Posted by Jay Livingston
In the Puritan mind, virtue is found in dutiful hard work, and easy pleasure is the road to ruin. That mentality still reigns in certain strains of American thought.
In yesterday’s post about Charles Murray, I said that US conservatives imagined Europe to be something like Pleasure Island in the Disney version of Pinocchio. Murray is fairly vague about the penalties Europeans pay for their pleasures. He says only that they miss out on the satisfactions that we Americans have – doing a meaningful job, being a good friend, etc. – though I don’t think he provides much evidence for that assertion.
In Pinocchio, the penalties are clearer and more terrifying. The forces that govern the island and lull the boys with pleasure eventually transform them into donkeys. A boy’s ears suddenly grow long and furry. A tail springs out from his backside, tearing a hole in his pants. When he realizes what is happening, as he sees his hands turn to hooves, he tries desperately to resist, but in vain. He is now a donkey, a dumb beast under the command of the Island government. This is the inevitable sad end for all the boys on the island.
Do Europeans face a similarly horrible outcome? While Murray demurs, Rick Santorum boldly speaks out. Last week a New York Times blog embedded a video of Santorum relating his fantasies about the Netherlands. It’s well know that the Dutch government is unusually indulgent of pleasures. Not only is it generous in the usual Euro-socialism categories (family allowances, vacation weeks, unemployment insurance, etc.). But the government even licenses drug dens and brothels. Amsterdam is a Pleasure Island for grown-ups.
But pity those fools. For just as Pinocchio’s peers paid a price, so do the Dutch. The wages of their sin, according to Santorum, is not Donkeyism. It’s Death.
Here’s a transcript of the first part of the clip.
In the Netherlands, people wear a . . . bracelet, if you’re elderly. And the bracelet is “Don’t euthanize me.”It’s not true, of course. There is no forced euthanasia in the Netherlands, and the elderly Dutch do not wear the bracelets that Santorum imagines. (The Times blog reports on the stringent requirements for legal voluntary euthanasia.)
Because they have voluntary euthanasia in the Netherlands, but half the people who are euthanized every year — and it’s 10 percent of all deaths for the Netherlands — half of those people are euthanized involuntarily, at hospitals, because they are older and sick. And so elderly people in the Netherlands don’t go to the hospital, they go to another country, because they’re afraid because of budget purposes that they will not come out of that hospital if they go into it with sickness.
I do not know why conservatives are so irresistibly drawn to this fantasy of death – forced euthanasia and death panels– but they are. They must convince themselves and others that universal affordable health care, health care that people don’t have to work and suffer for, must be a mortal danger.
It’s one thing to use this pleasure/danger idea in cautionary tales for children – Pinocchio or Hansel and Gretel. It’s another to use it as the basis of lies in discussing public policy.