Posts Tagged ‘United States’

Coming Undone?

June 11, 2010

I had a dream, which was not all a dream.

The bright sun was extinguish’d, and the stars

Did wander darkling in the eternal space,

Rayless, and pathless, and the icy earth

Swung blind and blackening in the moonless air;

Morn came and went—and came, and brought no day,

And men forgot their passions in the dread

Of this their desolation; and all hearts

Were chill’d into a selfish prayer for light:

And they did live by watchfires—and the thrones,

The palaces of crowned kings—the huts,

The habitations of all things which dwell,

Were burnt for beacons; cities were consum’d,

And men were gather’d round their blazing homes

To look once more into each other’s face…

                           —Lord Byron, from Darkness

 

I.  Introduction

Thomas Hobbes

Long ago, an English philosopher once characterized the natural state of the human condition as “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short.”1  Perhaps Thomas Hobbes had it right.  But considering the everyday lives of most modern Americans and Europeans, you wouldn’t know it.  Until recently, that is.  Over the course of our daily lives, most of us probably never give a second thought to how fortunate we Westerners — particularly Americans — truly are.  How pampered and privileged we’ve grown accustomed to being treated.  Most of us live and work in relative comfort.  We cruise around in our SUVs, or other similarly extravagant vehicles, while listening to the latest songs on our I-pod playlist.  We go to shopping malls (real or virtual) that cater to our every whim and fetish for things gaudy and gadgety.  We chat (or text) away on our cell phones or clatter away on our laptops while sipping gourmet coffee.  We see luxuries as mere conveniences and conveniences as absolute necessities. And we demand all sorts of expensive “rights” from our government leaders who seem more than happy to dole them out to us provided we keep electing them to office.  We’ve become so used to this coddled — albeit humdrum — way of life that we feel cheated if it is ever somehow denied to us.  We see it as no less than our birthright, our inheritance, our legacy.  We feel we are entitled to it.

And yet, most of us don’t seem to have a very clear understanding as to how we even got here; or have even the vaguest idea how entirely new and fragile all this is.  And for those of us that do, it is a trifling thought that signifies very little as we go about our daily routine.  We don’t stop to think that what we call life today in modern Western civilization, never even existed only four or five generations ago.  And we have nary a thought that one day it might all just go away.  Instead, we go on living in our own world enveloped by a kind of bubble of affluence and entitlement which deludes us into believing that Hobbes’s stark observation of man’s true state of existence is just not so.  Or if it is so, then it has little relation to today.  In our comfortable time and place, the realities of that other, much bleaker human condition are kept neatly at bay, tucked far away in other times, in other places.  In short, we take everything we have for granted.

But only five generations ago, everything was completely different.  At the very beginning of the twentieth century, there were of course no I-pods or I-pads or laptop computers.  There were no cell phones (the telephone itself was still a new invention.)  There was no Internet.  There were no televisions, no radios, no air conditioners, no refrigerators, no microwaves, no coffeemakers, not even a pop-up toaster.  In fact, the widespread use of applied electricity, as made available to consumers, was in its infancy.  The newly invented gas-powered automobile would have been a quirky indulgence.  And even basic needs like central heating and running water would have been considered a comfort that only a relative few could afford.  Indeed, a world with all of these amazing things in it would have seemed, to the seventeenth century mind of Thomas Hobbes, entirely fantastical.  And yet still alive today, there are those few very old folks who can actually recall, from childhood, the harder but much simpler times before any of these incredible advancements in the human condition had come into being.  Before the world was utterly transformed.

