Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The Interlocking Web of Rights-violating Laws that Gave Rise to the Hobby Lobby Controversy

The Hobby Lobby SCOTUS ruling has the Left fearing a “slippery slope” that can upset a lot of statist laws forbidding individuals and businesses from acting on their convictions, as I noted here and here. In More Hobby Lobby Fallout, the New Jersey Star-Ledger observed:

When five male justices on the U.S. Supreme Court decided that any business owner with a religious qualm about birth control can refuse to cover it in the health plans of all his female employees, they assured us that this was a very limited ruling. It would apply to lady pills and unchaste women, only.

But in Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s dissent, she argued that in fact, this slippery slope is steep. And she was immediately proved right. On the very first day after the Hobby Lobby decision was handed down, religious leaders sent a letter to President Obama, doubling down on their right to discriminate not just against women, but against gay people, too.

The letter demanded that “religious groups . . . be excluded from [Obama’s] long-promised executive order that would bar discrimination against gay men and lesbians by companies that do government work.” The Star-Ledger went on to discuss:

  • That the religionists, notably Catholics, are pro-Obama
  • Public Funding of private organizations like Catholic Charities (which receive taxpayer money under Obama’s Faith-Based Initiatives, which he inherited from G.W. Bush).
  • Anti-discrimination laws

Yes, “any business owner with a religious qualm about birth control [definitely has a right to] refuse to cover it in the health plans of all his female employees.” But the issue is much wider than religious rights. It encompasses a whole tangled constellation of rights-violating government policies, which lead to these conflicts. Here are the core rights-violating issues covered or implied in the Star-Ledger editorial:

  • ObamaCare: Yes, many Christians, especially Catholics, are hypocritical. They enthusiastically supported ObamaCare, with no consideration for those whose rights are violated by ObamaCare’s mandates and subsidies, which those others would be forced to obey and pay for through taxes. Now that these Christians’ face the religious rights-violating contraception mandate, they object. What about the rights of non-Christian people, or non-religious people, who object to or don’t need the myriad other ObamaCare mandates?—e.g., why should women be forced to pay for men’s prostate screening and cancer treatment? Don’t they have a right to be freed from them, and live by their own “deeply held convictions”?

  • “Public Funding”: And yes, these Christians love “public funding”—redistributionist government subsidies. But that funding is itself rights-violating, because funded by taxes coercively seized from taxpayers—many of whom are themselves Christians—who may disagree with the purpose of the taxes. What about their right to spend their own money as they judge best? But the taxes aren’t the only way in which government funding violates rights. The grants come with strings that may conflict with the recipient’s convictions or goals. To access the funding means to follow government dictates, despite the fact that the recipients are themselves taxpayers. The rights-violating source of government funding is followed by right-violating conditions set on the funds.

  • Insurance Mandates violate the rights of healthcare consumers to buy, and insurers to offer, policies tailored to the personal needs and values of individuals. Every individual, including business owners—not just people with “religious qualms”—should be free to opt out of these mandates.

  • The third-party-payer system was created through government intervention into the health insurance market by, primarily, discriminatory tax advantages for employer health coverage. Without that tax discrimination, we wouldn’t be talking about Hobby Lobby. Individuals would pay directly for, and own, their own health insurance policies, as they do with life, auto, and homeowners policies. That can be accomplished by equalizing tax policy for individuals by creating tax-free health savings accounts for every employee covered by an employer health plan, and giving the employee the option of depositing the money now spent by the employer for employee health coverage into the HRAs. Employees then can opt out of employer plans that don’t work for them, and buy mandate-free policies that meet their own personal needs from insurers competing for their individual business on the resulting robust individual market. Freed from employer control of their health insurance, women wouldn’t be threatened by a Hobby Lobby’s “religious qualms” over birth control.

  • Anti-discrimination laws levied against private individuals and their property. The right to live by one's own beliefs, even if those beliefs are irrational and immoral, is fundamental to liberty. So long as one’s actions do not violate the rights of others, as when Muslims stone women to death or force non-Muslims to convert to Islam, private individuals have a right to discriminate regarding who they associate and contract with. There is no “civil right” to force others to contract or associate with you. Without the right to disagree—which means the right to act on that disagreement—there is no liberty. That’s the meaning of the wisdom, attributed to Voltaire, “I disapprove of what you say, but I'll defend to the death your right to say it.” The Star-Ledger once defended, correctly, a Nazi’s right to free speech, without which there would be no right to free speech. The same principle applies to the right to freedom of contract and association—including a bigot’s right to freedom of contract and association, without which there are no such rights. Hobby Lobby's "discrimination" against women's reproductive rights may not be moral or rational, but such discrimination is the corporate owners' right.

When rights are properly understood and properly protected by government, there are no conflicts of rights. People can live by their own beliefs, whether faith-based or rational, so long as they don’t violate others rights. People who disagree can simply go their separate ways, but may not force their way of life on others.

But when conflicts like the Hobby Lobby case arises—which pits religious rights against a “right” to birth control—you will always find prior rights-violating laws below the surface. Eliminate the rights-violating laws, and the conflict evaporates.

Ginsburg is right that we’re on a “slippery slope,” but not in the way she means. And it didn’t start with Hobby Lobby. It started decades ago. It’s a slope littered with one rights violation piled onto another; a slope that leads to the end of all liberty and to rule by all-powerful government officials. What is exposed in the Hobby Lobby case is the inherent contradictions of the regulatory welfare state; that you can’t have basic inalienable rights to speech, conscience (religious or secular), contract, association, or property without protecting those rights for everyone, equally, at all times. These chickens are increasingly coming home to roost. When you start violating rights, which usually starts with well-meaning laws targeting irrationalists like religious bigots and Nazis, the rights violations spread ever-wider. Statism feeds on statism.

We face a basic choice going forward; continue on the path to ever-greater loss of individual rights, or reverse course toward a fully free society. By all means, let’s make the Hobby Lobby decision the beginning of a “slippery slope”—a counter-statist trend. Rather than exempt only religious objectors from the contraception mandate—which probably violates the Establishment Clause, anyway—let’s end all government insurance mandates, for everyone; end the third-party-payer health insurance system; repeal anti-discrimination laws aimed at the private sector; end government subsidies and the redistributionist taxes that support it. Protect rather than violate rights across the board, consistently and fairly, and SCOTUS cases like Hobby Lobby and other conflicts would not arise, and editorials like More Hobby Lobby Fallout would not get written.

Related Reading:

More on the Left's Fear of a Hobby Lobby "Slippery Slope" to More Liberty

No comments: