Health Care: a Culture Issue

Despite the successful (kind of, sort of) passage of the Obama-Reid-Pelosi health care bill, the debate is far from over, it seems, and the underlying issues will only become more incendiary: the health care fight has served as a proxy for a deeper debate over the ongoing transformation of the United States into a European-style “soft despotism,” to use Tocqueville’s astute description.

Quoted in an article in National Review Online this morning, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) of Wisconsin identified very well the way the health-care debate has exemplified the vast difference between two cultures in the United States today:

Health care is really the issue that speaks to the relationship between the citizen and the government in America. It shapes the fiscal trajectory and the economic trajectory. This whole debate has been a proxy fight about what kind of country America will be—whether we’ll become a cradle-to-grave welfare state or stay a free-market democracy. The Democrats who are being told that the wors[t] is over should know that the battle has not even begun. It’s up to us to now bring the case to the American people—a real moral, philosophical, and economic case— asking about our values, our founding principles, and if we really want to move toward a Western European–style system. . . .

What’s really happening here is the president is saying to the American people that you’re stuck in your current station in life, you’re frozen, and the government is here to help you cope with it. But that’s not who we are. We are a dynamic society where people have the will and incentive to make the most of their lives, to reach their potential. With this bill, that whole mindset, the American idea is upended.

Matt Peterson put it succinctly in an essay in The American Thinker:

In November 2008, Americans elected a socialist as their president. In March 2010, they woke up stunned to find themselves living in a socialist country.

He goes on to explain the enormity of this power-grab:

Health insurers–once private companies–are now organs of the federal government. Every citizen is a ward of the state, which can now compel you to have insurance, punish you if you don’t; determine if your insurance is acceptable, punish you if it isn’t. Thousands of new federal bureaucrats will soon spill from the D.C. Beltway and flood the country, scrutinizing our finances to verify compliance with this new law.

A government that grants itself this kind of power over us can conceivably do anything to us.  For our own good, of course. Such a country is in no meaningful sense “free.”. . .

There’s a reason why Democrats were desperate to ram this through at any cost–once enacted, such things are all but perpetual. Former freedom-loving peoples begin to tell themselves that it’s really not so bad. Sure, government is forcing you to eat state-approved gruel, but hey, at least they hold the spoon, and they even pour a little sugar on top when you’re good.

Tarren Bragdon, president of the Maine Heritage Policy Center, notes that the health care overhaul legislation has energized the opposition to a degree that hasn’t been manifested by non-progressives in many years—perhaps more than a century:

Last night’s vote was an assault on the fundamental American values of freedom, individualism and limited government, but this fight isn’t over.  The unprecedented level of activism and engagement among Americans to oppose the president’s health care takeover will carry through to the November elections and beyond.  We will not be silenced.  We will continue to fight to protect Maine families from an intrusive, unaccountable, and now, greatly expanded federal government.

This issue indeed lays bare the great divide between two cultures in the contemporary United States: a European-style, “progressive” rule by elites, versus a consumer-oriented, reformist coalition based on the premise of natural rights embedded in the Declaration of Independence. Like the Tea Party movement, the “unprecedented level of activism and engagement among Americans” in opposition to Obamacare is evidence of a long-delayed recognition by much of the public that what’s wrong with progressivism is not the particular policies it espouses but its assumption that rule by elites is better than freedom of choice.

The passage of this health care bill is a great triumph of progressivism. Under the spell of progressive ideology, for the last few decades public schools across the country have increasingly refused to educate children in the founding values of the nation and in fact have often openly taught contempt for them. In turn, a public without a strong understanding of what individual freedom really means and the reasons why it is precious has little defense against the ever-increasing encroachments of government—until something as obviously grotesque, wrongheaded, and overweening as this health care bill comes along.

That’s what makes this fundamentally an issue of culture, and it’s why those stubborn souls who persist in believing in individual rights must engage the culture, especially by wresting control of the public schools from the hands of the progressive myrmidons who have debauched it.

Certainly the particulars of the health care bill energized many people, both for and against, insofar as they actually were spelled out and became known to the public. Nonetheless, it’s clear that the real concern was that the option of personal choice was being taken away from individual citizens in this vital area of life. The power to control people’s health care, in addition to the hegemony over the one-sixth of the economy which it represents, conveys to the government an enormous amount of control over individual lives, a level of control surely unprecedented in this nation.

This is not regulation; it is rule. And the public finally realized that the current government does not intend to be gentle in its rule.