II.  A Brief History of American Capitalism

But what was responsible for this astonishing transformation of the world?  What was the overall driving force behind the affluence and technological advancements?  Was it government?  No, absolutely not.  And it definitely was not a large, centralized government.  In fact at that time government programs, to the extent they existed at all, were nothing like the costly entitlements of today.  Indeed, outside of waging war, the government’s role at the beginning of the twentieth century was, by today’s standards, a very limited one. 2

So what was responsible?  In a word, it was capitalism. American capitalism. As the nineteenth century drew to an historic close, the premonitory beginnings of the new twentieth century foretold the advent of an even more momentous age.  The decrepit despots and ruling classes of old Europe were on their last legs.  Soon, the First World War would snuff them out completely.  And in the New World, the age of American liberty and American capitalism — of individual freedoms and free enterprise — was well underway.  America had made it through a bitter civil war and survived.  And a nation, “conceived in liberty,” had in fact not perished from the earth. 3  Indeed, it was flourishing.  America as an idea — an idea of freedom — had taken hold.  Liberty, individual liberty, and self-reliance were at work in all spheres, and had become the fulcrum and foundation of the American economy.  And they became embedded in American culture and society.  The young American nation’s industrial revolution was in full swing.  Virtually over night, America went from an agrarian economy to an industrial powerhouse.  And the nations of old Europe looked our way with envy and a desire to emulate.  And emulate they did, but they only got so far.  Caught up in class struggles and internecine conflicts, and tied down by the vestiges of their own feudal past, capitalism in the American sense never quite took root in Europe.  The façade of capitalism was erected but deference to the central authority of the state remained.  It would take yet another World War and then a Cold War for European nations to finally try to put misguided ideologies behind them.  Yet even today much of Europe still seems poised to slip back into the false calm of despotism.

Nevertheless, as the new American century moved forward, the power of American capitalism, and the wealth it created, was spreading worldwide anyway it could.  And as the reach of America’s brand of capitalism extended elsewhere, it began to utterly and fundamentally alter the lives and living standards of Americans and Europeans.  Indeed many Europeans, not willing to wait for prosperity to come to them were now emigrating to America’s shores in droves.  Capitalism was lifting off the shade of night and raising America and the world into a bright new realm of limitless possibilities.  Unfettered freedom in the markets, freedom in the exchange of thoughts and ideas, created and still today creates the nurturing environment — the incubator — for individual initiative and innovation and invention to take place.  It was the “pursuit of happiness,” that our founders had so eloquently bequeathed to us, made actual and real.  Individuals, not governments, reliant on no one, other than themselves, armed with freedom and a desire to succeed: that was the simple but beautiful idea — a dream almost — upon which the young American nation was founded and that Americans were actually living.

And, at least until recent times, it was an idea that was lived by Americans without undue interference or “assistance” by government.  Quite the contrary, it was a formula that worked precisely because government was removed from it.  As little government as possible; only that government which is absolutely necessary — these were the things our country’s founders warned us about over and over again.  But somewhere during the past one-hundred years or so, between New Deals and Fair Deals, between Progressive Reforms and Great Societies, between Social Justice and the Nanny State, between Hope and Change, we allowed government to gum up the works.  Big time.  We are now a full-fledged entitlement economy, society, and culture which is something the founders of this country never wanted us to be.  Individual self-reliance and initiative have gone by the wayside.  They have been supplanted by a group mentality of entitlement.  We look to government now, rather than ourselves, for “rights” and other “free” stuff, and we are embittered and angry if ever we are denied our due.  Moreover, we are made to feel justified in these feelings.  Indeed, over the years we have been encouraged and conditioned by weak leaders within governments and by a misguided media culture to see these things — this grand benefits package — as our heritage.

But as we choose to remain an entitlement society, we shall go the way of all entitlement societies: sooner or later, the bubble bursts.  And when it does, that other, cruel Hobbesian world comes rushing in. 

III.  Greece: The Collapse of an Entitlement Society

In Greece, that bubble has burst.  The momentous events in Greece over these past several weeks and months have been a rude awakening for the Western world.  Greece, the epitome of a modern entitlement society, has finally come crashing down.  For decades, Greek citizens have relied on government entitlements and subsidies: unaffordable state jobs, excessive state pensions, government healthcare and other high-priced government programs and, consequently, the country has amassed unsustainable debt.  They’ve simply run out of money.  Now, the government’s long overdue attempts to rein in spending through a variety of austerity measures — a requirement of their multi-billion dollar bailout by the European Union and the largely United States funded IMF — have forced the Greeks to give up the entitled way of life that they had grown accustomed to and accept another, harsher reality.  As a consequence, Greece has erupted.  The Greeks have resorted to looting and rioting and lawlessness, resulting in anarchy and death.

