Skip to comments.The Death of the American Idea (Mark Steyn)
Posted on 11/10/2008 8:12:24 AM PST by Uncledave
November 08, 2008, 7:00 a.m.
The Death of the American Idea An electorate living high off the entitlement hog.
By Mark Steyn
Give me liberty or give me death!
Live free or die!
What's that? Oh, don't mind me. I'm just trying out slogans for the 2012 campaign and seeing which one would get the biggest laughs.
My Republican friends are now saying, oh, not to worry, look at the exit polls, this is still a center-right country. Americans didn't vote to go left, they voted to go cool. It was a Dancing With The Stars election: Obama's a star and everyone wants to dance with him. It doesn't mean they're suddenly gung-ho for left-wingery.
Up to a point. Unlike those excitable countries where the peasants overrun the presidential palace, settled democratic societies rarely vote to go left. Yet oddly enough that's where they've all gone. In its assumptions about the size of the state and the role of government, almost every advanced nation is more left than it was, and getting lefter. Even in America, federal spending (in inflation-adjusted 2007 dollars) has gone from $600 billion in 1965 to $3 trillion today. The Heritage Foundation put it in a convenient graph: It's pretty much a straight line across four decades, up, up, up. Doesn't make any difference who controls Congress, who's in the White House. The government just grows and grows, remorselessly. Every two years, the voters walk out of their town halls and school gyms and tell the exit pollsters that three-quarters of them are moderates or conservatives (ie, the center and the right) and barely 20 per cent are liberals. And then, regardless of how the vote went, big government just resumes its inexorable growth.
The greatest dangers to liberty, wrote Justice Brandeis, lurk in the insidious encroachment by men of zeal, well meaning but without understanding.
Now who does that remind you of?
Ha! Trick question! Never mind Obama, it's John McCain. He encroached on our liberties with the constitutional abomination of McCain-Feingold. Well-meaning but without understanding, he proposed that the federal government buy up all these junk mortgages so that people would be able to stay in their homes. And this is the center-right candidate? It's hard for Republicans to hammer Obama as a socialist when their own party's nationalizing the banks and its presidential nominee is denouncing the private sector for putting profits before patriotism. That's why Joe the Plumber struck a chord: he briefly turned a one-and-a-half party election back into a two-party choice again.
If you went back to the end of the 19th century and suggested to, say, William McKinley that one day Americans would find themselves choosing between a candidate promising to guarantee your mortgage and a candidate promising to give tax cuts to millions of people who pay no taxes he would scoff at you for concocting some patently absurd H G Wells dystopian fantasy. Yet it happened. Slowly, remorselessly, government metastasized to the point where it now seems entirely normal for Peggy Joseph of Sarasota, Florida to vote for Obama because I won't have to worry about putting gas in my car. I won't have to worry about paying my mortgage.
While few electorates consciously choose to leap left, a couple more steps every election and eventually societies reach a tipping point. In much of the west, it's government health care. It changes the relationship between state and citizen into something closer to pusher and junkie. Henceforth, elections are fought over which party is proposing the shiniest government bauble: If you think President-elect Obama's promise of federally subsidized day care was a relatively peripheral part of his platform, in Canada in the election before last it was the dominant issue. Yet America may be approaching its tipping point even more directly. In political terms, the message of the gazillion-dollar bipartisan bailout was a simple one: Individual responsibility and self-reliance are for chumps. If Goldman Sachs and AIG and Bear Stearns are getting government checks to stay in their homes (and boardrooms, and luxury corporate retreats), why shouldn't Peggy Joseph?
I don't need Barack Obama's help to spread the wealth around. I spread my wealth around every time I hire somebody, expand my business, or just go to the general store and buy a quart of milk and loaf of bread. As far as I know, only one bloated plutocrat declines to spread his wealth around, and that's Scrooge McDuck, whose principal activity in Disney cartoons was getting into his little bulldozer and plowing back and forth over a mountain of warehoused gold and silver coins. Don't know where he is these days. On the board at Halliburton, no doubt. But most of the beleaguered band of American capitalists do not warehouse their wealth in McDuck fashion. It's not a choice between hoarding and spreading, but a choice between who spreads it best: an individual free to make his own decisions about investment and spending, or Barney Frank. I don't find that a difficult question to answer. More to the point, put Barney & Co in charge of the spreading, and there'll be a lot less to spread.
