The first time I read Paul Johnson’s magnificent history of the twentieth century, Modern Times? Back in the Eighties, when the book first came out–and things were going pretty well for this republic. Re-reading portions of the book this evening–at a time, needless to say, when things aren’t going so well–I found myself struck by something to which I had earlier paid little attention: Johnson’s account of Argentina.
By the turn of the twentieth century, Johnson explains, Argentina had become, with Australia, one of only two countries outside Europe and North America to achieve wealth on the level of a Great Britain, Germany or United States. Then, as the result of a military coup, Juan Peron came to power. A gifted demagogue, Peron ingratiated himself with workers using his oratorical skills–and by creating, and ceaselessly expanding, a welfare state. In 1955, the military turned on him, sending Peron into exile. But it was too late.
[H]is successors could never get back to the minimum government which had allowed Argentina to become wealthy. Too many vested interests had been created: a huge, parasiticial state, over-powerful unions, a vast army of public employees. It is one of the dismal lessons of the twentieth century that, once a state is allowed to expand, it is almost impossible to contract it.
ObamaCare delenda est.