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Married to a commoner Englishwoman himself, Alexis de Tocqueville would have approved of the latest royal union. Using insights from Democracy in America, Julia Shaw argues the splendid moment was "quite an American affair." What the visiting, onlooking Americans "were watching was not some imaginary fairy tale or even a typical lavish royal wedding. It was another American love story." They went abroad to meet themselves.
My favorite commentary on royalty in the modern world is on a less fortunate royal couple. Mark Helprin's splendid comic novel, Freddy and Fredericka, describes Charles and Di romping incognito across America and acquiring its virtues to make them fit for the royal throne.
Conservatives - and Americans as a whole - are sometimes criticized by the left and foreign observers for rather excessively worshipping the U.S. Constitution. I've always absorbed such criticism with a reflection of Barry Goldwater's observation that "extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice." If one must err, it ought to be in favor of a glorious principle which has well preserved a glorious republic. Devotion to the document has very rarely led us astray, whereas its neglect has reaped immense mischief.
I recall a joke that a man once asked a librarian for a copy of the French Constitution, only to be informed that the library did not carry periodicals. The protean and politically partisan nature of European constitutions has always limited their effectiveness. Even when changes reflect serious thinking on matters of political structure and purpose, the result is a fleeting triumph quickly subject to revision. The ultimate consequence is a weakening of fundamental, shared political convictions - an instability which always favors authoritarianism.
Hungary presents a case in point. The government is presently issuing a new constitution. Proponents celebrate the document as a final break with Hungary's communist past, whereas critics agrue it establishes an authoritarian regime in Europe. The constitution does greatly empower the current president and legislature to extend their influence (and political ideology) into perpetuity, and will thus be treated by opponents in the same manner as Obamacare and financial regulations: massive, partisan legislative overhauls to be quickly rescinded.
The problem with time is that it can't be rushed. Hungary's new fundamental law is still wet ink on paper - it will be very long before it gains the prestige and solemnity to stand on its own. Until then, it is subject to all the slings and arrows of political warfare. Should it fall, its successor will suffer all the same frailties. Thus is the curse of European fecklessness.
I posit the moral of the story as a reflection on the great boon Americans enjoy in the U.S. Constitution, and our debt of gratitude to the wise men who composed the stately charter.
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Literature, Poetry, and Books
Paul Krugman writes that "'Consumer-based' medicine has been a bust everywhere it has been tried." That would probably come as a surprise to the state employees of Indiana where an HSA/catastrophic insurance program has saved the government money and increased worker take home pay while maintaining access to high quality health care. It would probably come as a surprise to the people of Singapore where the several enormous consumer-driven programs have helped the country achieve access to high quality health care at a fraction of the GDP that the US pays.
That doesn't mean there aren't legitimate questions. The Indiana-style program seems to work well for some populations but perhaps not the elderly (though that doesn't mean that a government single-payer FFS system is the only alternative.) While there are things to learn from Singapore it probably wouldn't make sense for a much larger, more diverse, more dispersed population to adopt the entire package of Singapore policies. Even moving in a more consumer-oriented, the government will still have a crucial role supplying subsidies (whether direct subsides, tax subsidies, or forced savings) and in some ways an even larger role in regulation (especially in enforcing price transparency.) Neither Indiana, nor Singapore offer a one-size-fits-all answer to our health care policy problems - though we ought to try to learn what we can. We should also never forget that Paul Krugman will never let his integrity get in the way of whatever narrative he is pushing.
h/t Megan McArdle
Literature, Poetry, and Books
Today, Christians celebrate the festum festorum, the principal feast of the ecclesiastical year. This year, the feast falls on the same day in the east and west, so all Christians share a single celebration. Ken justly mentioned the Pope's intellectual religious approach during the Easter vigil homily, so I only add his Urbi Et Orbi Easter day message.
In mixed Anglo-Czech tradition, I ran about the house this morning (gently) swatting the ladies with braided Willow branches demanding "vejce malovany" (painted eggs) and they searched for chocolate-stuffed baskets hidden by the Easter Bunny. Now comes the home-cooked feast.
A happy Easter to all RONLT!
The last place I imagined I'd find a trenchant criticism of Obama's foreign policy--not to mention an illustration of the problems inherent in the Progressive view of History-as-force--is Doonesbury.
Paul Krugman is tired of hearing that only the rich pay taxes. Of course, he admits, they do pay most federal income taxes, but once we count state and local income taxes, property taxes, and, especially, payroll taxes to fund Medicare and Social Security, taxation tracks more or less evenly with wealth.
The conclusion from this, of course, is that were it not for Medicare and Social Security we would have a far more progressive tax system in this country.
It's also worth pointing out that, as this graph demonstrates, the share of income taxes paid by the wealthiest one percent of Americans has tended to increase with the decline of the top marginal tax rate.
Pope Benedict XVI's Easter homilies are intellectually powerful statements of the Christian creed but also important for all interested in restoring reason to commanding place in public discourse. In other words, he (like his predecessor) should be thought of as public intellectuals, not simply religious leaders.
His Easter Vigil homily is one example: