Obamacare: Are the Libertarian Oppositions to the SCOTUS decision warranted?

Posted on July 10, 2012 by

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By now, nearly everyone with access to this blog knows that SCOTUS has upheld the Obamacare bill. This has caused an uproar with Libertarian folks as well as those who might not call themselves Libertarians but who think gov’t telling them what they must buy is inappropriate. I’ll be discussing the objections levied by the libertarian minded objectors, ultimately concluding that some of the Libertarian concerns are warranted while others are just malformed. Though I disagree with many of their fundamental arguments I’ll argue in unison with them that the ruling is wrong-headed and I’ll offer what should have been done instead. My recommendation will not sit well with Libertarian minded folk but I do think it’s consistent with my stand against the SCOTUS ruling on the Obamacare bill more generally.

Propaganda images like this are littering the social networking sphere.

There have been lots of objections levied against the SCOTUS ruling, here I’ll focus on 2 of the more popular objections given by the Libertarian folks and consider and reject some of the opposing arguments against them before offering my position that does not fall prey to the arguments I’ll be criticizing. So, I’ll first defend the Libertarian claims opposing Obamacare, then, I’ll argue for a proposal that Libertarians will oppose.

( Libertarian Objection 1) – We should be free to make our own choices regarding health care. If we want it we can pay for it, if we do not want it we should have the right to make that choice without paying a steep fine.

Some non-Libertarian objections: Libertarians are inconsistent! “American citizens are required by law to obey certain practices. Some of these practices include driving at a safe speed. The intention behind many of these mandates is to protect the well-being of the individual and other citizens of the state”. Similarly, the Obamacare ruling by SCOTUS is also in place to protect the well-being of both the individual and other citizens of the state. Thus, the libertarian is being inconsistent to oppose Obamacare but not speeding laws and the like.

(Possible Libertarian Response): When one is “mandated” to follow a speeding limit it’s right to think that it’s a mandate to protect fellow citizens, but that’s vague and a bit generic. If you think about it a bit further those laws are in place to protect citizens from other citizens, not just laws to protect citizens generally. No one should infringe on the rights of others, and, by having such a law or “mandate” this helps to ensure that such actions don’t take place. With the Obamacare mandate it is much more general, protecting citizens from EVERYTHING and not from other citizens per say (cases of catching a disease from another aside). So, one could accept the mandate of speeding limits but reject the mandate presented by obamacare on the grounds that the former is a limit imposed to protect each other in cases of negligence and infringement on our rights (by other citizens directly putting me in harm) while the latter is more of a paternalistic mandate that directly infringes on my right to make my own autonomous decision regarding if I want health insurance or not without being fined for making the decision not to. By choosing not to have health care I do not put any citizen (other than myself) DIRECTLY in harm’s way (again cases of disease aside) while in the case of speeding I do put others directly in harm’s way. If one wants to press the disease case then this opens up a paternalistic can of worms that I’d rather not focus on at the moment (for instance, eating habits, certain technologies, television programs, and commercials put others at risk as well. Would we mandate that people not be allowed to engage in such practices as well?). This Libertarian response seems spot on!

(Libertarian Objection 2) – Gov’t forcing me to buy health insurance from a private corporation is adding to the health care infrastructure problems and not fixing them. By putting more money into the hands of the greedy health insurance companies we are enabling them to continue to trend of unaffordable (good care).

(A non-Libertarian response) Health care for ALL in a messed up system is better than health care for SOME in a messed up system.

(Possible Libertarian Response) – ” if you can’t afford insurance when they don’t compel you, why will it be more affordable if they _do_ compel you?”

This response seems right to me! The reason that many do not have coverage at the moment is because they simply cannot afford it. But, one will be forced to buy insurance or pay a steep penalty. The SCOTUS decision on Obamacare seems to put money into the hands of the greedy corporations and out of the hands of people already living paycheck to paycheck. Granted, these people will have coverage now, but maybe they won’t be able to afford the car that gets them to and from work each day. This ought to be quite concerning to all.

My Take (A Philosopher’s Take – cheesy, but couldn’t help myself)

I won’t comment directly on the constitutionality of the SCOTUS decision, that’s a bit more complicated, rather, in this short rant I’ll focus on Obamacare and the problems I have with being mandated to buy coverage or else face a steep financial penalty.