I disagree with my fellow conservatives who think the Obama-Pelosi-Reid-Frank liberal behemoth will so obviously screw up that they'll be routed in two or four years' time. The President-elect's so-called tax cut will absolve 48 per cent of Americans from paying any federal income tax at all, while those that are left will pay more. Just under half the population will be, as Daniel Henninger pointed out in the Wall Street Journal, on the dole. By 2012, it will be more than half, and this will be an electorate where the majority of the electorate will be able to vote itself more lollipops from the minority of their compatriots still dumb enough to prioritize self-reliance, dynamism, and innovation over the sedating cocoon of the nanny state. That is the death of the American idea which, after all, began as an economic argument: No taxation without representation" is a great rallying cry. No representation without taxation has less mass appeal. For how do you tell an electorate living high off the entitlement hog that it's unsustainable and you've got to give some of it back?
At that point, America might as well apply for honorary membership in the European Union. It will be a nation at odds with the spirit of its founding, and embarking on decline from which there are few escape routes. In 2012, the least we deserve is a choice between the collectivist assumptions of the Democrats, and a candidate who stands for individual liberty for economic dynamism not the sclerotic managed capitalism of Germany; for the First Amendment, not Canadian-style government regulation of approved opinion; for self-reliance and the Second Amendment, not the security state in which Britons are second only to North Koreans in the number of times they're photographed by government cameras in the course of going about their daily business. In Forbes this week, Claudia Rosett issued a stirring defense of individual liberty. That it should require a stirring defense at all is a melancholy reflection on this election season. Live free or die from a thousand beguiling caresses of nanny-state sirens.
Live free or die!
Gimmie Gimmie Gimmie!!!
If you went back to February 2008 and told me that Americans were seriously going to elect a Marxist in favor of infanticide, I would have scoffed at you. In fact, I scoffed at my husband at 8PM Tuesday evening when he told me it was actually taking place.
(Or at least give me a country in which nobody has more than I have because it makes me feel bad when they do!)
Barack Obama (D-People Magazine)
What a load of crap.
Obama Wins, Economy’s Doomed:
Peter Schiff, president of Euro Pacific Capital and author of ‘The Little Book of Bull Moves in Bear Markets,’ says a big-government Obama administration will lead to an economic collapse on par with the Great Depression.
Sun 11/09/08 04:59 AM EST — Gregg Greenberg
Check the video linked below to really make your day, week, month, year, decade:
I played poker with a group saturday night that included three White males in their twenties, all voted for Obama and not a one knew anything about Obama’s programs.
They voted for him because it was cool to do so.
My sentiments exactly. I see no current reason to be optimistic during my lifetime that our nation will return to its status as a democracy as I once knew it. The Nanny Train is picking up momentum.(And I never thought I’d see the day I’d join the gloom and doom crowd.) More pie will be the new battle cry.
An idea spurs a country based on freedom. With freedom comes prosperity for those who are industrious. With prosperity comes luxury. With luxury comes envy. With envy comes bitterness and bitterness brings Obama.
Why do we think we can reform this? There has never been a party who reduced the size of governemnt. Republicans increased the size of government.
Only sesccession. Who said bigger is better, maybe the ladies like the fulfilling feeling but as a society, we’re getting plugged hard. So, a small republic would be more responsive to voters and a chance to start all over.
Of course, we could always turn to our churches and shuls and start praying and frumming again and understand that government is not there to fulfill our quotient for happiness.
Hard times a’comin’ n’ there ain’t no damn thing we can do about it.
I don’t see a revolution happening, but I do see some isolated
“I played poker with a group saturday night that included three White males in their twenties, all voted for Obama and not a one knew anything about Obamas programs.
They voted for him because it was cool to do so.”
How much did you take the dumbasses for?
Why are we surprised? Thomas Jefferson said that the natural progress of things is for "liberty to yield and government to gain ground."
