The Trouble With Obamacare

by John Holbo on December 8, 2013

Picture this:

The emperor has hipster garb, but underneath he’s just another Commissar Squaresville.

This is such, such a great idea. (So long as you don’t ruin it by casting Obama as Hipster/Squaresville. Sheesh. I’m thinking – I dunno – Travolta for the film.)

Our team of moderate, sensible heroes thinks they’re in yet another scrap with The Hipster Emperor. They know how to handle him! He’s a B-list villain, if there ever was one. But then, the big reveal! It’s actually Commissar Squaresville in disguise (last seen in iss. #57. – ed.)! Much more dangerous! And you can’t fight Commissar Squaresville with the kinds of techniques you would use to fight The Hipster Emperor! They are so very opposite in terms of strengths and weaknesses! Will our heroes recover before the Commissar banishes them, forever, to the Nowheresville Zone, an alternate dimension to which stylistic dissidents are consigned?

And then the final, final reveal: it isn’t the original Commissar Squaresville (who really did die in issue #57.) It’s a new one. In fact, there are thousands! Can our heroes turn the tables in time, banishing the villains themselves to the Nowheresville Zone, thereby keeping the world safe for people who don’t want to be either too hip or too square, but sort of in the middle?

As Steyn wisely observe at the end of this column – which is about the dignity of work – “it’s hard to be visionary if you’re pointing in the wrong direction.”



John Holbo 12.08.13 at 3:10 am

I guess I’m being a bit unfair the column. The logic of it is that Squaresville amasses a lot of ‘hip’ minions, who have been fooled by his Hipster Emperor disguise. And then the reason the heroes have trouble fighting him is that, paradoxically, Squaresville is being defended by young groovies who can’t see he’s not ‘for real’. But maybe they should stop following him when the disguise is revealed? But maybe that’s just the moment when his true Squaresville power manifests, so it’s too late to stop him?


QS 12.08.13 at 3:20 am

I’m honestly not really sure what you’re pointing to in this response, but I’ll say thank you for pointing out this column. To see a conservative rag pointing out the pathologies born by our contemporary economy, indeed sounding Marxian while waxing on about labor providing the meaning to life, is remarkable.* To my mind, the only thing that saves American capitalism is an agreement between the left and right that globalization is not a one-way street and if we keep progressing down this path we’ll end up in a future that makes our current dystopia look rather livable. Rebuilding economic borders and relocating economic activities back into the United States is clearly what is called for, the question is whether the elites who are making money from the current scheme will be shoved out of power by a populist articulation demanding a new form of import substitution industrialization.

* Please inform me of other conservative commentators making similar arguments. I’d be grateful.


QS 12.08.13 at 3:22 am

And, apparently, I love the verb ‘to point.’ Perhaps it’s time for more coffee.


Ronan(rf) 12.08.13 at 3:30 am

This is the most moronic thing I’ve seen in my life.
Thank you for bringing it to my attention.


California Girl 12.08.13 at 3:32 am

QS: How bout a Liberal who’d like to see a relocation of economic activities back into the U.S.?


ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© 12.08.13 at 3:55 am

Hey, it’s Mark “The Human” Steyn.

There’s nothing you could do to him or his scribblings that would be unfair.


Main Street Muse 12.08.13 at 4:20 am

Nice plug for that guy’s book in that guy’s column.

And unfortunately, his rant against ObamaCare conveniently forgets that what we had prior was the one of the most expensive and least efficient healthcare systems in the developed world…


Yarrow 12.08.13 at 4:22 am

As far as I can tell, Steyn is saying:

1. Profit!!!
2. Capital no longer needs labor
3. ????

How does Steyn propose to handle the rise of “[a]utomated supermarket checkout, 3D printing, driverless vehicles . . .”? He doesn’t say.


Ronan(rf) 12.08.13 at 4:25 am

It’s amazing to think that once upon a time people worked on farms.
I look around now and there’s not a farmer in sight.


