TAMPA, April 4, 2011 — Despite the drama created by the two days of oral arguments on Obamacare, I’m sticking to my original prediction that the controversial law will be upheld by the Supreme Court.
Let’s face it, if the Court upheld a law limiting the amount of crops that someone can grow on their own land for their own consumption, they’ll find a way to uphold this. Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar of the Associated Press (AP) provides some of the possible reasoning that the Court may rely on.
The AP article points out that there are many other federal government healthcare mandates already in place. Medicare is an individual mandate. There is no option to “opt out.” Conservatives make the distinction that one is only taxed for Medicare if one has an income, while Obamacare forces you to buy a product just because you’re alive. That distinction is valid, but what does it really mean?
If you choose not to have an income then you either starve to death or live off previously taxed income. Those living off savings and investments haven’t escaped the mandate. Those assets were acquired by previous income. If you’re living off public welfare, then the tax has simply been paid by somebody else. “Income” is necessary to human life. One cannot consume what one has not produced unless someone else produces it for you. Thus, you either comply with the Medicare mandate or die.
Lost in all of these minutiae is a core principle. Government itself is an individual mandate. You have no choice whether to purchase its services. You have no choice whether to obey its laws or pay its taxes. You either comply or you are dragged away by force or killed while resisting. Americans used to understand this.
The United States was founded upon the idea that government “even in its best state, is but a necessary evil; in its worst state an intolerable one.” (Paine) Why at best a necessary evil? It is because all government action is violent action, by definition. It is the pooled and organized capacity for violence of every member of society. This is not a 20th century libertarian idea. The philosopher who inspired Thomas Jefferson said it in 1690.
“The legislative power is that, which has a right to direct how the force of the common-wealth shall be employed for preserving the community and the members of it.”
Not only is all government action inherently violent, but since it draws upon the power of the entire community, no individual is able to resist it. Once recognized for what it is, there is only one question to answer. When is it morally justifiable to bring this power to bear? In other words, when is the use of violence justified?
The founders answered that question very clearly. “The legitimate powers of government extend to such acts only as are injurious to others,” said Thomas Jefferson. “No man has a natural right to commit aggression on the equal rights of another; and this is all from which the laws ought to restrain him.” In his first inaugural address, he said that government should “restrain men from injuring one another, shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned.”
The implications of this are quite clear. Government action is only justified when one person or group has harmed another. “Harm” would include killing, assaulting, stealing from, or defrauding someone. It also would include sending an army to invade another country. All of these acts represent an aggression, a positive harmful act committed by one person against another.
Regarding the taxing power, the founders believed that it was limited to compelling the individual to “surrender up a part of his property to furnish means for the protection of the rest.” (Paine) Thus your “fair share” is really that minute cost necessary to protect your property. Taxing you to buy things for other people isn’t included. The government is supposed to protect you against forcible wealth redistribution, not perpetrate it.
Americans have completely forgotten these ideas. They no longer see government as an instrument of violence, a last resort only to be used to confront aggression. Instead, it is the first resort for everything that displeases them.
Americans now allow the government to mandate the food they will eat, the terms of their employment, how much money they will save, how they will finance their medical care, who they may seek that care from, where they may travel, and who they must associate with. The government forces them to purchase health insurance, retirement plans, education, food, clothing and shelter - not for themselves but for others - and even national defense for people in other countries. It requires them to purchase car insurance, subsidize giant farming corporations, and bail out financial speculators.
In short, Americans now seek to address every area of human life with violence. This underlies all societal problems, from the high cost of healthcare and education to high unemployment to never ending wars. Contrary to the arguments made by Thomas Hobbes, it is not the absence of government, but rather the government of absolute power that he proposed that results in a state of war of “everyone against everyone.” If Americans really want to solve our many problems, it is time to redefine the role of government.
Tom Mullen is the author of A Return to Common Sense: Reawakening Liberty in the Inhabitants of America.
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