The Backs of Our Most Vulnerable Citizens

What do you reply when your liberal friend says: "No one should have to go without health care!"  My reply, the other day, was the standard conservative line that "nobody in the U.S. goes without health care."  Afterward, I realized how unsatisfactory that reply is; it has the flavor of meanness, and we don't want that.  After all, conservatives are more generous than liberals; we give to the vulnerable rather than make money or get power off them.

The assumption lurking behind slogans like "no one should have to go without health care" is the same as President Obama's SOTU warning -- "let's make sure that we're not doing it on the backs of our most vulnerable citizens" -- and President Bush's No Child Left Behind.  It is the idea that taxes and government spending are the highest and best answer to all social problems. 

Let us be clear as to what "they" are saying when they insist that "we" should fight hunger or house the homeless.  They are saying that only force will solve the problem.  Government is force; politics is power.  Taxes are force; spending is force.  There's no mystery about this.  Modern electoral politicians elevate the use of political force the way that the landed aristocrats worshiped the warrior virtues.  Their trade is war: civil war, class war, national war.  That is why politics is drenched in military metaphor and what we delicately call "eliminationist rhetoric."

But conservatives believe in freedom and in peaceful cooperation.  We believe, with Berger and Neuhaus, in the "mediating structures": families, churches, unions, and associations as the web of civilization between individual and government.  We believe, with Michael Novak, in a threefold understanding of society: a political sector, the realm of force; the economic sector, the realm of work; and the moral/cultural sector, the realm of meaning.  We believe, with British Prime Minister David Cameron, that "there is such a thing as society; it's just not the same thing as the state."  We believe in limited government, a separation between economy and state to match the separation of church and state.

"No one should have to go without health care!"  Good point.  How do you propose to achieve that?  Taxes?  A government program?  You mean like the brilliantly successful Medicaid program?  Or the Medicare program that is going to break the bank of the United States?  You think that the only way we can help the poor get health care is by force? 

Conservatives have a better idea.  We think that force is a regrettable necessity when it comes to dealing with Commies, terrorists, and psycho killers.  When it comes to ordinary hardworking Americans -- even hugely successful Americans that have made insane amounts of money through innovative businesses -- we think that force is not so good.  In fact, we think that the record of force is pretty lousy.

Today in America, we have about a trillion dollars' worth of force a year associated with government pensions.  Usgovernmentspending.com has the breakdown.  Yet Social Security is broke, and so are many government employee retirement systems.  Force doesn't seem to work so well when it comes to pensions.  Today in America, we have about a trillion dollars of force a year associated with government health care.  Yet Medicare is $30 trillion in the hole, and Medicaid is a disgrace.  Force doesn't seem to work so well when it comes to health care.  Today in America, we spend about $0.9 trillion a year on government education, yet children are being left behind all over, most particularly in the inner cities, where the schools are an expensive fiasco.  Force doesn't seem to work so well when it comes to education.

Like President Clinton before him, President Obama is now standing like Horatio at the bridge, daring Republicans to reduce the amount of force in society.  That's what "the backs of our most vulnerable citizens" was all about.  Other Democrats will be less polite.  They will rail about Republicans balancing the budget on the backs of the poor.  They are telling us that they aren't ready yet to give up on their program of force. 

The day will come, probably around the time the U.S. government has sunk to the state of a Greece or a Spain, when a liberal on MSNBC will demand to know from conservatives what they would do.  By then, of course, it will be a bit late for the backs of the vulnerable citizens, not to mention government bondholders and crony capitalists.

Conservatives believe in an America that is cooperative, peaceful, and egalitarian, just like Howard Zinn does.  But we think it can be done without all the liberal bullying.  In other words, without the force.

The sooner we start, the less the poor will suffer.

Christopher Chantrill is a frequent contributor to American Thinker.  At americanmanifesto.org he is blogging and writing An American Manifesto: Life After Liberalism.
What do you reply when your liberal friend says: "No one should have to go without health care!"  My reply, the other day, was the standard conservative line that "nobody in the U.S. goes without health care."  Afterward, I realized how unsatisfactory that reply is; it has the flavor of meanness, and we don't want that.  After all, conservatives are more generous than liberals; we give to the vulnerable rather than make money or get power off them.

The assumption lurking behind slogans like "no one should have to go without health care" is the same as President Obama's SOTU warning -- "let's make sure that we're not doing it on the backs of our most vulnerable citizens" -- and President Bush's No Child Left Behind.  It is the idea that taxes and government spending are the highest and best answer to all social problems. 

Let us be clear as to what "they" are saying when they insist that "we" should fight hunger or house the homeless.  They are saying that only force will solve the problem.  Government is force; politics is power.  Taxes are force; spending is force.  There's no mystery about this.  Modern electoral politicians elevate the use of political force the way that the landed aristocrats worshiped the warrior virtues.  Their trade is war: civil war, class war, national war.  That is why politics is drenched in military metaphor and what we delicately call "eliminationist rhetoric."

But conservatives believe in freedom and in peaceful cooperation.  We believe, with Berger and Neuhaus, in the "mediating structures": families, churches, unions, and associations as the web of civilization between individual and government.  We believe, with Michael Novak, in a threefold understanding of society: a political sector, the realm of force; the economic sector, the realm of work; and the moral/cultural sector, the realm of meaning.  We believe, with British Prime Minister David Cameron, that "there is such a thing as society; it's just not the same thing as the state."  We believe in limited government, a separation between economy and state to match the separation of church and state.

"No one should have to go without health care!"  Good point.  How do you propose to achieve that?  Taxes?  A government program?  You mean like the brilliantly successful Medicaid program?  Or the Medicare program that is going to break the bank of the United States?  You think that the only way we can help the poor get health care is by force? 

Conservatives have a better idea.  We think that force is a regrettable necessity when it comes to dealing with Commies, terrorists, and psycho killers.  When it comes to ordinary hardworking Americans -- even hugely successful Americans that have made insane amounts of money through innovative businesses -- we think that force is not so good.  In fact, we think that the record of force is pretty lousy.

Today in America, we have about a trillion dollars' worth of force a year associated with government pensions.  Usgovernmentspending.com has the breakdown.  Yet Social Security is broke, and so are many government employee retirement systems.  Force doesn't seem to work so well when it comes to pensions.  Today in America, we have about a trillion dollars of force a year associated with government health care.  Yet Medicare is $30 trillion in the hole, and Medicaid is a disgrace.  Force doesn't seem to work so well when it comes to health care.  Today in America, we spend about $0.9 trillion a year on government education, yet children are being left behind all over, most particularly in the inner cities, where the schools are an expensive fiasco.  Force doesn't seem to work so well when it comes to education.

Like President Clinton before him, President Obama is now standing like Horatio at the bridge, daring Republicans to reduce the amount of force in society.  That's what "the backs of our most vulnerable citizens" was all about.  Other Democrats will be less polite.  They will rail about Republicans balancing the budget on the backs of the poor.  They are telling us that they aren't ready yet to give up on their program of force. 

The day will come, probably around the time the U.S. government has sunk to the state of a Greece or a Spain, when a liberal on MSNBC will demand to know from conservatives what they would do.  By then, of course, it will be a bit late for the backs of the vulnerable citizens, not to mention government bondholders and crony capitalists.

Conservatives believe in an America that is cooperative, peaceful, and egalitarian, just like Howard Zinn does.  But we think it can be done without all the liberal bullying.  In other words, without the force.

The sooner we start, the less the poor will suffer.

Christopher Chantrill is a frequent contributor to American Thinker.  At americanmanifesto.org he is blogging and writing An American Manifesto: Life After Liberalism.

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