The revolt against the Tyranny of the Majority has begun. Whether it will succeed over the long term will be decided in and through the culture.

S. T. Karnick edits the American Culture,, where this article first appeared.

  • K. Bond

    One week ago, it was revealed that only 6 men in the entire country have read all 3000 pages of this COMMUNIST DOCUMENT they tout as the Health Bill…Health Bill me AHRSE! Those blind Bats voted on a Bill they did not read and was not at all made transparent to the American people! O and the entire administration is a disgrace to the country, and a disgrace to the office of the presidency. (and he is probably not even a US Citizen!>?) These no good filthy swine Democrat pieces of trash…Flush em all on election day.

    Some notable Obamma-Isms for your consideration:

    He's the same clown that said (during the near $5/gallon gas crisis) that we need to inflate our tires, so that our savings in oil will eliminate the need to drill off shore..(my 2 cents here: and that is good because its GREEN, right? and we can further protect the spotted yellow sand fly that lays eggs along the beaches, right? sheeeesh.)

    The same schlubb who barked that insulation is good, its a good thing you know, because it saves money, and that is good.

    The same blithering idiot who spent 5 minutes ordering a hamburger at a fast food stand.

    He the same jabloke who can not put words together in a sentence without the aid of his "teleprompter" going full steam ahead.

    The same simple BAZTARD who called a Navy Corpsman (core-men) a corpse-men (CORPSE, AS IN ZOMBIES).

    All this baloney, and yet the media gives him a free pass, IT'S ALRIGHT, pass go & collect $200.

    Also, every day is a new socialist idea coming from the White House, look:

    It is so obvious that the Almighty O does not give a damn about this country, what it stands for, and its glorious past. He is a one man "communist loving" wrecking machine.

    Don't forget….O has nearly destroyed our country in just over 14 months!! Only 32 to go, woo hoo! >>>Cmon guys, be nice to him already…he is the new world leader of the "USSA."

  • taggart

    The revolution is here and it will be televised. "Tea Party" people are coming out of the woodwork. I don't think they can be stopped. I am not a prophet, but I am an optimist. We will need to take back congress and choke this "healthcare" law. We will repeal it before it metastasizes. We got here by sleepwalking and warming our hands at other patriot's fires. We each will have to burn our own fire. Learn about what is happening! Speak about you've learned. Don't be silent. Don't be bullied by the leftist. Speak! Speak Now! Speak Proud!

  • gpcase

    We need to ask ourselves: How did we get to the point where so many people believe they have a "right" to other people's money? If the collective has a right to your earnings, your private property is no longer secure, nor are you free if you're required to meet the state's mandates and dictates. If you ask someone "Do people have a right to health care?" They would say "yes!" without thinking about the principle involved. The principle is that individual rights are subserviant to the desires of the collective, and that self-sacrifice and servitude must be enforced.

    Why don't people think through the immediate issue, in this case getting the money to pay one's medical bills, and understand the foundational principle involved? The art of teaching critical thinking has largely vanished from public education. Moreover, teachers intellectually equipped to teach the Founder's philosophical principles (not just read them and proceed to misinterpret them) are a dying breed.

  • gpcase

    Public intellectuals teach each new generation of leaders at the nation's teachers colleges, universities and law schools. They are infused with a philosophy that subverts the concept of individual rights, and instead teach the ethic of altruism, the ideology of statism, the principle that we are our brother's keeper. All power must flow to the center because the common man cannot know what's in his best interest and must be made a sacrificial animal to the alter of compassion. It always starts with an idea and ends at the point of a gun.

  • Samurai Hit Woman

    Spirits are real. What else explains the penchant for man to follow beliefs that are counter to his best interest when his intellect should know better if intellect alone is all that matters.

    We are now serving the spirit of slavery and lies instead of the Spirit of God—- the Spirit that is in Christ Jesus— the Spirit of Truth and freedom.

    This is why our founders who were Christians founded this country in truth and freedom because they were faithfully following the Spirit of God. And is why we are now losing our country to lies and enslavement via our renouncement of the Spirit that comes from God.

  • maryann

    Can't argue with that Samurai. God has said that when the nations return to Him, He will return the nations to peace and prosperity. Until that happens, Americans who want to remain free have some serious thinking to do. Peaceful civil disobedience is a good place to start the protest. DO NOT PAY TAXES. If enough people refuse to participate in the tryanny that is forced upon them, it will change. Hell, they can't throw hundreds of thousands of people in jail, or even just thousands. States can't afford to house that many new people. California has to let it's prisoners go free.

