Saturday, July 17, 2010

The Philosopher King and His Subjects. Obamacare in Perspective

President Obama is the new Philosopher King of America. We are his subjects. Philosopher Kings, according to Plato, are ideal rulers. They are suffused with wisdom. They know what their subjects know not.

They combine social engineering with idealism. They have the political skills to govern perfectly. The new King will take care of us. He will tell us what is right for us. We will come to depend on him. He will tax us for the privilege of being his loyal, obedient subjects.

Eighteen months ago, he began his rule. He hopes his reign will last eight years.

He started by focusing on universal health care reform. This makes sense. All of us, being ordinary mortals, are inevitably subject to illness and old age. We will respond, he thought, to social engineering. Health care, he said, is too complicated. The King will make it simple. He will end the immoral fee-for-service marketing free-for-all. It helps too few, namely, the haves. not the have-nots.

During his benevolent reign, health care will be free for all. With his wise guidance, he will set the rules for all from his castle in Washington, D.C. A media moat surrounds the castle. The moat keeps the good news in and the bad news out.

Consider what the King has already achieved. Obamacare makes his kingship historic. He has irrevocably changed the economy of one-sixth of the kingdom , put it inexorably on the road to single-payer Kingcare, and begun the most massive health and wealth redistribution in the kingdom's history.

No longer will the lords, earls, barons, ordinary merchants, or the subject themselves control health and wealth. He will spread the goodies throughout the kingdom. He will issue a kingdom-wide tax, consolidate the money in the castle, and decide how and to whom to distribute it. He will institute a VAT (Vast Added Tax) to assure that his dream for his vast kingdom, which stretches from sea to shining sea, comes true.

But, alas. His subjects are growing restless over growing tax burdens, soaring deficits,and burdensome rules imposed by the king. They resent their miserable existence and an economy that has failed. They have no work except for jobs the kingdom supplies.

They worry about the kingdom's debts and the future of their children. Being intelligent and of sound mind and body, they wonder whether “free entitlements” are really “free." They muse whether they will be “free” to spend their own money. They ponder whether they will be “free” to do what they want to do without the King’s blessings. They fret about what happens when Kingdom comes.

Fear not, says the King, all will be well, for I am wise and all-knowing.

Then an errant young knight, Paul Ryan, from Wisconsin, the middle part of his vast kingdom, rises to joust the King and his philosophy. Ryan says the subjects should exercise the power of the people and their choices as health consumers. They should choose the fork in the road they want to follow, even if it is not the left fork.

"Nonsense," says Donald Berwick, the King's philosophical spokesperson,""I cannot believe that the individual health care consumer can enforce through choice the proper configurations of a system as massive and complex as health care. That is for leaders to do." In other words, the King has spoken and brooks no opposition.

The King's subjects, according to Ryan’s Rules of Order, should be able to fend for themselves, to choose what kind of health care they want, to pay for it with King-granted and guaranteed vouchers, and to reclaim the freedoms of free people to make their own free decisions. It is bottom-up Freedoms, says Ryan, not a top-down Kingdom, that should reign.

Ryan makes this Declaration of Freedom,

"Are we going to reclaim the American idea -- an entrepreneurial economy where you make the most of your life, you tap your potential, we reinvigorate the principles of liberty, freedom, free enterprise -- and defend the morality of that -- or are we going to abandon that and switch over toward a European-style, cradle-to-grave welfare state where we drain people of their incentive and will to make the most of their lives and make them more dependent on the government?"

"Progressives believe that we ought to have the government so much more involved in our lives, as the more determining factor in our lives, rather than ourselves. So we have to ask ourselves a question: Do we want an entrepreneurial society that gets prosperity turned back on in the 21st century, where individual merit, entrepreneurial activity defines the American economy, or are we going to have more and more people dependent on the government for their livelihoods? And that is going to drain them of their ability and their will to make the most of their lives.

That's sort of the fork in the road we are at, and it's really being precipitated by the current direction of our government and the debt crisis because of entitlement explosion that's coming in the future. Those things are coming together. We've got to make a decision in 2010 and in 2012 what kind of country we want to be in the 21st century economy."

As Yogi Berra says, "When you come to a fork in the road, take it." I would add, "Or be taken."

1 comment:

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