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The state despotic…

Source: NewCriterion.com

by Mark Steyn

A review of Soft Despotism, Democracy’s Drift: Montesquieu, Rousseau, Tocqueville, and the Modern Prospect by Paul Anthony Rahe

On our gradual slide into servitude.

Driving north out of New York the other day, I heard a caller to Mark Levin’s show discuss his excellent book Liberty and Tyranny. The word she kept using was “inevitable”: The republic felt exhausted, and there was an “inevitability” to what was happening. A quarter-millennium of liberty seemed to be about the best you could expect, and its waning was—again—“inevitable.” As she spoke, the rich farmland of Columbia County rolled past my window. To many of its residents, the caller would have sounded slightly kooky. Were any of the county’s first families suddenly to rematerialize from their centuries of slumber, they would recognize the general landscape, the settlements, the principal roads, and indeed many of the weathered farmhouses. And they would be struck by the comfort and prosperity of their successors in this land. So what’s all this talk about decay and decline?

Ah, but I wonder if those early settlers would recognize the people, and their assumptions about the role of government. Mr. Levin’s listener was trying to articulate something profound but elusive. It’s not something you can sell the film rights for —there are no aliens vaporizing the White House, as in Independence Day; no God- zilla rampaging down Fifth Avenue and hurling the Empire State Building into the East River. No bangs, just the whimper of the same old same old civilizational ennui, as it gradually dawns that Admiral Yamamoto’s sleeping giant may be merely a supersized version of Monty Python’s dead parrot.

Paul A. Rahe’s new book on the subject is called Soft Despotism, Democracy’s Drift, which nicely captures how soothing and beguiling the process is.[1] Today, the animating principles of the American idea are entirely absent from public discourse. To the new Administration, American exceptionalism means an exceptional effort to harness an exceptionally big government in the cause of exceptionally massive spending. The can-do spirit means Ty’Sheoma Bethea can do with some government money: A high-school student in Dillon, South Carolina, Miss Bethea wrote to the President to ask him to do something about the peeling paint in her classroom. He read the letter out approvingly in a televised address to Congress. Imagine if Miss Bethea gets her way, and the national bureaucracy in Washington becomes responsible for grade- school paint jobs from Maine to Hawaii. What size of government would be required for such a project? And is it compatible with a constitutional republic?

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Source: WeeklyStandard.com

The Democrats’ plan would displace tens of millions of happily insured Americans and exacerbate the worst elements of the current system.

by James C. Capretta & Yuval Levin

President Obama and the Democratic leaders of Congress have made it clear that health care reform is their top legislative priority this year. The administration laid down some general markers in its budget, and the president has enunciated principles in several speeches. Key committees in both houses of Congress are now beginning the work of drafting a bill.

The program’s basic shape seems likely to follow the outlines of Obama’s campaign proposal. Employers would be required to provide health coverage or pay a fine, proceeds from which would support the creation of a new government-run insurance option. There would be a national insurance exchange through which those without access to employer-provided coverage could enroll in the public plan or one of a range of private plans that agree to certain conditions (including covering all comers, regardless of health status). And those below a certain income threshold (likely around 300 percent of the poverty line) would receive subsidies to purchase such coverage.

This is clearly intended to be transitory, rather than a final program. It would create incentives for employers to drop their health coverage plan (by making it cheaper to pay the fine than offer coverage) and would enable the new public insurance plan to undersell private insurers by imposing price controls similar to those employed in Medicare. A large number of workers finding themselves without their old employer-based coverage would “opt” for the public plan, creating, in effect, a massive new public health insurance program. Call it single payer by degrees.

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