07.31.2009 0

Auto & Health Insurance: A Just Government Would Mandate Neither

  • On: 08/14/2009 10:37:03
  • In: Health Care
  • By Victor Morawski

    Let me first alert regular readers that I will do two things below uncharacteristic of most center-right writers: agree with Robert Reich and disagree with Rush Limbaugh.

    In a pre-election Wall Street Journal article comparing the proposed health care plans of Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, former Clinton Labor Secretary Robert Reich correctly assessed the controversial nature of government mandates. He observed, “Democrats are leading with their chins…to many Americans…it conjures up a big government bullying people into doing what they’d rather not do.”

    Mr. Reich is, of course, correct, proving anew the old adage, “Even a blind squirrel finds an occasional acorn.

    An argument now being used by “Obamacare” proponents to justify their onerous mandates rests on seeing health insurance as analogous to auto insurance. They ask, if government can mandate auto insurance, then why shouldn’t it also mandate health insurance?

    In a response uncharacteristically out-of-sync with his normal defense of individual liberty, Rush Limbaugh challenged the liberals on this point by denying that the analogy holds. Which, of course, is true. He then surprisingly defended government mandated auto insurance while rejecting the same mandates for health insurance. And there, he went askew.

    Government is justified in mandating auto insurance, he reasoned, because it does so not primarily to protect you, the insured, but the other driver. You buy health insurance, on the other hand, he averred, to protect yourself. And, as this is the case, government should stay out of your decision whether to do so.

    This response plays right into the hands of the nanny staters arguing for mandated health insurance. To claim that the good of others in society morally justifies government mandating auto insurance leaves one little response to the liberal argument that it also for the good of others in society that health insurance be mandated for all.

    In short, the left proclaims, you should have a binding legal – rather than elective moral – obligation to “love thy neighbor.” And that is quite simply an operational definition of “poppycock.”

    The philosopher Immanuel Kant argued rather persuasively that it is morally wrong for a society to use one person as a mere means to the achievement of an end rewarding a second person, especially if such use meant overriding the free choices of the person used.

    In the current Obamacare scenario, this would mean that imposing government mandates to purchase health insurance on uninsured members of society because it promotes the common good by lowering everyone’s health insurance premiums uses these uninsured persons as a mere means to society’s ends. And, as Kant contends, this would be immoral on government’s part because it effectively de-humanizes the uninsured by not respecting their freedom of choice.

    Some hold that what justifies government in mandating health insurance it that it is only mandating for all what is a basic civic responsibility. But why is it your civic responsibility to lower my health insurance premiums, any more than to lower my car payment, mortgage payment or auto insurance premiums? What makes the case of health insurance unique in this regard?

    The Obamatons owe the American people an answer. And they need to provide it before they destroy the finest health care system on the face of the earth in order to provide forced coverage to the less than 15 percent of the population that remains without insurance either because they so chose, or – more likely – because they are welfare slackers who simply prefer not to work or pay premiums.

    Even if society does occasionally get stuck with an uninsured person’s bill (predominantly those of the welfare slackers), this is slim reason for universally mandated coverage—especially if harm can be done to citizens by penalties for non-compliance. We are also causing harm to the person who has other priorities but is forced to lay them aside to pay for mandated health insurance, or be dragooned into doing so by government mandates.

    So, yes, Rush, there is an analogy between health insurance and auto insurance – and, as Kant observed, government has as little right or reason to mandate the former as the latter.

    Victor Morawski is a professor of philosophy at Coppin State University and is an ALG contributing writer.

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