Steyn On Fire
Mark Steyn gave an inspired talk at Michigan's Hillsdale College, a private school my parents used to go to in the summers for their lecture series. An excerpt:
In most of the developed world, the state has gradually annexed all the responsibilities of adulthood--health care, child care, care of the elderly--to the point where it's effectively severed its citizens from humanity's primal instincts, not least the survival instinct.
...Europe's addiction to big government, unaffordable entitlements, cradle-to-grave welfare, and a dependence on mass immigration needed to sustain it has become an existential threat to some of the oldest nation-states in the world.
And now the last holdout, the United States, is embarking on the same grim path: After the President unveiled his budget, I heard Americans complain, oh, it's another Jimmy Carter, or LBJ's Great Society, or the new New Deal. You should be so lucky. Those nickel-and-dime comparisons barely begin to encompass the wholesale Europeanization that's underway. The 44th president's multi-trillion-dollar budget, the first of many, adds more to the national debt than all the previous 43 presidents combined, from George Washington to George Dubya. The President wants Europeanized health care, Europeanized daycare, Europeanized education, and, as the Europeans have discovered, even with Europeanized tax rates you can't make that math add up. In Sweden, state spending accounts for 54% of GDP. In America, it was 34%--ten years ago. Today, it's about 40%. In four years' time, that number will be trending very Swede-like.
But forget the money, the deficit, the debt, the big numbers with the 12 zeroes on the end of them. So-called fiscal conservatives often miss the point. The problem isn't the cost. These programs would still be wrong even if Bill Gates wrote a check to cover them each month. They're wrong because they deform the relationship between the citizen and the state. Even if there were no financial consequences, the moral and even spiritual consequences would still be fatal. That's the stage where Europe is.
I don't understand why people can find giving up their autonomy and being bled for tax dollars so attractive. Well, I do -- it's the antithesis of the entrepreneurial spirit -- it's the delusion that government will take care of you better than you can. It's those who don't really understand government and what's possible who can cling to that delusion.
Gregg and I had dinner with my wonderful, brilliant friend Barb Oakley, an engineering prof from Michigan's Oakland University, and her husband Philip last night. At one point, Barb, who worked as a translator on a Russian trawler in the Bering Sea, was noting that the people who find communism or socialism appealing are those who have zero experience with it. I think she's right -- it's like the lettuce-for-brains types running around in Che shirts.
I have a few friends who are Russian and one friend who's Cuban, and if you think they have any sort of sentimentality or anything but loathing for communism and all it brings with it, you're out of your gourd.
And about Barb, if you want a great read, pick up her book Evil Genes: Why Rome Fell, Hitler Rose, Enron Failed, and My Sister Stole My Mother's Boyfriend. I have 30 more pages to go, and it's absolutely fantastic science writing, plus history and family intrigue.