As pundits and politicians bicker back and forth about the cause of our country’s problems—the healthcare system, the free market, gay marriage—journalist Mark Steyn points to one root catalyst for our nation’s difficulties: indolence.
“In most of the developed world, the state has gradually annexed all the responsibilities of adulthood—health care, child care, care of the elderly—to the point where it’s effectively severed its citizens from humanity’s primal instincts, not least the survival instinct,” Steyn told an audience at Hillsdale College on March 9th.
Steyn, a Canadian immigrant, knows all too well what it’s like to live under big-government control. “Once you have government health care, it can be used to justify almost any restraint on freedom: After all, if the state has to cure you, it surely has an interest in preventing you needing treatment in the first place,” he said.
The journalist gave the example of Britain’s National Health Service denying treatment to smokers and overweight people on the basis of unhealthy “lifestyle choices.”
“Smokers and the obese may look at their gay neighbor having unprotected sex with multiple partners, and wonder why his ‘lifestyle choices’ get a pass while theirs don’t. But that’s the point: Tyranny is always whimsical,” said Steyn.
Steyn also had some harsh words for his fellow journalists, saying that “for members of a profession that brags about its ‘courage’ incessantly…an awful lot of journalists are quite content to be the eunuchs in the politically correct harem.”
For the journalists who aren’t willing to toe the politically correct line in Canada and Europe, the consequences are often disastrous, said Steyn. He cites incidents of a Daily Telegraph columnist getting arrested and detained for telling a joke in a speech and an author getting investigated by the Scotland Yard’s Community Safety Unit for Homophobic, Racist, and Domestic Incidents for expressing mild concern over gay adoption.
These episodes hit close to home for Steyn, who was charged with “flagrant Islamophobia” in 2007 after publishing an article critical of radical Islam in Canada’s Maclean magazine.
Throughout the speech Steyn warned that the U.S. is now “embarking on the same grim path” as Canada and Europe. “[Barack Obama’s] multi-trillion-dollar budget, the first of many, adds more to the national debt than all the previous 43 presidents combined, from George Washington to George Dubya. The President wants Europeanized health care, Europeanized daycare, Europeanized education,” he said.
According to estimates, the U.S. national debt currently stands at over $11 trillion, CBS News reported in March.
“When governments annex a huge chunk of the economy, they also annex a huge chunk of individual liberty. You fundamentally change the relationship between the citizen and the state into something closer to that of a junkie and a pusher—and you make it very difficult ever to change back.”
However, Steyn did provide audience members with a glimmer of hope. “‘There is a great deal of ruin in a nation,’ said Adam Smith, and America still has a long way to go. But it’s better to jump off the train as you’re leaving the station and it’s still picking up speed than when it’s roaring down the track and you realize you’ve got a one-way ticket on the Oblivion Express,” he advised.
An adaptation of Steyn’s speech, titled “Live Free or Die!” was published in the April edition of the Imprimis, a monthly publication of Hillsdale College.