American liberals often gaze across the Atlantic with admiration, viewing Europe as the model for our future. They covet Europe's rail systems, green-energy subsidies, social liberalism, secularism, welfare states and government-run healthcare.
As Washington rings with cries that a Republican health reform bill would kill "hundreds of thousands of people," consider the desperately sad tale of Charlie Gard, a baby boy sentenced to die by Britain's National Health Service.
Charlie was born in October with encephalomyopathic mitochondrial DNA depletion syndrome, or MDDS. It has left him crippled and with brain damage. He depends on a ventilator to keep him alive.
We don't know what's best for Charlie. But we do know that the British government doesn't either. Nevertheless the NHS, installed by socialists in the last century, has decided that it will not treat Charlie anymore, although his parents desperately want to save and nuture their son.
Worse yet, and an outrage that boggles the mind, is that the NHS refuses to release Charlie into the care of his parents. Charlie's mother and father want to bring him to America for an experimental treatment that could help his body work more normally. They have even, through an appeal for charitable donations, raised enough money to bring their son here and get him treated. But the NHS has said it will not release the child, and every court has agreed.
This is the apotheosis of big government. The British state has become the Alpha and the Omega. It has nationalized a child and, implicitly, other children whom it might one day cut off from the love and care of their parents.
This is the logical conclusion of a single-payer "public" health system, a government deciding who is allowed to fight for his life or his child's life, and who is not.
The "threat of fascism" is discussed quite a bit these days. But a president's authoritarian personality and policy preferences aren't the fascist threat in Europe and America. The threat comes instead from experts and doctors deciding whose life is worth saving and which long-shots are worth taking. He who pays the piper calls the tune.
Charlie's death will be yet another step down a long staircase. Europe, as usual, is many steps ahead of us, both in its culture of death and the expansion of the state.
But the rule holds: The more government gets involved in healthcare, the more government gets involved in our most personal decisions. As tax credits pay for more people's health insurance, and regulations dictate what insurance must cover, it's only a step or two before HHS starts imposing rationing, denying coverage for costs that our betters believe we should avoid.
One already hears questions raised about whether equal or abundant treatment should be given to people who suffer from maladies related to smoking or overeating. Is the land of the free really prepared to tiptoe closer to arrangements in which officials will debate the costs and benefits of bringing a disabled baby to term.
"I'm paying for that!" taxpayers will shout, and politicians and bureaucrats may respond by dialing up the nanny state.
The victims will be those very people whom government-run healthcare is supposed to help. It will be those with least influence over the central power. It will be helpless people like Charlie Gard.
A government big enough to cover all your healthcare expenses is one big enough to decide who lives and dies.