The passage of the health care law shows that the US empire is declining because it illustrates the fact that people expect the state to take care of them, David Murrin, the co-founder of Emergent Asset Management hedge fund manager, told CNBC.
...In their expansionary phase, empires force people to go out, seek risks and fend for themselves, Murrin said, reminding of the dismantling of the British empire after the war, when the National Health Service, which ensures universal health coverage in Britain, was created."This (empire decline) is actually a dead-set course that societies get into and it will happen very quickly I'm afraid," he told "Squawk Box Europe."
I believe Murrin is absolutely right although he is only observing a symptom of a deeper cause. The idea of the individual seeking risk and fending for themselves implies a certain metaphysical and epistemological view of man which translates into a particular political relationship between individuals and the state.
Historically, periods in which man views himself as fundamentally efficacious are periods of great human progress. These are periods where the world is thought to be intelligible, i.e., subject to natural law, and in which it is believed that the human mind is capable of grasping these laws. As men build confidence in their own ability to grasp truth and to apply this knowledge practically and successfully, they not only progress materially, they begin to demand the political pre-conditions necessary to successful thought and production - they demand freedom of action or individual rights. Ancient Greece was such a period. The Enlightenment was such a period.
Notice that periods in which the human mind is thought to be capable, in which the mind is revered, phenomenal technological progress ensues while political movements develop to free men from political tyranny. In the epistemological realm, men replace superstition with reason, and in the political realm, they seek to replace tyranny with freedom. The phenomenal intellectual achievements of Ancient Greece coincided with the first democracy in Athens and the Roman Republic. The Renaissance ultimately led to the Enlightenment which led to the American Revolution and the Industrial Revolution.
Unfortunately, the opposite is also true. Periods like the Dark Ages where men abandon their minds and turn to various forms of unreason such as mysticism and superstition are periods characterized by stagnation, misery, and tyranny. When men abandon their capacity for independent thinking, they must turn to a group for protection and guidance. They turn to their tribal chieftain, their priest, their king, their Party official, or their Fuhrer who gladly define for them how they may serve the tribe, god, kingdom, state, or race.
In Closing of the Western Mind, author Charles Freeman discusses the rise of Christianity and the beginning of the Dark Ages:
Intellectual self-confidence and curiosity, which lay at the heart of Greek achievement, were recast as the dreaded sin of pride. Faith and obedience to the institutional authority of the church were more highly rated than the use of reasoned thought. The inevitable result was intellectual stagnation.
Ultimately, a culture's view of reason, man's very instrument of survival, is what determines political trends. Consequently, when we see masses of individuals turn to the state, not for protection of their right to think and produce, but to take care of them materially - it is a sign that a culture is approaching a dead end. It is a sign that men are giving up their independence, i.e., abandoning their minds and willingly becoming wards of the state - demanding the use of physical force to expropriate the rightful earnings of one member of the group for their own unearned benefit. It is the sign of a culture ripe and begging to be ruled by a gang or a dictator.
The fact that America is approaching this dead end coincides with a two hundred year assault on reason by philosophers. The intellectual trend rejecting reason gave the world the bloody reign of socialists, communists and fascists in the 20th century (see The Ominous Parallels). In America, its influence has not been as extreme, yet it has still led to the mixed economy, a combination of socialism and the remnants of our Enlightenment pro-reason, pro-freedom tradition.
Has this bill pushed us across the collectivist Rubicon as Victor Hanson has suggested? The same could have been said after the income tax amendment in 1913, the Federal Reserve takeover of the monetary system in 1913, the repeal of the gold standard in 1933, social security, medicare, etc. Certainly this is a major step politically, but we can still stop it from happening. In order to restore freedom and individual rights, a key principle to understand is this very idea that reason and freedom are corollaries just as faith and force are corollaries. To dramatize this point, let me leave you with a haunting quote from Freeman:
The last recorded astronomical observation in the ancient Greek world was one by the Athenian philosopher Proclus in AD 475, nearly 1,100 years after the prediction of an eclipse by Thales in 585 bc, which traditionally marks the beginning of Greek science. It would be over 1,000 years -with the publication of Copernicus' De revolutionibus in 1543 - before these studies began to move forward again.