But Which Idea(s)?

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

David Harsanyi's column on yesterday's special election in Massachusetts shows both the power and the limitations of the intuitive grasp of the political issues by someone armed with common sense and what Ayn Rand would call the "American sense of life."

The power of a sense-of-life grasp of the general political situation is that it exists on an emotional level, and thus has tremendous motivational power. If I may sum things up for my countrymen: I'll be damned if I'm going to live under anyone's orders, much less those of the likes of Barack Obama or Nancy Pelosi or Martha Coakley. They do not run things in my house.

The fact that they intended to do so had become very obvious, to the point that it had become inescapable, as Harsanyi indicates:

... Democrats continue to convince themselves that the party's problem is flawed candidates or poorly communicated messages, as White House spokesman Robert Gibbs conceded this week -- because, presumably, the idea of socializing medicine is too nuanced and intellectually rigorous for the average voter to digest.

Hardly. The predicament Democrats face is the opposite. Too many voters appreciate exactly what health care legislation entails.

This is why Congress conducts clandestine negotiations on legislation and trashes promises of transparency. This is why leading Democrats have embraced procedural tricks and senatorial bribery -- and now the possibility of "reconciliation" -- so they can adjust health care reform and pass it with a 51-vote majority. You're gonna get it whether you want it or not.
Or, as Tom Daschle once summed it up so nicely, "Details kill."

Like children whose parents spell naughty words to each other as if they hadn't already learned to spell, the stooges his party took for granted yesterday eventually caught on -- to both the Democrats' attempts to fool us and to their attempts to fool themselves. People read and understood the plan when it became available and were oddly reluctant to take sitting down closed-door meetings about how (or whether) their own bodies would be attended to should they become ill.

But it is here -- as we see with Scott Brown himself -- that the power of a pre-conceptual feeling that one ought to be captain of one's life hits its limits. Many things, the medical sector for one, are a mess. What to do? As a commenter to yesterday's post pointed out to me -- and I had learned myself later that day -- Brown himself supported the very plan for socialized medicine that is currently failing in Massachusetts. His election may serve as a much-needed brake on the headlong rush into the nationalization of our bodies that is ObamaCare, but it will not ultimately do much good if we slowly nationalize our bodies under a slightly different plan.

The title of Harsanyi's piece, "The idea is the problem," is on the right track, but its sights are set too low, and this is a serious problem. It takes more than a love of freedom and a pinch of common sense to appreciate the fact that Obama's reviled plan and the one that Brown once supported are fundamentally the same thing. It takes a grasp of the fundamental philosophical ideas that not only undergird our political philosophy but inform the way we use our minds to understand the world. Without such a grasp, we will never really move forward towards a real solution to the problem of government interference with medicine, and we will keep on making do with stop-gap candidates such as Brown and watching our backs from fear that they will propose foolish plans of their own.

We need to become, as a society, once again, able to discuss political issues in terms of principles, and to become able once again to articulate why freedom is as precious to human life as water in a desert. Only then will our culture once again have the likes of George Washington or Ben Franklin or Thomas Jefferson as our representatives in government -- rather than the would-be "leaders" we have today.

If we are lucky, we averted catastrophe yesterday, but we are far from out of the woods. Scott Brown is no Thomas Jefferson, but if he wants any future support from me, he'd better come up with a far better imitation than I think he can.

-- CAV


: Minor edits.

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