AARP runs meeting consistent with their paper’s Leftist management

It was only last week that I wrote about the fact that the AARP’s weird support for Obama Care, a plan that is likely to ration care its members, might be connected to the fact that at least one branch of its management, the magazine editorship, is to the left of Left.  I think that attitude might be more prevalent in the AARP than just at the magazine itself.  How else to explain this wonderful style of meeting management?

The playbook would be as follows:

How to run an AARP meeting, Leftie style:

1.  Open a meeting with elderly people by talking in a swift, inaudible mumble?  Check.

2.  Assert a whole bunch of assumptions with which your audience instantly disagrees?  Check.

3.  Scold your audience for not getting with a program ostensibly for their benefit?  Check.

4.  Shut down the meeting because it turns out your constituents were supposed to listen to you, not vice versa?  Check.

All the problems with Democratic health care reform

In just three paragraphs, Charles Krauthammar explains all of the problems with the health care reform the President so desperately wants passed by August:

President Obama premised the need for reform on the claim that medical costs are destroying the economy. True. But now we learn — surprise! — that universal coverage increases costs. The congressional Democrats’ health-care plans, says the CBO, increase costs on the order of $1 trillion plus.

In response, the president retreated to a demand that any bill he sign be revenue-neutral. But that’s classic misdirection: If the fierce urgency of health-care reform is to radically reduce costs that are producing budget-destroying deficits, revenue neutrality (by definition) leaves us on precisely the same path to insolvency that Obama himself declares unsustainable.

The Democratic proposals are worse still. Because they do increase costs, revenue neutrality means countervailing tax increases. It’s not just that it is crazily anti-stimulatory to saddle a deeply depressed economy with an income tax surcharge that falls squarely on small business and the investor class. It’s that health-care reform ends up diverting for its own purposes a source of revenue that might otherwise be used to close the yawning structural budget deficit that is such a threat to the economy and to the dollar.

Tying up the healthcare package with an ugly bow

Michelle Malkin puts it together:  the administration’s insistence that blind-folded science (untouched by greed or human feeling) will ensure the proper treatments in all situations plus the person who is the President’s voice for those “scientific” treatments.  If you recall Zombie’s expose about the new science czar, John Holdren, you’ll realize that the person setting the tone for this scientific treatment is someone who views humans as something that should be destroyed in order to recreate Eden.

Again, let me remind you:

Also, I again suggest that, if you haven’t already, you read Jonah Goldberg’s Liberal Fascism: The Secret History of the American Left, From Mussolini to the Politics of Change, which discusses the fascists’ enduring belief that science is the answer.  That belief, of course, reached its apex (or, a better word, its nadir) with Mengele.

Herding seniors to the abattoire *UPDATED*

Don Parker nails both the costs and hypocrisy behind the mandate in the new health care bill that seniors be gently steered towards a cheap death.

UPDATE:  Thanks to Old Flyer for reminding me of this, which fits in so perfectly with the new plan:

UPDATE II:  A story from my dad’s old joke book.

In long ago Japan or China (or amongst the Eskimos, or something else), a young boy came across his father carry a large basket on his back.  In the basket was the boy’s grandfather.

He asked, “Father, where are you taking grandfather?”

“Shh,” said the father.  “Grandfather is old and sick.  He eats, but he does not earn.  I’m taking him to the river, where I will leave him to die.  It will be better for all of us.”

“Oh, father,” said the boy.  “That is an excellent idea.  But be sure to bring the basket home, so that I can use it for you one day.”

All cultures living on the margin of survival have used abandonment as a way of culling the herd so that the strong can survive.  The Hansel and Gretel story is a perfect example of this.  With too many mouths to feed, the children were left in the wilderness.

My question, of course, is whether we, in America, have come to that marginal existence?  The Left thinks we have.  I don’t — or, at least, I hope we haven’t.

Obama acolytes continue to deny human nature

Tom Elia links to an utterly fatuous statement from a 25 year old Obama supporter (who nevertheless gets a bully pulpit in a WaPo blog), saying that killing the profit motive will have no effect whatsoever on pharmaceutical innovation.  In the face of such stupidity, I have to drag out my family history once again.