Well written piece. My guess is that the business sector will
soon dry up, cause there is no way they will give their
hard work up to forced “redistribution” designed by the
Obama got elected by the following factors
1) higher than usual turnout in so-called black Americans
2) First time voting young people bombarded by
anti-republican,anti-Bush media for more than 8 years
3) people voting themselves money from someone more successful
than they are.
It would not be hard to predict the end of the United States
as a continuing country. Every country(nation, empire) so far
has eventually fallen.
2008 - "We want Pie!"
Margaret Thatcher used to talk about the ratchet effect. When the Left gets power, she said, they drive everything Left; when the Right gets power, they slow the Leftward drive, perhaps even halt it for a spell; but nothing ever gets moved to the Right.
The only way that parasites and looters and oligarchs may be undone is through bloody revolution. Who really wants that? Best we can come up with is hurting their feelings.
Twenty bucks each.
A concise, pithy, and frightening summation.
I’m no noob or DU infiltrator, as you can see.
I’m late 50’s. The way I see it, all those hip youngsters just voted to give up a big chunk of their futures to pay for my entitlements.
I say we adopt a European lifestyle, retire early, live on the dole, and sit at a cafe and sip capuccinos all day.
And I’m supposed to feel bad about doing this?
/donning asbestos underwear
And who knows where Barney's fingers have been!
The electorate has found that they can vote themselves largesse from the public coffers. The “representatives” have found out the same thing. Too bad it didn’t remain a republic very long.
Ugh. Nope, thanks. I’m no Onslow. - Now, I’ll work just barely enough to make a pittance and not have to pay taxes. I declare myself a citizen of The Kingdom of God.
Here’s a quote that someone else posted on FreeRepublic. I saved it. It is pretty much along the same line as Steyn’s excellent article.
“A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the voters discover that they can vote themselves largesse from the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidates promising the most benefits from the public treasury with the result that a democracy always collapses over loose fiscal policy, always followed by a dictatorship. The average age of the world’s greatest civilizations has been 200 years.
Great nations rise and fall. The people go from bondage to spiritual truth, to great courage, from courage to liberty, from liberty to abundance, from abundance to selfishness, from selfishness to complacency, from complacency to apathy, from apathy to dependence, from dependence back again to bondage.” - Sir Alex Fraser Tytler (1714-1778)
The liberal will think, "I want HIS."
“Live for Free Pie!”
How do we fight against the 20million+ illegals (plus their families)that will soon be given citizenship?
We are too outnumbered.
Ignorance in action is a dangerous thing.
The resulting crash will be absolutely dreadful.
last November 4, was the last nail in the coffin that is America. We never exported our ideal to the rest of the world. Instead we imported every crappy idea from other lands.
LOL! Gimme...Gimme....Gimme is INDEED what we have become.
Ping for the Steyn list?
Steyn, as always, "gets" it.
A Russian immigrant with almost no experience living in a capitalist nation wrote a book that described with alarming accuracy everything that has happened, and is likely to happen in the Obama-Pelosi-Reid-Frank era.
Many FReepers nay-say the book because the author takes a swipe at religion, FYI. Just ignore them, bulldoze your way through the first 75 pages (a little confusing and boring, and there's 900 pages left), skip the 60-page soliloquy (not kidding, it's 60 pages, in small font), and skip the romance scenes, and the book is incredibly revealing. It's usually named among the most influential books in the history of print.
Is this book “Atlas Shrugged”? It sounds like it.
...let alone return to being a republic.
Those quotation marks nail it.
Steyn is right. McCain was doomed by being McCain. As I said earlier today, yhe GOP and the Democrats are all socialists. Both parties have been infiltated. Both want the one world government.
Now what do we do about it? Heh, not much.
I think the answer is "yes." :-)
Hey, maybe I was referring to “Anna Karenina” or something. ;^)
Speaking of the love scenes, why is everyone of them in Rand’s books come off as just almost rape. Sometimes outright rape.
The coffee to make the cappuccino has to be delivered by the producers.
We will be all out of producers, so maybe they will squeeze out their dish rags and make you believe it is cappuccino.
Yeah, but it’s tough to advocate for a phenomenal book with such crappy love scenes, so I tried to soft-shoe it. =^/