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1/28/2009
IF GOVERNMENT MAKES LIFE EASIER, DOES THAT MAKE IT BETTER?
CATEGORY: Government, History

I am not a well read man - or, at least, not as well read as I should be. Nor do I claim any extraordinary intellectual gifts. I regularly fail the test of possesing a “well ordered mind” in that my insights at times lack depth and even coherence. I admit to emotionalism when logic and reason are called for. And I lack the discipline to rigorously examine concepts that do not generally conform to my own, narrow view of the world.

I guess that makes me human. And a blogger. “Humility is truth,” said my favorite philosopher Erasmus. Would that all of us take those words to heart and perhaps even etch them onto our monitors. “A man’s got to know his limitations,” said my favorite movie character Harry Callahan. That adage should be branded on our hearts to remind us that an examined life is a fulfilling life.

One can immediately see the connection between the 16th century Dutch humanist and Dirty Harry. If we give ourselves permission to not have all the answers, it liberates our minds from the slavery of formalism and allows us to freely explore ideas that we otherwise might reject out of hand or worse, adopt without question as dogma.

If, at times, it seems to some of my regular readers that my conservatism appears “inconsistent,” it is only because the principles upon which my political philosophy is based might be unchanging but the ideas that animate those principles are in a constant state of flux. For instance, I believe in the conservative principle of a just moral order being necessary for a society to thrive. But the idea of what constitutes a “just moral order” has changed for me - from one informed by a belief in a diety to one informed by a belief in the ultimate wisdom of man to manage his own affairs.

Does being an atheist make me any less of a conservative? Some would say yes, judging by the outcry over Obama including “non-believers” in his inuagural address. But I think I share most of the same basic principles of conservatism with conservatives of faith. The difference is in how we internalize those principles through our own, individual and unique life experiences and beliefs. There’s more than one way to skin a cat as there is more than one way of seeing the world through the prism of bedrock conservative principles - immutable and unchanging as those principles are.

I have taken some pains to explain my personal thoughts because the subject is so important. I don’t claim to have all the answers or have any better insight into the great issues of the day than anyone else. But to my mind, the question of whether we in the United States will be living an “easier life” in a European style welfare state were the poor and middle class are dependent on government for many things they could or should be doing for themselves or enjoying an “earned life” in a state that promotes individual responsibilty and self sufficiency will be answered in the next 4 to 8 years. And as it stands now, conservatives haven’t come up with a philosophical or political answer to the idea that whatever the people want from government, they should receive even if, as is many times the case, individual liberty is the price to be paid.

The transformation of American society from one that values liberty to one that embraces dependency has taken longer than any other western nation. This has largely been due to American conservatisms steadfast refusal to abandon what Kirk calls the “voluntary community” in favor of the stifling hand of collectivism. Where once only the poor felt the deadening hand of statism which created a permanent underclass, destroyed the family, and smother ambition, now the middle class is in line to be granted similar attention. Health care, education, even important life choices such as whether to open one’s own business or questions about child rearing are soon to be made at least partly matters of state and not wholly questions to be resolved by individuals and families.

Liberals do not like to discuss the loss of freedom their collectivist ideas entail. But we are clearly in an era where choices are to be limited for the middle class in order to make life less of a burden . And any society that limits choice, limits freedom.

But isn’t this what the people want, what they are demanding? How can you live in a democracy and tell people that government acting to make your life easier is wrong and that the alternative - struggling to make the right choices for yourself and your family and where not choosing wisely might cost you - is the preferred, indeed the “American” way of self sufficiency and taking responsibility for your own life?

There is nothing noble in suffering but I would posit the notion that independence is, in and of itself, enobling and in any society that values freedom, the slide into dependency cannot be allowed without a recognition of what we lose as well as what is gained. There are 400 years of struggle behind us to create a society where the individual took responsibility for his own well being and that of his family, his fortunes rising or falling based on his native abilities and talents. The reward was “an earned life” of personal satisfaction and a feeling of self worth and accomplishment that you simply cannot experience if you depend on government for as much as we do today. Or as much as we will in the near future if more of our freedoms are given up in the name of personal security and comfort.

What do we care how our ancestors lived? This is, after all, the 21st century and the need for a large government is self-evident. A nation of 300 million people have legitimate needs that no one except government can fill. We can’t walk out our door and shoot a deer to feed our families. Nor can we build a cabin to house them. And few of us have the skill necessary to make our own clothing. There’s no alternative to modern medicine if we get sick - a hugely expensive proposition as we all know. Beyond that, we must be protected from those who would abuse the freedoms they’ve been given to deliberately pollute the land and water, make dangerous products, place workers in unnecessarily hazardous conditions, and take untoward advantage in the marketplace.

On the one hand, we are presented with the abstract - the ideal as it were - of self sufficiency and independence while on the other the real world problems of living in an industrialized democracy. But recognizing the value of possessing as much independence as possible within that reality seems to me to be an unargued proposition. We don’t say “this far and no farther.” We don’t even think it. Government is a juggernaut with a life of its own, gathering momentum over the last half century like a snowball rolling down a hill, gathering speed and size, until it is impossible to control only get out of its way.

