way through the bureaucracy.
Insofar as it works at all, Big Government works best in small, highly developed, northern Continental nation states with a sufficiently homogeneous population to have sufficiently common interests. You can get by with it for a while in Mediterranean Europe, mainly because of a somewhat desultory attitude to the rule of law: in Italy and Greece, there are prohibitions against everything, but nobody obeys them and so, after a fashion, life goes on. Anglophone nations are generally disposed to abide by the law, and so, if there are a bazillion regulations, the average citizen will make a sincere effort to comply. But if you’re, say, Australia and you’re attempting to design a health care system for 20 million people across an entire continent, it’s just about doable.
But no advanced society has ever attempted Big Government for a third of a billion people – for the simple reason that it cannot be done without creating a nation with the black-hole finances of Stockton, California, and the Black-Hole-of-Calcutta fetid, airless, sweatbox utility services of Rockville, Maryland. Thanks to Obamacare, in matters of health provision, whether you’re in favor of socialized medicine or truly private health care, Swedes and Italians are now freer than Americans: They have a state system and a private system, and both are relatively simple. What’s simple in micro-regulated America? In health care, we now have what’s nominally a private system encrusted with so many statist barnacles that it no longer functions as either a private or state system. Thus, Obamacare embodies the strange no-man’s-land of statism American-style: The U.S. is no longer a land of republican virtue and self-reliant citizens but it’s not headed for the sunlit uplands of Scandinavia, either.
And this memorable line from the Steyn:
A large Sweden is a contradiction in terms. It cannot be done, and the more determinedly you try to do it, the more you will preside over a ruined wasteland. The road to hell isn’t paved at all, and the street lamps went out long ago.
From American Thinker in a similar vein:
Simply put, the conservatives’ message inhibits their messaging. Liberals love to preach because preaching is all about control. And like munching on comfort food rather than nutritious high fiber, it is so much easier to listen to sweet nothings about fairness and equality from the left than to swallow the hard-edged but apologetic admonitions about individual responsibility from the right.
Yes, it is slipping away. The final resting place for this most disagreeable journey will be the fate of all collectivist societies — poverty and squalor. Friederick Hayek best expressed these futures in “The Road to Serfdom.” But why study and work hard to avoid Hayek’s bleak vision when it’s easier to be dependent on the welfare state, all financed by someone else’s largesse? Until the money runs out, of course, which it always does.
The fate of our Republic is in the hands of either our current crop of feckless legislators — the likes of John Boehner and Mitch McConnell — or those voters, beleaguered taxpayers, slowly being crushed by the burdens of a collectivist state, sensing that this may the last stand for limited government but who are now outnumbered by the Democrats’ dependent class.