Thursday, March 25, 2010

Paula Bennett, Gerry Brownlee & ObamaCare: What’s the connection?

Q: WHAT’S THE CONNECTION BETWEEN these three recent events:

  • the victory this week of ObamaCare
  • National’s “welfare reforms”
  • The Brownlee Plan for mining in parks

On the face of it there’s no direct link—but there is one nonetheless.

Can you spot it?

It’s a moral link.

1. Let’s look at Obamacare. Obama’s health care plan, famously touted as “extending health care to 32 million Americans, was introduced to America on the justification that every American is every other American’s keeper—that they each have a moral “duty” to each other--and the state exists to ensure that relationship is enforced.
And since Republican party apologists agree with that too, it’s no wonder they entered the Obamacare debate morally disarmed, and ended it trounced.  They agreed with that proposition that the state exists to enforce charity, so how could they disagree when a more consistent proponent of that doctrine calls their bluff.  (Watch that happening here to Stephen Moore.)
No wonder they lost.

2. How about Paula Bennett’s so-called  “welfare reform”?  Shuffling around the deck chairs while the Titanic welfare bill sinks us all. 
New Zealand’s now-bloated welfare state is premised on the notion that every new Zealander is every other New Zealander’s keeper—that we each have a moral “duty” to reach other--and the state is there to enforce that.
National’s lukewarm “welfare reforms” don’t challenge that a whit—they accept the notion that the moral cannibalism of the welfare state is a given; that the money extracted from Peter to dole out to Paul represents an “entitlement” to Paul; that while the state may occasionally shuffle around how Paul (or Pauline) is kept, or what his (or her) entitlement is called, or how often Pauline (or Paul) has to front up to re-register for their “entitlement,” that “entitlement” itself—their passport to ravage the pockets of the productive -- must never, ever, be challenged.  
That’s the premise on which Paula Bennett is working, and also the basis on which she’s being attacked.
That’s why these reforms are argued on the improvements they’ll supposedly make to the beneficiaries, instead of how they might benefit those who are forced to pay for them.
No wonder the “reforms” are so tepid, and will arguably just make things worse.

3. So how about that mining, huh?
Time for a reality check, here.
National isn’t “freeing up” government land for mining because it wants the economy to surge ahead.  It simply wants to “let out” that land so they can rope in some help to pay that burgeoning welfare bill.  And it’s a biggy.
To their credit, some members of the National cabinet recognise that with one-in-ten New Zealanders now receiving a benefit (358,000 NZers at the last count), the Titanic welfare bill is slipping out of our grasp and may be the iceberg that finally sinks us. They recognise that if the National-led Government is borrowing $250 million a week to maintain those 358,000 at others’ expense, they will very shortly need some others to help pick up the tab. And since the premise that every new Zealander must be every other New Zealander’s keeper must (apparently) never be challenged, Gerry Brownlee (to his discredit) wants to use mining companies the way Margaret Thatcher used North Sea oil companies--to pay in royalties to keep the welfare state from bankruptcy.
Gerry wants to dig, baby, dig –- not to make the country rich, but to keep the state’s welfare coffers full.
No wonder we’re stuffed.

Can you now see the moral connection with each : Creating new “entitlements,” and refusing to cut back old ones. More specifically, refusing to recognise “entitlements” for what they are: which is alms, extracted at the point of a gun.

It’s a form of moral disarmament—and it’s the reason the welfare rolls are increasing, your tax bills are rising (roll on that GST rise, eh!), and why every single argument against the advance of the welfare state is repelled before its even fully advanced: Because every mainstream proponent on both sides of all three arguments accepts the same fundamental premise that empowers the welfare state:

  • The creation and maintenance of an “entitlement culture”—of a state in which everyone is given the moral imprimatur to live at everyone else’s expense.
  • The idea that one persons means can become another person’s ends—by the power of law.
  • The notion of a “duty” to be our brother’s keeper—at the point of a gun, if necessary.
  • That need itself is the moral claim that trumps all others—with that need made an “entitlement” by the power of government.

And there’s a worse mistake still: The idea that liberty and duty can somehow co-exist.  As Ayn Rand pointed out,

“In any conflict between two men (or two groups) who hold the same basic principles, it is the more consistent one who wins.”

And so they have been.

And so they will be until it’s recognised that we each have the right to live for our own sakeand the notion of duty is expunged from the pages of history for ever.

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