How dare We the People elect officials to pass laws that help us solve problems. Don’t we understand Freedom? (More)

The Arrogance of Democracy

I’ve clearly been misled. All this time I thought the most essential freedom in a democratic society was the freedom of political expression: to speak and write – especially about political issues – to peaceably assemble and petition our government to redress our grievances, and to elect officials who would enact and implement laws that redress those grievances. Silly me.

Consider Allysia Finley’s open letter to President Obama in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal, which opens:

Dear President Obama,

Can you believe the nerve of employers? Many of them still seem to think that they should be allowed to determine the benefits they offer. I guess they haven’t read your 2,000-page health law. It’s the government’s job now.

That’s a good thing, too. Employers for too long have been able to restrict our access to essential health services like contraception by making us pay some of the bill. Really, it’s amazing that we aren’t all dead. Now, thanks to you, we’ll enjoy free and universal access to preventative care just like workers do in Cuba. Even so, there are still many essential benefits that the government must mandate to make the U.S. the freest country in the world.

She goes on to list fitness clubs, massages, yoga classes, coffee, and salad bars among the other preventative health care for which employers should pay. Set aside the false equivalence. Focus on her core message: your boss should be decide what health care is included in your employee health benefits and what health care you must pay for yourself. If your boss doesn’t care about women’s health, then women should pay for it themselves … like in the Good Old Days before the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 required employers who offered health insurance benefits to include pregnancy care in the basic package, without additional premiums or co-pays. The new rule on contraceptive coverage extends that same principle: refusing to cover women’s health care – including contraception – violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.

Thus we became Cuba. Or Ireland, where contraceptive care is also covered by insurance. They’re both island nations, after all.

But comparing U.S. health policy to Ireland doesn’t raise the specter of communism, and that’s the next right wing talking point in the debate about contraceptive coverage, as Cardinal Francis George wrote back in February:

The provision of health care should not demand “giving up” religious liberty. Liberty of religion is more than freedom of worship. Freedom of worship was guaranteed in the Constitution of the former Soviet Union. You could go to church, if you could find one. The church, however, could do nothing except conduct religious rites in places of worship – no schools, religious publications, health care institutions, organized charity, ministry for justice and the works of mercy that flow naturally from a living faith. All of these were co-opted by the government. We fought a long cold war to defeat that vision of society.

So see? We’ve become the Soviet Union! Or Spain, where contraceptive care is also covered by insurance. They’re both continental nations, after all.

But, again, comparing U.S. health policy to Spain doesn’t raise the specter of communism.

So there you have it. Turns out “We the People” really means “We the Employers.” The First Amendment’s Free Exercise Clause is about employers’ rights to impose their religious beliefs on employees. If the rest of us elect leaders to pass and implement laws to redress our grievances – like employers discriminating against women by requiring them to pay extra to decide whether and when to accept the risks of pregnancy and bear children – that’s communism.

Thus declares the Wall Street Journal. And thus declares the Catholic Bishops or – as E.J. Dionne described them in Sunday’s Washington Post – “the Tea Party at prayer.”


Happy Tuesday!