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The United States once had the finest health-care system in history. When I was growing up in the 1950s — before Medicare and Medicaid came into existence — medical costs were low and stable. Hardly anyone had major-medical insurance. That’s because they didn’t need it. Going to the doctor was like going to the grocery store. People easily paid for their doctor’s visits out of pocket. There was no health-care crisis. Doctors loved what they did in life. Innovations in health care were soaring.
What about the poor? Doctors treated them for free. They felt it was their ethical duty to do so, especially given that they were making so much money from people who could pay. In my hometown of Laredo, Texas, which we were told was the poorest city in the United States, doctors’ offices were filled every day. The patients included people from Nuevo Laredo, Mexico. Doctors knew that many, if not most, of their patients could not afford to pay. Nonetheless, doctors never turned away anyone. That was genuine charity, the type of charity that comes from the willing heart of the individual.
The roots of socialized medicine
And then came Medicare and Medicaid. Those two socialist programs ended up destroying that finest health-care system in history. And they are socialist programs, just like Social Security is. The concept arose within the socialist movement in Germany at the end of the 1800s and was later imported into the United States. When the Lyndon Johnson administration enacted these two socialist programs, it was following in the footsteps of what President Franklin Roosevelt had started with Social Security.
The idea behind Medicare and Medicaid was that the government needed to take care of the elderly and the poor by providing or paying for their health-care services. Without Medicare and Medicaid, it was said, the elderly and the poor would be dying in the streets from illnesses, owing to their inability to pay their physicians and hospitals.
That caused health-care costs to begin soaring and brought on America’s never-ending, perpetual health-care crisis. But rather than simply repeal these socialist programs, statists doubled down and began enacting reform after reform, all in a desperate attempt to make their socialist health-care system work. The reforms only made matters worse, which caused statists to adopt Obamacare. When that massive health-care reform predictably failed, statists began advocating for a full-fledged, government-owned and government-operated health-care system, like the one they have in Cuba. In fact, many American leftists hold up Cuba as a model for health care.
Meanwhile, many doctors began hating what they did in life. The joy of doing what they loved — providing health care to people— began evaporating. Many of them began retiring early to avoid constantly having to deal with the ever-growing health-care crisis.
Medicare and Medicaid helped to solidify the overarching faith that modern-day Americans have in socialism and the coercive apparatus of the federal government. Oh, sure, Americans are loathe to acknowledge that they believe in socialism. Instead, they steadfastly maintain that Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and other welfare-state programs are part of America’s “free enterprise” system, which enables them to avoid confronting what has happened to our country. In actuality, modern-day Americans have rejected a faith-in-freedom mindset and embraced a faith-in-government mindset. Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid are perfect examples of this phenomenon.
But they are not the only examples.
The nature of government schooling
It would be difficult to find a better example of socialism than public schooling, which is more accurately called government schooling. The state owns and operates the educational system. Public schooling is based on central planning, which is a core principle of socialism. Compulsory school-attendance laws ensure that parents subject their children to this socialist system. Funding is through the coercive apparatus of taxation. Government-approved textbooks and government-approved schoolteachers ensure that students’ minds are imbued with the “correct” information.
In fact, public schooling can be called army-lite because it’s system is very similar to that of the military. State indoctrination ensures that students are molded into becoming good little citizens of the state, ones who defer to authority, are grateful that the government takes care of them, and do not challenge the premises of the welfare-warfare-state way of life. In fact, they are made to believe that this way of life is “freedom and free enterprise.” When Americans sing “Thank God I’m an American because at least I know I’m free,” they really do mean it. They don’t realize that they are exemplifying perfectly the words of Johann Goethe, “None are more hopelessly enslaved than those who falsely believe they are free.”
The most important aspect, however, of America’s welfare state is that it is actually a palliative that ensures passivity among the American people to what is known as the warfare state. The warfare state, which is run by the Pentagon, the CIA, and the NSA, is superior to the welfare state. By putting people on welfare, the Pentagon, the CIA, and the NSA can be assured that the citizenry will not challenge their power and superiority within the federal governmental system.
The bitter fruit of the welfare mindset
That’s because the welfare state makes people weak. It destroys the concepts of self-reliance, independence, and can-do. It converts people into dependent wards of the state, fearful that the government might suddenly terminate their dole and leave them to die in the streets. The entire welfare-state system is akin to a gigantic opium den, one in which people are so psychologically and emotionally dependent on their welfare that they would never consider challenging or even acknowledging the fact that it is the national-security establishment that is running the country.
Longtime readers of my blog know that I have several times recommended a book entitled National Security and Double Government by Michael J. Glennon. Glennon’s credentials are impeccable. He is a professor of law at Tuft’s University. He also has served as counsel to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Every American who cares about the future of our country owes it to himself to read Glennon’s book.
Glennon’s thesis is a simple one: It is the national-security establishment — that is, the Pentagon, the CIA, the NSA, and, to a certain extent, the FBI — that is in charge of the federal government. It permits the other three branches — the executive branch (i.e., the president), the legislative branch (i.e., Congress), and the judicial branch (i.e., the Supreme Court) to have the appearance that they are still in charge. The national-security branch doesn’t care about appearances. What matters to it is that it is in charge of running the federal government, especially when it comes to foreign affairs.
There is something important to note about this phenomenon. It wasn’t always this way. America’s founding governmental structure was a limited-government republic, not a national-security state. That founding system lasted more than 150 years. It came to an end in the late 1940s, when the federal government was converted to a national-security state, without even the semblance of a constitutional amendment authorizing the conversion.
