I say Chilean because this week brings free-marketeers not only the joy of seeing Scott Brown elected to the Senate in Massachusetts, potentially blocking passage of the Obama healthcare overhaul, but, perhaps even more significantly, the election of Sebastian Pinera to the presidency of Chile. Pinera is the brother of Cato scholar Jose Pinera, who was almost single-handedly responsible for partially privatizing Chile’s social security system — and who has crusaded for similar market-based reforms around the globe.
Cato Institute president Ed Crane was so pissed off at me fourteen or so years ago, when I was a fledgling New York Press writer, for reporting a Jose Pinera appearance at a Cato event in a sarcastic fashion that Crane actually called my boss at the time, John Stossel, to complain — but anyone acquainted with the general tone of the Press in those days (when it was cool) knows that a veneer of sarcasm was the only way to get anything reported in those pages (Scott Nybakken, for example, was literally told to make his movie reviews for them “more snide”). I was trying to get the Cato message out — the Pinera message out — while still giving the hipsters of the time their chuckles. Mine is a thankless and difficult, very narrow road.
In any case, here’s hoping that Brown, despite impending Democratic procedural shenanigans, not only blocks Obamacare but — along with S. Pinera — portends a rolling-back of the welfare state across the globe — releasing healthcare from the state’s cold, dead grip here, social security from its grip over there, etc. But let us not get cocky: We may not be down to a mere sixteen Republican senators as in FDR’s heyday, but we’re a long way from convincing people government is inherently inefficient and bad, which is more important than any partisan electoral triumph. Indeed, the post-election opinion polls may end up showing that Brown eked out a victory not because Massachusetts voters are turning anti-government (my New England brethren haven’t become that enlightened that quickly) but only because (a) the economy is bad, (b) his opponent was stupid enough to insult a Red Sox player, (c) his opponent was also stupid enough to insult Catholics in Massachusetts, and (d) seniors are afraid the Democrats will cut Medicare, which indeed we should.
Still, I hope this is interpreted, rightly or wrongly, as an attempt to halt Obama’s expansion of the state — and, like the Tea Party movement, helps give momentum to the anti-statist elements in the GOP instead of the war-obsessed elements and the substantial faction that thinks that mundane earthly politics (and all that confusing state-vs.-freedom stuff) is merely some kind of proxy war for the eternal combat between demons and Jesus’s magical invisible army of angels and unicorns. Back in the real world, no matter how stupid the Democrats and the Republicans get, reality will have its say, and the laws of economics and science will reassert themselves and thwart the overreaching ambitions of politicians at some point, preferably sooner rather than later. That the chances for a climate bill are already regarded as dimmer is encouraging evidence that reality may be reasserting itself.