Does any of this matter? I believe it should. The issue is choice not the size of government. Restraining government growth would be nice but it is not necessary in order to restrain it from taking away our choices. I would say to my friends on the left that everything you wish to accomplish for the middle class and the rest of us that will unburden our lives and supposedly make them easier also involves a price that we pay in independence of action. And it disturbs me that I hear nothing about how that affects the manner in which liberty is diminished and we become that much farther removed from our roots as a people who valued freedom more than life itself.

By: Rick Moran at 1:42 pm
45 Responses to “IF GOVERNMENT MAKES LIFE EASIER, DOES THAT MAKE IT BETTER?”
  1. 1
    michael reynolds Said:
    2:16 pm 

    There are conservative trade-offs for liberty, too. In a world where a CEO can pay himself 50 million dollars while cutting 50 million dollar’s worth of jobs at his company and call it efficiency, where is the freedom for the working stiff? He didn’t make a bad choice. He didn’t do a bad job. He improved his productivity, but not enough to compensate for the CEO’s executive compensation. So now the worker who did all he was supposed to do loses health care and home. Nice freedom.

    It’s a pendulum, it swings both ways. Conservatives had it swinging their direction but they screwed the pooch with sheer, bloody-minded greed and irresponsibility. They used government to reward the greediest. They turned their ideology to the task of glorifying greed and belittling people who lack the talent for bankrupting billion dollar banks and corporations.

    At the same time so-called conservatives were abusing the taxpayer every bit as much as liberals.

    It was never going to be sustainable, this conservative class warfare that saw upper incomes skyrocket and lower incomes flatline. It may not fit within conservative ideology, but a certain moral sense on the part of the lucky and successful few, a sense of duty, a sense of owing something to their employees as well as to their rich investor friends, the concept of fairness, of simple decency, is required. Instead it’s been all Gordon Gecko. Gimme, gimme, gimme, more, more, more. The Bush administration and corporate America have been a continuum of greed, arrogance and incompetence.

    The freeze-frame moment when came after 9/11 when I got a big tax cut and a bunch of mostly working class guys ended up humping 100 pounds of rucksack and body armor through the Iraqi desert for Wal-Mart pay. And we secured my tax cut with . . . wait for it . . . money we borrowed from the very enemies those grunts may some day have to fight. The current conservative ideology in action.

    Plutocracy does not make for stability. So now the pendulum is swinging back. Hundreds of thousands of people who did exactly what you wanted them to Rick — lived good lives, made smart choices, shouldered responsibility, improved their skills, worked their asses off — are now out of work, without health insurance, unable to maintain, humiliated in front of their children — because half-smart, tax-break millionaire assholes needed to make still more money by inventing securities based on thin air.

    Now the unemployed guy gets a lecture on why he shouldn’t trade some fragment of theoretical liberty so his kids can buy glasses or his wife can get her pain meds? Really?

    How in god’s name does someone losing their job equate with freedom? A Non sequitor extraordinaire!

    And Jesus lord I am getting tired of your rants. You are talking grubby politics. I was hoping to write on a much higher plane. And your explanation for the financial crisis is absurdly simple minded.

    And who the fuck is lecturing the unemployed? This wasn’t a lecture anyway, it was an exploration. I set down nothing except the “velocity of my thoughts” - how you can turn that into a lecture is beyond understanding.

    Face it - this whole piece went right over your head. You haven’t a clue about what I was talking.

    ed.

  2. 2
    jackson1234 Said:
    2:28 pm 

    Nice thoughts, but a question. Does statism really make life “easier?” For example, national health care will make health more available in the abstract but the rationing it ultimately entails makes it more difficult to obtain services. Perhaps a better example will be the left-wing’s takeover of the banks. It may make mortgages “easier” in the sense of availability but the onerous regulations that will result certainly will make home ownership more difficult–annual reports and financial statements, affirmative action compliances, and so forth.

    Yes, there is a trade-off between the “easy” life of statism and the freedom to choose. But I think it is somewhat untrue that government makes life “easier.” Ask anyone who has had both an FHA and conventional loan which was “easier” in the long run. I don’t think our freedoms would have remained intact so long if the alternative had been so much better.

    Americans love liberty and are restless. If, and I’m not convinced it will happen, statism wins out, the people will revolt when the onerous hand of government suffocates and stifles. That has been this nation’s history and even polls show people remain that way. The Left is terrified how the public will react if the so-called stimulus plan fails. They should be because the public has let them release this canary into the coalmine. If it doesn’t fly out all hell will break loose.

  3. 3
    jackson1234 Said:
    2:38 pm 

    Sorry for the addition, but to be more succinct, I appreciate this as a theory and your point is taken there. Yet as a reality I tnink the premise is false when it is that government makes life easier in a broad sense.

  4. 4
    Chuck Tucson Said:
    2:42 pm 

    This is a brilliantly insightful piece Rick. Thank you.

