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Politics and the Symptoms of a Sick Culture
Something is wrong when lifeguards are fired for saving lives.


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Jonah Goldberg

Fire Chief Ricci Zombeck was asked what he would have done if it had been a child, rather than a suicidal adult, slowly drowning out there. He responded that if he was on duty he’d have let the kid drown, but if he was off duty he would have saved him.

These are the symptoms of a sick culture.

These days, liberals are celebrating the moral triumph of their health-care reform. We’re helping the uninsured! We’re making government more humane and compassionate! And from one perspective, that’s all true, I suppose.

But we’re also changing the culture. In some areas it’s obvious. For instance, religious institutions are being bullied into compliance with Obamacare. In other ways the changes are far more subtle, even invisible (though if you follow the British media coverage of their state-run health system, you get a hint of what’s coming; prepare for ever more debates about rationing, denying treatment to the “unworthy,” euthanasia, and the rest).

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Then–House majority leader Nancy Pelosi sold Obamacare on the grounds that it would be culturally liberating. People no longer would be “job locked” because of health care, she explained. So “if you want to be creative and be a musician or whatever, you can leave your work” and pursue your dreams.

And if your dream is to be a fireman, a lifeguard, or, perhaps very soon, a doctor who isn’t allowed to save lives, you may not have to leave your job at all. But if that’s not your dream, get ready for a headwind.

Jonah Goldberg is editor-at-large of National Review Online, a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and the author of The Tyranny of Clichés. You can write to him by e-mail at [email protected], or via Twitter @JonahNRO. © 2012 Tribune Media Services, Inc.



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