My aunt was such an ardent Communist that, after WWII, she returned to Berlin.  When shocked friends in Israel asked, “How can you go back to the land of the Nazis?” she replied, “The Communists have cleansed that stain.”  She lived in Berlin until the day she died, sometime in the late 1980s.

In the early 1980s, my father had the opportunity to visit her.  Although she had retired by then, her status as a very high level party apparatchik meant that she had a “nice” apartment, which included having her own bathroom.  That bathroom proved to be very useful, because her kitchen sink didn’t work.  She had to do all of her kitchen washing up (preparing foods and cleaning up afterward) in the bathroom sink.

My father asked her why she didn’t get the sink repaired.  Her answer:  “I’m on the list for getting a repair.”  He asked, “How long have you been on the list?”  Her reply:  “Nine years.”

That is what happens when there is no profit motive.  If plumbers will get paid the same whether or not the rush out and repair your plumbing or sit back in the office, they will sit back in the office.

Humans have very few motivations:  passion (both physical and intellectual), hunger, fear, and a sort of overarching greed.  Unless the plumber is starving, being imminently threatened, or having sex with his/her customers, the only motivator left for him to get out and do the job is greed.  Harnessed through capitalism, you have a splendidly operating system; limited by communism, you have nothing but immobility and graft.

Getting care in Canada

Steve Crowder looks at the Canadian health care system.  Some of his experiences are similar to those in any busy city emergency room, such as a long, long wait for a low level problem.  Others, most notably statements by nurses, make your eyes bug:  Three years to get an appointment with a personal physician?  The impossibility of cholesterol tests?  You have to see it all.  Since it’s Steve, the 20 minutes go by quickly:

After that, contemplate whether you’re going to get what you’re paying for if the Dem plan goes forward.

Because teens hadn’t already figured out that sex can feel good

Those who are pushing for universal health care here in America might want to take just a second to contemplate what Britain’s National Health Service (“NHS”) is doing in the area of teen sex.  Because Britain has the highest teen pregnancy rate in Europe, which no doubt is quite costly to the NHS, you might assume that the NHS would push a combination of abstinence and contraception.  Thinking along those lines, of course, would just prove how utterly naive you are.

Contrary to your naivete, the NHS is hip, dear, totally hip.  Teens shouldn’t be lectured about such boring things as self-control, love, marriage, and contraception.  They should be groovin’ and going with their feelings.  Sex is beautiful, man, and the NHS is there to make sure the teens know that fact.  Thus, an NHS pamphlet prepared specially for British teens contains this helpful information:

The NHS is telling school pupils they have a ‘right’ to an enjoyable sex life and that it is good for their health.

A Health Service leaflet says experts concentrate too much on the need for safe sex and loving relationships, and not enough on the pleasure it can bring.

***

Under the heading ‘an orgasm a day keeps the doctor away’, the leaflet says: ‘Health promotion experts advocate five portions of fruit and veg a day and 30 minutes physical activity three times a week. What about sex or masturbation twice a week?’

The advice, which also claims regular sex is good for cardiovascular health, has been circulated to parents, teachers and youth workers.

***

The NHS leaflet has been drawn up by Sheffield primary care trust and is entitled Pleasure.

The true beauty of the pamphlet is the rationale its author offers for promulgating this groovy, free-lovin’ information:

Its author, Steve Slack, director of the Centre for HIV and Sexual Health at NHS Sheffield, defended it by saying the advice could encourage young people to delay losing their virginity until they are sure they will enjoy the experience.

He added that as long as teenagers are fully informed about sex and making decisions free of peer pressure as part of a caring relationship, they have as much right as an adult to a good sex life.

Each and every Victorian who ever lived is rolling in his or her grave.

The few sane minds left in England are protesting the NHS’s latest effort to decrease teen pregnancy — which is an effort only Austin Powers could truly appreciate — but I rather wonder if they’re going to have much success.

Considering how whacked out the NHS is becoming over the seemingly intractable problem of teen pregnancy (especially since the word “no” does not seem to be a part of the British sex ed vocabulary), one wonders if the next step is going to be a consultation with Obama’s own science czar, John Holdren.  A little hormone treatment to the national water system, and everyone can have all the fun sex they want.

