Column on Mandated Insurance

Mandated Insurance

Tibor R. Machan

Is the just signed federal health care legislation constitutional? Is it consistent with the principles of a free society? Is it what President Obama claims, consistent with the principles of this country? No. The bill is a straightforward advance–progress???–toward socialism, akin to that familiar to us in the former Soviet colonies and some other societies that believe in the top down regimentation of everyones’ life.

The central claim of socialists is that only society exists, not individuals who make it up. They are like cells in the body of the collective whole. We as individuals do not exist and claiming that we have the right to run our own lives is akin to one’s finger or foot claiming it needs to be left free to do its own thing. Seriously–this is the real meat of socialism.

But there is less Draconian socialist measures being proposed, including in the recently signed bill. A favorite retort to criticism of the mandate for us to purchase health insurance is that, "What’s the problem, we already have this with auto insurance in many states of the union." Indeed, there may well be some serious legal challenges forthcoming to the just signed health care legislation arguing that it is outright unconstitutional to force citizens to purchase insurance. It is as if there were a law require one to by apples to sandals or cars. That would really be a drastic violation of our right to liberty.

But don’t states already do this when they require vehicle drivers to purchase insurance before they get on the road? So is there not a precedence to the new mandate?

In plain language, no. The reason is relatively simple. Most of the roads throughout the USA are government owned and administered. The government, in other words, owns the roads–or the citizens do with governments doing the managing, kind of like apartments are managed by other than the owners but with the latter’s authorization. So, then, presumably the roads around the country belong to the citizenry and are managed, with their authorization, by the government (e.g., the Department of Motor Vehicles and such).

But as with apartments, so with roads: only the renters (drivers) are under the jurisdiction of management, not everyone. Only those who choose to drive on public roads are subject to the government’s mandate that they carry car insurance (and whatever else, such as having their cars equipped with mirrors and bumpers). In short, only those using the roads must have the requisite insurance, not those who ride bicycles or walk or ride a horse on private property.

But that’s not what’s in store for Americans with the new socialist health care legislation. It forces them all to have insurance approved by the federal government, even if they would rather take different measures to deal with the prospects of ill health. Some may want to stash away some of their earnings and rely on this when they get sick. Some may choose to make sure they don’t get sick too often, at least not very sick, by taking exceptionally good care of themselves. Some may not mind getting sick and dying from it, given how much they prefer their hazardous life style (rightly or wrongly, as free men and women should be able to). Some may even believe that relying on physicians violates their religions liberty and is immoral–some Christian Scientists, I am told, hold this view–so they ought not to buy, let alone made to buy, health insurance as a matter of the religious freedom.

Bottom line is that the idea of coercing people to insure themselves is anything but compassionate, anything but humane, anything but constitutional in a free country. It amounts, plainly said, to involuntary servitude to some other people’s vision of how one ought to live. That is not what a free society is all about.

Not that most Americans aren’t already being coerced into supporting various measures of which they morally disapprove–like wars, like abortion for some, like funding other people’s welfare and education. So the outrage with the current advance toward socialism is phony in a great many instances. But there is no justification for believing that requiring drivers to carry insurance serves as a precedence for forcing them to buy health insurance. Apples versus oranges.

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