At present, the only thing keeping the Greek economy alive today is the massive infusion of loans from the IMF and the European Union.  The Greek economy and society have simply come undone.  And it is dark days indeed for the Greek people: nasty, brutish and short.  They must now try to start over.  To search for the pieces of their past lives through the dark of starless nights and the sulfurous pall of extinguished days.  To rethink the future and to relearn, perhaps, what they had never really taught themselves in the first place.

Now, comparable calamities are foreseen in the other entitlement nations of Europe: particularly Spain, Italy, Portugal, Great Britain and Ireland.  If one or more of these nations experience similar death throes then the dominos will surely begin to fall.  Some experts suggest that any number of obscure triggers may set things off and send fundamentally profound tremors undulating through all of the industrialized world’s economies. 4

Obviously, this all has potentially dire implications for the United States.  But the Greek example illustrates a larger point: the inevitable predicament that all entitlement societies, including the United States, eventually find themselves in.  As the debt grows, it eventually swallows up the nation’s capacity for production.  Like in Greece, ultimately the nation’s economy is devoured entirely by national debt and becomes no more. Essentially, entitlement economies feed upon and finally consume themselves until there is simply no economy left.  So is present day Greece a glimpse into the future of America?  Are we coming undone too?

IV.  Are We Coming Undone?

Well to start with, we are a nation and government that bears little resemblance to the one that existed just four or five generations ago (to say nothing of the one that the founders envisioned).  We were then a land of immigrants — mostly European immigrants— who fled our respective home countries to come live the promised dream of America.  But the sad irony is that now we have more in common with Europe and European systems than ever before.  A recent study by the Heritage Foundation finds that one in five American households now depend on the government for assistance with basic necessities (e.g., food, housing, etc.) And one in eight households now rely on the government for food-stamps.  This is to say nothing of unemployment subsidies, education subsidies and the advent of subsidized healthcare.  All this, the study finds, while the number of Americans who actually pay the taxes to ostensibly support this government largesse is shrinking.  5

And, all the while, the government continues to grow.  Recent federal government stimulus programs, government bailouts of industries, and now government-run healthcare have been heaped onto an already growing mountain of national debt.  The government has become an enormous and myriad conglomeration— a colossus — of bureaucratic programs, agencies, divisions and departments that siphon billions off the nation’s wealth just to pay for the interest on the debt alone.  While Greece’s debt to GDP ratio is at an unsustainable 110% the United States is now not far behind, with a recent CBO report estimating U.S. debt will rise to a staggering 90% or more of GDP by next year!  6   Continuing down this path, “we can expect a default on government promises (Medicare, Social Security, Healthcare), higher interest rates on U.S. government bonds or even a flight by foreign investors like China to alternative investments, and a drop in the value of the dollar, raising energy and consumer costs and spreading inflation throughout the economy.” 7   All of this resulting in a dramatic decline in American living standards for generations to come.  Eventually, the colossus topples and falls.

The Colossus of Rhodes

So these are all very disturbing statistics.  Numbers shocking enough to provoke any reasonable government official to take action and change course.  Or at least one would think that.  And yet today we have leaders in government who seem not the slightest bit concerned by any of this – on the contrary they are willing to go even further in this direction.  Indeed, our President actually comes right out and says, and seems to truly believe, that government and more government is the only solution for America.  And he is aided and abetted in this view by a complicit mainstream news media that borders on a ministry of propaganda. 

But what’s more is that we, as a people, seem perfectly willing to accept this madness; and that is the real tragedy.  Apart from a few vocal dissenters, today we, the people, look to government for solutions rather than ourselves.  With our dependable entitlements and our reassuring affluence, with our mania for creature comforts, and in our sheer arrogance and complacency, we have moved well beyond mere apathy and into the mindset of dependency.  We have lost our way and drifted far, far away from what we were one hundred years ago, and before, into something that we were never meant to be.  We have allowed ourselves to be cajoled, nudged, and deceived by those in government who would have us depend on government rather than ourselves; so much so that we now feel entitled to our dependency.  But dependency and liberty can never go together.  So we’ve traded in one for the other.  Now we’re left with platitudes from politicians, slogans of hope and change, images on the television, and our own vanities.  We are left with the mere trappings of liberty.  But not liberty itself. 

