Opinion: Daily Journal

Imagineering A Political Label

RALEIGH – You probably won’t find an adult more Disney-friendly than I am. I’ve got most of the Disney animated classics in my library, as well as quite a few of its live-action comedies. I have most of the sheet music for the Disney musicals on my piano (my personal faves are “Bella Note” from Lady and the Tramp and “Out There” from The Hunchback of Notre Dame). Although I’m not a fan of crowds, I enjoyed my visit to Disney World – and would happily send my boys again and again as long as someone else braves the lines and I can stay home and watch The Incredibles or Swiss Family Robinson.

So I mean no disrespect to the Great One when I say this. Left-wingers in America ought to shed their “liberal” and “progressive” names and give themselves a more accurate label: imagineers.

They do need a new label. As I’ve said before, I’m delighted that the Left has decided to stop (mis)using the term liberal to describe their big-government philosophy. I’d like the chance to rehabilitate the term so that we limited-government folks can reclaim it as the proper term for our philosophy of liberty.

As for “progressive,” the label has two defects. First, expanding the size, scope, and cost of government is hardly a recipe for progress of any kind. Second, the voting public doesn’t appear to like it much better than they do “liberal.” It still sounds condescending. It is condescending.

Now consider the virtues of the term “imagineer.” It associates the cause with a popular cultural institution. And it more accurately reflects what the modern Left believes. The Right believes that human progress is possible but only if policymakers first accept the reality of human nature. The Left believes that reality can be rewritten – imagineered, if you will – simply by passing a law.

There’s a good example in the current health care debate. One of the key legislative goals of the Democrats in Congress is to forbid health insurers from charging different premiums to men and women who are otherwise similar in age and background. “I think the equal premiums for equal coverage is what we’re looking for under health-care reform,” Sen. Kay Hagan said recently. North Carolina’s two largest newspapers, The Charlotte Observer and the Raleigh News & Observer, just published a piece describing the premium differences in detail:

For example, a Blue Cross and Blue Shield comprehensive policy with a $2,500 deductible would cost a 38-year-old Durham man $182 a month. For a woman of the same age and hometown, the cost jumps to $269 – a difference that amounts to an extra thousand dollars a year. Add optional maternity coverage, and the monthly premium would leap to $490 a month. Prices were similar at other insurance companies, including Aetna, UnitedHealthOne, CoventryOne and Celtic.

When the Left hears such a thing, the inevitable response is legislation. There ought to be a law! But when the Right hears such a thing, the inevitable response is, first, investigation. Why do men and women pay different premiums? Do they always? Is there a rational basis?

Insurance premiums aren’t just pulled out of thin air on a whim. They reflect expected costs. The reality is that young and middle-aged women tend to consume more care and thus make greater claims on their insurers than their male counterparts do. However, as the Observer/News & Observer reported, by their 50s men start costing more than women to insure – and their premiums are, correspondingly, higher.

Legislation isn’t magic. It can’t disapparate inconvenient facts. If women make greater medical claims than men but can’t legally be charged more, then government will have made health insurance artificially cheap for women and artificially expensive for men. In the latter case, fewer men on the margin – those who are relatively young and healthy – will bother to buy health insurance. That’s why, when assuming earlier this year that ObamaCare was going to pass, health insurers decided not to fight it tooth-and-nail but instead to accept whatever came in exchange for forcing those young men to buy insurance.

The Left engages in wishful thinking all the time. Leftist legislators raised the minimum wage – the cost of hiring relatively young, relatively unskilled workers – and then denied the obvious reality that fewer of these workers would be employed as a result. Now, youth unemployment is skyrocketing. In education, transportation, the environment, and so many other areas, they assume that their good intentions will lead to good results.

They assume wrongly. Like one of Mickey Mouse’s most memorable roles, they play with forces they don’t understand and can’t control.

They should call themselves “imagineers.” That will allow we free-marketeers to describe ourselves, accurately, as the liberal progressives.

Hood is president of the John Locke Foundation