    I see almost the same conflict with personal privacy and security. A slightly modified version of your last paragraph expresses this quite well.

    …everything you wish to accomplish for [security] that will unburden our lives and supposedly make them [safer] also involves a price that we pay in [personal privacy]. And it disturbs me that I hear nothing about how that affects the manner in which liberty is diminished and we become that much farther removed from our roots as a people who valued freedom more than life itself.

    I believe that your thesis and privacy are so closely intertwined that they cannot be separated without the others undoing.

  5. 5
    jackson1234 Said:
    2:52 pm 

    What a fucking day. I agree with everything you just wrote, Chuck. Intrusions into privacy ultimately make us less secure just as dimunition of property rights ultimately make things tougher. Good point.

  6. 6
    sara in va Said:
    3:53 pm 

    I loved this post, because it asked big issue questions that nobody can answer.

    When we talk about trading liberties for “safety”, what I may think is crossing the line, may be perfectly OK with my friend. Nobody can find the line in the sand that we can point to, to say, “there, up until that place you still have your freedom, and right after, you don’t.” It’s just different for everybody. And that’s the rub….isn’t it?

    Rick said, “How can you live in a democracy and tell people that government acting to make your life easier is wrong and that the alternative - struggling…..is the preferred way…?”

    When we are young, we necessarily have to rely on others. A sign of increasing maturity is being willing to take on responsibility, to make decisions on our own and to deal with the consequences. Liberalism represents, to me, stunted growth.

    What do you tell people who want bigger government, and therefor less freedom? You tell them to remember how anxious they were to leave home for the first time, to break free from the constraints of their parents’ grip and to find their own way.

    The concept is no different. It’s the only way to know who you are.

  7. 7
    lionheart Said:
    4:43 pm 

    Well put, Rick. I suppose statism is inevitable in a democracy, as voiced by Lord Tytler’s famous quote some years ago. At some point though, Atlas will shrug, and that depresses me.

  8. 8
    sara in va Said:
    5:19 pm 

    Dear Lionheart
    I regret to inform you that Mr. Atlas gave up in September. What depresses ME is that nobody seems to have noticed.

  9. 9
    P. Aaron Said:
    6:48 pm 

    QUOTE:There are conservative trade-offs for liberty, too. In a world where a CEO can pay himself 50 million dollars while cutting 50 million dollar’s worth of jobs at his company and call it efficiency, where is the freedom for the working stiff? He didn’t make a bad choice. He didn’t do a bad job. He improved his productivity, but not enough to compensate for the CEO’s executive compensation. So now the worker who did all he was supposed to do loses health care and home. Nice freedom.

    Let’s examine a part of what you stated and ask this: What if goverment gave every American the trillion dollars instead of spending it on prophylactics and ACORN?

    Hucksters and skilled high earners have been a part of history as long as history has been recorded. They are not soley in the private sector either.

    I suppose you can feel the libertarian thrill running up your leg learning about $335,000,000 going to STD research that is part of Obama’s “stimulus” bill.

    That’ll show those conservative greed-whores.

    Corporate execs, whether greedy, con-men, or absolute marvels providing awesome value to their customers still allow you to choose whether you want their product or not. If government is doing the producing and the screwing, (and it’s your biggest $$$ contribution every year whether you like it or not) what are your alternatives?

    Quit buying their product?
    Speak Truth to Power?
    Leave the country?
    Or, take up arms to fight (all over again) for your liberty? Hoping that others will join you?

    Government can’t and should not do it all. Likewise with liberty can’t do it all either. But I for one would prefer the choice, and have preserved for myself, the liberty to not choose as well.

    Government right now is attempoting to charge YOU, and ME and the collective with a Trillion dollar piece of fecal matter that will do nothing as advertised. And you’re goin’ off about private-corporate mis-management?

    Folks will still lose their jobs. That’s one thing that will never change. But once government gets ahold of your liberty, it won’t change back if it is determined that it ain’t workin’ out so well. Why?

    Because Government NEVER examines the results of its own awful policies.

  10. 10
    cdor Said:
    7:47 pm 

    Honest and insightful, a home run. Rick you hit this one out of the park. The Cubs should send you a contract.

    Michael, from your point of view, well put. The only problem is you are exchanging the terms conservative and liberal with Republican and Democrat. I would be willing to bet, sir, that many of those brilliant Harvard, Wharton, Yale grads in Wall Street of which you speak in a righteously negative tone, for good reason, are Democrats.

    Good points by Chuck as well. Yes we do give up liberty for security. How much liberty for how much security is the delicate balancing act of good government.

  11. 11
    Surabaya Stew Said:
    11:14 pm 

    I don’t think that increased government involvement in our lives automatically means less freedom for all of us. Rather, some of us have less freedom and others have more freedom as a result of our government stepping in. The questions is, who gains and who loses their freedom?

