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Monday, February 10, 2014

Lots of little gems

A recent Michael Barone column about Obamacare is full of little gems.  First there is the subtitle:
The Washington elites who designed the law must be bewildered: Why doesn't everyone behave as they do?
I think that speaks for itself as a common state of most statists.  He then gives attention to three assumptions about the health insurance market that aren't holding up very well.

He concludes with highly relevant cultural and historical perspectives:
But policies that work well in Scandinavia or Minnesota and North Dakota won't necessarily work well in a wider United States, where a much larger proportion of people are socially disconnected.

And such policies may not work as well as they might have in the United States of the 1950s and early 1960s, in which disconnectedness was much less common. That was an America in what I call the Midcentury Moment, a period when World War II and unexpected postwar prosperity produced a conformist and (mostly) culturally homogeneous nation with low rates of divorce and single parenthood, and high rates of social connectedness. A nation accustomed to a universal military draft and wage-and-price controls, and in which increasing numbers worked for giant firms and were members of giant labor unions, probably would have been more amenable to a centralized command-and-control policy like ObamaCare than the culturally fragmented America of today.

In the long run of American history, the Midcentury Moment was just that—a moment, an exception, not the rule. We have been in some sense a multicultural nation from our colonial beginnings. The Founding Fathers, seeking to unite Puritan New England, Anglican Virginia, Dutch New York and Quaker Pennsylvania with the Scots-Irish warriors on the Appalachian frontier, determined that the federal government would impose no religious test for office and make no law regarding a religious establishment. They provided for a limited central government and a wide free-trade zone in which local cultures could prevail, local preachers could convert, and local entrepreneurs could innovate. 

ObamaCare cuts against this grain. The trouble that has resulted—from the architects' apparent failures to anticipate the behavior of fellow citizens who don't share their approach to the world, and the architects' determination to impose their mores, such as contraception coverage, on a multicultural nation—is a lesson to national policy makers, conservative as well as liberal. Govern lightly if you want to govern this culturally diverse nation well.
Not only are we culturally different from other places, we are to some extent different from ourselves.  Some of the conflicts are a continuation of the English Civil War.  Wherever you wish to place the roots of such conflict, we will not get along if there are no limits on the things we must all do together.

Saturday, February 01, 2014


Earlier this week Pete Seeger died.  There are some interesting perspectives outside the conventional mainstream praise that I thought were of note.  Bird Dog over at blog Maggie's Farm had this to say:
Grew up middle class, went to prep school and Harvard, affected a working class style but I doubt any working class people were ever interested in him. A likeable old commie, naive and innocent to the end.
Ron Radosh at PJMedia who knew Seeger personally concluded with this:
I know Pete would not have said that if I had been writing books about fascism.

More than likely, he would have praised my doing so. Pete, like so many others on the Left, simply failed to realize that communism is fascism’s twin.

Some also take umbrage, as does Graham, with calling Seeger anti-American. In his Mother Jones [8] article, David Hajdu, who spent time with Seeger before writing the article, called him “devoted to a few simple ideas, a nostalgist whose worldview often seems frozen in the era of his own coming-of-age.” He adds: “A strain of anti-Americanism has always run through Seeger’s work.”

If you don’t think that is the case, listen to the Smithsonian Folkways CD “Pete Seeger Sing-a-Long,” recorded at the Sanders Theater in Cambridge, Mass., in 1980. In an impromptu remark, Seeger makes a comment about how if the people had guns, you better watch out, because you don’t know whom the people would use the guns against. The comment receives huge cheers. That is to be expected of from an audience in the People’s Republic of Cambridge.

Sunkara is right about one thing. He quotes Bruce Springsteen, who wrote that Seeger showed how song could “nudge history along.” Seeger did indeed help make communism more fashionable, and that is a tragedy, not something for which Pete Seeger should ever have received praise.

 Glen Reynolds at Instapundit linked to others...
JOHN FUND: Pete Seeger, Totalitarian Troubadour. “We shouldn’t forget that Pete Seeger was Communism’s pied piper.”

Related: Spengler: Pete Seeger: A Mean-Spirited and Vengeful Recollection. “I was not just a Pete Seeger fan, but a to-the-hammer-born, born-and-bred cradle fan of Pete Seeger. With those credentials, permit me to take note of his passing with the observation that he was a fraud, a phony, a poseur, an imposter. The notion of folk music he espoused was a put-on from beginning to end. There is no such thing as an American ‘folk.’”
Instapundit  finished the post with a link to a fitting song by mathematics professor and satirist Tom Lehrer:
(which is as good an excuse as any for this post)