A while back, during a previous presidential campaign, I wrote an article about America; about unity and values and a common culture, – about cooperation within the vision of America institutionalized by our founders in our constitution. I know, big words oft-repeated which have become meaningless – even as I read them I know that they no longer inspire, but what else can I say? I bring this up today, reverting back to those selfsame old ideas, naïve perhaps and somewhat used up, like “butter spread over too much toast” – in the hopes that there is still some reason left out there in the minds of men who can see beyond tribe and clan, beyond Twitter hashtag and Facebook trolling – and who can be appealed to with words. Because words are all we have, in a free society of equals. Notwithstanding the ANTIFA fascism and the Occupy mayhem, we are a society that recognizes the importance of common ground, and which has a profound love for each other.
“Most Americans love their country,” I wrote, “want a better world for their children, and a place where we can be free from violence, oppression and tyranny to live our lives in peace. We look at the world around us, going from tyranny to chaos and back to tyranny, and we recognize just how important this is.” I bring this up in the current context of #GrahamCassidy and our attempts to get healthcare right for our children and our children’s children. Because it is something that we cannot afford to ignore, or relegate to the partisan wars on the streets of big cities and to the dark nasty corners of cyberspace.
Now, I’m not a healthcare policy expert – as neither are any of the people debating the fate of our hospitals and doctors, nor you who are reading this. But I do know a thing or two about governance, about federalism and how to make things function. Turns out in this case the way things function is not particularly new and should not even be controversial; “It should be the states, closer to the challenges and more attuned to the problems, which should address them according to their own constitutions and charters. The role of the Federal government, as seen by the forefathers, should be to arbitrate conflicts and provide for the common defense. Occasionally a state will violate the social contract set in our Bill of Rights (think of segregation in the South); in which case the Federal government can and should move in temporarily to sort out the issue (as it does). If a state over-reaches, the Federal government can step in. To whom do we turn if the Federal government over-reaches? If states are left to decide their own balance to the conflict above, America will be the winner. States will compete against each other; and people (and companies) will ‘vote with their feet’ based upon their beliefs, concerns and interests. Ideas can be tried at the state level with relative ease, jettisoned if they don’t work or adopted by other states if they are successful, and on we go.”
Now, it is in that spirit that I return to the #Obamacare fiasco with this question; “Why the fear of #GrahamCassidy?” If #Obamacare is such a winner, all fifty states will rush – sooner or later – to adopt their own version of the law. Right? Sort of like Massachusetts did, and first (as I was reminded ad-infinitum while working on Mitt Romney’s Presidential campaign). And instead of a one-size-fits all, once and done approach (which is obsolete before the ink dries), we might even see something better as systems improve, responding to the competition of policy-making at the state level as legislators vie for the best healthcare for their residents, and citizens move to and fro seeking a better deal (incidentally this is how things work in the much-vaunted “Swedish socialist” system where socialism is not national but municipal).
I turn here to an article in an online magazine I often visit, in which can be found a particularly insightful analysis of European power. “In brief, Europe’s political fragmentation spurred productive competition. It meant that European rulers found themselves competing for the best and most productive intellectuals and artisans. The economic historian Eric L Jones called this ‘the States system’ (…) The ‘abuses of tyranny are restrained by the mutual influence of fear and shame’, Gibbon wrote, adding that ‘republics have acquired order and stability; monarchies have imbibed the principles of freedom, or, at least, of moderation; and some sense of honor and justice is introduced into the most defective constitutions by the general manners of the times.’ In other words, the rivalries between the states, and their examples to one another, also meliorated some of the worst possibilities of political authoritarianism.”
This was the way the United States of America was organized – and it has worked for us, much better than even for the Europeans of the renaissance; because we managed to build a true federation without nobles and without kings and also without internecine wars (except of course one big nasty one, which was also essential for the future of our republic and is a perfect example of the Federal government stepping in when required – but which nevertheless cost a great deal of blood and treasure). Our policymakers should remember this – our courts should issue rulings with this in mind – and we the people should constantly be advocating the return of decision making closer to where decisions affect the lives of citizens.
For a better policy analysis, make sure to read Lanhee Chen’s Wall street Journal article, “Republicans Get One Last Chance on Obamacare Reform” (admittedly not the most inspirational title). Chen is a friend, and also a Romney 4 President Alum; and is a voice of thoughtful reason on so many policy issues that his word should be considered. I add my own small voice to the debate – because its my right, and because I want to leave my son a country that is not bankrupt, either morally or financially, but is in fact, dare I say it? … Great Again 🙂