    The profession of Architecture is a case in point. As a result of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) signed into law under Bush Sr. in 1991, Architects and developers have less freedom to design and build their buildings and public spaces. For example, door knobs cannot be specified, door levers must be used instead. Parking spaces and toilet stalls must be set aside in certain quantities for the disabled. All entrances must be accessible or building plans will not be approved by the local authorities. In addition, business owners can be sued for not retrofitting their stores to accommodate the disabled! The ADA has certainly lessened my freedom as an Architect, no doubt most developers and business leaders would likewise agree.

    Yet at the same time, people with disabilities now have the freedom to join their fellow Americans in going to the supermarket, using the post office, or even just getting down a sidewalk without hurting themselves. As rules also apply to those of us with temporary disabilities, more and more Americans now appreciate the fact that a broken limb does condemn them to weeks being unable to climb stairs or open a door. Ask anybody in a wheelchair if the ADA has increased their freedom and their answer will certainly be yes!

    So in this case, I would say that increased government is a net plus for freedom. However, there are always losers of freedom when government increases its hold on our lives. It is our job as citizens to ensure that every time regulations grow that we understand who the losers and winners will be as a result of the increase in government.

  12. 12
    funny man Said:
    12:07 am 

    I sometimes ask myself; maybe this is just one big experiment. Sometimes the more individualistic, sometimes the more collective societies win. Can a society remain dynamic even after hundreds of years? Today we look at Roman society and its supposed decadent ills with hindsight but they still lasted almost a thousand years. Are we? I value my freedom but I’m also thinking there must be a glue that holds our ever more diverse society together. You can’t pretend we are still in the 19th century West. That’s just my disordered thoughts..

  13. 13
    Gaia's Child Said:
    2:28 am 

    While reading your essay I thought of the freedoms that we have given up since 09/11 so that there might not be another 09/11. Now we are facing economic disaster and people are calling for help just as they did after 09/11. While I agree that a man should know his limitations, I believe that so should government and that is where the American people have failed. We forgot that we actually control our government not only through our votes but through our voices. In the 1950’s the United States entered the land of plenty and we thought we would be there forever, after all, weren’t we the richest country in the world. We forgot to vote or we didn’t have time or why bother. We didn’t pay enough attention to what was going on in our national capitol or our state capitols or even our county seats. Then came 09/11 and we became frightened and we expected our government to protect us regardless of what it took to provide that protection.

    I do not see what has happened or is happening as a Conservative problem or a Liberal problem. It is a problem for all of us regardless of our political identity or our religious beliefs. We need to regain faith in ourselves, we need to regain our power over our government. You are right that we need to decide just what liberties we are willing to give up so that neither terrorists nor hunger can touch us.

    I know, Rick, that you are talking basically about giving up liberties for a nanny state but, at least for me, this country started giving up it’s liberties willingly after 09/11 and what we have now is just a continuation of that willingness to trade freedom for safty. I would rather live in a Ayn Rand world but as you pointed out that is no longer possible.

  14. 14
    sara in va Said:
    7:50 am 

    The point where things start to fall apart, on the right or the left, public or private sector, is where corruption becomes standard fare.

    Man is a fallen creature (for those of us who believe in that stuff), and built to win, to survive. I detest greed and selfishness at the corporate level, but I am sickened more by those who claim to be “serving the greater good” who use their positions for self empowerment.

    Corruption will occur in both places, but when it occurs by public officials, who are sworn to serve, who place their hand on the bible, who take taxpayer money, it is a worse deed. It is an evil deed. If a guy cheats at Exxon, well, that is shit, but, you know what, that’s something Exxon needs to deal with. What happened on Wall Street was partially the result of government officials trying to manipulate things for their own purposes (Frank and FNMA, etc.).

    Those who claim to be serving “us” in many cases are just lusting after power, we all know it. Take away their limos and front of the line passes and all the perks of staff and see how much these “servants” clamor for the position.

    Whatever framework is in place, be it libertarian or collectivist, the key is keeping the leaders in check. And that is where we’ve failed.

  15. 15
    cdor Said:
    8:37 am 

    Surabaya’s example of the ADA law is a perfect. The government determines the height of toilets and lavatories and the width of aisles in stores, etc. The problem is everyone with a disability is unique. To some the tall toilets make it difficult to transfer on and off wheel chairs. To others the height of the lavatories isn’t correct. Some businesses have had to close because they couldn’t physically accommodate certain handicapped individuals. Society has spent hundreds of billions of dollars to publicly accommodate handicapped. They represent, what, 1% of the population? Furthermore, the laws initiated don’t even work for all of them.

    We have always been a wealthy enough country to absorb these excesses in government regulation expense. Will we be in the future?

    To Gaia, I would sure like to know what exact freedoms he/she have given up after 9/11. Other than the irritation at airports, I have felt no effect on my life.

  16. 16
    mannning Said:
    8:58 am 

    So far, I cannot see, feel, hear, or touch the boundary between the freedoms we have, and the imprisonment of rising collectivism. There seems to be little or no difference in what I can do today, and what I cannot do as an individual. Perhaps I am a Prisoner in a golden cage that I do not realize is there.

    Movements for government to take over major institutions such as banks and brokers are rather remote, especially if I can still access all of my accounts via SIPC or FDIC. Sure, I have a bit of a delay due to a takeover–perhaps two or three weeks–but the net effect is a letterhead change, or so it seems.

