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Separation Of Statism And State
If only more people would think instead of simply taking sides. Really interesting piece by Matt Welch in Reason on "why statism may never die in the two oldest democracies":

Like the world's great religions, history's most successful countries—whether led by Bourbon or Bush—create cottage industries of competing explanations that cancel each other out, and mythologies that can't possibly be true. And as long as they continue to prosper, there won't be much structural incentive to fix their obvious flaws.

France and the United States, the world's two oldest and longest-bickering democracies, both suffer in their own ways from this curse of success. And until either experiences some kind of catastrophic collapse——a real one, as opposed to the perennial nonfiction predictions—the forces of statism in both countries will maintain the upper hand.

In France, the three most obscene policies from a libertarian point of view are probably the country's poverty-enhancing agricultural subsidies, its ridiculously generous welfare state, and its confiscatory taxation and regulation, all of which contribute to a stifling of domestic entrepreneurship, a multi-decade economic crisis, and a stiff stench of societal malaise.

Yet any argument against these unproductive government intrusions has to overcome three powerful rebuttals: French farming yields the most delicious food and wine on the planet; its health care system (in sharp contrast to the UK's) is a glittering advertisement for socialized medicine; and its public sector is the G8's most productive.

Small wonder that American-style economic neo-liberalism is misportrayed here as "savage capitalism"—compared to the affordable cost and superior quality of health care my wife receives when in France, "savage" is an understatement as a description of her experience with American medicine. Then again, the malaise-inspired dreariness and social immobility that comes as a consequence of the non-productive aspects of L'Etat have plenty to do with why she hasn't lived here for a decade.

The U.S. faces a similar obstacle in the Sisyphean battle against statism. Ninth Circuit Court Judge Alex Kozinski, libertarianism's Great Romanian Hope for the judicial branch, actually signed his name recently to an elaboration of one of the main reasons why limited government as a political project is nearly DOA in America:

While I have a romantic attachment to this vision, I'm far from convinced that it would achieve the goals set for it—that we'd be living in a better world today if only we repudiated the New Deal, or had never adopted it in the first place. Whenever I try to imagine what such a world would look like, I look at the world we do live in and recognize that we don't have it so bad at all. We have the world's strongest economy by far; we are the only superpower, having managed to bury the Evil Empire; and we have more freedom than any other people anytime in history. We must be doing something right.

While heartening on one hand, this formulation contains a germ of an idea ominously familiar to those who follow the fates of sporting franchises or the histories of empires: There's a thin, dangerous line between "we must be doing something right" and "we must not be doing anything wrong." Or more relevantly, between that an "we may be doing some things wrong, but that doesn't matter, because we're doing The One Important Thing right enough."

A bunch of live links to books if you go to the original. I'm supposed to be writing, which is different from blogging, in that I don't eat if I don't do it. Okay, okay...there's a wee bit of laziness in there, too!

Posted by aalkon at December 29, 2005 9:03 AM

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Comments

I cant read the Welch piece at moment, and take the larger point that we must always move through the world with humility, no matter how predominant our national culture. But some of us never, EVER want to hear clucking from the French.

Not even in terms of health care. Being relieved of the burden of protecting themselves from their twitchier neighbors (Germany) as well as their collossal ones (USSR), the French have had the luxury of soaking their economy for a generation or two, and playing their wargames in theaters like Polynesia and Cote De Ivory, where their inability to float a single carrier doesn't hamper their mischief. But this playtime has come by the largess of the American taxpayer, who didn't want to risk fighting another war in Europe, and did what was necessary to prevent it. What's mocked as "savagery" is economic reality.

Does anyone doubt it? When the hundreds of thousands of autumn rioters enter their cancer years, will the native French be ready to pay for his healthcare without the benefit of his economic productivity? Heck, have the arab immigrants in the slum towers been enjoying this healthcare to date?


Forgive typos, tiny keyboard.

Posted by: Crid at December 30, 2005 4:32 PM

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