It’s rather funny to think that Kurt Vonnegut, who wrote Welcome to the Monkey House: Stories at about the same time as Holdren wrote his treatise on mass sterilization, got it all wrong.  The secret wasn’t, as Vonnegut’s overpopulated alternative reality predicted, making sex too awful for anyone to try.  Instead, it was making it so much fun that people would willingly permanently spay or neuter themselves for the pleasure.

Fool me once, shame on you….

In his most recent article at the Wall Street Journal, Karl Rove explains in great detail how Barack Obama told quite obvious lies about the stimulus numbers, only to pretend now that he didn’t really mean what he said.  (That’s the lying pattern I’ve told you about.)  The American people were good and fooled.  The question, of course, is whether they’re going to let themselves be fooled again into believing Obama’s health care numbers:

This fits a pattern. The administration consistently pledges unrealistic results that it later distances itself from. It has gotten away with it because the media haven’t asked many pointed questions. That may not last as the debate shifts to health care.

The Obama administration wants a government takeover of health care. To get it, it is promising to wring massive savings out of the health-care industry. And it has already started to make cost-savings promises.

For example, the administration strong-armed health-care providers into promising $2 trillion in health savings. It got pharmaceutical companies to promise to lower drug prices for seniors by $80 billion over 10 years. The administration also trotted out hospital executives to say that they would voluntarily save the government $150 billion over 10 years.

None of this comes near to being true. On the promised $2 trillion, everyone admits that the number isn’t built on anything specific — it’s an aspirational goal. On drug prices, a White House spokesman admitted that “These savings have not been identified at the moment.” It is speculative that these cuts will actually be made, when they would begin, or whether they would reduce government health-care spending.

A month ago, I would have said that a compliant media would simply spin things for Obama again, with a credulous American public going along and footing the bill for its own destruction.  Despite the fact that the media is still shilling for Obama, at least as to the little things, I’m not absolutely sure that media members (who also pay taxes) are as willing to shill for the bigger things.  Two signs that they might not are Obama’s increasingly (and steadily) negative polling numbers, and somewhat belated articles from the MSM admitting that his budget numbers don’t add up.  I’m not dancing jigs yet, especially with that “60″ in the Senate, but I’m allowing a faint hope that the juggernaut might be slowing down.

Deconstructing the Obama health care plan

Okay, it’s actually called the Kennedy bill, but it’s the realization of Obama’s insistence on the federal government forcing and funding mandatory health insurance.  Keith Hennessey, in addition to giving links for you to read the bill yourself, explains the substantive parts of the bill, as well as the probable practical and economic effects the bill will have.  As to the latter, here are just a few things Hennessey gives us to worry about:

  • The government would mandate not only that you must buy health insurance, but what health insurance counts as “qualifying.”
  • Health insurance premiums would rise as a result of the law, meaning lower wages.
  • A government-appointed board would determine what items and services are “essential benefits” that your qualifying plan must cover.
  • [snip]

  • Those who keep themselves healthy would be subsidizing premiums for those with risky or unhealthy behaviors.
  • [snip]

  • The Secretaries of Treasury and HHS would have unlimited discretion to impose new taxes on individuals and employers who do not comply with the new mandates.
  • [snip]

And while Hennessey points out the flaws in the bill, the Wall Street Journal explains all the false data and unsupported assumptions that drive the bill.

I have a different question.  In 1994, when the Clinton’s first tried to created government health care, conservatives launched the brilliant Harry and Louise ad campaign.  (To the extent Harry and Louise have returned, they’re now demanding nationalized health care, which is beyond scary.)  Why haven’t I heard about a single ad initiative aimed at the average American to help him or her understand that there is a disaster in the making here?  Is it because, with DVRs, people no longer watch commercials?  If that’s the case, how in the world do we circumvent the Obama media and get solid information out to ordinary people?

Medieval dental care under Britain’s NHS

When I was growing up, my father was a teacher with a lousy salary and lousy benefits.  The only good thing he had was his dental plan.  It was a wonderful dental plan.  Provided that we got our teeth cleaned and checked twice a year, it would pay the total cost of any dental work needed.  (And, unsurprisingly given the careful maintenance our teeth got, we never needed fancy dental work.)  One of the side benefits of the plan was that it got me in the habit of making regular visits to my dentist to keep my teeth up to par.