    The first glimmer of change came to me when someone in Congress floated the idea of seizing all IRAs, and folding them into the Social Security accounts, with a credit slip for the amount folded in sent to the holder. While this should not get off the ground at all, the scary part was simply that Congressional thought was being directed into such draconian paths.

    Th second glimmer was the idea floated that the percentage of those not having to pay taxes was going to be raised to 60%, which would give the tax fiends near carte blanche to raise taxes for redistribution. Only the well-to-do minority would support the nation. Since I am in that 40% that would have to pay, I felt the resentment building up in me that all I had worked for and saved was going to be squeezed hard, and those that were 1% lower than I would not have to pay. So far, it is just an idea, but that is one very bright boundary to think about. Our financial freedoms are at risk.

    Eric Cantor ran into yet another type of boundary the other day, where his concerns and alternative ideas were met by Obama’s: “I won!” Yes, Master.

    Yesterday, the House passed the Stimulus Package over the unanimous nays of the Republicans. So little boys and girls all over the land will get their condoms at school for free, thanks to Pelosi, and the government will end up not having to support the children that otherwise would be conceived. This,among other pork provisions from the Democrats hidden in the bill from the general public.

    We need every right thinking, conservative man and woman in the nation to join the fight against this legislative juggernaught we have now in office that is rolling towards every citizen. That must include a big enough tent to win, and it will require doctrinaire conservatives to loosen up for the sake of the nation.

    The changes are subtle and I don’t ever expect to live in the kind of regimented society like Cuba. But if an arguement can be made by civil liberties absolutists that we have lost freedom as a result of Bush era programs to keep us safe, then I can certainly make the arguement that limiting choices in our daily lives limits freedom.

    Read what is happening in Europe with choices in socialized medicine being taken out of the hands of citizens, or choices on what foods that can be eaten, regulations about obesity are becoming widespread, and on and on. We are heading for that kind of government but I doubt we will recognize it in time to stop it.

    ed.

  17. 17
    sara in va Said:
    9:28 am 

    quick comment re: ADA (in response to #11 and #14).

    I am in process of negotiating a lease on a historic building for a “conservative” coffeehouse/tavern. (not in-your-face conservative, but that will be the vibe).

    This house has been around since 1850. I am going to have to practically gut the thing to make room for ADA approved facilities. The building itself is far enough from the parking lot that I really can’t imagine someone in a wheelchair wanting to make the trip in the first place (over a brick pathway?)….but, if I want to pursue it, I gotta do it.

    The cost to me for the return is ridiculous. I appreciate that PUBLIC buildings (government, etc) would need to have this type of regulation. But to force me to comply when common sense would say it is illogical - that’s when a line has been crossed.

  18. 18
    Lee in Mpls Said:
    10:08 am 

    Bush has ushered in the greatest growth in Government we have ever seen. It is false to say Republicans want smaller government. They just want government that supports the issues they value, like the military industrial complex, mega corporations and the ability of the government to snoop into our privacy and inflicted minority relgious views on everyone. Bush has been the leader of the American Taliban.

    Great talking points. Now, how about a little independent thinking?

    ed.

  19. 19
    Postagoras Said:
    10:35 am 

    Great post, Rick.

    I think that we are too cocooned in the USA… but it’s difficult to promote an old-fashioned concept such as “grit” to people whose dinner comes from a logistical supply chain that stretches over the whole world. Many aspects of our lives promote this cocooning, and it becomes easier and easier to be satisfied as the cog in the wheel, while complaining about the unfairness of it all.

    This is the fundamental balancing act of a government… we want to enable people to come up with new solutions on their own, and the capitalist market system is a great motivator for that… but it is ruthless, and inevitably ends up with concentrated wealth and power (i.e. monopolies). The adversity generated by the ruthless market will inspire some to create new ideas… but for others it will be ghastly. However, once government steps in to oversee, it’s damn hard to get them out.

    The political problem is that it’s easy to demagogue these issues. “Government is taking your money and wasting it.” “Big business is giving their executives millions and your real salary went down last year.” Often, as you say, the government needs to be involved. And often, an executive DESERVES to make millions. But making a reasoned explanation after an incendiary charge doesn’t work in the sound-bite world we live in.

  20. 20
    Chuck Tucson Said:
    12:18 pm 

    The idea that some group of people can decide which of my liberties I can or cannot live without is extremely frustrating.

    The problem with all of this comes in when one group of like minded people, say, GroupA is willing to give up more liberty than another group, GroupB.

    They will eventually reach a point where the GroupB feels that they need to take some sort of action to prevent further loss of liberty. It is my fear that the GroupA will then label this action as terrorism, and use that to further diminish the liberties of GroupB. At this point, GroupB will take even more drastic action, and all hell will break loose.

    Finally, in the end, GroupB will realize what they’ve given up, but by then it will be too late.

