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2014: The Year of Obama's Reckoning

11:50 AM, Jan 2, 2014 • By JONATHAN V. LAST
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Dickens has presented Scrooge cruelly in this passage, and, by invoking prisons and workhouses, he has brought to mind the worst and ugliest of government agencies, in order to shine a warm light on his own preferred method for alleviating poverty, which is private charity. Prisons and workhouses are, even so, state-run social services, and everyone of a liberal sensibility ought to agree that a proper effort to cope with poverty is going to require government agencies more than door-to-door charitable campaigns. If only the oppressed proletarians of the Christmas Carol, the Cratchit family, possessed a full right to vote, which they do not, they would surely vote for government services, to be funded by the very mechanism to which Scrooge adverts, namely, taxation of wealthy persons such as himself.

The entire Carol turns on a plaintive note, which is warbled by the sickly and crippled Cratchit boy, Tiny Tim, who, a Spirit tells us, hasn't a ghost of a chance for survival so long as Scrooge remains tightfisted and cruel. This should remind us that, in regard to social problems and social service A Christmas Carol is, above all, a meditation on health care. Let us ask, then: should Tim's health and ability to survive depend on Scrooge's capricious impulses—his desire, one year, to keep his wealth to himself, or his Christmas recognition, the following year, that he ought to send a proper goose to his exploited clerk's impoverished family and ought even to offer Mr. Cratchit a raise? But, no, Tim's health care ought not to depend on the whims of Mr. Scrooge. The boy needs a reliable medical clinic or a public hospital—a large-scale government service, in short, like a prison or a workhouse, inscribed in law and supported by the whole of society, except devoted, in this instance, to pediatric medicine.

It's a particularly revealing argument in two ways. First, it shows the absurd lengths to which the left is willing to go to defend Obamacare. But more importantly, it exposes the left's core views concerning civil society and the state.

"Civil society" is the layer of organizations, associations, and traditions that have historically mediated between individuals and the state. It is the source of a great deal of good and has long been revered as an important aspect of democratic self-government. But today's liberals find it an annoyance. They believe instead that the power of the state must be made ever more expansive and irresistible. They wish to sweep away imperfect civil society so that all individuals may—must!—have direct, personal encounters with their government.

The American left didn't always think this way.

The corruptions of Obamacare are manifold. The president proposed it without having any real goals for it. Democratic legislators voted for it without liking it. And now, even as it fails, smart people who should know better are being stampeded into defending it. Each of these ill turns were prompted not by wisdom, or necessity, or even ideology, but rather by simple, base partisanship. There will be a price for all of this. And the first part of the bill comes due on November 4.

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