Going to England for my junior year abroad didn’t change that habit.  About half way through the year, I decided that I absotively, posolutely needed to get my teeth cleaned, even if I had to pay out of pocket for the experience.  While visiting a friend in Surrey, I managed to get an appointment with her dentist.

The tooth cleaning I got was, to this spoiled American, surprising.  First, the dentist did it himself, as opposed to a technician.  He explained that, since people didn’t get their teeth cleaned, technicians weren’t trained in the task.  He had been trained at dental skill, he said, but his skills were rusty.

And rusty they were.  If you’re like me, you’re used to a very thorough cleaning:  gum measurements (to check for recession); a careful scraping of every surface; sonic assistance on the scraping, if need be; a gentle scrub with that polisher doo-hicky and some abrasive paste; and finally a good flossing.  When I leave the dentist, my teeth are so clean you can eat off of them.

In England, all I got was a less than gentle scrub with that polisher doo-hicky and some abrasive paste.  That was it.  That was what past for dental hygiene.  It became apparent to me why British teeth have been a long-standing American joke.

Despite (or perhaps because of) Britain’s national health care system, British dentistry apparently continues to be a century or two behind America’s.  Today’s British news informs us that Britain’s dentists pretty much treat tooth problems as they’ve been treated for thousands of years:  they pull the tooth. Indeed, it seems that, when it comes to dental care, the only difference between British dental care today and British dental care in the 1850s, 1750s, 1550s, and ever further back in time, is the anesthetic:

Thousands of Britons are having teeth needlessly pulled out, it was claimed yesterday.

The number of extractions has soared by 30 per cent in four years, according to figures obtained by the Liberal Democrats.

The party claims this demonstrates how much dental care has deteriorated under Labour, leaving thousands missing out on treatment that could save their teeth. More than 175,000 Britons had their teeth extracted under general anaesthetic in 2007/08, up 40,000 on the 2003/04 figure, a parliamentary answer revealed.

Figures show thousands of people are having their teeth pulled out needlessly when they could have been saved

Of these, 44,300 were aged between six and 18 and 14,200 were under five years old. LibDem health spokesman Norman Lamb said: ‘The extraordinary number of people needing their teeth extracted under general anaesthetic could well be the result of the appalling access to NHS dentistry.’

He pointed the finger at the general difficulty in finding a Health Service dentist since the Government introduced a ‘botched’ contract in April 2006.

Designed to increase access to NHS dentistry, the deal actually saw hundreds of dentists leave the NHS.

The number of patients seeing a dentist fell by 1.2million, leaving thousands without the treatment that could have stopped their teeth getting so bad that they had to be pulled out.

But dentists’ salaries have soared by 11 per cent since the change – to an average of more than £96,000.

Mr Lamb added: ‘The dental contract was supposedly designed to improve the situation, but the staggering rise in tooth extractions proves the massive failures of thisbotched initiative. The crisis in NHS dentistry is one of this Government’s most shameful legacies.’

Although the rate of extractions increased throughout the four-year period following April 2003, it gathered pace after the new contract for NHS dentists was introduced.

You can read the rest here.

As I read it, aside from Britain’s generally laughable dental standards, a huge government error has doomed millions of Britain’s to medieval care. That’s what happens when you have one provider, and the provider screws up. There are no alternatives. There is no marketplace to adapt and provide. Everything simply collapses.

Patient safety is not a focus when the government calls the shots

For three years, a single British hospital that was obsessed with following government health care mandates to the letter, succeeded only in killing 1,200 patients unnecessarily:

Twelve NHS trusts are being investigated following a damning report which today slammed ‘appalling’ care at a single hospital.

Hundreds of patients may have died after bosses at Staffordshire General focused on Government targets rather than safety, the Healthcare Commission said.

A ‘shocking’ catalogue of failures over a three-year period were disclosed after an investigation found hospital managers had sought to save millions by adopting foundation status.