  • lovesjeeves

    This article is fantastic and appreciated. Please pass on to your friends and others who think the discontent rampant throughout the U.S. at this time is not justified. Clearly there are too many who don't yet realize the price for America's people is far too high. People are waking up, but not all are aware of the continued diminishment of Europe's once far more influencial culture by decades of payment for their so called "entitlements." Tax rates continue to increase while quality of life does not. And notably, this trend has only grown as more and more people turned their back to God and so many Churches became weakened and exist like mere museums. Even for those who choose not to be religious, putting more faith in an elite cadre of politicians rather than long held principals based in the Judeo/Christian foundation leads to the erosion of so much more than financial strength. Those principles have served this nation well for over two centuries. How arrogant for any one President or Congress to think somehow they know better than the brilliant minds who created our nation.

  • johncarens

    Most people are repelled when they are told what to do, and to do it for no other reason than someone has authority over them. The only time this tension is relieved is when the people trade some measure of freedom for a measure of perceived security. For reference, refer to the government seizing most of the community of Oak Ridge, Tennessee in 1943 for development of the Manhattan Project: "Take my house? Okay, if it helps win the war", was the rough calculation. With Obamacare, there is no such calculation that will result in added security, perceived or otherwise.

    Herein lay the reason that this stinking pile of statist tyranny called "Obamacare" will not be the law of the land one year from now: Those who have willingly traded their freedom for a slice of security will find out that the security they were promised by the Democrat Congress is a phantom. Worse than that: The new law not only doesn't add any additional security to their everyday lives, it has actually diminished both Freedom and Security. The folks in Oak Ridge eventually found out that they forfeited their homes to defeat the Japanese. The folks in this case of Obamacare will eventually find out they forfeited their health freedom for nothing in return but misery.

    There will be hell to pay. This isn't 1933 when they passed Social Security; This isn't 1965 when they passed Medicaid. The difference? The amount of raw information in the blood-stream of the body politic. We know more about how this law was created, from its inception, to its incubation, to its birth, than any major piece of legislation ever. We know more about it than the idiots voting on it. Therefore, when the odious , tyrannical elements of this Law bubble to the surface, more people will know more about it more quickly than ever before. Therefore, it will not stand.

    It is a new age. Just as Mikhail Gorbachev knew he no longer had the power to prevent the United States and the UN from invading Kuwait in the early winter of 1991 because the world had changed, the average, normal, hard-working American knows fundamentally that the United States has changed. We are not facing a normal, Bill Clinton-type Democrat President. We are facing a far left radical with vaporous dreams of being a philosopher-king.

    There is a true, rebellious scent in the air. The American People are aroused, and will choke off the counterrevolutionaries in Washington. Make book on it.

  • courtnye

    hey, this is what I believe……I believe that back in the sixties Nancy, Harry, and the rest of the White House Gang, was sitting on some campus in california smoking alot of POT, and I believe that along come the seventies and there was BARRY, smoking alot of HASH (and POT) !!! and I believe NOW, they sit in the Oval Office and STILL smoke ALOT of POT………that's what I believe, thank you

  • Consider

    In spite of the theses of the column and the supporting comments one cannot escape the impression that the motivation for the opposition to the health bill is immense, limitless misanthropy.

    • Geoffrey

      Misanthropy? You may have stumbled onto something, Consider. If you mean we who oppose socialistic programs are not being altruistic, you are correct! But don't be fooled by the false definition that we are man-haters, for we are just the opposite. We are for the rights of man, for individualism freed from the bonds of indentured servitude, because that creed holds to key to freedom and prosperity. Misanthopy is also defined as altruism. Altruism is self-sacrifice for the collective. It is the creed, the philosophical core of totalitarianism, of the benevolece of tyranny. It is the idea that the masses cannot know what's in their best interest and therefore should not be empowered to choose for themselves how to manage their affairs. Read Ayn Rand and open your mind, perhaps for the first time.