QS 12.08.13 at 4:29 am

People still do work on farms. They’re called migrant labor and we conveniently forget their existence.


Ronan(rf) 12.08.13 at 4:30 am

Where I come from they’re called subsidised landlords


QS 12.08.13 at 4:32 am

Pardon, my US-centrism makes me assume everyone lives/is from the US. Which is odd considering I don’t live there anymore!


Ronan(rf) 12.08.13 at 4:38 am

I’m only half joking, sorry.
It probably doesn’t fully translate fully to the US. Afaict a lot of farmers have always worked of cheap and or family labour. But lets not take a Mark Steyn Column to seriously!
I wasnt meaning to be snarky towards you. That article is just idiotic!


Lee A. Arnold 12.08.13 at 4:55 am

If only the column had followed-through with the thesis of the Squaresville Commissar! Or with any other organizing principle! The intellectual atomism of the current conservative movement, its ideas poking ungainly through these successive op-ed attempts to wrangle it, or to organize it, by fearful emotions, is brought into clear relief.

In reality, President Obama is probably tickled to death that now he’s a square, in addition to everything else he’s been called. Most of us have guessed at his extreme squareness from the get-go.

Millenials again reveal their extraordinary susceptibility to numbnuts economics, and to simplistic marketing, while conservative propagandists again show a clever bent for their ears.

Obama pivoted to inequality for at least two reasons, 1. the Democrats have wisely decided to go on a battle offensive prior to the midterms, such as: raise the minimum wage, propose a slight increase in Social Security payments, etc. Not only would a large portion of voters be in favor, it would also throw a deeper wedge into the Republicans.

They are the gift that keeps on giving. …And after we have destroyed the Republicans, let’s destroy the Democrats. You will be happy you did!

2. I seem to remember that George W. Bush made similar statements against inequality at around the same point in his presidency. So maybe it is just something that boys at low ebb do, or trot out, in hopes to inflect their historical legacy.

The Repubs are against ACA because it will show that some limited socialism will work just fine for some market-failure items like healthcare. That undercuts their ONLY political message. They must sell the returning economy as the result of austerity, as indeed they have begun to do.

It is going to be a hard narrative to continue, though, because the Republican religious belief is that government action MUST slow growth, because it MUST be inefficient. This is the intellectual core of the gibberish. Well, we just started Obamacare, and yet economic growth finally appears to be ramping up.

How are they going to circle squaresville?

Worse for the GOP, the wedge will go deeper. If the website works and a couple of million are signed-up for cheaper coverage (or coverage for the first time), there is no turning back, and the moderate GOP (or what remains of them) will fold on the issue. That political inflection point appears to be finally arriving, now.

Now it’s “fix”, not “repeal and replace.” Who didn’t see this coming?

Make no mistake about it. Once people are signed up for coverage, the GOP cannot “repeal and replace” ACA without making lots of new people lose that coverage — and that would be another political disaster for Republicans — while at the same time, any replacement system that does the following: keeps everybody covered, disallows recissions, disallows rejections for pre-existing conditions, etc. etc., — any such replacement is going to look and feel A WHOLE LOT like the ACA, which is going to make for a very difficult “repeal and replace” selling job. The Republicans should have just sucked up their pride and embraced ACA from the beginning, and made it into a true bipartisan effort. Their miscalculation is very likely to cost them politically for another few Presidential elections. If I were an advisor to the GOP, I would advise them to discard their opposition to ACA as soon as possible. I don’t think it is even clear right now that it will help them in the coming midterm. Squaresville could end up smelling like roses, and that election is a year away.


UserGoogol 12.08.13 at 5:35 am

QS@2: Conservatives have been talking about labor giving value to life for an extremely long time, they just don’t usually conceptualize it the same way Marxists do, and prefer phrases like “the dignity of hard work.” I like my socialists to be more like Bertrand Russell in “In Praise of Idleness” anyway.


QS 12.08.13 at 7:03 am

Right, I’ve encountered that variant of conservatism. Wendell Berry is a good example of that. But conservatives saying that it’s through (meaningful) labor that life is worth living, that is new to me.


