Commands for Everyone

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.

-- CAV


Jim May said...

This episode exhibits how economic freedom is intricately tied to all other liberties.

This line of Harsanyi's is another clue to his and other mainstreamers' limitations: Economic freedom is not merely "intricately tied" to other liberties, they are the same damn thing. There is no such thing as "economic" versus " political" liberty; there is just liberty. Individual rights do not cease to exist when a dollar is involved.

Gus Van Horn said...


Anonymous said...

I chuckle to myself when I hear these Catholics complaining about the contraception mandate. I can't help but say to the religious right:"why are you so angry? You got what you always wanted."

This is the logical consequence of advocating for nationalized health care. Why would they think they would be exempt from supplying ALL types of health care including birth control, abortions, etc? These people are so unprincipled, they can't even figure out that the ideas they hold would necessarily lead their own institutions being undermined by government.

The only group that supports this nightmare of Obamacare are the religious left. Dr. Michael Hurd astutely commented on this last week. And I totally agree with him. They're the most consistent.

Bookish Babe

Anonymous said...

And the Catholic lawsuits against Obama care are particularly poignant given that leading Catholic institutions championed its passage. The Catholics had no trouble infringing on our economic freedoms. But boy were they put out when Obama infringed on their "moral" freedoms.

As Jim points out, freedom is of a piece. If the Republicans had any stones to speak of they'd point out to the Catholics that the best way to avoid such infringements on their own liberty is to stop endorsing such infringements on other peoples' liberty.

c andrew

Gus Van Horn said...

C and BB,

My favorite mental nickname for the phenomenon of people supporting tyranny, and then becoming upset when they get what they ask for is the "dictator fantasy".

People who want everyone to be forced to do something always seem to imagine that it will be in accordance to THEIR wishes.