One of the better observations Jonah Goldberg makes in Liberal Fascism is that centrist policies are often sold, not on the basis of taking a bit of good from each of the opposing policies, but by revealing that there is no actual conflict between them. We need not choose between guns and butter, or between economic growth and saving the environment; we may have both. We make our choice by not needing to choose at all.
In a recent column, Goldberg brings up this point in regards to Obama's health care bill:
We can give 32 million more people coverage, without preconditions, and save money. It’s already clear that this have-your-cake-and-eat-it-too pitch was bogus; big corporations are announcing that Obamacare will either cost them millions (if not billions) or force them to drop coverage.
This is a valid criticism. There is absolutely no way that costs can be reduced by circumventing what little remains of the free market in the health care industry. Whenever costs are borne by others, we provide a disincentive for consumers to minimize their usage of the good or service. This naturally pushes costs sharply upwards. The end result will not be death panels, but some form of rationing is, in the long run, inevitable.
But while Goldberg is right about health care, he ought to apply his criticism to the American democratic system as a whole, or at least to the two parties that run it. For the Republicans, too, used the have-your-cake-and-eat-it-too pitch during the run up to the war in Iraq. The war would not prove costly, as Iraqi oil could defray war expenses.
The Iraq war was immoral and stupid, but it also served to demonstrate the extent to which Republicans, the ostensible party of restraint, hadn't the slightest inclination to provide responsible government. Rather than insist that the American people finance the war, Bush exacerbated the situation by cutting taxes. This was just as reckless and foolhardy as Obama's similar lack of fiscal restraint which conservatives now decry.
The fundamental problem which confronts our country is our massive debt. We continue to spend more money than we save; with the cost of entitlements rising, with no meaningful cuts to any government programs, and with tax revenues plummeting in a wobbly economy, the crisis threatens to become acute in short order.
But politicians of both parties continue to believe that there is no debt crisis. We can borrow as much as we like, and continue to spend on whatever we feel is desirable. This fallacy will be laid to rest when foreigners cease buying our debt, and we are forced, at last, to make a decision. Do we monetize the debt, and risk destruction of the currency through inflation? Or do we take our medicine and deal with a deflationary depression?
No inclinations can be discerned from the present government, which, like those before it, is content to let the problem build up for another administration to handle. So we wait.