So how long can America remain on this tragic, catastrophic course?  How much longer can the unsustainable be sustained?  How long before we realize that we have become Greece?  Before we realize the inevitable, tragic collapse?

In a way, Greece is lucky that they are the first.  They are lucky that there are still  solvent institutions like the IMF and EU to come and bail them out.  But what happens next?  What happens to Spain, to Italy, to Portugal, to Great Britain, to Ireland?  Who comes to bail them out?  What happens to California? To New York?  To Michigan? To Louisiana? To Florida? To Pennsylvania?  To the whole of the United States?  What happens when the economy completely shuts down?  When currency becomes worthless paper?  When investments, retirement accounts, savings accounts are completely wiped out?  When there is no longer a monthly check from the government?  When there is no food on the shelves?  No electricity?  No heat?  No running water?  When people have nothing left to lose; when we have finally come undone?  Because sooner or later in an entitlement economy, society and culture, it all comes undone.  And, frighteningly, these sorts of things always seem to happen sooner than anyone expects. 

Darkness falls.  And the night comes swiftly.  

V.  Conclusion:   “We Are Americans”

It was a simple formula that the Founding Fathers gave us.  Individual liberty combined with self-reliance in the pursuit of one’s own happiness.  A simple and beautiful and common-sense formula; not some pricey entitlement and benefits package.  We were given an elegant thing by very courageous, brilliant and generous men, and we threw it away; or rather so abused and neglected it that it is as good as thrown away.

However…   However, individual liberty, self-reliance, free-enterprise, the free exchange of ideas and freedom of speech and expression — these essential ingredients that make up the rare alloy of capitalism — come from America and nowhere else.  They come from our shores.  They may have taken root elsewhere in the world, and thank Heaven for that, but they are American “inventions” if you will and they are what make us unique.  America is the birthplace of these things and they are our true legacy, our real inheritance.  Capitalism, the free-market way, is the unique American way.  It is as American as apple pie or a Norman Rockwell painting.  It is in our blood, so to speak. It is our culture.  And for that reason, so long as we remain Americans, we can always naturally return to it.

And we will return to it.  With the passing of this year’s Memorial Day into night and into day again, and with this week’s remembrance of D-Day and the consequential days that followed it, I am reminded that this country has seen dark days and darker nights before.  This nation has faced formidable — seemingly insurmountable challenges — and has overcome them.  And so I am reminded of this nation’s greatness, its uniqueness.  I am reminded of its tenacity and inner strength.  I am reminded of its love of freedom and individualism.  And I am reminded of its people — our people.  Our people are not the Greeks. We are not the Italians.  Nor are we Spaniards or Portuguese.  We are not English, nor Irish nor Scottish. We are not Germans nor are we French.  We are not Russians. We are not Asians, neither are we Arabs.  We are not Africans, we are not Australians, and we are not South Americans. We are neither Mexicans nor are we Canadians. We are, rather, all of these, and something much more.

We are Americans.  E Pluribus Unum, is the Latin phrase.  Out of many, one.  And as Americans, we shall triumph over the undreamt of troubles that for us Fate has set in store.  We shall change our course and right our faithful ship, as we have done so many times before.  We shall come through this dour darkness to look yet once more into each other’s face, in the bright early light of a newly dawning day.  8

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Notes:

1: The full Thomas Hobbes quote: 

“Whatsoever therefore is consequent to a time of war, where every man is enemy to every man, the same consequent to the time wherein men live without other security than what their own strength and their own invention shall furnish them withal. In such condition, there is no place for industry; because the fruit thereof is uncertain: and consequently no culture of the earth; no navigation, nor use of the commodities that may be imported by sea; no commodious building; no instruments of moving and removing such things as require much force; no knowledge of the face of the earth; no account of time; no arts; no letters; no society; and which is worst of all, continual fear, and danger of violent death; and the life of man, solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.”  –Leviathan, Ch. 13.

