The Mirage

(Guest post by Greg Forster)

It’s fitting that Matt and Jay are posting this morning about their experiences in Vegas, because I was already planning to post about a really big Mirage.

Over the weekend, a lot of conservatives in the blogosphere were consoling themselves with the thought that “now they own the system.”

Jim Geraghty: Direct All Future Health-Care Complaints to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue

K-Lo: Every hiccup. Every complaint. Every long line. All yours.

I’d love to believe this line, but it’s obviously not true. Dozens of other countries have gone down this road, to their manifest ruin. Did any of them produce this kind of backlash against the party that led the socialization process?

They want to own the system. That’s the whole point. I don’t just mean that they want the wealth and power that comes with actually owning it, although that’s a nontrivial factor. (Just look at how they’re already using the nationalization of student loans to coercively redistribute wealth from grads who choose private-sector jobs to grads who choose public-sector jobs.) They also – even more importantly – want to own it in perception, want to be seen as owning it.

Why? Because in a socialized system, the presumption is that the party that owns the system wants to make it (and hence your health care) bigger and better, while the party that doesn’t own the system wants to redirect resoucres away from it (and hence hurt your health care).

They own the system, therefore they own the issue. If everybody gets their health care from “the system,” then when people want better health care, they’ll always vote for the party that owns “the system.” And, of course, socialized medicine does a lot of damage to health care, and thus generates a lot of desire for better health care. It’s a self-reinforcing dynamic.

Game over, man! Game over!

We do have a limited window in which the law could be repealed before “the system” takes over. But the Journal is right to sound a hard note of caution about the realistic prospects for that. You can’t get repeal until you get a new president. And Obama has three full years to live down the damage he took in this fight. If he gets smart, which it’s very likely he will, he’ll take his licks in 2010 and come roaring back (or at least drag himself over the finish line) in 2012.

Plus, will the GOP commit to repeal? Would they even be smart to commit to repeal given the unlikelihood they’ll get it?

4 Responses to The Mirage

  1. Patrick says:

    Here is my crazy idea. Copy China’s giant free trade zones. Except, instead of just eliminating tariffs and reducing business regulations and permits we vastly expand freedom, allowing people in the zone to opt out of Federal entitlement programs.

    Make these city-wide zones we’ll call “The Free American Zone for Mature, Responsible Adults” the rest of America can be called “The Baby Sitter Zone” or “Nanny State Zone” or something like that.

    If you enter the Free American Zone for Mature Responsible Adults to live, you lose all access to Federal entitlement programs – never to join them again. In return, you get freedom and lower taxes. Of course, with freedom comes responsibility…for your own actions as the Federal government will not bail out anyone, or anything, that is a resident of or resides within the Free American Zone for Mature Responsible Adults.

  2. Patrick says:

    PS, I think the only way to repeal the law right now is a victory in the court or a few states giving the Federal government the proverbial finger.

  3. Greg Forster says:

    The courts will not save us. For one thing, nearly a century of case law is against it. An individual mandate to buy health insurance can’t be held unconstitutional by a court system that gives the big thumbs-up to the individual mandate to buy retirement insurance (plus much else). As for federalism, in our court system it is the law of the land that if you grow your own wheat on your own land and eat it yourself, you are engaging in interstate commerce (no exaggeration, that’s the actual holding in a Supreme Court case) and are therefore subject to federal regulation. And even if we lay all that aside, the courts are political institutions that respond to political incentives. You are never going to get them to strike this down even if they believe it’s legally the right thing to do.

    As for states passing nullification statutes, well, we’ve tried that before and it didn’t work out so well.

  4. Daniel Earley says:

    I believe the blueprint for the refuge you’re describing, Patrick, was hidden in a secluded valley in the mountains of Colorado. Unfortunately, Hank, Dagny and John were just as metaphorical, although I do know some reasonable facsimiles. Meanwhile, the mountains of Antarctica may be the only place left for such a refuge, or perhaps that Lost pacific island licensed to ABC.

    Speaking of which, Jay — we’re still waiting.

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