Last Sunday, I chose to do nothing. Meaning, I pretended to do something by buying and then consuming bits and chunks of stuff I ordered from my laptop as I sat in my underwear, drinking strong coffee. It’s what I do now when I find reading a newspaper to be too much of a commitment. Instead, I splurge on crap. Old, new, disposable, classic.
From iTunes, I rented both Francis Ha! and Pacific Rim; then on Netflix (a site I pay cash to every month for the opportunity to watch shitty movies I chose not to see in the theater) I found an old crazy Jet Li flick, Swordsman 2. Within the first five minutes of Swordsman, a horse gets split in half. It’s poorly shot, and cheaply done, but still — you can’t beat a horse being split in half. Especially when it’s at your fingertips. It wasn’t there five minutes ago, but now here it is. And I’m still in my underwear.
In between films, I ate a couple of sandwiches that I ordered through Seamless, that new internet menu thing that allows you to order from anyone and everything. I didn’t talk to anyone – and had no worries about whether the deli dude would forget to add extra cheese or add the cole slaw. I wrote it in the order and pressed “send.” No small talk, no repeating of numbers. The anguish over whether the dude washed his hands first was nonexistent. Better not to know, I say.
I know none of this is mind-blowing information, but that’s the point. We now accept an endless array of options as a standard part of our existence. I’m convinced that, in a few years, you will be able order up a sandwich not from a restaurant — but a little old lady from across town. That’s diversity through market forces, through choice, and demand — and it makes almost everything and anything possible. You can create a day of pleasurable variety in minutes. A decade ago, it would have taken four to six weeks for everything. Except the pizza.
I then bought four songs by Marshal Crenshaw from iTunes. The four songs were from an old album of his that I used to own (“Miracle of Science,” I believe). I didn’t feel like buying it again, and I really only loved four songs. So I chose not to buy the album. I chose to buy the four songs. No one forced me to buy other things, in order to enjoy the thing I really wanted.
Everything above represents a transformation in our power of choice. At my fingertips I have a vast array of movies to pick from — from cloying mumblecore to over-the-top adolescent fantasy sci-fi. I can go back in time, and find crap that escaped me when it first bubbled up. And not at the mercy of one local Chinese restaurant, I can order from hundreds of joints — offering thousands of meal combinations — to satisfy whatever hungry need that my hangover requires. (Sadly, I still ordered Chinese food. I love Chinese spare ribs. Actually, “love” really doesn’t describe it. I dream about them. It’s disturbing.)
And then there’s iTunes. Do not underestimate the freedoms we have gained from our iPods. Imagine, when you were young, someone told you that you can carry your entire record collection in a metal crate smaller than your front shirt pocket – and not only that – you can hold everyone else’s record collection too. And you can skirt around such noxious stuff like Dave Matthews or Maroon 5.
Now imagine if iTunes had been run by the government. This is how I see it:
To enjoy my recently repurchased Marshall Crenshaw’s song “What Do You Dream Of”, I’d have to pay for an additional 19 songs I do not want — in order to help pay for someone else’s desire to listen to Ke$ha. Or worse, Enya. The iPod would come with a mandated airbag, and it would be the size of a baby’s head, and weigh 45 lbs. It would require that 34 percent of the music I purchase be polka. It would probably start overheating after an hour of use, break down, and give you thyroid cancer.
But as a reasonably compensated guy, the government believes that my desires for my music would require purchasing other music I don’t want, and I’d have to subsidize the musical choices belonging to some old guy I don’t even know.
And chances are all the music would suck (think Dave Matthews and Maroon 5). It would all cost more and satisfy less — which is what happens when choice is replaced by coercion.
My point: just as civilization is moving toward an endless fragmentation allowing for options beyond our wildest expectations, President Obama believes the opposite course is “the right thing to do.” It is his warped version of progress. It’s no different than a young man staring at the advances in medicine and thinking, “No thanks, I’ll take the newt’s tail and onion powder for my cancer.” Ancient Chinese secrets no longer are acceptable medicine — except with Obamacare — what’s retro is now progress.
It’s like choosing to eat raw meat, even when you know fire’s been invented and works reasonably well under certain circumstances. That’s what Obama is doing. He’s staring at a Ferrari V4i, and thinking, “No thanks, I’ll take this penny-farthing.”
It’s dumbfounding how dumb this is. How can you look at the pro-choice revolution — reflected in Amazon, travel websites, online menus, and new car service apps, all wonderful things that expand freedom by expanding options — and think, “We really need to limit what people can get with health care — for that helps others.”
Because, as you know, there are so many examples of how limiting your choice helps people.
Actually, we have NO examples regarding the efficacy of limiting choice.
I see no way out of — but only around — big government. Meaning, choice means getting a doctor via an app — and it’s a guy who’s willing to do the work for cash. The same way I see a driver picking you up after a text through an app — a burgeoning market of doctors will develop who will see you on the sly, for a couple hundred bucks. It’ll be like the back pages of the Village Voice, or Craig’s list — but they treat disease instead of give it to you.
So, you can be depressed over Obamacare, because it’s worth being depressed about. But it can’t win. Not against the human, creative mind and its desire for options. Sooner or later it will collapse, and then people will have the freedom to choose — the way health care should have been from the start. In the meantime, I’m getting ribs.
Greg Gutfeld is a mainstay on Fox News as co-host of The Five and the host of Red Eye. He’s also the NY Times best-selling author of The Joy of Hate: How to Triumph over Whiners in the Age of Phony Outrage. His new book Not Cool, is now available for Pre-order. For more from Greg check out his official site or follow him on Twitter.