William Burns 12.08.13 at 8:38 am

Interesting that Steyn thinks the private sector has “outpaced” the government in the use of drones simply because Bezos announced he might use them in the future.


Mao Cheng Ji 12.08.13 at 8:49 am

“But conservatives saying that it’s through (meaningful) labor that life is worth living, that is new to me.”

It sounds more like for the rubes labor is the meaning. Smart and sophisticated people like himself find the meaning in arts, photography, writing, and opera.


Matt 12.08.13 at 9:04 am

The necessary dignity and purpose that can only come from following an employer’s schedule! Warn the socialites, the investors, the trust fund beneficiaries, and the pensioners. It’s only a matter of time until the spell breaks and they too are spending all their time watching TV and exchanging their dirty needles.

It appears that the column writer has accidentally stumbled on a real and interesting problem but responded with irritable mental gestures instead of ideas. Oh, and columnists: they too should be warned of the despondency that leads to hard drugs when life isn’t regulated and validated with clock-punching.


QS 12.08.13 at 10:03 am

Interesting to compare it with David Graeber’s recent article on the same subject. OK maybe compare isn’t the right word, given the superiority of the latter.


James Wimberley 12.08.13 at 1:38 pm

Yarrow’s nice formalisation of Steyn’s “argument ” in #8 deserves a label of its own. “Idiogasm”, perhaps?


Jacob T. Levy 12.08.13 at 1:44 pm

I’m certainly not going to click the link and see what you’re talking about. I’m just going to ask: Are you thinking Haney Teen Titans style, or Shooter Legion of Super-Heroes style, or Simon Brother Power/ Prez style? As far as I can tell those are the only options.


John Holbo 12.08.13 at 2:08 pm

Bob Haney all the way!


John Holbo 12.08.13 at 2:09 pm

Seriously, I was just explaining to my daughters the other day how much they owe to Bob Haney, without even realizing it. (They rolled their eyes a bit, but I think they realized I was telling them the truth, in the end.)


Consumatopia 12.08.13 at 4:18 pm

“conservatives saying that it’s through (meaningful) labor that life is worth living”

I couldn’t understand that column at all. If jobs are disappearing due to automation, how does that make welfare bad? Sure, the dignity of work is great, but it’s not the welfare that’s displacing human work, it’s the private sector.

But then I happened to see this phrase, and it all clicked. “life worth living”. Ah! There’s the solution! Just stop feeding the newly unemployed! Only those who lead lives worth living should eat! But, wait a second, the drones will be the only ones doing the work…I knew it! Mark Steyn is a drone, plotting to starve our species to extinction!


Glen Tomkins 12.08.13 at 5:00 pm

I think Steyn is doing an excellent job of vilification of that whole class of people who have made themselves so comfortable in a post-work economy. That economy must be destroyed!

Of course Steyn and I are talking about polar opposite classes of people. He and his political tendency have hallucinated a class of welfare queens, whereas the real economy and our real polity actually is beset with a class of coupon-clipping, parasite, moocher, rentiers. They’ve gotten control of govts back after a brief period of social democracy, and they’ve already turned economic expansion into secular contraction.

Of course, our side can’t, usefully, in ways that effectively persuade electorates, do the necessary vilification of the real villains, or propose the changes needed to get us back on course. Homo politicus is hard-wired to respect hierarchy. As long as most people are doing tolerably well, they take it for granted that the powers that be must be competent, and the system basically sound and fair. It’s easy to vilify the losers in the present system, and impossible to gain any traction vilifying the winners.

So idiots like Steyn are welcome to vilify the poor. Let him build up a detailed and emotive critique in people’s minds of the evils, both personal and social, of our system tolerating a class of parasites and wreckers. Let him get people used to thinking in terms of class and class interest. Let him make Marxist thinking respectable again.