  21. 21
    mannning Said:
    1:50 pm 

    Socialized Medicine is the elephant in the tent now. If and as it goes into effect, so goes our freedom of choice in a significant part of existence, our bodies, and its passage will encourage other invasive initiatives to be proposed to a Congress and President that appear to love spending and change for its own sake.

    I have experienced SM in three countries–Holland, Canada and the UK. I have considerable praise for the Dutch version, simply because they took excellent care of my wife through 7 operations during our ten years of residence. Both the UK and Canadian systems took care of my own little transient ills for free, and fast, too. But my friends in the UK tell me many horror stories about extended waits for cancer surgery, and continued postponements of elective surgery.

    What the public seems to have forgotten is that any US hospital ER must treat those who show up, although not necessarily rapidly. My Son-in-Law the doctor said to me that fully half of his patients during internship were walk-ins with no money and no insurance, and precious little English to boot. Saturday night was usually hell because of auto accidents, where ignorance of the law was a paramount problem. He performed over 100 free deliveries for non-English-speaking women in his stint, most of whom, he thought, were fearful of being found by the police. So he picked up enough Spanish to be able to treat them more efficiently.
    He also said that this 50% free treatment load he found in three different hospitals was a major reason for the rise in hospital costs and doctor’s fees for those who can pay.

    Go figure!

  22. 22
    Mike Caton Said:
    7:38 pm 

    First off, I’m glad to find another non-religious conservative out there. It gets lonely sometimes. Here’s my blog:

    http://tompainesclubhouse.blogspot.com/

    I frequently argue that, regardless of religion or lack thereof, conservatives should take the rational high ground in arguing facts and figures against bleeding-heart appeals to sentiment. Recently conservatives have been a little too eager to throw each other out of the movement. If we’re not welcome anymore as atheists, then there are other teams that’ll take us.

  23. 23
    Surabaya Stew Said:
    8:04 pm 

    Re: the ADA, I’m not sure if #15 and #17 understand my point which was that I feel that the ADA has been a net plus for freedom. Being disabled puts one in a minority quite unlike any other in that anybody can join the ranks of disabled at any time. (The numbers are actually far higher than 1%, as the law extends to the elderly, temporally disabled, pregnant women, young children, etc.) Certainly the ADA has shortcomings and can impose financial hardships. As an Architect, I know how crazy some of the rules can seem. Yet to anybody who has been disabled, (remember how angry Dick Cheney looked last week as he was being wheeled around at the inauguration?) anything less than equal physical accessibility is a major loss of one’s own freedom.

    Can we still afford all these rules as a nation going broke? That decision was already made 18 years ago, there’s no going back now! Remember, disabled folks vote too…

  24. 24
    cdor Said:
    8:25 pm 

    Manning #21:
    “He also said that this 50% free treatment load he found in three different hospitals was a major reason for the rise in hospital costs and doctor’s fees for those who can pay.”

    Or for those who are responsible enough citizens to buy insurance. How many of those “47 million” uninsured Americans would rather spend their money on a new flat screen or fancy car than health insurance, especially when they know they can walk into an emergency room and be treated for free? It takes a tremendous amount of self-responsibility for citizens to live in a FREE country. It also takes an understanding that citizens who pay for the the tremendous services of this country need to be respected by at least protecting our borders.

    Chuck #20
    “The idea that some group of people can decide which of my liberties I can or cannot live without is extremely frustrating.”

    Indeed, no arguments. However, if you are talking about the security of the entire country, specificity would be extremely helpful in understanding your issues.

  25. 25
    cdor Said:
    8:37 pm 

    Sara in va, re: ADA

    I can’t understand why a boldly posted sign at the entrance to a privately owned business ( even if opened to the public ) saying “NO ADA FACILITIES” or “SMOKING PERMITTED” wouldn’t be sufficient to worn those against entering if they are offended.

    What do you say, Chuck in Tuscon? These are some specific individual liberties that are being inhibited, don’t you agree?

  26. 26
    Chuck Tucson Said:
    11:15 pm 

    Indeed, no arguments. However, if you are talking about the security of the entire country, specificity would be extremely helpful in understanding your issues.

    My issues in this thread have a great deal to do with warrantless invasions of personal privacy.

  27. 27
    Surabaya Stew Said:
    11:55 pm 

    Re: Socialized Medicine for #21 and #23… If uninsured people in the United States know that they have the right under law to walk into any emergency room and receive treatment, doesn’t this mean that we already have Socialized Medicine in a halfassed way? Face it, we are already paying for everybody in the USA to get medical treatment in one way or another. Shouldn’t our focus be on reducing the cost of said treatment rather than arguing against something that already exists?

  28. 28
    Surabaya Stew Said:
    12:00 am 

    By the way cdor at #24, a sign saying “NO ADA FACILITIES” may as well just say “PLEASE SUE ME”. While smoking regulations are primarily an issue for state and local municipalities and “SMOKING PERMITTED” could in fact be legit in many places, the ADA is considered to be a piece of federal civil rights legislation and therefore not open to negotiation.

  29. 29
    michael reynolds Said:
    2:43 am 

    Rick:

    Yes, it was over my head, that’s the problem. I’m slow that way.

