Wednesday, May 23, 2012
Over at RealClear Politics is a David Harsanyi column that comes excruciatingly close to showing
the reader why state regulation of the economy is wrong. Harsanyi takes
as his point of departure the recently-mounted legal challenges of various
Catholic institutions to the ObamaCare contraception mandate. Harsanyi
perceptively likens the mandate to various measures by theocratic conservatives
to impose their morality on others through the law.
And then comes this gem:
Perhaps the Catholic Church, which often seems to back economic "fairness" rather than market freedom, will be more sensitive to the intrusions of the state in economic choice. This episode exhibits how economic freedom is intricately tied to all other liberties. When the state creates virtual monopolies through regulatory regimes, it also gets to decide what is moral and necessary and compels everyone to act accordingly.Harsanyi unfortunately chose to focus his column more on how state economic controls are being used to impose left-wing moral dogmas. While this is true, the real problem is that whoever gets to decide what the "public good" in such a scenario is will be in a position to force his norms (right or wrong) onto everyone else, abrogating individual judgment wholesale. (Furthermore, the problem is only most pronounced with state monopolies. In truth, any state intervention in the economy, however slight, is informed by some kind of normative judgment, and so represents the forcible imposition of the judgment of some over that of others.) It is notable that Harsanyi holds that religious freedom is limited by public health concerns (as opposed to the individual rights of others): I suspect that this is why he ends up not questioning state intervention further than he does.
Rather than merely serving as a cautionary example of what a state takeover of a sector of the economy (or an industry, or a company) means, the ObamaCare contraception mandate is really an example of why all government economic controls are threats to individual freedom and, as such, contradict the proper purpose of government.