A combination of the contracting economy that will result from tilting the rules ever more in favor of rent-seeking, plus the increasing shrillness of the rentier propagandists, will eventually push enough people to transfer the critique that Steyn is building onto its proper objects. In a failing system, the ruling elites become a God that Failed, and people will need a way of understanding that failure to guide them out of the wreckage. Thank you, Mark Steyn, for your work building the edifice of that understanding.


bianca steele 12.08.13 at 5:32 pm

If I didn’t know anything about Mark Steyn, I’d suspect he’s saying conservatives are the real hipsters. It’s a kind of rhetorical coup to be so counterintuitive, because he doesn’t have to answer real questions about whether he thinks the poor are losers or whether he thinks the poor are essentially on his side, because everybody is already baffled by the weird use of terms and doesn’t get to the point of asking embarrassing questions.

In the sentence before the one the OP quotes, as far as I can make out, he’s complaining that Democrats are squares who still do database.


SoU 12.08.13 at 6:03 pm

kinda bouncing off of 27 above –

one of the major tropes of Obama-era conservativism has been, as far as i can tell, this weird discomfort with not being the ‘cool’ party anymore, so they are constantly trying to criticize those in support of Obama for being robots, dupes, etc.
it like, the real battle for them is over this cool-ness, or hip-ness, which Obama has a lot of on the surface, but deep down cannot deliver on, and somehow revealing that inner ‘commissar squares-ville’ will blow apart his carefully constructed Cool and let all them youngnin’s see who is truly the coolest kid in town.

this is definitely a part of the conservative mind (superego) these days – i can recall countless examples. does anyone understand why this is tho? because it is laughably juvenile


JanieM 12.08.13 at 6:10 pm

this weird discomfort with not being the ‘cool’ party anymore

When were they ever? Who thought so?


bianca steele 12.08.13 at 6:36 pm

At your high school, weren’t the “cool” kids the rich ones? Weren’t the rich ones the most likely to be Republicans? If this doesn’t describe your childhood, go ahead and ignore what I say.


JanieM 12.08.13 at 6:46 pm

Bianca — that framing doesn’t work at all for the milieu I grew up in. But explaining further would be a tangent, so I’ll leave it alone, as you suggest.


Peter K. 12.08.13 at 7:29 pm

I have a hard time making sense of Steyn’s column.

“One consequence of the botched launch of Obamacare is that it has, judging from his plummeting numbers with “Millennials,” diminished Barack Obama’s cool. ”

So if the website had worked, Obama would still be a hipster? Competence equals cool? So the Republicans who shut down the government – because supposedly cool Obamacare would ruin the country – and threatened to default on the debt are squares?

“As Steyn wisely observe at the end of this column – which is about the dignity of work ”

The title and subtitle are ” The Post-Work Economy: A permanent dependency class means a citizenry deprived of dignity.”

“One of the advantages of Obamacare, according to Nancy Pelosi, is that it will liberate the citizenry: “Think of an economy where people could be an artist or a photographer or a writer without worrying about keeping their day job in order to have health insurance.” It’s certainly true that employer-based health coverage distorts the job market, but what’s more likely in a world without work?”

Conservative public policies like austerity and bubble economics (bubblenomics) creates unemployment. Of course they deny it. Pelosi’s point which Steyn ignores/misrepresents is that Obama care will increase workers’ bargaining power in that they won’t be as afraid to lose their job for fear of losing their healthcare. Is increasing bargaining power hip? Is being dishonest as Steyn is, square?

@ 14

Yes I think we are at an inflection point, more so if the Republicans lose in either 2014 or 2016. Here’s Ross Douchehat on Obamacare turning the corner:

“But this example does not necessarily bode well for Obamacare’s unfolding. The Massachusetts law was a bipartisan bill passed in a wealthy, homogeneous state with a pervasive left-liberal ethos. The national health care law aspires to create the same sense of “positive responsibility” in a much more polarized, fragmented, socioeconomically diverse and libertarian-minded society, roughly half of which opposes the law outright. ”

Yes the elderly, male white squares in the Republican party hate their Medicare and Social Security. Death panels!