[snip]

Among the findings of yesterday’s report were:

● receptionists carrying out initial checks on emergency patients

● too few consultants, with junior doctors left in charge overnight

● two clinical decision units used as ‘dumping grounds’ for A&E patients to avoid breaching four-hour waiting targets, one of which had no staff

● nurses so ill-trained they turned off heart monitors because they didn’t understand them

● delays in operations, with some patients having surgery cancelled four days in a row and left without food, drink or medication

● vital equipment missing or not working

● doubling of life-threatening C diff infection rates, which were kept from the hospital board and the public

● a target of £10 million savings which was met at the expense of 150 posts, including nurses

● more debate by the board about becoming a foundation trust than about patient safety

[snip]

Investigators were inundated with complaints from patients and relatives, the most it had ever received, including Julie Bailey, 47, who set up a campaign group following the death of her mother in November 2007 at the hospital in Stafford.

She was so concerned about her 86-year-old mother Bella that she and her relatives slept in a chair at her hospital bedside for eight weeks.

‘What we saw in those eight weeks will haunt us for the rest of our lives’ she said.

Thirsty patients drank out of flower vases, while others were screaming in pain and falling out of bed.

[snip]

Director of the Patients Association Katherine Murphy said ‘Government targets have directly impaired safe clinical practice and money and greed for Foundation Trust benefits has taken priority over patient’s lives.’

As you can see, the above story does not relate one of those increasingly frequent situations in which the British government decided to withhold treatment or tests from a single class of patients because the patients are more expense than they are worth.  The government wasn’t directly involved here at all.

The problem, instead, was that a hospital, rather than seeing patients at its customers, saw the government as its patron, and redirected its energies accordingly.  And because there was no connection between the patients and the hospital in terms of complaints (that is, the hospital didn’t care about the patients, who were not paying the bills themselves, nor did they have a direct relationship with an insurance company that wanted to keep their custom), the hospital managed to go for years without having to react to criticism or complaints.  It was only when patients and their families were able to achieve a critical mass that made a noise loud enough to spur the government to action that the hospital’s conduct finally came under scrutiny.

It’s a reminder to us all that the market speaks loudly and quickly.  The government may ultimately have the loudest voice of all, but getting it to speak is often an agonizing task for a consumer who is deprived of a true marketplace and, instead, is utterly dependent on the government to give him a voice.

When God closes a door, he sometimes opens a window

In the wake of Sarah Palin’s appearance on the national political scene, some Obama supporters made some pretty deranged statements about the Palin family decision to go ahead with a pregnancy when they knew that the baby would have Down Syndrome.  There was a lot of eugenics-type talk about the social utility of handicapped children (none) and the societal wisdom of destroying them (huge).

To those of us who have been paying attention for periods longer than this political season, these ugly outbursts weren’t surprising.  After all, Pete Singer, “dean” of American ethicists (with a chair at Princeton), and founder of the American animal rights movement, has long advocated that it is ethical to give parents a 30 day window after a child’s birth within which to destroy the child should the parents deem it defective.  Singer, like others with his statist views, have a peculiarly Utopian view of the perfectibility of humans, one which depends, not on moral growth, but on government force.

And yes, you’re not imaging it — Hitler did in fact put this ideology into effect.  Aside from trying to kill entire races he deemed defective, such as Jews and Gypsies, he was also big on genetic management, which involved prostituting German women to SS forces to make “perfect” Aryan babies and, on the flip side, killing those Aryans he deemed defective.  My uncle on the Christian side of the family was gassed because he was a manic-depressive.  This is what happens when the state makes decisions because, as I’ve said before, the state has no conscience.

The most clear and recent statement of this principle came from yet another famed “ethicist,” this one in England (emphasis mine):

Elderly people suffering from dementia should consider ending their lives because they are a burden on the NHS and their families, according to the influential medical ethics expert Baroness Warnock.

The veteran Government adviser said pensioners in mental decline are “wasting people’s lives” because of the care they require and should be allowed to opt for euthanasia even if they are not in pain.

She insisted there was “nothing wrong” with people being helped to die for the sake of their loved ones or society.

The 84-year-old added that she hoped people will soon be “licensed to put others down” if they are unable to look after themselves.

Her comments in a magazine interview have been condemned as “immoral” and “barbaric”, but also sparked fears that they may find wider support because of her influence on ethical matters.