2:  Around the beginning of the twentieth century, the United States national debt as a percentage of GDP was only around 10%.  United States currency was tied to the gold standard.  There was no Federal Reserve Bank.  And there was no Federal income tax — that would have to wait until 1913 with adoption of the Sixteenth Amendment to the Constitution.  For a great website on the history of U.S. Government, taxation, spending and debt, click here:    http://www.usgovernmentspending.com/index.php

3: The full Gettysburg Address:

“Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.  Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation, so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.  But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate…we can not consecrate…we can not hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.” –Abraham Lincoln, November 19, 1863.

4: Washington Post article:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/05/23/AR2010052304170.html

5: http://www.humanevents.com/article.php?id=36648

6: Washington Times article:

http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2010/mar/26/cbos-2020-vision-debt-will-rise-to-90-of-gdp/

7: Heritage Foundation article:

http://blog.heritage.org/2010/05/10/europe-2010-a-glimpse-of-america%e2%80%99s-economic-future/#more-33298

8: The poem: 

We Are Americans

We are Americans.

E Pluribus Unum,

Is the Latin phrase.

Out of many, one. 

And as Americans,

We shall triumph

Over the undreamt of

Troubles that for us

Fate has set in store.

We shall change our course

And right our faithful ship,

As we have done

So many times before.

We shall come through

This dour darkness

To look yet once more

Into each other’s face,

In the bright early light

Of a newly dawning day.

              – by Elbert Soler

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For related posts on this topic, link to:

https://culturecrusader.wordpress.com/2010/03/22/america-r-i-p/

https://culturecrusader.wordpress.com/2010/03/20/why-you-don%e2%80%99t-have-a-right-to-healthcare/

https://culturecrusader.wordpress.com/2010/03/04/the-arrogance-of-hope-change-%e2%80%a6-or-else/

https://culturecrusader.wordpress.com/2010/02/27/glenn-beck%e2%80%99s-cpac-speech-tiger-woods-and-toilet-bowls-a-blackboard-and-brilliance/

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U.N. Says Arizona Immigration Law Violates International “Standards”

May 12, 2010

Hahahahahaha!!!  Aah – Hahahahaha!!!  Aah – Hahahaha!  Aah – Hahahaha!  Ah – Haha–… uh, excuse me.  Just give me one minute.  Let me catch my breath.  Ok, I’m good. 

Six human rights “experts” over at the United Nations said Tuesday that Arizona’s new law on illegal immigration could violate what they say are international “standards” on issues such as discrimination and the terms under which a person can be detained: “A disturbing pattern of legislative activity hostile to ethnic minorities and immigrants has been established with the adoption of an immigration law that may allow for police action targeting individuals on the basis of their perceived ethnic origin,” the experts said, with a straight face. 1

Well, never mind that racial and ethnic profiling are specifically prohibited in the Arizona law.  Let’s just examine some of these international standards when it comes to illegal immigration, shall we?  Here’s a sampling: 

  • If you cross the border illegally in England, you are either immediately deported or jailed.
  • If you cross the border illegally in Germany, you are fined and required to work it off or pay it off.
  • If you cross the border illegally in China, you are deemed a spy and imprisoned indefinitely.
  • If you cross the border illegally in Cuba, you are thrown in jail as a political enemy of the state.
  • If you cross the border illegally in Venezuela, you are deemed a spy and imprisoned indefinitely.
  • If you cross the border illegally in North Korea, you are deemed a spy, imprisoned and sentenced to hard labor.
  • If you cross the border illegally in Saudi Arabia, you are jailed.
  • If you cross the border illegally in Iran, you are detained indefinitely and probably never heard from again.
  • If you cross the border illegally in Afghanistan, you are shot.
  • And if you cross the border illegally in Mexico, you have committed the equivalent of a felony punishable by two years’ imprisonment, or up to ten years’ imprisonment if you are re-entering the country illegally.  Furthermore, Mexico’s National Population Registry tracks and verifies the identity of everyone in Mexico, who must at all times either carry a citizens’ identity card, proper verification of visitor status, or be subject to arrest as an illegal alien. 2  

However, if you cross the border illegally in the United States, you get: a driver’s license, a social security card, a job or welfare or both, food stamps, subsidized rent or housing, free healthcare, free tuition, all government documents translated into your language, and you also get to proudly wave your country’s flag in protest of the very country that has given you all of the above for not giving you even more.

