Death Panels

I am emerging from a few weeks that were more hectic than usual, during which time I didn’t have as much available time for tracking the news as I normally do. And so it was that the horrific Alfie story from the UK only registered with me slowly. I say this so that no one infers from my silence on the subject that I somehow thought it was not worth consideration. No, this really is a harbinger story.

Picture with me, if you will, a dystopic health care system, managed along the lines of a Department of Motor Vehicles with an unusually surly staff, all of whom have imagined that there’s no Heaven, and no Hell below us. Now picture that you have a sick toddler with an unusual disorder, and you are fighting with the bureaucrats trying to persuade them that your child’s life is worth saving.

Sarah Palin warned us about the coming death panels, and of course heap big scorn was poured out upon her, along with anyone who echoed any concern about any such thing as death panels. Now we know that in a world of limited resources, it is not possible for every sick person to obtain every available treatment. No system of health care offers free, unlimited options. But the thing that was unsettling about the death panel charge is that it created the possibility that you could have all the resources lined up—money, alternative treatment, actual options—and the only thing missing was some nameless, faceless bureaucrat’s permission. And that you could fail to obtain that permission because the state insists upon being the god of the system, and it is naturally the god’s prerogative to determine who lives and who dies.

Another unsettling aspect to it all was that two features of our modern life were cresting together in the proposals of socialized health care. On the one hand we had the maddening, exasperating tendencies of all bureaucracies to delay, disrupt, and distort, a tendency that happens even in normal times. In other words, a relatively sane society can create bounded bureaucracies that run on their own system of perverse incentives internally. A man could have a galling two-hours with the IRS in the late fifties, but could emerge into a society that was still, you know, to use a verboten word, normal. He could go home and have dinner.

But in our time, the whole society has lost its mind. And the proposals before us suggest that we the insane ought to set up and tolerate these all-encompassing bureaucracies, regulating and determining every little aspect of life. The bureaucracy will still be formed, and will still have its perverse internal incentives, but they are being established by a majority vote by all the lunatics in the asylum. There is no going home to dinner afterward. To take an image from Lewis, all they are serving is bricks and centipedes.

What is required is a revolt of the normals. We have to learn how to kick. Not only that, we have to learn how to kick early. When they are refusing to allow treatment for a toddler like Alfie, we have to realize that we, all of us, enabled that system to take shape in the first place, and that we didn’t say no to the first encroachments of the wickedness of socialism.

Andrew Breitbart used to say that culture was upstream from politics. This is very true, but let us never forget that religion is upstream from culture—and that Christ is upstream from religion. But we have no need of hundreds of preachers whose mouths are full of Christ. No, we have that.

Here is the message: All of Christ for all of life. And because Christ is the Lord of life, the Western world must repent of its murderous ways. Someone needs to tell them that.