Archive for November 2009
The Individual Mandate is A Radical Alteration of the Social Contract
Part of the health care reform bill currently being debated by the House of Representatives is the individual mandate. By this provision, everyone would be required — by law — to have health insurance, or else be charged with a criminal offense and face fines or possible imprisonment.
This would be a radical and unprecedented change in relationship between citizens and government. The government would be saying, “you must be part of the system — our system — or we’ll fine or imprison you.” That violates your basic freedom as a human being.
At face value, the arrangement seems no different than mandated car insurance, which already exists. But there’s an important difference. Nobody has to drive a car. If you don’t want to be forced to buy car insurance, walk or take the bus. You aren’t compelled. You retain your freedom to participate or not.
Similarly, everyone is required to pay income tax – but only if you have income. If you really don’t want to pay income tax, you can, in theory, quit your job and just live off the land. Few do this, but the possibility of choice has a major implication. Since you’re free to opt out of the system, your participation is voluntary. That’s the essence of the social contract, and the basis by which governments are accountable to citizens. Without the voluntary aspect, there is no social contract, because a contract cannot be compulsory. If you’re forced to participate, your condition is that of slavery and servitude to the state.
A further implication is that you’d be effectively forced to have a job so that you can pay for health insurance. True, nominal programs would help the unemployed buy insurance, but these would likely be inconvenient and complicated. Most Americans would feel it necessary to work and to buy insurance.
People should work because they want to, not because they have to. When they have to work, it affects the workplace: companies then don’t need to supply good benefits or working conditions to retain employees. So with the individual mandate, not only would you be a slave to the state, but to the corporate system as well.
The individual mandate’s closest analogy is military conscription. But at least the draft — itself controversial — applies to a dire emergency — war. The individual mandate is, at best, a convenience of the government, not a social necessity.
Thus, as with 9/11 and the ensuing Patriot Acts, the government is trying to use problems in the health care system to justify an expansion of power – at the cost of your freedom.
What we have in the United States is a health crisis, not a health insurance crisis. Legislators seem unable to comprehend the difference. The problem is not that many Americans lack health insurance, but that health-care costs are too high. We should be focusing on new ideas for reducing costs – based on technology, innovation, competition, and individual initiative – not trying to expand the current insurance-based system that has produced the crisis.