I must say those guys over at the U.N. sure have a great sense of humor!  But now that I think about it, maybe the U.N. is right.  Maybe Arizona and the rest of the United States should make every effort to adopt illegal immigration laws that are more in conformity with international standards.

The border between North and South Korea

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Footnotes:

Fn. 1:  For full article, click here:

http://www.foxnews.com/world/2010/05/11/human-rights-experts-say-arizona-immigration-law-violate-international/

Fn. 2: Mexico, along with two delegates from the United States, one from Pakistan, one from Kenya, and one from Costa Rica, sits on the six-member panel of United Nations “experts” that opined on the Arizona immigration law.

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For more great stuff on the United Nations, click here:

https://culturecrusader.wordpress.com/2010/05/02/gem-of-the-week-u-n-elects-iran-to-commission-on-women%e2%80%99s-rights-seriously/

Gem of the Week: Oh Canada, What A-Houles You Are!

March 23, 2010

University of Ottawa's Francois Houle

Conservative columnist and best-selling author, Ann Coulter is visiting Canada this week where she is scheduled to speak at three universities. (Boy, I hope they’re paying her a lot of money for that!)  However, before she even got off the plane, a senior University of Ottawa administrator warned her to use “restraint, respect and consideration” when speaking at the school.  In an email to Ann, Academic provost and all-around douche-bag, Francois Houle, wrote:  “Our domestic laws, both provincial and federal, delineate freedom of expression (or ‘free speech’) in a manner that is somewhat different than the approach taken in the United States. I therefore encourage you to educate yourself, if need be, as to what is acceptable in Canada and to do so before your planned visit here… Promoting hatred against any identifiable group would not only be considered inappropriate, but could in fact lead to criminal charges… I therefore ask you, while you are a guest on our campus, to weigh your words with respect and civility in mind.”  He said some other things too, but I don’t want to offend the sensibilities of average Americans.  By the way, I wonder to how many Jihad-chanting Muslim speakers he sent that kind of an email before they arrived on campus to speak.

Anyway, it’s all good because Ann, being smarter than your average college guest-speaker and infinitely smarter than the liberal provost of some third-rate Canadian university, has turned the tables and is claiming that the provost, by his email, targeted her as a member of an identifiable group, namely conservatives, and as such she will be filing a complaint with the Canadian Human Rights Commission alleging that she is now the victim of hate speech.  Go Ann!

When jackasses like the University of Ottawa provost are able to wield a criminal statute like a martinet school master would a yardstick, any kind of insanity can ensue.  But should we expect anything less from a university administrator in the age of political correctness?  In addition to the liberal bias that is rampant across college campuses in the U.S. and Canada, this incident points out the utter absurdity of the Canadian “hate speech” law, and, for that matter, any laws that would attempt to criminalize speech.  And yet, this Kafkaesque theater of the absurd is precisely what Liberal-Progressive ideas about how to create a politically correct society inevitably lead to.

Well, thank God the Progressives in America have yet to accomplish this item on their agenda (though given the swift and corrupt process by which they rammed healthcare into law anything could happen!)  Until then, I will continue to exercise my right to free speech and, to prove the point, with all due restraint and respect, I cordially invite the University of Ottawa provost and every other French-speaking Canadian to suck frozen moose cock.

For related posts on this topic, link to:

https://culturecrusader.wordpress.com/2010/04/05/why-i-love-ann-coulter/

https://culturecrusader.wordpress.com/2010/03/06/gem-of-the-week-2/

Why You Don’t Have a Right to Healthcare

March 20, 2010

 

 

 

I.  What is a Right?

Healthcare in America is not a right and cannot be a right so long as we live in a country that still recognizes the United States Constitution as the law of the land.  Our rights are embedded in Natural Law.  They do not come from a king, they do not come from the President or any other politician, they do not come from Congress, nor do they come from the government as a whole or from some special group of policy makers within the government.  They do not even come from the Constitution itself.  Our rights emanate from the fundamental nature of our humanity or, if you will, from God.  As individuals, we are born with them.  The Constitution is the document under which our rights are protected.  Protected from what or whom? Why, from the government of course.  Or more to the point, the government’s inherent desire for ever more encroaching power and control over our lives.

