In this election season, if you’re not committed to fewer programs from fewer agencies with fewer bureaucrats on less pay, you’re not serious. I’d say we need something closer to Thatcher-scale privatization in Britain 30 years ago, or Sir Roger Douglas’s transformative Rogernomics in New Zealand in the mid-Eighties, or post-Soviet Eastern Europe’s economic liberalization in the early Nineties. Aside from the restoration of individual liberty, a side benefit to closing down or outsourcing the Bureau of Government Agencies and the Agency of Government Bureaus is that you’d also be in effect privatizing public-sector unions, which are now one of the biggest threats to freedom and civic integrity.
But, if that all sounds a bit extreme and if 2010 is just a slightly-swingier-than-usual midterm, then things are going to get grim very quickly. In my essay a few weeks back (“Welcome to Rome,” January 25), I noted that Europe’s somewhat agreeable decline had been cushioned by America, and that the problem with American decline is that this time round there’s no rising power volunteering to do the cushioning. Because of the American security umbrella, countries like Germany were able to transfer military spending to social programs. Lacking that option for Obamacare, the Democrats propose to “control costs” by refusing to acknowledge them: Medicare-reimbursement levels will be “capped,” which means that an ever greater number of doctors will cease to perform services for which they are not properly remunerated. And wait till we’ve Medicared the rest of the economy.
In an election cycle or two, the demographic balance between wealth creators and state dependents will shift decisively in favor of the latter, further disincentivizing the former from the thankless task of feeding the leviathan. In an economically moribund America, the Age of Entitlement Insolvency will hit sooner rather than later, and pimply burger flippers will rebel or flee rather than prop up entire Florida retirement communities. Faced with a choice between unsustainable entitlements and an armed forces of global reach, the United States, as Europe did, will abandon military capability and toss the savings into the great sucking maw of social spending. That, in turn, will make for not only a more dangerous world but a more vulnerable America that, to modify President Bush, will wind up having to fight them over here because we no longer have the capacity to fight them over there. From the state-licensed, SEIU-staffed bake sale to Armageddon — in nothing flat.
2010 is not necessarily the last but is at least the antepenultimate chance at avoiding this fate. If we choose otherwise, well, we have regulated our bed, and we will have to lie in it.