Lady Warnock, a former headmistress who went on to become Britain’s leading moral philosopher, chaired a landmark Government committee in the 1980s that established the law on fertility treatment and embryo research.

In the statist world, it is impossible for those the statists deem defective to have any value.  It’s the one gaping hole in their identity politics world view.  Everyone has a protectible identity except the handicapped who are either very young (fetal and infantile) or very old.

I mention all this for a reason.  Don Quixote forwarded an email to me about Paul Smith.  Have you ever heard of Paul Smith?  I hadn’t ’til now, but I think meeting him and his work is very important as we tremble on the brink of becoming a truly statist state, with the same universal health care that led the “moral philosopher” of Britain to advocate the mass slaughter of Britain’s helpless elderly.

Here’s an abbreviated version of Smith’s bio from the Foundation set up to honor him and his work:

Paul was born in Philadelphia on September 21, 1921.

Although severe cerebral palsy kept him out of school, it didn’t prevent him from having a remarkable life.

Never having a chance as a child to receive a formal education, Paul taught himself to become a master artist as well as a terrific chess player.

[snip]

His incredible visualization and calculation skills helped to make him a formidable chess player. Paul would stop doing just about anything else when he had a chance to play a game!

When typing, Paul used his left hand to steady his right one.

Since he couldn’t press two keys at the same time, he almost always locked the shift key down and made his pictures using the symbols at the top of the number keys.

In other words, his pictures were based on these characters …

@ # $ % ^ & * ( ) _

Across seven decades, Paul created hundreds of pictures. He often gave the originals away. Sometimes, but not always, he kept or received a copy for his own records.

You should read the whole bio, which you’ll find here.

And what work are we talking about? The incredible pictures he created using ten keys on an old fashioned typewriter.  You can see those pictures here, at the Paul Smith Foundation’s Web Gallery.

Are they the greatest art in the world?  Nope.  Not even close.  The Louvre or the Met would not be interested.  Nevertheless, they are extraordinary and very pleasing to the eye — and that’s entirely separate from the awe one feels when one considers the physical work and the mental vision that went into creating them.

I’m no saint.  I give thanks daily that, despite being an older mother, both my children were born without Down Syndrome or any of the other genetic diseases nature tosses out.  I’d like to think that, had something bad happened, I could have handled it, but I simply don’t know.

I do know, though, that I’m am finding increasingly horrifying the open-faced calls from the statists demanding the death of the imperfect.  I’ll therefore end this post with a slightly modified version of Pastor Martin Niemoller’s famous poem (versions of which you can see here):

First they came for the Communists,
- but I was not a communist so I did not speak out.
Then they came for those born with handicaps,
- but I was born without handicaps so I did not speak out.

Then they came for the Socialists and the Trade Unionists,
- but I was neither, so I did not speak out.
Then they came for the Jews,
- but I was not a Jew so I did not speak out.
And when they came for me, there was no one left to speak out for me.

It’s frightening how neatly my little interlineation fits into that poem, isn’t it?

(Right now, the gallery links aren’t working, but you can still get an idea of his work just by going to the gallary main page.  I’ll contact the gallery and see if they can fix the problem.)

UPDATEMore on those gifted lives that the raving Left now freely discusses snuffing.

The pursuit of happiness

Here it is, my first day back from a long-ish vacation, and I’m not finding any blogging inspiration in today’s news. Instead, it’s exactly the same stuff that was in the news when I left: unrest in Pakistan; Hillary’s free-fall; alleged campaign shenanigans from the Hillary camp aimed at the Obama camp; Obama’s problem with Israel and Jewish voters; student unrest in Iran, which is intriguing but, currently, ineffectual; and the usual bad CBS polls trying to create a self-fulfilling prophecy by pushing Democratic candidates. Ho-hum. Boring. Rather than commenting on things as to which I’ve commented a hundred times before, therefore, I’ve decided to dust off some notes I made weeks ago about about happiness and government. Nothing I’ll say is new, but I still thinks it’s worth thinking about.

You all know, of course, these stirring words from the Declaration of Independence:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. (Emphasis mine.)

Did you know, though, that California has a Constitution that grants to its citizens a distinctly different right when it comes to being happy? Here:

All people are by nature free and independent and have inalienable rights. Among these are enjoying and defending life and liberty, acquiring, possessing, and protecting property, and pursuing and obtaining safety, happiness, and privacy. (Emphasis mine.)

