Tuesday, December 22, 2009

One Small Step

News coverage of the ongoing debate over enslavement of physicians health care "reform" and the destruction of civilization global warming summit both expose an approach that has long been used by the Left--compromise on details but not on principle.

Consider health care "reform": The big news last week was all the deals being cut with various Senators in order to secure their support. Parts of the bill--such as the "public option"--that have been a critical part of the Democrat's plan to take over health care, were dropped. For now. As an adviser to Harry Reid said:
It is the true definition of a hybrid. By and large, it's not a public option, but I think the liberals felt so strongly about getting a bill that allows for comprehensive coverage and meaningful reform, it was worth accepting this. No one believes this is going to be the last word.
No, it isn't the last word. While the Left may have temporarily forsaken the "public option", passage of the bill will mean a complete victory for Democrats. They may have delayed reaching their final goal--the complete nationalization of health care--but they will have taken a huge step in that direction.

As with the income tax, Social Security, Medicare, and countless other government schemes, what starts as limited in scope and application will be expanded. Economically, these interventions create distortions in the market, which the government will use as an excuse for further interventions. Philosophically, these interventions represent a further embrace of statism--that the lives of individuals belong to the state. The only issue open to "debate" is how and to what extent the principle is applied.

Democrats clearly understand this. While they would like to kick the door open for socialized medicine, they are content to leave it slightly ajar. The door is no longer locked, and it will be much easier to completely open it at some future time. All they need do is demand consistency in the application of the principle.

Similarly with the Copenhagen summit. While aiming for an agreement that could be used to justify massive government regulation, Obama was content to settle for less. After reaching an agreement with China, an American spokesman said:
No country is entirely satisfied with each element but this is a meaningful and historic step forward and a foundation from which to make further progress.

It's not sufficient to combat the threat of climate change but it's an important first step.

Yes, it is the first step in a death march that will make Bataan look like a stroll through the park. Having taken that first step, Obama can now prod the world to continue marching.

With few exceptions, opponents to both health care "reform" and "cap and trade" are intellectually disarmed, for they accept the same moral principle as Obama--altruism. With few exceptions, they agree that morality consists in self-sacrificial service to others, that we have a moral duty to place the welfare and interests of others before our own. For decades the Left has used altruism as a bayonet to demand greater and greater government control of our lives.

This pattern is not limited to national or international politics. It is equally evident on the local level. For example, while Houstonians have rejected zoning three times, over the past three decades the city has enacted ordinance after ordinance--such as controls on billboards, sexually oriented businesses, high rise development--that would be a part of zoning in other cities. Houstonians may have rejected zoning, but they have not rejected the premise that underlies it. They have not rejected the premise that the individual must sacrifice his interests to those of "society". And so they continue to accept proposals to regulate land-use in the city.

Those who want complete government control of health care, land-use, or any other sphere of our lives, push the debate hard to the left. Opponents to these power grabs can only meekly complain that a particular proposal is too expensive or goes "too far', conceding the moral high ground. The inevitable result is a compromise that chips away at individual liberty and moves the nation or the city deeper into statism.

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