This is a Yugo in its usual condition – broken down. If it weren’t for the workers pushing it, the little piece of socialist junk wouldn’t move at all. But at Smiling Barack’s Used Cars, the smooth-talking salesman will try to convince you to trade in your Ford pickup for a Yugo.
Smiling Barack is a leftist, so he firmly believes that he and his crew are more intelligent than us “common” people – and therefore they know what is best for us. But whether he can actually get the thing running is another matter entirely.
When I was 8 or 9 years old, my father bought me an electric horn for my bicycle. The only horns I knew were operated by squeezing a rubber bulb, so to discover how this horn worked, I took it apart. I still had no idea how it worked, and I couldn’t put it together again. I expected my father to be angry, but he said nothing. Later I realized why − he knew I had learned a valuable lesson:
Don’t take apart what you don’t understand and don’t know how to put back together.
Years later, I owned an old car. It ran well but idled a bit roughly. I tried to adjust the carburetor, but as a result the car hardly ran at all. It took an hour of strained back and skinned knuckles to return things to the way they were when I started. I realized I had learned another lesson:
If something is working reasonably well, be satisfied with minor improvements, and don’t try to achieve perfection − you are likely to make things worse.
There is an old saying that the perfect is the enemy of the good. In our search for the perfect, we tend to reject the good, or even to belittle and disrespect it:
● Rather than accepting what we have and being grateful for it, we are perpetually dissatisfied because we feel entitled to something much better.
● Rather than comparing what we have to what others have, we compare it to some imaginary ideal − and thus always find it deficient.
● Rather than making minor improvements in what we have, we attempt major transformations − and often make things worse.
● Rather than fine-tuning what we have, we take it apart − and wind up with a pile of parts we are unable to reassemble.
● Rather than going to couples counseling and working on our marriage, we dump our spouse and run off with a new lover − and find ourselves more unhappy.
● Rather than renovating our house, we step up to a bigger one every few years− and end up in foreclosure when the market drops.
● Rather than repairing the old car we are accustomed to, we buy a new one we can’t afford in order to impress others − and find ourselves even more dissatisfied.
● Rather than accepting the limitations of the religion of our youth, we abandon it − and find ourselves more lost and confused.
● Rather than loving our country despite its imperfections, we focus only on the imperfections − and find ourselves more rootless and adrift.
All this is relevant to the current political situation. America has faults, as is recognized by citizens from all parts of the political spectrum. We disagree on precisely what these faults are, but we all agree that there are faults. The key question is this: How big are the faults?
If, as I believe, America’s faults are minor, what we need is the equivalent of an automotive tune-up:
● We need to assure that our armed forces have adequate personnel, equipment, and training for current needs, and for likely future needs.
● We need to assure that our missile-defense system is not cut, but perfected before our enemies have nuclear missiles.
● We need to improve the efficiency of our counter-terrorism agencies, and certainly not to hamstring them with unrealistic restrictions − including giving Miranda warnings to terrorists captured in Afghanistan.
● We need to regulate our financial system enough to prevent wild speculation, but also to eliminate governmental pressure to make loans to those with poor credit. We need wiser regulation, not more regulation.
● We need to gain better control our borders. We can’t expect to control the costs of health care and welfare, despite a continuing flood of immigrants − especially illegal immigrants. As Milton Friedman pointed out, we can’t have both a welfare state and open borders. Trying to have both will lead to bankruptcy.
● We need real campaign-finance reform. Never again should a party be allowed to buy an election with huge sums contributed from dubious sources. Ideally, we should allow contributions of any size from any domestic source, so long as it is reported publicly and promptly.
● We need a two-party press and media. Currently ABC, CBS, NBC, MSNBC, CNN, National Public Radio, and almost every paper from the New York Times to the Los Angeles Times, parrot the leftist viewpoint. This is detrimental to free and open debate. If liberals succeed in muzzling conservative talk radio, conservative opinions will be even harder to hear.
This may seem to be a wide-ranging agenda, but in fact it represents a series of minor adjustments. It resembles the “to-do” list I give my mechanic when my car needs service. It embodies improvements in a good system that could be even better.
On the other hand, if you believe − as do leftists − that America is deeply, fundamentally flawed, then a “to-do” list, even a long one, cannot suffice. You agree with Barack Obama that America needs to be “fundamentally transformed.” If you were taught in school and university that America has done more bad than good in the world, you come to believe that we must do to America what I tried to do with my electric bicycle horn − tear it to pieces and rebuild it from scratch.
But the very real risk is that we will do to America what I actually did to my bicycle horn. We will dismantle it piece by piece, as we are already doing. Then, at some point that will surely come, we will remove one more piece and the whole thing will fall apart. We will be left staring at the scattered parts, no wiser at understanding what made the thing work, but unable to reassemble it.
We will learn as adults what I learned as a child − not to take apart what we don’t know how to put back together. I was left without an amusing toy. We will be left without a great and good nation. I was left sadder but wiser. We will be left only sadder − the lesson will come too late.
We could take our good old American-made Ford to Romney’s Auto Repair. The owner is experienced in repairing damaged machines. He might not get to all the items on our “to-do” list. But he will make enough repairs to get our pickup running reliably again.
Or we could take our Ford back to Smiling Barack’s Used Cars, where the smooth-talking salesman tried to persuade us to trade it in for a Yugo. The Yugo barely runs at all, as Europeans could have told us after decades of sad experience. But it was made according to socialist principles, so we will be told not to complain.
My objective is not to say, “I told you so.” My objective is to counter the president’s efforts to collect information on people’s political opinions and silence opposition.
My purpose is to call attention to the fact that ObamaCare is not only unreliable, like the Yugo, but it also has an alarming tendency to run over the elderly, the disabled, the seriously ill − and ultimately all of us.
My motive is to point out that enormous deficits will cause our economy to blow a gasket and break down completely.
My aim is to warn that we are creating a nation of dependent “Julias” who look to an all-powerful government to supply their needs – in return for surrendering their freedom.
My goal is to point out that there is no “social justice” or “economic justice,” there is only justice. I never said that the Yugo isn’t fair – I said that it doesn’t run.
My mission is to repair our old Ford, and not to leave it sitting abandoned on Smiling Barack’s lot. With a bit of time and effort, we can get it running well again. It’s a real oil-burner and needs some engine work, but then it will give us many more years of faithful service. Best of all, it was made in America by people who share our values.
There is something friendly and reassuring about the sound of an American V8 engine, especially if you haven’t heard one for a while. There is something friendly and reassuring about the feeling of freedom, especially if you came close to losing it.
Author’s Note: A prior version of this column was posted Nov. 5, 2008, the day after Election Day. And you may see other versions posted until next Election Day, when we hope to send Smiling Barack back to his used car lot, where he can extol the socialist virtues of the Yugo to anyone who will listen. But he can no longer force you to buy one.
You want “free” health care at government-run clinics and hospitals? See how well this worked out for a 15-year-old British schoolgirl by clicking here.
Dr. Stolinsky writes on political and social issues. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.