Although the words look similar (with “pursuit” and “happiness” showing up in both places in the same sentence), the meanings are spectacularly different. As I understand it, the Founders, with that simple phrase “the pursuit of Happiness,” were saying that Government cannot step in and regulate too closely the decisions that people make with their lives. Government cannot insist that you engage in a certain trade, or marry a specific person, or socialize only with a pre-determined group. Instead, government must stand back so that you can make those decisions about your life that you believe will lead to your greatest happiness. It is up to you (and fate, I guess) whether you do, in fact, achieve success in that pursuit, or whether happiness remains a chimera, forever out of your grasp.

In California, however, the government guarantees that you will not only pursue that happiness but that you will obtain it. The question then becomes, how does a state determine whether its citizens have obtained happiness? As Dennis Prager likes to say in his happiness hour, happiness can vary from minute to minute. When I’m blogging, I’m happy; when I’m folding laundry or summarizing really, really boring depositions, I’m probably not very happy. When I’m riding Soarin’, I’m happy; when I’m plunging backwards into the darkness on Expedition Everest, I’m probably not happy, just motion sick. And then there are those situations when I’m feeling both emotions, such as boredom about standing in line, coupled with happy expectation about the pleasure of an upcoming experience.

Clearly, unless the government has some probe stuck in my brain 24 hours a day, it’s going to be impossible to tell whether I’m obtaining that guaranteed happiness (and the probe would have a challenge when dealing with conflicting emotions). Additionally, since my happiness level probably averages out over a day, a week or month or even a year (with a preponderance of individual “happy” experiences determining whether I’m happy over an extended period of time), such a probe, even if it existed, would be useless.

Given the impossibility of monitoring every individual’s actual happiness quotient, the only thing left for the government to do is to define happiness and then force it on its citizens. A lot of governments, usually socialist or theocratic governments, have tried to do that. They’ve defined happiness in economic terms and in terms of an individual’s relationship to the state. In communist countries, you will be happy because the state has provided you with housing (no matter how abysmal); with food (no matter how unappetizing or limited); and employment (no matter how dangerous, demoralizing or dreary). In religious countries, the government forces you to live according to its religious dictates, and then declares that you are happy because it has enabled you to please God.  End of story.  The state has defined happiness and then provided it. That your wishes, inclinations and abilities might leave you feeling personally unhappy is irrelevant, because once a state guarantees happiness, it can no longer afford to let the individual provide the definition of what that happiness looks like.

As you probably expected, all of this talk is going to wrap around to encompass this year’s elections and the differing visions of the Left and the Right. Although compassionate conservatism shows bad signs of tipping over into guaranteeing happiness, conservative principles still hew closer to guaranteeing opportunities to pursue happiness. Thus, it holds a greater promise that government will provide security (both at home and abroad) and economic flexibility so as to enable people to do what they want to do.  In a weird inversion of the hippies’ promise, it is the conservatives that create the environment in which citizens can “follow their bliss.” Each citizen can define happiness as he wants, whether it’s where the person lives, what he does, how he spends his recreational time, who he chooses as friends, etc.

This is the same principle that appears in the conservative belief that people should have equality of opportunity, although the government (wisely) refuses to guarantee equality of outcome, or even a successful outcome. There was certainly no guarantee in the 1970s, when Steve Jobs was futzing about in a garage, or Bill Gates was dropping out of college, that either would be anything more than a long-haired loser. We benefited from the fact that the State was unable to force them to stay in school or use their skills toward particular forms of employment. Instead, they followed their dreams and, as luck and the capitalist system would have it, they and we reaped a profit from their efforts.

The Left, however, keeps scootching closer and closer to a situation in which government doesn’t create a petri dish within which we can cultivate our own happiness, but actually tries to define happiness. Two examples spring to mind, but I suspect that you can supply more. The first example is the promise of universal health care. The Democrats want to determine what constitutes quality health care for all Americans (what will guarantee us “medical happiness”) and then to bypass the market to impose that vision on all of us. There are a lot of problems with the government approach.

