this was a tradition of natural rights and individual liberties.nIt begins with Hobbes’ assertion of the sovereign’s role innestablishing civil order and ends, in the later 19th century,nwith the declaration that the state is the ultimate guarantornof the common good.nIn America the transformadon has been somewhat retardednby the peculiarities of our federal system, but in thenmore centralized states of Europe — Britain, France, Sweden,nthe Netherlands, and Germany — the process hasnproceeded rapidly to the logical conclusion that the statenholds ultimate responsibility for the well-being of all itsncitizens. Since the British disease was carried to the UnitednStates by immigrants from Great Britain, it is only a matternof time before this country succumbs, not only to suchnsymptoms as national health care, but to the pandemicnplague of social democracy.nNo one who has read Horace or Sophoclesncan fail to appreciate the pagannunderstanding of mortality as the great factnthat gives shape and meaning to human life.nIn fact, the entire American discussion of socializednmedicine consists in a debate between two British positions:nthe rigid socialism of the Labor Party, as mimicked by TednKennedy and Joe Biden, and the more moderate Toryismnthat combines the old Liberals’ concern with economicnfreedom (and efficiency) with the old Tories’ regard for thennational welfare. The Tory critique is offered, not surprisingly,nby an Englishman at the Heritage Foundation, and it is tona large extent endorsed by other English conservativesnresident in America. Like most of their countrymen,nEnglish journalists persist in regarding the United States as anwayward colony and can never succeed in understandingnthat the American track record on “democracy” is longernand better than the British.nWhat few Englishmen have ever appreciated (Burke andnActon being great exceptions) is the diversity of thenAmerican regions and states. Our federal system was notninvented by Madison and Hamilton; it was the only possiblenexpression of the facts of our political life in the 18thncentury. By the time of our secession from the Crown,nBritain was already a highly centralized state, and what littlenwas left of local jurisdiction, as in Scotland, was alreadynbeing swallowed up by a national government that would,nunder the influence of a political Cagliostro (Trollope’s termnfor Disraeli), assume the name and trappings of empire. Ofncourse they could not understand the petty grievances ofnMassachusetts merchants, much less the loftier motives ofnthe statesmen of Pennsylvania and Virginia.nThe English did not understand us then, and they do notnunderstand us now. The tragedy is that we once fought anwar to be free of Britain, and now two hundred years later,nwhen we have lost almost all the virtues of our Britishnancestors, we still cannot free ourselves from their worstnmoral- and political vices.nWe will have national (as opposed to county or state)n12/CHRONICLESnnnhealth care, because we can no longer think as Americans,nand because we no longer trust either the strength of ournsocial institutions or the character of our people.nThe British disease is as deadly as AIDS and much morencommunicable. In practice the malady is a kind ofnarteriosclerosis, a progressive constriction of a people’s willnto do something for themselves. It is the result (as MancurnOlson has pointed out) of too many years of democracy, toonmany years in which petty interest groups have managed tondirect the nation’s resources and energies in the direction ofnunion members, bureaucrats, and other privileged classes.nBut there may be deeper causes. Britain is one of the firstnnations to discard its religious faith. I can count on thenfingers of one hand the English Christians — even nominalnChristians — I have met over the years. Their churches andncathedrals minister the sacraments to a handful of maidennladies and eccentrics. A few years ago I spent several days innthe company of a fine and proper English family. Togethernwe visited a great Catholic cathedral in Europe. Thenchildren were fascinated. “Who’s that person, mummy?”nthey asked. “Why that’s a man, dear, his name was Jesus.”n”Jesus? Why is he hanging up there on that wood thing, andnwho are those people with wings?”nThe mother went on at some,length, explaining eachnChristian story, patiently pointing out that they were simplynstories that some people used to believe but no longer did.nHer husband confessed to me that he was a littie nervousnbringing the kids into a place like this. All the art and musicnin Catholic Europe was great stuff, but too bad it had to benconnected with something so corrupting as religion. He wasnright to be afraid, I told him, since the best way of makingnChristianity attractive to children is to expose them to itsnbeauty and then forbid it, like a dangerous sweet.nEngland did lose its faith, and we are not slow to follow.nAs Nietzsche knew all too well, man cannot live withoutnGod, without some promise that life has meaning, if notnhere and now, at least in some other dimension, wherenthings are as they ought to be. Growing ever more fearful ofnthe grave, we cling to the things we can buy or consume;nunable to worship a being beyond ourselves, we turn ournbodies into temples of self-worship and spend enormousnamounts of time and money on keeping the temple in goodnrepair. Even so-called Christians are not exempt. Fundamentalistnand Pentecostalist ministers are often fanatics onnfinancial planning and diet crazes. Do they think they arengoing to live forever? In this same unregenerate flesh?nIf the English find it difficult to understand either ournvirtues or our political arrangements, they comprehend ournvices all too well. In our rapid descent from republicannvirtue to imperial decadence, the English can see themselvesnparodied and distorted. The spectacle is as amusing asnit is disturbing, something like the behavior of monkeysnwhose antics remind us uncomfortably of our own foibles.nEnglish visitors have often commented on “the Americannway of death” and the almost Egyptian lengths to which wenhave been willing to go in the conduct of funerals. But thisnextravagance is not so much an American as a Californianntrait, and Evelyn Waugh set The Loved One not in DesnMoines but among the lotus-eaters of Southern California.nTo the extent that all America is turning Californian, it is an