America Fades, the World Gets Darker
The Supreme Court's outrageous activism in reframing the government's defense of ObamaCare in order to save it dimmed a little further the flame that has long stood as the world's only original source of illumination. While the loudest voices from around the world will hail this decision as evidence that America is finally becoming "reasonable," some of us from abroad see America's fall as the death of hope, though masquerading as mere "change."
The Eurosocialists, along with their spiritual progeny from Canada to Australia, have long since relinquished their dignity in favor of the protective chains of a "freedom" divorced from property rights. Hence, they will greet this latest blow to American "capitalism" as they greet all the others -- with the holier-than-thou pomposity of a snotty adolescent who refuses to admit that his very survival depends on the grown-ups he is mocking.
In other words, they will continue to see America through the prism of the entitlement mentality that is felling their own nations like dominoes, just as it destroys America herself from within.
The Asian nations, without a longstanding intellectual heritage of individualism and property rights, will witness America's fall with less glee than post-Marxist Europe, but without perceiving its real historical significance. The Latin American communists will think what communists think. The African nations, focused on hand-to-mouth survival and hand-to-hand combat, will not even notice what has just happened to them, as to all of us.
In all of these places, however, there is a minority of us who understand what America's unraveling means, because we have always understood that our own nations were surviving, and sometimes thriving, in the reflected light emanating from the United States. We have always known that America's fate would be ours, and that if America's light faded, it would be the whole world that would go dark.
While the loudest voices from abroad clamor incessantly about the "stupid Americans," a few of us have always marveled at the historically unique and implausible reality of a nation explicitly founded and framed by political philosophers standing on the shoulders of even greater philosophers.
While the loudest voices, uniformly voices of the left, deride America's "greed" and "excessive wealth," a few of us have understood that our own nations' prosperity and standard of living, such as they were, depended largely on the American market, American innovation, and America-provided security.
And in terms of practical policy (there is no practical policy divorced from underlying philosophy), while the loudest voices have ridiculed America's selfish refusal to espouse socialized medicine with its "universal," "free" health care, some of us have always understood what socialized medicine really means, and not just as a policy matter. We have long seen health care as a perfect symbol of the glorious difference in principle between America and the rest of us.
Yes, government-controlled health care means outrageously increased taxes, and sickeningly long wait times for so many necessary procedures. (Of course, ye scoffers, I too can cite instances of quick and efficient treatment, but, like every honest person who has grown up under a socialized system, I can also cite many examples of absurdly long wait times -- waits that caused serious harm.)
And yes, government-controlled health care means "death panels." The mock-outrage of those who dispute this fact has a common and simple name: the Big Lie. (See my discussion of this here.)
But even more fundamentally, some of us who hail from societies in which "property" is regarded as at best a legal convenience, at worst an antiquated nuisance see health care as a nation-defining policy issue, as it delineates a country's view of the individual citizen more profoundly than any other. Can the state -- should the state -- regard its citizens as interchangeable moving parts in a machine serving purposes beyond those of any or all individuals? Are citizens merely the means to the government's ends, to be denied even the most basic form of property rights -- i.e., self-ownership? Does the individual, in essence, belong to the state?
Or, conversely, is the government merely the means to the individual ends of each citizen, who joins others in forming a government as a useful apparatus for preserving and protecting himself -- and all other citizens -- against violations of natural liberty?
The so-called "health care issue" focuses these fundamental questions more clearly than almost any other, for those still able to see.
But here we come to the heart of the matter. How much longer will it be possible to "see" such fundamental questions clearly, as modern mankind's last source of light fades to a flicker?
This is our updated iteration of the issue Orwell raised so disturbingly: what happens when the only world anyone sees is the world defined by oppression? What happens when life's colors, and the stark differences they define, are reduced by omnipresent statism to dim variations of dark gray? What happens when the moral landscape is painted exclusively by the apologists for tyranny, and when that landscape is painted thickly upon all of life's windows, in order to prevent anyone on the inside from catching a glimpse of light from beyond?
But now the question has become even more melancholy than Orwell could know, because he was merely hypothesizing about a world that was far from real. The saddest question, presented to us ever more bleakly each year, was given emphasis by the Supreme Court this week.
What if there is no light from beyond?
In 1989, the last time Chinese youth rose up en masse to take a desperate stand against tyranny, some art students created a sculpture which they called the Goddess of Democracy, to symbolize their struggle. The sculpture was explicitly modelled on the Statue of Liberty, and was erected directly opposite a massive portrait of Mao. Those students, and the thousands of Chinese killed and injured at Tiananmen Square, were not hoping for a U.S. invasion of China. They were clinging to the hope, the plausible dream, that they could capture the glimmer of light they saw from abroad -- i.e., from America -- and cast it into the darkest corners of their society. That glimmer from abroad made their heroism possible. (Think of the stinging reversal of having members of the current American president's administration openly praising Mao.)
The same has been true around the world for a century, both in the overtly oppressive tyrannical nations and in the subtly oppressive "democratic" ones. However the minorities clinging to the hope of increased freedom defined their particular goals, they drew moral strength from the existence of the United States; from its Constitution; from Washington, Jefferson, and Madison; and from the almost giddy possibility that actual practical freedom -- a concept of freedom developed gradually over millennia, from Aristotle to Aquinas to Locke and beyond -- was realizable. The shining city on a hill was utterly real for these hopeful minorities, as long as that light remained visible.
And yet over that same century, when so many around the world have been living and working by that light in the distance, America herself has seemingly been seeking the darkness that others have been fighting to resist. America, the nation that most clearly defined the meaning of practical freedom for all people and all history, is sleepwalking away from it, and toward the post-Marxist abyss, on the path carved by so many other failed and failing nations.
Those of us watching it happen feel like dreamers having a nightmare who want to shout out a warning -- "Don't go there!" -- but who are unable to make a sound. This, however, is a nightmare from which the world will not awaken, or at least not for many generations, unless America is somehow able to rouse itself and rekindle the light that is its essence.
In the meantime, the rest of us -- both the tiny minority from without, and the larger minority from within -- have no choice but to continue to try to make a sound, and to hope against hope that America will finally hear us. For our voices are quickly becoming the only means of contact, as the light of the world seemingly fades faster day by day.
Don't let this light flicker its last. There is, at present, no other.