Dr. Hilarius 12.08.13 at 7:45 pm

Arbeit Macht Frei


herman mieville 12.08.13 at 8:54 pm

Possibly this code is unfamiliar though maybe it isn’t.


roy belmont 12.08.13 at 8:57 pm

Once upon a time, millions of Americans weren’t even born yet. Then, as the past went away, they got born and moved into the house. When the house was repossessed, they moved outside or into a budget motel — so-called “welfare housing” often deriving from the ever swelling redundancy and purposelessness that now attends almost any activity in America.
What comes next? Or almost next? Or halfway between right now and next? Or halfway between that next now and that next next?

Or, more to the point, what if there is no “that”?


dn 12.08.13 at 9:49 pm

QS – you may wish to revisit the recent thread on Francis vs. Marx. One of quotes from the Pope under discussion there: “It is through free, creative, participatory and mutually supportive labour that human beings express and enhance the dignity of their lives.”


dn 12.08.13 at 10:04 pm

JanieM – it’s my sense that there was a certain “cool” factor to being a Republican in the days of Reagan’s ascendancy, when Democrats were regarded among affluent white people as being “bleeding hearts”, excessively earnest and somewhat hapless – think Carter bemoaning the “crisis of confidence” while telling you to turn down the thermostat. Laissez-faire has always held a certain allure for those with enough privilege that they can afford to espouse it.


Tim Chambers 12.08.13 at 10:49 pm

Steyn is merely doing what the right has always done, blamed the failures of Capitalism on their ameliorators. Told those who have been let go from their jobs due to the failures of Capitalism, that those who are making life easier for them are to blame for their condition.

The left needs to answer back that markets are inefficient. If markets were truly efficient there would be no surplus, and we have surpluses of capital, capacity, and labor. Why? Because labor is paid too little to consume the excess production. When labor productivity doubles and wages don’t come close to double, who is going to consume all that excess product?

For a while, that was labor with credit extended from surplus capital, until the system got over-extended and everything when bust.

Would it not be far better to pay people what their labor is worth, and tighten credit standards, thereby making people live within their greater means?


Trader Joe 12.09.13 at 12:48 pm

@32 Peter
“One consequence of the botched launch of Obamacare is that it has, judging from his plummeting numbers with “Millennials,” diminished Barack Obama’s cool. “

Id see it as two ways to read this. Millenials understand a world where tech has always “worked.” They never knew dial up and being timed out in their lives because all of the commercial sites they interact with never have such problems. By failing to implement a tech project Obama revels himself to be = to the Milenials chronically unhip parents/grandparents who still think flip phones are the height of techno-cool and can’t program a VCR.

Alternatively – the jobless Millenial might finally be waking up to the fact that the agent of Hope and Change that they elected so enthusiastically in 2008 has now spent the better part of 6 years making Millenials the bagholders of the economy. They suffer the most from a poor economy, carry massive debt from a failed education policy and are now being told to buy insurance that is completely contrary to the needs of young people (i.e. full coverage + high deductible) or pay a fine….if that doesn’t shake some of Obama’s hipster cred, I’m not sure what would.


Belle Waring 12.09.13 at 1:07 pm

As it happens, in my high school, I was the cool kid, but only starting in 11th grade. Before that I was a…weirdo? They didn’t know what was cool yet, was the problem. I distinctly remember the first day of 11th grade all these girls coming up to me who were cheerleaders and shit being all “Belle! OhMyGod it’s so great to see you!” and I was like “you talk to me now? NnnhhMhh. No you do not, missy.” However, I’m a friendly person, so in truth I did talk to them. Until this happened.


SusanC 12.09.13 at 1:55 pm

I really have trouble fugirung out how the various pieces of the Steyn article were supposed to form an argument.

It maybe makes slightly more sense (even if still not much sense) as a piece of wistful nostalgia for the eighteenth century.

