Thursday, July 2, 2009

Obamacare: Disaster for Who?

On the one hand people argue that President Obama's plan for health care reform is the end of freedom as we know it.

On the other hand others argue that his plan is a bridge too far that will end in failure worse than Hillarycare in 1994.

And they are arguing it in the July 20 National Review now on line.

Mark Steyn is arguing the end-of-freedom line, as the professional pessimist he has become. Call it "Dependence Day," he says, for government health care will transform our culture and our politics forever.

Ramesh Ponnuru is arguing a bitten-off-more-than-they-can-chew line. People love the idea of health reform as long as they come out ahead. Only trouble is that the week-by-week of health care politics this year is demonstrating clearly that a government plan will mean massive tax increases. Or benefit cuts. Or both. Or fiscal meltdown.

But which is it?

I'd say: both and neither.

There is still plenty of scope for politicians to offer free stuff to voters. They will do this up until the moment after the whole government spending thing crashes in ruins.

And it is also true that in places like Europe the people demonstrate an extraordinary docility and appetite for dependency. No doubt there are plenty of people in the United States who would love to live like dependent adolescents.

But then there's the law, proudly called Stein's Law by Herbert Stein. "If something cannot go on forever, it will stop."

It often seems in these latter days that liberalism and the continual growth in government spending is unstoppable. But the truth is that the notion of the Medicare unfunded liability as $30 trillion or $50 trillion, or whatever it will be next week means one simple thing. Medicare cannot go on the way it is forever. It will stop.

Viewed strategically, Obamacare is the Democrats' current attempt to lasso the health care problem. But it is probably just another bout of shadow boxing.

Because today health care can go on as it is. For a few years, at least.

That's because of Chantrill's Corollary. If things can go on as they are then they probably won't change.

Or at least the politicians probably won't get to change it. They will be afraid of the opposition.

Eventually the welfare state will end in disaster. That will happen at the point that things just can't go on like they are any more and when people are utterly abandoned to dependency.

It will all be very fascinating for the historians. But not too much fun for the people trying to live through it.

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