Have you apologized for your country today?
Welcome to the brave new post-American America, where our prosperity is a sin that must be atoned for, our military strength is a threat to be contained, and our values are a symbol of ignorance and intolerance.
If, as a conservative, you are feeling discouraged by the thought of more than 1,350 or even 2,700 days of an Obama presidency and Reid-Pelosi Congress, it’s certainly understandable. But in fact, it’s the progressives that are facing ruin. The intellectual foundation that supports their agenda is collapsing in full view of the world. That foundation is collectivism.
A failed doctrine
Collectivism is the belief that we, as individuals, must put the needs, goals, and desires of society ahead of our own. It is a particularly frightening mindset because it appeals to virtue yet can be used to justify so much misery.
When most people think of collectivism, they think of communism or socialism. Under these systems the virtue of collective ownership was used to justify the most repressive and brutal environments in the 20th century. But collectivism has many other forms, including fascism, ultra-nationalism, the welfare state, social engineering, political correctness, and internationalism. In each of these varieties, autocrats make and enforce their judgments in the name of the greater good. If these custodians decide that limiting your freedoms or taking your income or savings furthers society’s goals, then that is simply the price to be paid for a better world.
But utopia is never reached. The more social objectives the government sets, the more taxes it collects, the more money it spends, and the more laws it passes, the worse the situation becomes. The failure of central authorities to deliver on their noble goals is the ground truth of not only conservatism and libertarianism, but any reputable school of economics, American and world history, political philosophy, or constitutional law.
That’s collectivism in four paragraphs. The best sources I have read on the subject lie five decades apart yet are equally effective: Atlas Shrugged and Liberty and Tyranny. And these are just two of the many books that force you to think through the progressive ideological agenda to its inevitable and miserable end.
Collectivism should have been burned in effigy in 1991 with the fall of the Soviet Union. At that point, both communism and fascism were completely discredited as viable political systems and just about every country in the world was opening its economy. If collectivism had a last gasp, it should have been stifled in 1993 and 1994 with the defeat of HillaryCare and the Republican Revolution. But 9/11 changed everything.
Herbert Hoover famously observed: “Every collectivist revolution rides in on a Trojan horse of emergency.” A bipartisan Congress immediately granted the Bush administration broad powers to deal with the terrorist threat, including two war authorizations and virtually unlimited surveillance, interrogation, and detention authority. This represented a vast expansion of government power, although most fair-minded people would say given what we know now, the president used the authority responsibly. But collectivists are opportunists if nothing else, and while Bush was struggling to defeat al-Qaeda and keep the U.S. from being attacked again, they developed a rapid case of legislative amnesia and started throwing beer bottles from the cheap seats.
Obama campaigned on the naïve promise of de-escalating the war on terror, and the very phrase has been retired from the government lexicon. Sean Hannity may decry the “pre-9/11” mentality, but the effect is that Obama doesn’t get to play with the new toys. Imagine the outcry if the Obama administration were found to have interrogated a terrorist or detained an innocent individual. Instead, the president has to rely on the economic emergency for his march to collectivism. As always, the lofty rhetoric calls for shared sacrifice and promises a better world by way of government leadership. Look behind the oration and it’s borrow and boondoggle on a scale never seen before. Not even the Congressional Budget Office’s own projections can make the numbers work and put lipstick on his pig.
This emergency procedure won’t work because the administration is in a no-win situation. If the economy is still floundering by the end of the summer then it’s going to be difficult to tell Americans that more money or regulation is the solution. But if the economy begins to improve, the crisis is over and there’s little justification for sweeping economic changes.
According to the latest Rasmussen polls, Abraham Lincoln was right. A plurality of Americans view the bailouts as a mistake, believe the government has too much money and power, and think the government is making the economy worse in the long-term. The financial crisis is now understood as a symptom of a larger problem of government ineptitude and outright corruption.
Why it’s over
Throughout the country individuals are struggling with the causes and consequences of and solutions to a rapidly expanding government. Mark Levin’s Liberty and Tyranny is on the top of the New York Times bestseller list. Glenn Beck’s new Fox program is a huge success despite a 5 p.m. time slot. Rush Limbaugh’s ratings have climbed since being singled out by President Obama. Nothing spreads faster than a good idea, especially in the Internet era.
Of course, Henry Paulson, Tim Geithner, and Ben Bernanke have provided the best argument for limited government. At this point more than $3 trillion dollars is out the door and not even the most ardent optimist can imagine that this will end well. Freedomworks has a constitutional challenge to TARP, and lawsuits, indictments, or perhaps even impeachments are inevitable given the strong-arm tactics, secrecy, and potential for corruption.
Then there’s national health care, an issue that reveals how boundless the progressive capacity is for both government expansion and self-delusion. The idea that the government could successfully manage the U.S. health care industry (which makes up 15% of the economy) and issue directives and payments to millions of health care providers while improving health outcomes, protecting patient rights, and reducing costs, belongs in books with fairy tales and unicorns.
The alternative to a monstrous government bureaucracy that holds the power of life and death over you and your family yet is accountable to no-one is a health care voucher. Get a check or a tax credit and go buy whatever insurance you like. That’s an electoral no-brainer. Even if Americans do want universal health insurance, they still want to make their own decisions about their lives, and that opens the door to health care vouchers. And if collectivism survives the second HillaryCare debate, it won’t survive what follows next. Social Security and Medicare are accounting frauds that make Madoff’s profits look like pocket change. Now the financial crisis and Obama’s trillion dollar deficits have accelerated that day of reckoning. The outcome will be nothing less than the greatest moral betrayal in history as millions of elderly Americans are told that the money they paid into the system is gone — spent years ago in financial rescues, stimulus plans, mortgage relief, and compound interest on a staggering debt. Perhaps Congress will drape a tent over the FDR memorial and allow retirees to sleep underneath.
Party of ideas
In 2006, Karl Rove delivered an upbeat speech to the Republican National Committee (RNC) entitled “Why the GOP is still the Party of Ideas.” But contained within was a stark and prescient warning: If the Republican Party failed to set the agenda and provide a clear governing philosophy and vision for a better America, it would lose elections. That big idea is here. To paraphrase Ayn Rand and James Carville, it’s the individual, stupid. If we can’t protect an individual’s freedom to speak, worship, and provide for one’s family, then what exactly is the purpose of government? Is it just to impose the values of one group over everyone else, experimenting endlessly until it finds its preferred social outcome or until it goes bankrupt and collapses?
Finally, on an April 16 appearance on On The Record, RNC Chairman Michael Steele labeled Obama a collectivist. Let’s hope he really gets it now, because a lot of us already do and this is one party he doesn’t want to be late to.