I say the eighteenth century, because you’ld just you’d usually think of 1815-ish as being during the transition from a predominantly agricultural economy to an industrial one, with enclosure of land, less labour intensive farming practises, mass population migration from the countryside to towns, and significant political unrest (e.g the Chartists, the Merthyr rising of 1831, maybe even that Karl Marx guy in 1848). If 1815 is part I, part II might be increasing mechanisation in industry, leading to industrial employment declining too, and with population migration on a continental (e.g. from Eastern to Western Europe) or global scale. Possibly significantly, the industrialisation also affects methods of warfare, so unlike circa 1815 were many of the displaced agricultral labourers were employed as soliders in the Napoleonic Wars, Napoleonic Wars take II may involve significant numbers of killer robots.

So, I could so see this as a treatment for a SF movie, but it doesnt quite do it for me as an argument against healthcare reform.


William Timberman 12.09.13 at 1:56 pm

Trader Joe @ 39

…and can’t program a VCR.

Do millennials even know what a VCR is? Don’t they let TiVo do their programming for them, or beam stuff to their Apple TV with their iPhone? This bit of what-it-means-to-be-uncool seems to me to be sadly in need of updating.


Trader Joe 12.09.13 at 2:29 pm

Uhhh, William, the irony was intended…it is in fact only the tragically un-cool that ever need to worry about something as inane as programming a VCR although I would say most millenials have some vague recollection of watching their Barney videos on VHS tapes – it wasn’t until about 2000 that DVDs became the dominant media.


Belle Waring 12.09.13 at 2:32 pm

OK, I have a new favorite wingnut commenter, from Mark “The Human” Steyn’s comments. He’s not trolling; I read his further engagement with the thumbs-uppers (79 FB upvotes!). Or, if he’s pretending to be conservative to make people agree with him and look like idiots–it works!
• 3 days ago

The death of useful work and the Gotterdammerung of Liberty and Individuality.

Nameless, faceless millions with minimal purpose posting selfies. Huxley’s
Gamma, Delta & Epsilon castes — high on Kardashian Soma — keeping the
Alpha’s and Betas properly fed, and changed and sated. So Movie Star Alpha Paul Walker — can wrap his brand new car around a tree in a pointless pursuit of sensation. For in the future only Alphas and Betas will be allowed vehicles they can actually steer, accelerate and brake . . . while the rest of us ride mass transit to and from our jobs at the Amazon Recycling Complex.

Or are we looking at HG Wells’ Morlocks feeding on innocent childlike Eloi? The Knockout Game turned cannibal in the streets of our cities? Human remains processed by the Multinational Engulf & Devour. Honey BooBoo is SOYLENT GREEN!

One thing is for certain, the lives of our benevolent rulers, the Alphas and Betas, the Members of the Inner Party, the Celestials will hide behind guards and walls and private guns, while the rest of us bang pots and pans and rattle magic bones at the barred castle gate. While the Brutals of Zardoz worship the stone head of a hollow god, exterminating the lower classes.

Until the Red Death sneaks through the cracks in the fortress stones to settle all scores. And within the faraway, abandoned Museum of Green Porcelain an ancient box of matches waits in a glass case to rekindle Mankind.


matt 12.09.13 at 2:57 pm

Doesn’t “Goetterdaemmerung of Liberty” have one too many genitive objects?


dn 12.09.13 at 4:11 pm

Trader Joe – as a “millenial” myself I have to say that your first explanation for millenial discontent with Obama is probably bunk. Many of us are perfectly familiar with timed-out dial-up connections and VHS tapes. I can’t say I appreciate the stereotyping about instant gratification.

