January 19th, 2015
in Op Ed
by Rick Ackerman, Rick's Picks
After America: Get Ready for Armageddon is almost as depressing as its title. Mark Steyn's 2011 book, which I'm reading now for the first time, gives statistical heft to the doomsday thread that animates this forum form time to time. There's no point in trying to save the Republic, Steyn warns, because it's too late; it is too far gone. The Nanny State has become all-pervasive, meddling in every detail of our lives in ways that even King George III would have rejected as too intrusive.
Still worse is that the unelected bureaucrats who toil ceaselessly at crushing the energy, initiative and vitality from the economy are not only everywhere, they are paid far more than their counterparts in the private sector. Steyn notes that in 2009, the average civilian employee of the U.S. Government earned $81,258 in salary plus $41,791 in benefits, for a total of $123,049. The private-sector worker, meanwhile, received a mere $50,462 in salary and $10,589 in benefits, for a total of $61,051. That's why the latter will be working until they are 80 to pay for government workers who retire with absolute security as early as 55.
As for electing Republicans to obstruct a Marxist president who is hell-bent on destroying America, Steyn reminds us that the loyal opposition is as much a part of the problem as the Democrats they would seek to rein in. This is even more obvious now than it was when Steyn published the book. Back then, we might have hoped that Obamacare, the most destructive piece of legislation ever enacted by Congress, as well as the largest new tax ever levied on America's middle class, would have been repudiated and rescinded by now. Instead, the GOP has been taking potshots at the ACA's gratuitous tax on medical devices while they bide their time waiting for the Supreme Court to decide King v. Burwell. Although the case seems likely to invalidate Obamacare subsidies in the 30 or so states that wisely decided not to set up their own healthcare exchanges, Republicans evidently have no strategy for pressing the advantage when the court decision is rendered sometime this summer.
A Network of Petty Regulations
No one knew America better than Alexis de Tocqueville, and Steyn quotes a particularly prescient passage at length to show how America, a democratic republic, was vulnerable to "slyer seductions" than the despotism of Europe: "I see an innumerable crowd of like and equal men who revolve on themselves without repose, procuring the small and vulgar pleasures with which they fill their souls." "That's not a bad description of a populace preoccupied with 'social media,'" notes Steyn. But then de Tocqueville goes on: "Over these is elevated an immense tutelary power, which takes sole charge of assuring their enjoyment and of watching over their fate. It is absolute, attentive to detail, regular, provident and gentle. It would resemble the paternal power if, like that power, it had as its object to prepare men for manhood, but it seeks, to the contrary, to keep them irrevocably fixed in childhood...it provides for their security, foresees and supplies their needs, guides them in their principal affairs....
"The sovereign extends its arms about the society as a whole, it covers its surface with a network of petty regulations - ; complicated, minute and uniform - ; through which even the most original minds and the most vigorous souls know not how to make their way.... It does not break wills; it softens them, bends them, and directs them; rarely does it force on to act, but it constantly opposes itself to one's acting on one's own...it does not tyrannize, it gets in the way; it curtails, it enervates, it extinguishes, it stupefies, and finally reduces each nation to being nothing more than a herd of timid and industrious animals, of which government is the shepherd."
Just so. Two more years of Obama, and the American Dream will be yet a few steps closer to death by a thousand cuts. The economic depression that is surely coming will only hasten and consolidate the triumph of the Nanny State over the hardiest strain of individualism that the economic world has ever known.