Freedom, selfishness and the individual mandate

Possible the best piece I have read on health care and the Supreme Court.  Read it! (I’ll be checking for click-throughs).   Anyway, it’s Dahlia Lithwick deconstructing the conservative complaints about how the individual mandate is an assault on “freedom.”  Here’s a bit:

It’s always a bit strange to hear people with government-funded single-payer health plans describe the need for other Americans to be free from health insurance. But after the aggressive battery of questions from the court’s conservatives this morning, it’s clear that we can only be truly free when the young are released from the obligation to subsidize the old and the ailing. Justice Samuel Alito appears to be particularly concerned about the young, healthy person who “on average consumes about $854 in health services each year” being saddled with helping pay for the sick or infirm—even though, one day that will describe all of us. Or as Justice Antonin Scalia later puts it: “These people are not stupid. They’re going to buy insurance later. They’re young and need the money now.” (Does this mean that if you are young and you pay for insurance, Scalia finds you “stupid”?)…

Freedom is the freedom not to rescue. Justice Kennedy explains “the reason [the individual mandate] is concerning is because it requires the individual to do an affirmative act. In the law of torts, our tradition, our law has been that you don’t have the duty to rescue someone if that person is in danger. The blind man is walking in front of a car and you do not have a duty to stop him, absent some relation between you. And there is some severe moral criticisms of that rule, but that’s generally the rule.”

Plenty more, and then this awesome conclusion:

 This morning in America’s highest court, freedom seems to be less about the absence of constraint than about the absence of shared responsibility, community, or real concern for those who don’t want anything so much as healthy children, or to be cared for when they are old. Until today, I couldn’t really understand why this case was framed as a discussion of “liberty.” This case isn’t so much about freedom from government-mandated broccoli or gyms. It’s about freedom from our obligations to one another, freedom from the modern world in which we live. It’s about the freedom to ignore the injured, walk away from those in peril, to never pick up the phone or eat food that’s been inspected. It’s about the freedom to be left alone. And now we know the court is worried about freedom: the freedom to live like it’s 1804.

About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State http://faculty.chass.ncsu.edu/shgreene

2 Responses to Freedom, selfishness and the individual mandate

  1. itchy says:

    “the reason [the individual mandate] is concerning is because it requires the individual to do an affirmative act.”

    What does this actually mean? It seems like semantics.

    Paying for an interstate highway is an affirmative act. Paying to educate children is an affirmative act. Paying for a drone strike is an affirmative act. Water treatment plants, garbage collection, prisons, fire services, food safety, space exploration … all affirmative acts.

    What is a negative act?

    “Justice Samuel Alito appears to be particularly concerned about the young, healthy person who “on average consumes about $854 in health services each year” being saddled with helping pay for the sick or infirm … ”

    Guess what I’m saddled with paying for? National parks I’ve never visited, highways I’ve never traveled. Schools I’ve never gone to, clean air I’ve never breathed, safe food I’ve never eaten. Fire protection for property I don’t own, the killing and imprisonment of people who never harmed me. Fancy robes and mahogany desks for Supreme Court justices who rule against my wishes.

    What a scam that all my money is going to rescue other people.

  2. Mike says:

    I guess I should point out that the government also makes people go to school.

    So if those who vote against the so called mandate on the SC are against “an affirmative act” does this mean children will no longer be forced to attend school anymore?

    This seems to me to be much more forceful then simply taking money from them for healthcare.

    What about jury duty?

    I think this shows the fundamental problem facing the United States. Nothing is about doing the job right, or justice, or fairness or the law, or building a better society. Its all about partisan politics, from the local school all the way up to the supreme court.

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