The more likely answer is a) we’re still suffering from hard times; b) we can’t afford school; c) little has been done about corporatism and corruption, especially in the banking sector; d) we’re still in Afghanistan and the NSA is still spying on us. The millenial impression of politics is largely shaped by the paranoia of the Bush years, and discontent with the President is linked to the perception that nothing has changed. Obama is popular among the young to the extent that he has broken with the GWB legacy. (Esp. LGBT rights, the idea of HCR if not the execution, etc.)


dn 12.09.13 at 4:22 pm

And if the Obamacare rollout has diminished Obama’s “coolness” among the young there’s a lot easier explanation: the whole media has been screaming for a couple months now about what a disaster it is; especially the shitstorm about “Obama lied and people are losing coverage!” Basically, by calling him a liar the media tars him with the same brush as Bush. Obama’s image as being a break from Bush depends on his being seen as not-duplicitous. He suffers when there are cracks in this image.


Trader Joe 12.09.13 at 4:53 pm

No offense intended dn. There’s lots of definitions of millenials and I think you’d agree that a “millenial” born in the 1980s has a much different view than one born in 1995. If you were born in 1995 and remember dial-up timeouts you were quite a prodigy. If you were born in 1985 and remember dial-up timeouts you were probably using Prodigy.

I think my alternate suggested reading as @39 corresponds reasonably well with your comment, although you probably said it better and more thoroughly.


dn 12.09.13 at 5:05 pm

Ha, thanks Trader Joe. I was born in 1990 as a matter of fact, but believe it or not I used dial-up until I was 18. (Yes, I was an outlier and it was painful.) My oldest political memories are of Clinton’s second term. My younger brother is too young to remember 9/11, but he remembers dial-up and VHS.


Lee A. Arnold 12.09.13 at 5:08 pm

Obamacare’s troubles are being blown out of proportion, but Obama’s numbers started falling for other reasons: drones; the NSA snooping on everybody.


Anarcissie 12.09.13 at 7:40 pm

I think I’ve heard the gist of the article before, although seeing it taken up by the National Review is unusual. I thought some of the comments on were interesting, and I added one in the hopes of creating some diversion. Perhaps, though, I troubled the sacred wheel of Godwin’s Rule. I’ll shut up now.


roger gathman 12.09.13 at 8:45 pm

squaresville and hipster are old man journanimalese. Square in particular seemed to leap into the rightwing vocabulary in the beatnik era and stay there long after other words took its place on the street. There are, admittedly, a few problems with the film, American Psycho, but one of the perfect moments in that film was when the Christian Bale character plays the Huey Lewis and the News “Hip to be Square”, which was really, really an appropriate choice for a Reaganite soundtrack.


Anarcissie 12.10.13 at 3:21 am

Dr. Hilarius 12.08.13 at 7:45 pm:
‘Arbeit Macht Frei’

But as I subcommented at NR, nicht mehr.

I thought it was very clever and here’s everybody thinking of it.


mpowell 12.10.13 at 3:36 am

I think Steyn is arguing that we need to take away people’s healthcare and food stamps and give them real dignity and purpose by offering them jobs as servants for the elites. And also get rid of those illegal immigrants. At least that’s what I read.


Robert Corbett 12.12.13 at 2:08 am

Canadians who move to America to be right wingers (and who mostly write columns about politics, not culture) have zero credibility when it comes to discerning what would be considered hip for another segment of the culture. For Steyn, the equation seems to be what young people like = hip; young people now = Millennials; Obama created Obamacare (his name is on it); therefore, Millennials think Obamacare is Hip, but they are going to be so disappointed it. I suppose if I was going to label one style of health policy hip, it would be single-payer (plays well in alcoves of indieness like Austin Seattle, but not nationally; passes the purity test; something that Europe likes more), but there is no such thing as a Hip


Robert Corbett 12.12.13 at 2:17 am

[My fat fingers found it too easy to submit. If the above comment is moderated, I will understand, but here is the rest] healthcare policy, and there never will be. It is almost definitionally wonkish, as is Fed monetary policy. I bring this up because my sneaking suspicion is the fact that hacks like Steyn haven’t met an aesthetic idea they could explain says something more largely about his politics. His idea is not really outre in R circles — Ryan and others claim universalizing health care will create a dependent society– but his attempt at juicing the argument betrays an ear so tinny he should be ashamed.

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