The meaning of Massachusetts


Regular readers will know that I have no love for the US Republican Party, especially in its big government, Bush-era guise. Given the incompetent, spendthrift way Bush and his colleagues in Congress governed, they deserved to lose in 2008. But still, I couldn’t be more delighted that Ted Kennedy’s former Senate seat has fallen to the Republicans: it is precisely the one-year anniversary present that Barack Obama deserves. He ran as a pragmatic centrist but since taking office his true colours have shone through: he wants to end American exceptionalism and turn the United States into a European-style social democracy. And that, quite emphatically, is not what most Americans want.

The main practical effect of this election result is to land Obama’s efforts to reform US healthcare in extreme difficulty. This too is a very welcome development. It’s not that the US healthcare system doesn’t need reform – it does – but rather that the Democrats’ plan takes entirely the wrong approach. The ambition of reform should not be to use government coercion to expand coverage, but to reduce costs by allowing greater competition and consumer choice – that is, by having stronger market forces, not weaker ones. Simply by permitting US citizens to purchase health insurance across state lines, for instance, it has been estimated that 12 million more people would be able to afford insurance.

But also I think this debate has an added significance: as Peter Wehner and Paul Ryan wrote in the Wall Street Journal a while back, socialized healthcare is a big government “tipping point". Once the government provides healthcare to a large enough number of people, any attempt to cut taxes, reduce spending, or roll back the state will be met with accusations from the Left that people will lose their healthcare – a tactic which, judging by British experience – is as effective as it is cynical.

The founding fathers viewed America’s role in world affairs very simply: it was to act as a beacon of liberty, to inspire the rest of the world with its freedoms and constitutional government. Perhaps Scott Brown’s election and the defeat of Obama’s healthcare plan is one small step towards America resuming this role.