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April 2, 2024

Ratcheting Along

The question of the Founders regarding modern-day America — “Why didn’t you make them stop?” — remains.

Why didn’t you make them stop? This is the question that would ring loud through every Founding Father’s mind if they walked around 21st-century America. From our statist economic policies to the cultural deformation plaguing our society, America today bears minimal resemblance to the America our Founding Fathers led a revolution to establish.

The most obvious way in which our nation has radically transformed is our economic policy. The free market was nearly extinguished in the progressive 1910s, briefly resuscitated in the 1920s, and then decisively terminated in the 1930s with Franklin D. Roosevelt’s ascent to the presidency. This may sound dramatic — after all, isn’t the United States still relatively economically free? Well, in relative terms, we are lagging behind the “socialist” economies of Denmark, Norway, Sweden, the Netherlands, and Finland in Europe. In absolute terms, we are living in a managed economy akin to a senior citizen in a retirement home: still functional on a basic level but heavily dependent on the micromanagement of others for anything beyond the simplest tasks.

Consider our healthcare system. In any conversation about healthcare, media talkingheads never fail to remind us of all the people who would lose their healthcare if the Affordable Care Act (ACA), a.k.a. ObamaCare, were repealed. What they conveniently leave out, however, are all the Americans who were kicked off their healthcare plans when ObamaCare was made into law. The healthcare system today now consists of individual mandates, state subsidies, and countless regulations aimed at policing the activities of insurers. This process has led to the emergence of a health insurance-industrial complex consisting of five companies that control the nation’s private health insurance system.

Politicians rationalize this overreach by pointing to the soaring costs of healthcare, yet seldom do our leaders question the root causes of the problem. Maybe our system is broken because we have counterproductive, anti-market laws from the last generation of know-it-all politicians. For instance, over half of the states have Certificate of Need programs for building new healthcare facilities. Created to “control healthcare costs by avoiding unnecessary expansion or duplicative services within an area,” these programs are designed to restrict the supply of healthcare and minimize competition for existing facilities. The end result of these programs is higher costs and less effective healthcare.

At first, ObamaCare was politically disastrous for Democrats. The Tea Party swept elections based on the promise of repealing this policy. From its passage in 2010 through 2016, the ACA was disliked by the American people. But as of today, polling indicates the ACA enjoys a 20-point lead in favorability. And so the ratchet against freedom continues. Given the favorability of the ACA, it appears Americans will be stuck with this policy until Democrats push for and obtain a single-payer healthcare system.

Next, consider Social Security. This program, which embodies the worst of the nanny state, relies on deception and lies to justify its existence. Every time I hear someone say, “I paid into Social Security; it’s my money,” I think to myself, Bless your heart.

It appalls me that people still buy into the lie that your payroll taxes are being kept in a little lock box with your name on it to be opened upon retirement. The truth could not be any more different. Every dollar in payroll taxes we pay today goes straight into the pockets of a current retiree. A more honest way of describing this program is as a redistributive program designed to subsidize the old on the backs of the young. With this description, the myth of Social Security masquerading as a personal savings plan is revealed, forcing the debate to be rooted in fact, not falsehood.

Shifting focus to our cultural landscape reveals a malaise deeper than our economic problems. Just one year at university opened my mind to how deep the cultural rot is in our nation. As mentioned in my column about “Academia’s Brutal Bargain,” the university is seemingly designed to turn traditional moral frameworks on their head and cleanse every student of any “backward” beliefs they may have. This has fostered a relativist mentality that all lifestyles are of equal merit, directly challenging the Judeo-Christian ethics that have guided centuries of prosperity.

Under this relativist framework, traditional forms of judgment and stigma are forbidden. One may not declare that four years of meaningless sex strips individuals of their dignity and makes them slaves to their hedonistic impulses. One may not assert that all racial prejudice — regardless of the perpetrator’s melanin content — is wrong. Nor can one claim that the most fundamental building block of society is a two-parent household.

The only permissible form of judgment is that which slanders those who stray from woke dicta as “racist” or “bigoted.” The standards for moral and ethical behavior that existed just before the new millennium have experienced recalibration after recalibration, with each one diluting the definition of deviance by including more alternative lifestyles under what is considered socially acceptable and recategorizing previous commonsense standards as restrictive and stifling. In less than a decade, the fight over whether the Constitution included a right to same-sex marriage has turned into whether girls have the right to undergo double mastectomies or boys have the right to enter girls’ bathrooms. Pushing against the sexual revolution of the 1960s is no longer on the radar of traditionalists or conservatives. The current fight is ensuring women and men have equal rights in the stadium.

Effectively, conservatives have been losing the culture war since the 1960s. Even the victories in the courts against Roe v. Wade and affirmative action are pyrrhic ones. Since the Roe decision in 1973, public opinion has shifted leftwards on the matter, making abortion restriction a politically toxic position despite being the morally superior one. And with the Students for Fair Admissions v. Harvard case, universities will now pursue less conspicuous means of anti-white and anti-Asian discrimination when forming their freshman classes, making such injustice even harder to identify and weed out.

So the question of the Founding Fathers remains: Why didn’t you make them stop? And to that, all I can do is hold my hands up, shrug, and pray that my generation, as well as my children, grandchildren, and all the generations after, can put back together what was once the Great American Nation.

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