I carpooled to a soccer game today. The driver, who is someone I don’t know very well, is a very charming man who is quite obviously a potential Obama voter. He wasn’t quite sure about me and, since he was a very civil individual, he never came out and either insulted McCain or lauded Obama. He did say, though, that he thought it was the government’s responsibility to provide medical care. He also characterized Vietnam as a complete disaster. That gave me an interesting opportunity to explain to him a few historic facts he didn’t know — because very few people know them.
I started out by reminding him of something that most people forget: the Vietnam War was a Democratic War. Kennedy started it and Johnson expanded it. (Nixon, the Republican, ended it.) I didn’t say this in the spirit of accusation, because I wasn’t being partisan. I said it to give historical context to a larger discussion about freedom versus statism.
I noted that, in the 1930s — and, again, most people have forgotten this — the major battle in Europe was between two Leftist ideologies: Communism and Fascism. When he looked a little blank, I pointed out that the Nazis were a socialist party, a fact he readily conceded. I also reminded him that, in the 1930s, given that Stalin was killing millions of his countrymen, and that Hitler hadn’t yet started his killing spree, Fascism actually looked like the better deal. World War II demonstrated that both ideologies — both of which vested all power in the State — were equally murderous.
Men of the Kennedy/Johnson generation, I said, saw their role in WWII as freeing Europe from the Nazi version of socialism. When that job ended, they saw themselves in a continuing war to bring an end to the Communist version of socialism. Again, they were reacting to overwhelming statism.
Thus, to them, it was all a single battle with America upholding the banner, not of freedom, but of individualism. They knew that America couldn’t necessarily make people free or bring them a democratic form of government, but that it could try to protect people from an all-powerful state. That’s always been an integral part of American identity. He agreed with everything I said.
I then moved to the issue of socialized medicine, which I pointed out, again, gives the state all the power. The state, I said, has no conscience, and it will start doling out medical care based on its determining of which classes of individual are valuable, and which are less valuable, to the state. My friend didn’t know, for example, that Baroness Warnock of Britain, who is considered one of Britain’s leading moralists, announced that demented old people have a “duty to die” because they are a burden on the state.
A few more examples like that, and we agreed that the problem wasn’t too little government when it comes to medicine, but too much. Health insurer companies operating in California are constrained by something like 1,600 state and federal regulations. I suggested that, rather than give the government more control over the medical bureaucracy, we take most of it away. He conceded that this was probably a good idea.
Lastly, I reminded him what happens when government steps in as the <span style=”font-style: italic;”>pater familias</span>. He didn’t know that, up until Johnson’s Great Society, African-Americans were ever so slowly “making it.” As a result of the Civil Rights movement, opportunities were opening for Northern Blacks, and they — meaning the men — were beginning to make more money. The African-American family was nuclear and starting to thrive.
This upward economic trend collapsed in the mid-1960s, and its collapse coincided absolutely to the minute with government social workers fanning out to black communities and telling them that the government would henceforth provide. Since it seemed stupid to work when you could get paid not to work, black men stopped working. They also stopped caring about their families, or even getting married, since unmarried mothers did even better under welfare than intact families. In a few short years, not only did African-Americans as a group collapse economically, their family structure collapsed too. Men were redundant. The state would provide. Again, my friend nodded his head in agreement.
The ride ended at that point but, as he was dropping me off, my friend told me (and I think he was speaking from his heart), that it was an incredibly interesting ride. And I bet it was, because I gave him real food for thought in the form of facts and ideas that fall outside of the orthodoxy that characterizes our ultra-liberal community.