Because our rights derive from our own individual humanity, healthcare, whether provided by the government or somebody else, cannot, by definition, be a human right.  And why is this?  Because if it were a right, we would be able to require of another person that he or she provide it to us, which would then infringe on that person’s rights.  In other words, if a so-called right requires someone else to do something for you or give something to you (i.e., guaranteed care whenever you are sick) then it is not a right.  So if healthcare is not a right, what is it?  It is a good.  A good is something we want or need, as opposed to something we naturally possess from birth.  So healthcare is no more a right than is food, clothing, housing, high-speed Internet access, or a double mocha latte from Starbucks. 

What are some examples of rights?  We have a right to life, to speech, to worship, to travel, to due process (or fairness); we also have the right to be left alone.  These basic rights and others are to be found among the first ten amendments to the Constitution, otherwise known as the Bill of Rights.  But when you think about it, they are not really rights at all. There is nothing there that is being given to Americans that they do not already naturally possess.  They are more like prohibitions – prohibitions placed upon the government; things that the government shall not do to infringe upon the rights of the individual.  “Congress shall make no law…” this right “shall not be infringed…” this other right “shall not be violated,” the Bill of Rights is replete with such language.  So if we already possess these rights, why were they even added to the Constitution?  Because the people were, understandably, suspicious of government and in fact feared a government that would not only fail to secure their rights but actually, in the words of the Declaration of Independence, become “destructive of these ends.” 

 

 

II. The Progressive View 

Of course none of this squares at all with what Progressive politicians are saying.  Those great liberal luminaries, Dennis Kucinich, Tom Harkin, Nancy Pelosi and even Barrack Obama, have all argued that healthcare either is or should be a right in this country.  If they think it is already a right, then they either are unable or unwilling to comprehend the above analysis.  On the other hand, believing it should be a right is even more troubling because that implies that they —the officials of the government — actually think they have the power to grant it as a right.  Well, they who have the power to give, also have the power to take away.

But all this begs the question, why are these deep-thinking Progressives so hot to make only healthcare a right?  What about food? What good is it being healthy if you don’t have anything to eat?  What about housing? You need a place to sleep don’t you? What about a job?  How about a car to get to the job?  How about a place to rest when you go on vacation from your job?  Sound good?

Well, believe it or not, these things can all be yours.  Just one little catch: you have to leave the country.  Yes, the governments of other fine nations, both existing and defunct, have provided in their constitutions for all of the above, including healthcare.  Regarding the healthcare “right,” here is just a brief sampling: 

Article 42.  Citizens … have the right to health protection.This right is ensured by free, qualified medical care provided by state health institutions; by extension of the network of therapeutic and health-building institutions; by the development and improvement of safety and hygiene in industry; by carrying out broad prophylactic measures; by measures to improve the environment; by special care for the health of the rising generation, including prohibition of child labor, excluding the work done by children as part of the school curriculum; and by developing research to prevent and reduce the incidence of disease and ensure citizens a long and active life.

This comes from the U.S.S.R.’s Constitution of Fundamental Rights, as amended in 1977.

Here is the right to healthcare from the Constitution of the People’s Republic of China (as adopted in 1982): 

Article 45. Citizens of the People’s Republic of China have the right to material assistance from the state and society when they are old, ill or disabled. The state develops the social insurance, social relief and medical and health services that are required to enable citizens to enjoy this right. The state and society ensure the livelihood of disabled members of the armed forces, provide pensions to the families of martyrs and give preferential treatment to the families of military personnel. The state and society help make arrangements for the work, livelihood and education of the blind, deaf-mute and other handicapped citizens

And to satisfy the Michael Moore crowd, the Cuban Constitution (as amended in 2002) also gives everyone the right to healthcare:

Article 50: Everyone has the right to health protection and care. The state guarantees this right; by providing free medical and hospital care by means of the installations of the rural medical service network, polyclinics, hospitals, preventative and specialized treatment centers; by providing free dental care; by promoting the health publicity campaigns, health education, regular medical examinations, general vaccinations and other measures to prevent the outbreak of disease. All the population cooperates in these activities and plans through the social and mass organizations.