The difference between a limited-government republic and a national-security state is day and night. Under a limited-government republic, the federal government’s powers were limited to those enumerated in the Constitution. The powers were even more restricted by the Bill of Rights. The idea was that the fewer the powers, the freer the people.
Under a national-security state, the federal government’s powers became omnipotent, just like in communist and totalitarian regimes. Such omnipotent powers included the power of assassinating people, kidnapping people, indefinitely detaining people, and engaging in mass secret surveillance. Moreover, such powers could be exercised against everyone, including American citizens and American political leaders.
From the very beginning of the national-security state, but especially after the Kennedy assassination, the other three branches of the federal government began deferring to the omnipotent power of the national-security branch of the federal government. The president, the Congress, and the Supreme Court all understood that they lacked the power to challenge the overwhelming totalitarian-like power of the national-security establishment.
One irony in this conversion was what it did to our nation. A limited-government republic brought into existence the strongest nation in history, one whose citizens were characterized by a fierce sense of independence. A national-security state bought into existence one of the weakest nations in history, one characterized by a frightened, dependent citizenry that looks to the federal government to be its provider and caretaker.
The moral depravity of the national-security state
The conversion to a national-security state also destroyed people’s sense of conscience. They came to believe that the Pentagon, the CIA, and the NSA knew what was best for us. They were devoted to saving us from the communists and, later, the terrorists and the drug dealers. To do that, it was accepted doctrine that they had to engage in unsavory, dark-side practices. We just needed to defer to its judgment, it was commonly believed. For its part, the national-security establishment would do its best to keep its dark-side activities secret so that Americans wouldn’t have their consciences troubled.
That’s why it has gone after people like Julian Assange and Edward Snowden with a vengeance. Assange and Snowden violated the sacred rule that prohibits dark-side actions from being brought to the attention of the American people. Everyone needed to be taught that if they violate this rule, they would end up like Assange and Snowden.
Among the best examples of the national-security state’s destruction of American conscience is the federal government’s foreign-policy weapon of economic sanctions, a weapon that was never utilized when the federal government was a limited-government republic.
The mindset behind sanctions is the same as the mindset behind terrorism. Terrorists target innocent people with death and suffering as a way to achieve a political goal. That’s also what sanctions do. They target innocent people in a foreign county with death and suffering as a way to achieve regime change or some other political goal.
Yet, how many Americans, including Christians who go to church every Sunday, register any objection to the deaths and suffering that sanctions inflict on innocent people? Not very many. That’s because the national-security establishment is considered by Americans to be another triune god, one that should never be challenged or questioned, not even when it is inflicting death and suffering on innocent people.
Recall the deadly and destructive sanctions that the U.S. government inflicted on the people of Iraq in the 1990s. The Pentagon had already intentionally destroyed Iraq’s water-and-sewage treatment plants in its Persian Gulf intervention, with the specific aim of spreading infectious illnesses among the Iraqi people. After that, U.S. officials used their sanctions to prevent those plants from being repaired.
Hundreds of thousands of Iraqi children were dying. Who cared? Not very many Americans. The massive indifference to those deaths was a perfect demonstration of what the welfare-warfare-state way of life has done to the consciences of the American people. The notion was that if the state deemed it necessary to kill innocent people to achieve regime change, then who were we to question it? And anyway, most everyone was imbued with the notion that Saddam Hussein, the dictator of Iraq, was a grave threat to “national security” and, therefore, needed to be removed from power. Never mind that Saddam had been a partner and ally of the U.S. government in the 1980s when he was waging his war of aggression against Iran.
In 1996, Madeleine Albright publicly declared that the deaths of half-a-million Iraqi children from the sanctions were “worth it.” As U.S. ambassador to the United States, she was the official spokesperson for the U.S. government to the world. She was expressing the position of the national-security establishment, which, as I pointed out above, was in charge of running the federal government. Her boss, President Clinton, as well as Congress and the federal judiciary, passively deferred to her declaration. So did the mainstream press. One would be hard-pressed to find editorials and op-eds condemning or even mildly criticizing her morally malignant declaration.
There was one American who was stricken by a crisis of conscience. His name was Bert Sacks. He traveled to Iraq with medicines and other essential items in a desperate attempt to help the Iraqi people. The feds went after him with a vengeance. They fined him $10,000 for violating their beloved sanctions against the Iraqi people. To his everlasting credit, Sacks fought them for years. Ultimately, they didn’t collect one dime from him. He is truly one of the great heroes of our time.
One of the soundest founding principles of our nation was a foreign policy of noninterventionism. George Washington and Thomas Jefferson warned against entangling alliances, such as NATO. John Quincy Adams pointed out that America does not go abroad in search of monsters to destroy.
That foreign policy was abandoned by modern-day Americans, especially with the rise of the national-security state. That’s how we have ended up with deadly and destructive interventions in faraway places like Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Iraq, which have resulted in the deaths, injuries, and suffering of millions of innocent people, not to mention the massive destruction wreaked upon those countries.
Of course, there is also the out-of-control federal spending, debt, and monetary debauchery that has come with the welfare-warfare-state way of life. It is threatening to take our country down from within through financial bankruptcy.
America started out as the greatest nation in history. There were some grave flaws, such as slavery, but there were sound founding principles as well. Later generations of Americans abandoned those principles, choosing instead to follow the siren song of welfare and warfare. That’s how we have ended up with one of the most dysfunctional societies in history. To get our nation back on the right track, all that we have to do is stop listening to that siren song and restore America’s founding principles of liberty, voluntary charity, and a limited-government republic. That’s how we get our nation back on the road to freedom, peace, prosperity, and harmony with the people of the world.
This article was originally published in the March 2023 edition of Future of Freedom.