Friday, March 23, 2012

Pelosi's world of sheep

For those unaware, today marks the second anniversary of the passage of the Patient Protection And Affordable Care Act, otherwise known as Obamacare. Last night, Nancy Pelosi rose to defend it on the floor of the House. Watch this brief snippet from the speech at RCP. Her words, with regard to the supposed benefits of the law:
...And that's what the Republicans are trying to take away from you, from your family, from your life, from your liberty, from your pursuit of happiness.
For Nancy Pelosi, the Administration, and a great majority of liberals and progressives, this line makes perfect sense. What the government provides--through whatever means--is not a gift, not mere temporary assistance, but something that immediately becomes a right. To suggest that it be taken away is to deprive someone--therefore--of what they are supposedly owed.

And this is exactly what creates and entitlement mentality among the citizenry. With each passing year, with each passing day, the number of people locked into that mentality grows. The Occupy Wall Street movement demonstrates the pervasiveness of the mentality, as it sucks in a new generation which looks to the government to provide the basic necessities of life. In Europe, the lesson of Greece shows us the end-game of that mentality, all too vividly.

In Federalist 79, Alexander Hamilton argued for the importance of an independent judiciary. To that end, he supposed that one of the chief ways to prevent the legislature from controlling the judiciary was to prevent the legislature from having absolute control over the judiciary's purse strings, to insure that judges receives a salary. Thus, we have this actual provision in Article III, Section 1 of the Constitution, proper:
The Judges, both of the supreme and inferior Courts, shall hold their Offices during good Behaviour, and shall, at stated Times, receive for their Services a Compensation, which shall not be diminished during their Continuance in Office.
The idea is simple: to prevent the legislature from exerting control over judges via arbitrary control over salary. For Hamilton recognizes an essential truth, which he eloquently states in the Federalist essay:
In the general course of human nature, A power over a man's subsistence amounts to a power over his will.
And the corollary is obvious: the greater the power over subsistence, the greater the power over will. Within a limited framework--for instance a job--the power over one's will is essentially limited to that framework, but it exists just the same. We all know this: a job for which we receive a salary or wage has requirements, duties we must perform, in order to receive that salary or wage.

But what of a more general power over subsistence, over the basic necessities of life? If some entity provides these things, what are the limitations with regard to the power over one's will, over one's life, 24/7? Are there any to speak of? Of course, we know the answer here, as well, since we were all children at one time or another.

So what of a situation wherein necessities of life are controlled by the government? For that is exactly the circumstance at issue, with regard to the healthcare law in particular and entitlement programs in general. Those who would endorse these programs, who would rise to champion them, ask yourself this question: do you enjoy being sheep, having a nation of sheep, mindless bleating fools waiting for their masters to come fill the trough?

Yet, Nancy Pelosi and her ilk think this is liberty, is freedom, is the road to happiness, is life. And the great intellectual tragedy and irony here--the rarely spoken of link from Marx to libertarianism--is that control over subsistence and the attempt to eliminate self-provisioning (fending for oneself) is the basis for critiques of capitalism.

I repeat--once again--the words of Hobbes:
As [Pontius Telesinus] reviewed the ranks of his army in the battle against Sulla at the Colline Gate, he cried that Rome itself must be demolished and destroyed, remarking that there would never be an end to Wolves preying upon the liberty of Italy, unless the forest in which they took refuge was cut down.
As we hurtle towards Monday, and the showdown between Obamacare and Liberty in the halls of the Supreme Court, we would do well to decide what kind of world we want to live in, what kind of nation we want to have, what kind of people we want to be.

Cheers, all.


  1. Nice piece. Two things:

    Watching the Pelosi clip, she has the arrogance to complain about the "doughnut hole" while it was the Federal government that created the "doughnut" - without which there could be no hole.

    That and the sheep analogy. When you used the word trough, I realize there is another picture which perhaps is more apt. Are you familiar with the commercial production of swine? I am, and there is an important difference. Swine will definitely hurt other swine for their preferred spot at the trough. It can be bloody, when the hogs are hungry.


    Keep them confined in close enough quarters, and they will even eat their own piglets. Yes, I like the swine metaphor.

  2. Pigs are smarter than sheep, though... :)