Finally, there’s this one:

… Healthcare is a basic right … to be provided through a not-for-profit plan.  We … include coverage for those excluded… We … free the states. We … have control over private insurance companies and the cost their very existence imposes on [our] families.  We … provide a significant place for alternative and complementary medicine, religious health science practice, and the personal responsibility aspects of health care which include diet, nutrition, and exercise.

Actually, those are the words of Congressman Dennis Kucinich in a speech he gave just last Wednesday regarding his plans to vote on the upcoming bill for government managed healthcare in this country.  Sound familiar?

 

 

 

III. America the Exceptional

I often get this from liberals: “Most of the industrialized world thinks that healthcare is a human right, why not the United States?” Well most of the world, industrialized or not, thinks a lot of things that are decidedly un-American, including the government’s power to bestow healthcare (and other things) as a right.  One has to ask, how did America get to be America?  By becoming like the rest of the world?  By giving things away for free? Heck no!  What makes us still today the shining beacon to the rest of the world is that we are different from the rest of the world.  We are exceptional.  And what allows us to be exceptional is the recognition that our rights and liberties are intrinsic to the individual and not derived from government.  Where over the course of human history through to this day, governments of other nations have handed down rights to the peoples they’ve governed and have, in the name of those very rights, meddled, restrained and enslaved, in America the individual rights and liberties of our people have freed us to create, innovate, invest, build, grow and pursue success and happiness in every conceivable way, including giving it all away if that is an individual’s choice.

So really the question is not so much whether healthcare is or is not a right, because in America it is not.  Rather the question is what kind of country we want to be. 

For more on the healthcare debate, link to:

https://culturecrusader.wordpress.com/2010/03/18/fortune-favors-the-brave/

https://culturecrusader.wordpress.com/2010/03/04/the-arrogance-of-hope-change-%e2%80%a6-or-else/

Inconvenient History

March 8, 2010

Recently, a piece of tripe appeared on the New York Times editorial page (shocking!) about what wonderful shape the United States is in.  It was written by some English wanker by the name of Piers Brendon who fancies himself a student of history.

Anyway, I won’t dwell on the turgid prose of Mr. Brendon other than to say that the article attempts to debunk comparisons between the decline of ancient Rome and the precarious position that America finds itself in today.  In support of his argument, Brendon actually cites that great intellectual luminary and current Vice-President, Joe Biden!  If you’re still intrigued, you can link to the article here:

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/02/25/opinion/25brendon.html?pagewanted=1

Whether or not there are any parallels between ancient Rome and present day America, may be a matter of wide open debate.  But one thing is for sure, the New York Times has written enough Pollyanna pieces on the present state of American culture and global standing under the rule of Obama to make even Neville Chamberlain look like an alarmist.  Of course, I wouldn’t describe anything in the New York Times as fit to print, whether it be news or the Sunday Style Section.  But when it comes to philosophizing about history, the old Grey Lady is begging to be ridiculed.  At any rate, I would much rather trust a real historian:

The study of history is the best medicine for a sick mind; for in history you have a record of the infinite variety of human experience plainly set out for all to see: and in that record you can find for yourself and your country both examples and warnings: fine things to take as models, base things, rotten through and through, to avoid.  I hope my passion for [my country’s] past has not impaired my judgment; for I do honestly believe that no country has ever been greater and purer than ours or richer in good citizens and noble deeds; none has been free for so many generations from the vices of avarice and luxury; nowhere have thrift and plain living been for so long held in such esteem.  Indeed, poverty with us went hand in hand with contentment.  Of late years wealth has made us greedy, and self-indulgence has brought us, through every form of sensual excess, to be, if I may so put it, in love with death both individual and collective.

– Titus Livius “Livy” (59 BC – AD 17), The Early History of Rome (Emphasis added.)

The Course of Empire: Destruction, by Thomas Cole (1836)