11-26-13 – Daring to Call the Health Care Law Redistribution

by Tom Licata

“Don’t Dare Call the Health Law ‘Redistribution'” reads the November 24, 2013 New York Times headline. Here’s a portion of that article:

“Understand this is not a redistribution argument,” the president told his audience then. “This is not about taking from rich people to give to poor people. This is about us together making investments in our country so everybody’s got a fair shot.”

Perhaps this memo should have gone out sooner, as this exchange demonstrates:

“Governor Dean, you want a more robust Public Option?”

“I think the bill [ObamaCare] still has some fairly significant flaws but you know we can work with this…. I wouldn’t call this bill reform but I do think it can lead to reform…it’s going to take a lot more work.”

“Governor Dean, philosophically… do you think your party knows…we’ve chosen a different type of society, more akin to Europe?”

“…When it gets [income inequality] out of whack…you need to do some redistribution.  This is a form of redistribution.”

This CNBC Squawk Box interview with Gov. Dean occurred on March 25th, 2010; just two days after President Obama signed ObamaCare into law.

As Governor Dean stated, “I wouldn’t call this bill [ObamaCare] reform but I do think it can lead to reform.”

Philosopher Edmund Burke writes of this difference between “reform” and “change,” which Gov. Dean alludes to:

“There is…a marked distinction between change and [reform]. [Change] alters the substance of the objects themselves, and gets rid of all their essential good as well as of all accidental evil annexed to them…. Reform is not change in the substance or in the primary modification of the object, but a direct application of a remedy to the grievance complained of.  So far as that is removed, all is sure. It stops there; and if it fails, the substance which underwent the operation, at the very worst, is but where it was.”

ObamaCare so disquiets us because it “alters the substance of the objects themselves,” those objects being the relationship between us as America’s citizenry and our government, born from the tears of our Founder’s Declaration of Independence and Constitution.

And it is this “change in the substance” which FDR had in mind when he gave his 1932 Commonwealth Address, perhaps Progressivism’s most revealing speech ever:

“The Declaration of Independence discusses the problem of Government in terms of a contract. Government is a relation of give and take, a contract, perforce, if we would follow the thinking out of which it grew. Under such a contract rulers were accorded power, and the people consented to that power on consideration that they be accorded certain rights. The task of statesmanship has always been the redefinition of these rights in terms of a changing and growing social order. New conditions impose new requirements upon Government and those who conduct government.”

The Declaration of Independence as contract? You’ll never find our unalienable natural rights in contract – anywhere – for they are ‘self-evident’ only in the “Laws of Nature and Nature’s God.” And do we really want “rulers” – instead of representatives – “accorded power” in return for our rights?

It is here – in Burke’s “change in the substance” and FDR’s “redefinition of these rights” – where the Progressive Democrat movement wants to lead America.  That “fundamental transformation” Obama spoke of, is this: Redefining the relationship of the individual and his unalienable natural rights to life, liberty, property, religion and pursuit of happiness to that of government’s contracted redefinition and ultimate control of man’s rights, these rights determined by society’s “changing and growing social order,” as FDR so aptly stated. The “individual” and “individual rights” drop out of this equation as “the people,” who are accorded certain “group rights,” overlay and replace the Creator-endowed individual through a vast centralized redistributive bureaucratic State.

The irreconcilability of Progressivism versus Constitutional Republicanism: And herein lays our nation’s greatest challenge since Lincoln’s Civil War.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

David Usher November 29, 2013 at 4:07 pm

Excellent piece!

All the evidence shows us that Obama’s intent is:

“Redefining the relationship of the individual and his unalienable natural rights to life, liberty, property, religion and pursuit of happiness to that of government’s contracted redefinition and ultimate control of man’s rights, these rights determined by society’s “changing and growing social order,” as FDR so aptly stated. The “individual” and “individual rights” drop out of this equation as “the people,” who are accorded certain “group rights,” overlay and replace the Creator-endowed individual through a vast centralized redistributive bureaucratic State.”

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Tom Licata November 30, 2013 at 12:05 pm

From the 11/30/13 WSJ:

From Friedrich A. Hayek’s lecture “The Pretense of Knowledge” upon accepting the Nobel Prize in economics, Dec. 11, 1974:

To act on the belief that we possess the knowledge and the power which enable us to shape the processes of society entirely to our liking, knowledge which in fact we do not possess, is likely to make us do much harm. In the physical sciences there may be little objection to trying to do the impossible; one might even feel that one ought not to discourage the over-confident because their experiments may after all produce some new insights. But in the social field the erroneous belief that the exercise of some power would have beneficial consequences is likely to lead to a new power to coerce other men being conferred on some authority.

Even if such power is not in itself bad, its exercise is likely to impede the functioning of those spontaneous ordering forces by which, without understanding them, man is in fact so largely assisted in the pursuit of his aims. We are only beginning to understand on how subtle a communication system the functioning of an advanced industrial society is based—a communications system which we call the market and which turns out to be a more efficient mechanism for digesting dispersed information than any that man has deliberately designed.

If man is not to do more harm than good in his efforts to improve the social order, he will have to learn that in this, as in all other fields where essential complexity of an organized kind prevails, he cannot acquire the full knowledge which would make mastery of the events possible. He will therefore have to use what knowledge he can achieve, not to shape the results as the craftsman shapes his handiwork, but rather to cultivate a growth by providing the appropriate environment, in the manner in which the gardener does this for his plants.

There is danger in the exuberant feeling of ever growing power which the advance of the physical sciences has engendered and which tempts man to try, “dizzy with success,” to use a characteristic phrase of early communism, to subject not only our natural but also our human environment to the control of a human will. The recognition of the insuperable limits to his knowledge ought indeed to teach the student of society a lesson of humility which should guard him against becoming an accomplice in men’s fatal striving to control society—a striving which makes him not only a tyrant over his fellows, but which may well make him the destroyer of a civilization which no brain has designed but which has grown from the free efforts of millions of individuals.

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