    • Bobbi

      Misanthropy – a generalized dislike or hatred of the human species. Oh my, you have bought the liberal argument hook, line and sinker, haven't you? I suppose you are one of those who is "liberal" because you "care about people." Well, guess what? I am conservative because I really care about REAL people, not just the idea of them that liberals promote. Since you folks are so fond of the "nanny state," let's take that metaphor and run with it. If the state is our parent, which method of parenting is more beneficial to children: To give them the tools to be self-sufficient? Or to ensure they remain dependent on their parent by removing all consequences of their own foolishness? Shall I micromanage every aspect of their lives with voluminous laws that change with every circumstance , or give them knowledge, and a few firm and clear rules, consistently enforced? When they make bad choices, to harm themselves and others, should I excuse their behaviors because they are victims of others, or remind them that they are empowered to make their own choices and are responsible for their own behavior? If one of my children succeeds, should I call him evil and denounce him before the others to foster envy and hatred, and justify my own taking of what the successful have earned? Should I take what my children earn and dispense it as I see fit, to gain their gratitude and enhance my own power over them all? Please! You are pitiful. Read the bill.(You can no longer claim there isn't one!) It directly harms and enslaves the poor and working class Americans it purports to help. When government controls the insurance industry and the health care industry, only the mega-rich and mega-powerful will have the choice to go elsewhere when some bureaucrat's heartless edict threatens their lives and health – the rest of us will have no where else to go.

  • menachem

    As a physician I can tell you that the consequences of "choice" in health care are almost always the ability to choose inferior care. Most patients and most physicians, no matter how well meaning or intelligent, can by themselves pick the "best" medical choice. Based on the situation, what is far better is to follow guidelines determined by expert bodies. This is no different than Southwest Airlines; every pilot takes off and lands the same way, every time. That is why they have the best safety record in the business and that is why Kaiser and the VA knock the socks off the private practice world. If you have a certain medical problem you should get a certain treatment, just like in the Army or Kaiser. As the medical evidence changes over time the treatments will surely change, but individual doctors and patients should not have the privilege to choose treatments simply because they think its best. That method produces inferior care and is bankrupting the country. It makes no more sense then letting the passengers vote on how to land the plane.

    • Bobbi

      Doctor, with all due respect, you must be a horrible physician! Human beings are not airplanes, they are not machines, and their lives are not runways with clear markings and lights to guide their way. Each of us is different, and therefore will respond differently to various treatments. There are statistical commonalities, but no one of is the statistic. When my mother-in-law was diagnosed with Pancreatic Cancer, they sewed her up and sent her home to die. They told her she had less than 3 months to live. Fortunately her daughter is married to a doctor who secured more aggressive treatment. She lived 4 years, and though she had some bad days, she attended the weddings of two grandchildren and the christenings of her first great grandchild, she traveled and shared holidays and just plain old good days with family and friends. When she took her final turn for the worse, as she lay unconscious in the emergency room, tubes draining her body of poisons, experts and their procedure insisted her brain was mush and that any responses we saw were mere reflex. A few of us disagreed and asked for one more day and night to decide whether to pull treatment. The next morning, when my mother-in-law regained consciousness, her first words were, "I heard you all and I AM NOT DEAD YET! Her last three months were a tough battle, morphine seemed to keep her comfortable, but if she was in pain we would not have known, because she was never one to complain. The value of those last three months to us, her family, can not be calculated on statistical charts or quantified by experts. While she died, she set an example that healed broken spirits and broken relationships and gave the living, her children and grandchildren, valuable tools of the heart that will serve them well for all the days of their lives. I could give you a thousand examples such as this and more, but I doubt you'd hear them since you've apparently bought the eugenics kool-ade … how sad for you, your family and your patients. You've forgotten the art of your profession – if you ever knew it at all.

  • netwit

    To vary an old adage, you can lead a horse to "wellness" but you can't make him drink the kool aid.

  • whatsso4me

    Revolutionary Americans in the late 1700's were forced by King George to enter a shooting war. Will Obama direct armed forces against Americans?

  • Bobbi

    Liberty can not exist without virtue. To paraphrase the introduction to A Patriot's History of the United States: In America where we are free to do anything, we have thrived because most people choose to do the right thing. After years of onslaught against Churches and other community groups that foster virtuous behavior, we have become a culture with twisted morals, where "morals" exist at all. Thus, we require the State to take more of our Liberties to keep us from harming one another – and if we aren't harming one another, they will manufacture slights. It is in the interest of those who seek power to divide us by stoking imagined hurts, which they "fix" by removing natural consequences to bad actions. Had sex with everything in sight? Don't worry the State will provide an abortion and treat your STDs! Spent your money on drugs or designer luggage? Don't worry, the State will give you food, a house and medical care. Played video games when you should have been studying? Don't worry, we'll give you a college degree and a job. Don't want to work? Don't worry, we'll blame it on your evil, hardworking neighbor, take more of his money and send you a check. We are behaving like a dysfunctional, substance-abusing family! Until we restore our common culture, there is little hope of restoring essential Liberties.

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