    You ask a philosophical question, but you do it at a particular time and in a particular place, and you do it while carrying your own political baggage. Had you posed this question when your party was in power, riding high and cheerleading the idiots who’ve all but bankrupted the United States, it would have more standing as a genuine philosophical inquiry.

    Instead you framed it in a “what liberals don’t get” snark that rather tarnished the genuineness of the question posed.

    Government isn’t the only threat to liberty. A man who can’t feed his family is himself a threat to liberty because he will, of necessity, do whatever it takes to get by. Every time some Wall Street whizz kid tosses a thousand guys into the street and yanks their health insurance and lobbies to limit their unemployment, and lobbies to change the rules that protect their pensions, that CEO is creating threats to liberty. Plutocracy is inherently unstable, it creates its own backlash.

    But I don’t recall you expressing concern that conservatives just don’t get that it’s self-destructive to enrich themselves while the middle class stagnates or slides. Conservatives pushed the pendulum as far as they could and are now shocked and dismayed to find it swinging back. Which is why it isn’t really all that clever to cheerlead the worst excesses of capitalism and ignore the pushback it will inevitably generate.

    We’ve had capitalism divorced from virtue, morality and a sense of decency. Exhibit A: Mr. Thain. This kind of robber baron ethos is unsustainable in a system where voters have the capacity to push back using the government. And it is completely absurd in a situation where the endlessly reviled government is required to rescue the same geniuses who, even now, will lecture you on the magic of the marketplace and the perfidy of government.

    If we are to expect restraint from the frightened unemployed guy, we’ll need to see compassion, civic virtue and a sense of decency from men like Mr. Thain et al and their giddy handmaidens in the GOP.

  30. 30
    cdor Said:
    9:27 am 

    Much worse than a corrupt immoral CEO is a corrupt immoral POTUS. In other words,Michael, man is far from perfect, but corrupt government can do much more pervasive, long term harm than a crappy arrogant corporate CEO.
    That being said, capitalism is amoral. Profit is its high objective. Corporate social conscienceness is mainly the result of the people running that corporation. Government, ideally, would enforce rules and regulations that would mollify extreme runaway anti-social capitalism. But now we are back to depending on good government and extremely capable uncorruptable politicians. I haven’t seen too many of those lately from either party. Government works in heavy handed broad brush strokes that more often than not make matters worse. I’m thinking baby with the bath water kind of fits. And I’m thinking that is exactly what government is about to do with this so-called stimulus.

    Conservatives aren’t against government, just dumb bloated government. Believe me, though, I feel your pain. This recession certainly could have been expected as part of the normal business cycle and a bloated housing market, but the financial collapse came upon us like a stealth disease out of nowhere.

  31. 31
    sara in va Said:
    9:46 am 

    Mr. Reynolds,

    Mr. Thain is no different from Barney Frank or Nancy Pelosi. One *may* rob the poor, the other robs the rich.

    Your problem is that you only see one as lacking compassion, virtue and decency. Because he’s a capitalist.

    I see absolutely no sense of decency in Barney Frank. Hypcrisy and lust for power are the same in either public or private life.

  32. 32
    sara in va Said:
    9:48 am 

    In my last post, I tried to set off the word -may- but it wasn’t posted that way. Just noted.

  33. 33
    cdor Said:
    9:48 am 

    Chuck #25

    Short answer, don’t talk to terrorists. And if you do, I really don’t give a rat’s patoot about your privacy.

  34. 34
    Chuck Tucson Said:
    10:49 am 

    Short answer, don’t talk to terrorists. And if you do, I really don’t give a rat’s patoot about your privacy.

    What you’ve said is the equivalent of saying “if you’ve got nothing to hide, why should you be worried.” The fourth amendment is rolling in its grave.

    I’m afraid I have to agree with Chuck. There may be justification for the Terrorist Surveillance Program and other NSA ops but that’s not one of them. I am still not convinced that the TSP shredded the 4th amendment - despite what the unbalanced Mr. Tice had to say - and Congressional leadership didn’t say boo when they were briefed. But there should be some kind of top secret review of the programs to make sure sufficient safeguards are in place. And Congress should be able to keep a close eye on it.

    ed.

  35. 35
    ajacksonian Said:
    12:52 pm 

    “Some writers have so confounded society with government,
    as to leave little or no distinction between them;
    whereas they are not only different, but have different origins.
    Society is produced by our wants, and government by our wickedness;
    the former promotes our POSITIVELY by uniting our affections,
    the latter NEGATIVELY by restraining our vices. The one
    encourages intercourse, the other creates distinctions.
    The first a patron, the last a punisher.”

    -Thomas Paine, Common Sense, 1776

    Unfortunately when you give government ‘good’ things to do, you are handing such nicities to a punisher, a restricter, to the one meant to curb our vices. Thus you diminish yourself by saying ‘I can no longer do good in this area’, and then absolve yourself of the need to do good.

