Everything. Consumed.

When political opposites like Barack Obama and Eric S. Raymond agree on something, that gets my attention.

Here's Barack Obama in a CSPAN interview reported by Drudge today:

...we are out of money now. We are operating in deep deficits, not caused by any decisions we've made on health care so far. This is a consequence of the crisis that we've seen and in fact our failure to make some good decisions on health care over the last several decades.

So we've got a short-term problem, which is we had to spend a lot of money to salvage our financial system, we had to deal with the auto companies, a huge recession which drains tax revenue at the same time it's putting more pressure on governments to provide unemployment insurance or make sure that food stamps are available for people who have been laid off.

So we have a short-term problem and we also have a long-term problem. The short-term problem is dwarfed by the long-term problem. And the long-term problem is Medicaid and Medicare. If we don't reduce long-term health care inflation substantially, we can't get control of the deficit.

So, one option is just to do nothing. We say, well, it's too expensive for us to make some short-term investments in health care. We can't afford it. We've got this big deficit. Let's just keep the health care system that we've got now.

Along that trajectory, we will see health care cost as an overall share of our federal spending grow and grow and grow and grow until essentially it consumes everything...

(Emphasis added.)

And here's what Eric S. Raymond (no supporter of Obama, BTW) said in September:

The fundamental problem is that income-transfer programs (and the interest service on the debt purchased to keep them running) are spending wealth in higher volumes than the economy can actually generate, and demand for that spending is rising faster than the economy is growing. Thus, raising tax rates is no longer a way out, if it ever was.

At some point, the U.S. government is going to lose both the ability to increase revenues and the ability to sell bonds. At that point the entitlements system will crash. Transfer checks will either stop issuing or become meaningless because the government has, like some banana republic, hyperinflated the currency in order to get out from under its debt obligations.

Unlike the oncoming European demographic crash, the entitlements crash will be survivable in that there will still be people around to make things and trade things with. But it's going to be ugly. probably rioting-in-the-streets ugly. People dependent on income transfers will starve or die of preventable diseases in large numbers, unless they can find work or private charity. Since many of those people will be old, work will be unlikely unless they are exceptionally capable at something. Families will have to re-assume the burden of caring for their elderly; retirees without children will be in especially severe jeopardy.

Violent revolutions have been fought over less wrenching economic changes than this one promises to be.

And here was my reaction:
I think the country might be approaching a turning point of sorts. We've gone about as far as it's possible to go with the socialist-flirtation, welfare-state mode without plunging over the abyss into the irreversible, tyrannical, full-blown variety.

I probably rant and rave too much against socialism and risk boring readers. (Always a mistake in blogging.) But the reason I do that is that I think this country is in serious denial, as if they want to have their socialism and not have it too. What will happen if the day of reckoning that Eric S. Raymond warns about ever comes? Is this just something to not think about the way we don't like to think about a nuclear attack on a major U.S. city?

Or is it paranoia? I mean, don't we have an unlimited supply of freedom, resources, and enough of the can-do American spirit of individuality to overcome all obstacles? What worries me is that socialism is incompatible with freedom. So is extreme debt. (Even the 13th Amendment to the Constitution allows that slavery in payment of debt is not slavery.)

Free countries do not declare massive "entitlements" by one class to the money of another class, especially when the money is not there. In free countries, no one is "entitled" to the property of someone else without just compensation.

That was six weeks before the election of Barack Obama.

And now that I see that he basically agrees with Eric S. Raymond on the entitlement problem, it's hard to chalk any of this up to paranoia.

Anyway, much as I don't like to repeat myself, I thought that what I worried about in September was worth repeating.

FWIW, I tried to vote against socialism, of course. And "entitlements."

We are still allowed to vote against these things, aren't we?

BTW, Eric S. Raymond's recent observation on the nature of the problem is well worth contemplating:

The underlying problem is that in any democratic system, the political demand for redistribution of wealth rises faster that the economy's ability to generate wealth to be redistributed.
It's an ancient* problem.

As to the future, Raymond allows room for optimism:

Soon - very soon, in historical time - it will become clear that democratic redistributionism cannot deliver on its promises. All such systems, not just California's and the U.S's, are running headlong towards a terminal state of moral, political, demographic, and financial bankruptcy.

Then, the question will become: what happens afterwards? And it is a serious one, because the crisis could resolve either through the end of democracy or the end of redistributionism. On one path, we learn that we must live within our means and reject the delusion that redistribution can solve more problems than it causes; down the other path lies Peronism on steroids.

I am not in doubt which of those I will choose. If I am given any choice...

I agree, but will we get that choice?

* John Adams (echoing Plato) said "There never was a democracy yet that did not commit suicide."

Aren't we too big to commit suicide?

posted by Eric on 05.23.09 at 11:39 AM


I still think the revolution comes first in Europe. No way they continue to sit still for the Islamic invasion. Another National Socialist leader is already alive somewhere.

dr kill   ·  May 23, 2009 1:47 PM

Since everyone, including Glen Reynolds, has been quoting Ayn Rand lately, her opinion on the future of American democracy is perhaps now relevant.

She believed that we would end up choosing the fascist variety. She even wrote a political essay called "The Fascist New Frontier" critiquing Kennedy's plans. She also thought that the last of America's core principles were embodied in our military schools like Annapolis. One of her best speeches was given to the graduating class at West Point in which she very cleverly brought all the fashionable philosophical schools of thought down to reality by ascribing each of them to various Presidents.
(Pragmatism was Nixon.)

So, Eric, my guess would be we end up with the Peronist variety. And from what's out there & being hinted at throughout the right wing internet, a military coup d'etat is not out of the question -- IF the conditions deteriorate as Eric S. Raymond thinks they will.

It's not something a despised minority would welcome, especially one being demonized daily by fascist pigs on the right like Michael Savage. Or is this just paranoia?

Frank   ·  May 23, 2009 4:10 PM

>I am not in doubt which of those I will choose. If I am given any choice...
To quote Anakin Skywalker, "if it works..."

Also, as an European, I can tell you to forget about any kind of European revolution. Except for very concrete places, people is sleepwalking so hard it's hard to believe.

Sir Sefirot   ·  May 24, 2009 8:29 AM

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