by Roger Kimball
The eternal return – Friedrich Nietzsche thought the idea was horrifying. Life as an endless merry-go-round in which the same things keep recurring, forever. That prospect, Nietzsche thought, was the hardest, weightiest, most depressing idea mankind could ever confront. It was part of Nietzsche’s blustering nihilism that he should first conjure the most unpleasant idea he could think of and then announce that true heroism lay in embracing it.
The rest of us may be less enthusiastic about the prospect of ceaseless repetition. After all, we’ve all had a foretaste of what it entails in the remarkable career of socialism. Like the fabled hydra, socialism is an evil that suffers decapitation after decapitation only to spring back to life, its blood—or, rather, the blood of its victims—somehow sprouting ever new heads of credulousness.
The Soviet Union was “really existing communism,” under whose aegis millions were impoverished, tortured, and murdered (but, according to the New York Times, the sex was great). Western intellectuals, gullible creatures that they are, adulated that steaming tyranny. Eventually morons like Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher, and Pope John Paul II brought to an end that horrible “experiment in living.”
Chairman Mao probably has the distinction of having murdered more people than any other single human being. His efforts to bring compulsory fraternity to China has yet to be definitively repealed; indeed, China seems to be slipping backwards towards a new embrace of centralized tyranny.
Where else have we seen socialism on the march? In Cuba, of course, an island paradise that the Castro brothers transformed into a murderous police state. Then there was Pol Pot’s Cambodia. Like the Earl of Strafford, Pol Pot’s motto was “Thorough.” Wearing eyeglasses was for him evidence of counter revolutionary sentiment since it signaled an interest in such despicable bourgeois pursuits as reading. The result were those mountains of skulls for which his reign was infamous. We all know about North Korea: possibly the worst place on earth under the Kims, though it must be said that Venezuela, once the richest country in South America, under Hugo Chavez and Nicolás Maduro is well on its way to socialist apotheosis, i.e., total collapse.
Here We Go Again . . .
Socialism really is like Nietzsche’s eternal return: a horrible idea that is never finally destroyed, that keeps coming back to haunt the dreams and blight the lives of freedom-loving men and women. Exactly why this happens is a deep question. It involves a demonic synergy between credulousness and apathy among the mass of mankind and a different sort of credulousness combined with infernal energy among the commissariat.
The latest example of this process at work is the Democrats’ bill to foist “Medicare for All” upon the unsuspecting populace of the United States. As President Trump noted in a blistering editorial for USA Today, the name is a mendacious misnomer. What the bill would enforce—socialism is always about forcing people to do things—is not “medicare for all” but “medicare for none.” In fact, it would destroy Medicare, a program people pay into during their working years and then benefit from in retirement. “The Democratic proposal,” President Trump observed, “would establish a government-run, single-payer health care system that eliminates all private and employer-based health care plans and would cost an astonishing $32.6 trillion during its first 10 years.”
Some Democrats disputed those numbers, but the Mercatus Center’s Charles Blahous, a former Social Security and Medicare trustee, has confirmed their accuracy. “BernieCare,” as the wits at The Wall Street Journal have dubbed this monstrosity, is ObamaCare on steroids. And the irony, as well as the tragedy, is that we have all been here before.
Back in 1961, an actor and aspiring politician named Ronald Reagan delivered a classic talk on the dangers of socialized medicine. At issue was something much bigger than health care, big though that assuredly is. No, as Reagan saw, what was at stake was the fate of freedom and individual liberty. Medicine was merely the wedge through which the toxin of socialist control of society could enter and get a foothold.
“One of the traditional methods of imposing statism or socialism on a people,” Reagan noted, “has been by way of medicine. It’s very easy to disguise a medical program as a humanitarian project, most people are a little reluctant to oppose anything that suggests medical care for people who possibly can’t afford it.” He got it in one.
That was nearly 60 years ago. Since then we’ve seen the Left take step after step to relieve people of control over their lives and hand it over to—why, to themselves. You can’t have socialism without a nomenclature. The people who came to take your freedom away are always the ones who deposit it into their own accounts.
The Real Object Is Control
President Trump is correct that, should this bill become law, it would “end choice for seniors” by eliminating Medicare Advantage plans for about 20 million. It would also “eliminate other private health plans that seniors currently use to supplement their Medicare coverage” and then “outlaw private health plans that offer the same benefits as the government plan.”
Horrible though that is, the Democrats’ bill is, just as Ronald Reagan saw, only incidentally about health care. Its real object is control: control over your lives, thoughtfully managed by the Bernie Sanderses, Kamala Harrises, and Cory Bookers of the world, supplemented, of course, by their squads of bureaucratic gauleiters.
“Pretty soon,” Reagan observed in 1961, “your son won’t decide when he’s in school, where he will go or what he will do for a living. He will wait for the government to tell him.” It has happened everywhere that socialism has been instituted. The more thoroughly it has been instituted, the more complete the government control.
This truth is the deep insight contained in President Trump’s powerful op-ed. Like Reagan, he criticizes government run, single-payer health care schemes for the misery, inefficiency, and loss of freedom they entail. But he understands that the ultimate project is not just to control health care. It is to control all of us. “Every single citizen will be harmed by such a radical shift in American culture and life,” the President observes, noting that “Virtually everywhere it has been tried, socialism has brought suffering, misery and decay.” His only mistake is the word “virtually.”
As President Trump points out, the Democrats’ health care bill is but one piece of a larger project. Another big piece involves what he calls the Democrats commitment to “open borders socialism.” If the Democrats’ attack on border control is successful, that would encourage a Camp of the Saints-like tsunami of illegal immigration, Millions would flood our borders and consume our health care and welfare services. The result would be not just the end of American prosperity but also American exceptionalism and the freedom and limited government it presupposes.
This is what is at stake in the midterm elections. The choice is between mobs on the one hand and jobs on the other. Between the caravan of criminal would-be invaders wending its orchestrated way through Mexico towards our Southern border and the bustling economy that has seen historic growth, consumer confidence, and employment figures. Socialism or the free market. It’s the choice between Caracas and Odessa, Texas, between poverty and prosperity, between servitude and freedom. The Democrats offer the former but wrap it up in pleasant sounding humanitarian rhetoric. Let’s hope that the people voting in a couple of weeks see through this malevolent charade.
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Roger Kimball is Editor and Publisher of The New Criterion and President and Publisher of Encounter Books. Mr. Kimball lectures widely and has appeared on national radio and television programs as well as the BBC. He is represented by Writers’ Representatives, who can provide details about booking him. Mr. Kimball’s latest book is The Fortunes of Permanence: Culture and Anarchy in an Age of Amnesia (St. Augustine’s Press, 2012). Read more about him here.