The Edge of Politics

Richard Fernandez over at Pajamas Media posted a disturbing commentary yesterday on a couple of articles he had recently read concerning the apocalyptic economic problems facing both California and Great Britain. The root of the problem, in both cases, is easy enough to identify: the entitlement mentality that believes that something can be had for nothing (or little). The title of his article (I Want My MTV) sums it up neatly (money for nothing, chicks for free…).

But it’s easy to hammer on the unsustainability of free lunch programs for massive numbers of people. In the abstract, more or less everybody understands it. What’s disturbing about the viewpoint of Fernandez (and his interlocutors) is a pessimism that politics would even be capable of tackling the problem – but they may be right:

Britain has gone into debt to buy a ball and chain. Who’s going to tell the electorate that? And how do you sell solutions to such monumental problems to an electorate accustomed to being promised ever more comfort, safety and ease? The answer: you can’t. The political system can’t meet the challenge without liquidating itself. Faced with an insoluble problem the political elite marks time by becoming obsessed with trivia. It rearranges the deck chairs on its Titanic. It whistles past its graveyard.

I keep telling myself that America has a reservoir of resiliency that will surge up to fend off the dangerous lurch to the left that the country has taken – telling myself that the overreach of the Obama regime will waken the sleeping giant that has too quietly acquiesced to the steady leftward march of the nation over the past century, and manage to do so before we plunge over the edge.

But listening to people rationalizing the government takeover of the healthcare market – whether various flavors of the Obamacare vision, or even the current regulatory shakedown of (non-profit!) insurers here in Massachusetts under Romneycare – it strikes me that the defense of these actions is almost invariably couched in moralistic terms that defend taking (i.e. stealing) from the “haves” for the greater good – whatever that may actually entail in practice. In other words, this is hardly a political problem at all, but a spiritual one, which displaces even basic morality with a moralism rooted in the will to power – and those crafty paving stones of good intentions.

This is a very different rationale than Fernandez pursues, but it certainly supports his conclusion .