Friday, October 2, 2009

The Difference Between America and Europe

I want to clear up some thing because many of my recent posts seem to be giving some people a wrong impression. Either that or people are not reading correctly and assuming I mean more than I say. Fair warning for the future: that is never a good idea. Just because common usage tends to place certain ideas together or under the same umbrella does not mean that I will agree with one because I agree with another nor does it mean that I will disagree with one because I disagree with another. I've said it before and I'll say it again: I am neither Left nor Right. The Left irritates me more purely because I believe many of their ideas are more dangerous. Most of the Right's truly dumb ideas are ideas with no traction. They'll never pass so they're not a major concern. Most of the Left's dumb ideas, however, are among their most popular ideas, and that makes them more dangerous.
In this particular context, I'm talking about the healthcare debate. I am not inherently opposed to a state-sponsored healthcare system and, if you pay attention, I've never said otherwise. I do not believe that it is necessarily a bad thing if a wealthy nation chooses to provide healthcare assistance to its citizens and can do so, both financially and within the framework of its own legal system. I am opposed to the lies and hypocrisy that are almost the entirety of the American healthcare debate. I am opposed to the push to ignore the legal framework within which our country is supposed to work. And I am opposed to the level of top-down control that is being pushed on a nation that was not designed for top-down control.
Those last two points are what I want to address here. Whether or not we can financially afford some sort of state-sponsored healthcare system is open to debate but it would be hard to argue that one of the wealthiest nations on the planet can't do it. The sticking point, for that argument, would only be in what changes to current spending would be necessary. Whether or not we can get people to argue rationally instead of spitting and fuming ... Well, unfortunately, I am all too aware that is not likely to happen.
However, the big differences are in our legal framework and our built-in control designs.
For the legal framework, we have the Constitution. Most countries have one, but ours was one of the first of its kind. It has a few flaws because of that, but it has some really great parts too, great parts that later countries didn't always adopt. I freely state that I would have written some things differently, but there is a process for that, if you truly believe that something needs to change and can get enough people to agree with you. Ignoring the Constitution is not an option. When the powers that be wanted to control the behavior of everyone in the country once before, they wrote an amendment (Prohibition). When they realized that was a dumb idea and decided to remove it, they wrote another amendment. That's how this process is supposed to work. You don't just decide to ignore it, you amend it. If you can't get your amendment through the system, you don't get to make the change.
We lost sight of that fact somewhere along the way. I say "somewhere", but I can actually point to the when. It was right around the time FDR essentially declared war on the Supreme Court when they rightly told him that the General Welfare clause wasn't a blank check. That was the first time someone decided that their cause was so just they could just ignore the Constitution and change the entire nature of the nation without bothering with an amendment. Unfortunately, FDR had enough political clout that he was able to pull off that coup, and adherence to the Constitution has suffered since then as a result. The fact that we have forgotten how it legally works, however, doesn't make it right to continue doing it illegally.
The General Welfare clause is not a blank check, any more than the Common Defense clause is a blank check. Both of these clauses are clearly defined in the list of stipulations that immediately follow them. Can the necessities of these clauses change over time? Absolutely! That's what the amendment process is for.
As for top-down control, the United States of America were never meant to be one nation ruled from the top. Notice the word "were" there instead of "was"? That is the proper way to say that phrase because the name, itself, designates the way this country was designed: a collection of sovereign states choosing to act together for specific and well-defined functions. You want the perfect example of what America was intended to be? We created the system of the European Union over 250 years before you did! This is the thing that Europeans and many Left-leaning Americans don't fully understand. America is not a country in the same way that, for example, Germany is. Fashioning a national healthcare system for America would be roughly akin to fashioning a "national" healthcare system for the European Union. I'm sure it could be forced into existence, but how well would the individual member states respond to the Frankenstein's Monster it would be?
It's about population, both demographics and simple numbers. The average European country is about the same size as the Average American state and has about (rough, unscientific approximation here) the same demographic splits. Yes there are demographic differences within a given American state or European country but they are not as pronounced as those differences between different American states or different European countries. Also, what works for one sized population does not necessarily work for a significantly larger population, even if that larger population is made up of the same basic people. When it comes to control of any sort, it is exercised best when it is exercised closest. People tend to not mind so much when their local community tells them that their lawn must be maintained in such-and-such a manner, but let a government official removed by both distance and population make the exact same demand and you'll see people marching in protest. It is a simple and obvious phenomenon. The highest level of control should only be exercised by those people over whom you have the highest level of influence and from whom you can most easily separate yourself if you reach in impasse in what that control should be. If you have a disagreement with your local Community Co-Op or whatever, you can march right up to the director's house and have your argument. Try that with your senator. If your argument fails to achieve a result you can stand, changing communities is infinitely easier (and usually infinitely cheaper) than changing countries.
This is why the United States of America were organized in the way they were and why we, today, have a European Union instead of Europe as one giant nation. The level of governmental control that is taken for granted in Europe simply does not work when you multiple the population 20, 30, 50 times over. Or at least, it doesn't work in any way that we, Americans or Europeans, would accept. Want an example of how it does work? China. Need I continue?
In short, don't assume I stand for anything I haven't said I stand for unless it is an obvious corollary and try to understand that America and Europe are not the same thing. Or maybe they are, just not in the way you're trying to see it.

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