To begin with, as Britain and and Canada keep demonstrating over and over and over again with regard to health care, the government does not end up providing something that guarantees health happiness. Instead, it provides a bare minimum service that leaves a few people happy, and most people resigned to the scraps doled out to them. The rich, of course, opt out entirely.

Moreover, there are indications that not all people want health care. Studies show that, while there are people who are genuinely at economic health care risk (mostly the elderly), there are also people, well-to-do people, who make a conscious decision to opt out of obtaining health care that they could otherwise afford. They’ve clearly decided that the odds are that their health is good and that they can better pursue their happiness by putting their money with an entity other than an insurance company. A 25 year old guy may decide that he’d rather than have a BMW, which he knows will increase his chances with the ladies, than a Blue Cross policy he probably won’t use. He also knows that he will get health care if he needs it, since ERs are barred from turning people away, and he’s willing to take the risk of subsequent bills. This guy might be very unhappy if Hillary coerced him into turning over even more of his money to the government, leaving him healthy (as he probably would be anyway), but driving a used Hyundai — a car that is most decidedly not a chick-mobile.

The second example of the Left defining happiness occurs with Obama’s relentless calls for unity. First off, this assumes that people want unity. As for me, I feel that unity can turn into brainlessness, with people effortlessly coasting along in what may be a dangerous status quo. It is the vigor of the marketplace of ideas, the fact that different ideas rub up against each other and have to defend themselves, that creates energy and quality. If you don’t believe me, look at a government office that doesn’t face competition — it’s slack, a fact that’s very irritating to those people in the office who, by temperament, crave efficiency and effectiveness. People and institutions need rigor to keep themselves polished. (Rigor, of course, is not the same as horrible threats.)

Second, as the above argument indicates, the only way in which one can actually obtain this unity that Obama impliedly promises will make us all happy is for us all to think the same way. That is, unity exists only when everyone is in agreement. But, as with the happiness problem, how do we define agreement? In my family, we all liked Disney World, but I hated Expedition Everest, and my children loved it. Were we unified or not?

On the political side, Obama is careful not to define the unity he insists he is capable of providing, but I’m quite certain that, as with government guaranteed happiness, this promised unity can exist only if Obama can also define the issues about which we will be unified. And if you look at his perfect liberal voting record, the one that makes him the most liberal Senator in government today, I can promise you that his definition of unity (read: happiness) will not match your definition of unity. Indeed, it will probably match the definition of unity only in a few select communities, such as Berkeley, San Francisco, parts of Boston, Austin, and Manhattan.

Obama’s definition of unity won’t even match the ideas of all those African-Americans who now overwhelmingly support him. His idea of unity requires abortion on demand and no school vouchers — but most African-Americans, as Larry Elder reminds us in the wonderful Stupid Black Men: How to Play the Race Card–and Lose are pro-Life and want vouchers. They’re unified behind his being black (aren’t identity politics wonderful?), but they actually don’t support some of his core policies.

Heck, as Elder points out, even Obama himself isn’t unified, playing the race card to black audiences and disavowing it to white audiences.  To make a very extreme analogy, in this he is reminiscent of the Arab spokesmen who speak peace to the West in English and, in the next breath, preach Jihad to the Muslims in Arabic.  The analogy goes even further in that, just as Western papers listen only to the English pronouncements from these death-seeking Muslims, so too do mainstream American papers listen only to Obama’s “race isn’t a problem” speeches, while assiduously ignoring his more inflammatory pronouncements and affiliations. When it comes to the press, Ostriches and monkeys, the cliched examples of avoidance, spring to mind.

The guarantee of happiness sounds like a wonderful thing.  Heck, we all want to be happy.  Before you get too excited, though, about the candidate who promises you that happiness (even if he phrases it in soporific terms of “unity”), think long and hard about what government-provided happiness really means.  It sounds great in theory, but history and current events show that, when it plays out in fact, they only happy people are the fat-cat bureaucrats who simultaneously define the happiness imposed upon us from on high and, usually, opt out of it themselves, preferring instead to pursue their own happiness.  As for me, I’d infinitely prefer living in a country where the government stands aside as much as possible, merely creating situations in which I can make those decisions I believe are most likely to provide me with the happiness I seek.