Obamacare takes a severe problem — a broken, deadly and terribly inefficient health care system (grossly expensive, drops patients who are sick, doesn’t cover many obvious ailments that ought to be covered, etc.) and imposes a non-solution to almost all of the problems that the system currently presents. So, we get mild to moderate reforms in exchange for “a virtually permanent enshrinement of that deadly, broken system. The mandate requires individuals to purchase a mostly unreconstructed, defective product”. Bullshit!

This bill further cements the Insurance stranglehold on the federal government. If we thought we had a tough time with Health Insurance lobbyists before, well,  who’s going to challenge the Insurance Lobby’s power now?

Romney will not have the answers, but, he’s right that Obamacare isn’t the answer either.

I’m also quite concerned with what this SCOTUS decision means for possible limitless expansions of state power. There is nothing in this post that couldn’t be justified by the same reasoning the court used today. A few years ago “banning large sodas” would have been dismissed as a paranoid slippery slope, now look. Enjoy your popcorn next time you go to a film; it could be your last!

POSSIBLE EXPANSIONS OF GOV’T POWER AFTER SCOTUS (taken from a social networking post)Federal Broccoli Act of 2013: Eat your broccoli, else pay the IRS $1,000.

Federal Recycling Act of 2014: Fill your blue box and put on the curb, else pay the IRS $2,000.Federal Green Car Act of 2015: Make your next car battery-powered, else pay the IRS $3,000.

Federal Domestic Jobs Act of 2016: Don’t exceed 25 percent foreign content on family consumer purchases, else pay the IRS $4,000.

Federal Obesity Act of 2017: Achieve listed BMI on your mandated annual physical, else pay the IRS $5,000.

Federal National Service Act of 2018: Serve two years in the military or the local soup kitchen, else pay the IRS $6,000.

Federal Housing Efficiency Act of 2019: Don’t exceed 1,000 square feet of living space per person in your household, else pay the IRS $7,000.

Federal Population Growth Act of 2020: Don’t exceed two children per couple, else pay the IRS $8,000.

I hope these bills seem as ridiculous to you as they do to me! All would be justified under the current ruling, chew on that.

“Much of the left is celebrating a law that forces Americans to buy the product of private profit-seeking companies, and ones that the same folks on the left so often vilify. This is corporatism/cronyism/rent-seeking at its worst and those applauding it have little ground to stand on when complaining about the continued influence that corporate America has on the political process. You are cheering on the biggest green light ever to expand it: let’s get Congress to force people to buy other stuff now. The politicization of profit and loss is what brought us the crisis and recession, but apparently that’s forgotten. And why this is any different from the subsidies doled out to the hated oil companies, I’d be curious to know.” Prof. Aeon Skoble

The above mentioned possible bills are very concerning and this is good reason to think that the SCOTUS decision may have been wrong. Aeon Skoble’s comments are spot on as well.

My suggestion: Rather than an extra tax (many who will get taxed are lower/middle class people) as suggested by the Obama bill, they should cut some line items from the military budget and give us all health coverage with the money we are already supplying to them. Currently, over 52% of our annual federal budget is given to the military to promote wars that most tax paying Americans disagree with. If we slashed that budget in half (or more) we could provide a Gov’t health care system alternative. This could (and likely would) lower the prices in the public sector and would not add to the tax for the lower/middle class as the Obamacare bill ultimately does.

The private sector is not getting the  job done with regards to health care, we have too many that cannot afford it, that’s obvious. We currently provide essential services (like fire protection, police, foreign protection) and if the private sector is dropping the ball with health care our government should step in and attempt to alleviate some of the problems. However, we don’t accomplish this by giving those that cannot afford it an extra tax or mandate. We do that by providing a service with money we already have. We change the way the money is spent, not expand the gov’t to take more money from tax payers (primarily lower/middle class taxpayers). Yes, gov’t having their hand in health care will ultimately expand gov’t in one sense, however, it doesn’t necessarily mean that we must put more money in their hands. A reallocation of money the gov’t already takes will suffice to solve the problem of uninsured citizens. This suggestion will be opposed by Libertarians but I think it’s the right move.

I should mention that I lived in Massachusetts for 29 years. Everyone had care! This is needed to have a truly flourishing society (in my humble opinion). But, I reject the opinion that says we should add to an already swollen budget to provide it or tax those who truly cannot afford it. We have other means of accomplishing this goal and that should have been the route we should have taken. The Obamacare bill is bogus, it should be repealed and be replaced with a gov’t option. It won’t happen, but, that’s my take on it.

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Posted in: Ethics, Politcs