    We once had a decently supported set of charitable hospitals, but they have been ravaged by the insurance benefit payouts system and are slowly dying because it is such a ‘good thing’ to get medical care supported by government. But we forget that things subisidized get used uneconomically, and soon get ruined due to that use. Thus we subsidize ‘health insurance’ once a ‘perk’ of the rich, but then made necessary by social security and labor laws put in before WWII BY WWII needing so many older workers to come back to the workforce. Now, when people ‘retire’ they have no want or need to pass on their wisdom to those following them - just cut and run from your work and give no bother to those having to build upon your work. The most experienced generation of people with the greatest background in making, building, creating and doing all the deep labors of the economy is out on golf courses and ‘retired’. It is such a ‘good thing’ to lose that experience and then have a smaller working class of younger individuals have to pay for such ‘retirees’ as part of an inter-generational theft that goes unmentioned.

    Health care costs are high? They used to be low because the public supported charitable hospitals and health insurance wasn’t subsidized. Can we really say that such costs would be so very high without such incentives to constantly use health care and have people not take care of themselves?

    Now manufacturing falls behind ’services’ in the economy and manufacturing employment behind ‘the government’ as the main employer. Such a public good, no, not being able to have more people in manufacturing than in government? But we *will* take care of everyone… just like the Soviet Union did, or China does, and don’t mind Europe having such a low birth rate that many of the Nations there will no longer be German, French, Swedish, Italian, Greek… no they will be Islamic and North African and Arab, by and large, by 2050 and majority in those by 2020-2030. But those old folks really do get swell medical care when they aren’t dying when the doctors go on vacation for a month…

    Is it any wonder that Japanese companies are now starting to encourage men to take time off and actually *have* a family? Securing their society by government has made Japan into a not so distant geriatric basket case. But everyone gets cared for… which is why robotic ‘companions’ are of such interest there.

    But then we aren’t taking Paine seriously anymore, are we?

    And no matter what you call Breads & Circuses, be it health care, social security or any other of the myriad names we use to have government buy off a portion of the population, it gets you to the exact, same place. The Breads & Circuses were ‘cheap’ right up to when society fell, that is… then it was very, very, very expensive.

  36. 36
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  37. 37
    bobwire Said:
    6:15 am 

    Rick: “Does being an atheist make me any less of a conservative?”

    Only about 66% less…

    “But I think I share most of the same basic principles of conservatism with conservatives of faith.”

    Oh, so it’s about faith then?

    Ignoring that you refuse to accept Jesus as the pathway to immortality. Go ahead and tell us there is no heaven, nor hell. Just go ahead…

    “There’s more than one way to skin a cat…”

    Pure heresy! Okay, let’s just find out. How do you skin a cat, how does someone else? And who will decide damnation? Or can we all just find common ground in cliches?

  38. 38
    cdor Said:
    8:20 am 

    #34 Chuck And Rick

    I said it was a short answer. We all know the legal arguments are extensive pro and con. we also know prescedent has been set through many Presidents for many years for these actions. And I hope we all realize that no other President had to deal with the instantaneous nature of todays world wide communications. By requiring court approval prior to tap, no information could be gleaned. A review board after the fact to separate the wheat from the shaft prior to questioning the individual tapped could prevent error.

    I just think government intrudes on our privacy and freedom in so many other ways that we each experience every day, and for much less salient purpose than national security, that the biggest objection to this program is actually “THAT BUSH DID IT”.

  39. 39
    grognard Said:
    4:18 pm 

    The government vs individualism can also be a question of time. I work 55 to 60 hours a week. My wife has MS so I have to take care of her and the household duties fall on me. I have two kids that have their needs, from homework to soccer. In a libertarian state I would have to manage my own retirement, and find the time to become an expert on investments. I would also have to manage my own medical care and, again, find the time to become an expert on heath care. I would also have to constantly monitor these things, among many others, because without any governmental regulation I alone would be responsible for the outcome of my choices. That “freedom” becomes a huge burden that pretty much consumes every moment. I’m not saying that a Nanny state is necessarily the answer, but I am saying that the libertarian state would not be much of a Utopia either.

  40. 40
    Eric Said:
    4:23 pm 

    A rare thoughtful post in the recent blather I’ve read here.

    One thought, do you really think that liberals are inherently less likely to discuss the negative implications of their philosophical viewpoint than conservatives?

    “Liberals do not like to discuss the loss of freedom their collectivist ideas entail.”

    I think that’s untrue. I rarely hear ANYONE reflect on the potential downsides of their own ideas! I think this is part of the human condition you so graciously copped to at the beginning of your post. After all, it’s not only ideas from the left that can have a negative impact on freedom.

    Still, if you look for it, you can find people on both sides of an issue (actually many sides of an issue. . . three dimensions at least) who are not only aware of the dangers of their own proposals but willing to discuss and modify them in order to arrive at a better solution that mitigates those potential issues.

    Everyone is free to look at my home state, California, for an example of failing to openly discuss, entertain opposing ideas and, finally, compromise. That way lies madness. Of course, it helps to have an insane 2/3 majority requirement just to pass the damn budget!

  41. 41
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