Two Profound Rulings
Yesterday, June 30th, 2014, the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) handed down two decisions. In the Harris v. Quinn ruling, SCOTUS ruled 5-4 that the First Amendment prohibits the state from compelling personal care providers to subsidize speech on matters of public concern by a union they do not wish to join or support. In short, the State of Illinois could not force private caregivers to join a union. The case centered on a mother who was and remains the primary caregiver to her son who has severe disabilities. Justice Alito authored the opinion, joined by Chief Justice Roberts and Justices Kennedy, Scalia, and Thomas. The ruling was dissented by, predictably, Justices Kagan, Ginsburg, Breyer, and Sotomayor.
In the Burwell v. Hobby Lobby ruling, SCOTUS ruled 5-4 that closely held corporations (very specifically not large publicly held corporations) cannot be compelled to provide health care insurance coverage for methods of contraception that violate sincerely held religious beliefs of the companies' owners. In this case, Hobby Lobby already provides in its healthcare insurance coverage 16 different types of contraception for its employees but objected to the mandate within ObamaCare which, in the beliefs of the owners of Hobby Lobby, provide coverage for what amounts to abortions or abortifacient medications and devices. Again, Justice Alito delivered the opinion, joined by Chief Justice Roberts and Justices Kennedy, Scalia and Thomas, with a scathing dissent authored by Justice Ginsberg that was joined by Justices Sotomayor, Breyer and Kagan. Breyer and Kagan also authored a separate dissent.
The two cases do not appear related beyond being handed down on the same day. But they both do something quite interesting and quite profound. The rulings very definitively curb the government from assuming a role in the lives of people which it should never be allowed to have. That is, the government deciding what is best for the individual.
The proper role of government is to do for We the People only those things that cannot or should not be reasonably done by ourselves. This notion is in line with U.S. Constitution, its Amendments and the Federalist Papers.Government is reaching far too much into our personal lives and society as a whole gains nothing from this overreach.
What business is it of the state if a mother provides all the healthcare required for her child, but does so without the support of or membership in an employee union? In what way is this parent considered an employee and further, even if a convincing argument could be made as such (which I wholly doubt) why would it be mandatory for her to join a union? Is there some mutual benefit to the state and the parent here to be gained by such an action? If so, why then would there be a mandate to make use of it?
What proper business is it of the state if employers do or do not provide healthcare insurance to employees? If there is such a proper role in government mandating such a provision, to what minimum or maximum extent does the state and do the businesses being compelled to offer this provision have to go? Why does the state have any say in this at all?
My own conviction is that the state should leave this to the free market. Make no mandates on employers to provide any benefits of any kind. The employee and consumer purchase what they need through the free market. Ah, those of you who disagree with me say, but private healthcare insurance is so expensive that most people cannot afford it! Well, under our current system of government mandates, regulations, and coerced benefit packages you are absolutely correct. But consider what would happen if (when!) those government mandates are totally removed. We’d have the free market working like it is supposed to, offering products and services to the consumers at fair prices that the market will bear, in open competition to garner more customers to products offered based on price and quality. Not everyone drives a Mercedes or a Cadillac or a Bentley. Most people drive a Ford, a Chevy, or a Toyota. Healthcare insurance would operate in similar fashion and most people would have a Ford or Chevy type of plan, while those who could afford it would have their luxury plans. But, you say, what about people who cannot afford it at all? Our taxes already provide that and would continue to do so. It is a sad reality but there would remain the necessity to care for those who are, either through catastrophe or personal situation, unable to care for themselves. Those programs could be much more effective and robust without the constant tinkering by the state into the free market, which dresses horribly intrusive laws like ObamaCare in terms like "Affordable" and makes them appear to be compassionate and benign when in reality they are coercive, malevolent and absolutely stifling to business and sound economic principles.
Just imagine if the state allowed something like this: We, the consumers could assemble our own package of healthcare insurance from the ever changing and expanding menu of options. We select and pay for what we need, based on our individual situations and circumstances. The fact that the government decrees that we must have healthcare insurance at all is appalling and dictatorial, but leaving that argument aside wouldn't it be nice if it at least let us choose our own options? And take those options with us from state to state should we decide to relocate? That's a lot like how automobile insurance works even in places where it is mandated by the state to purchase such if you own a car. And what if through the state's machinery of taxation of the many to provide for the healthcare needs of the few, the few used the services provided by the state? I hold that it is not a proper role of the state to directly provide these services but they are here for the time being and must be acknowledged. Ideally, that service would be contracted out to the private sector.
The proper role of government at any and all levels is to provide for those collective services which benefit society as a whole. Those services differ at each level of government, but the principle remains ever the same: No state or instrument of the state should ever be employed or empowered to do for the people those things which the people ought well to be doing for themselves. ObamaCare goes much too far. The government knows nothing of operating successful business (See the U.S. Postal Service), nor of providing quality and timely healthcare (See the Veterans Administration), nor of adequately overseeing its internal departments to operate ethically and efficiently and not being politicized (See the Internal Revenue Service, National Security Agency, Border Patrol, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, et al).
By margins narrower than I would have preferred to see, SCOTUS yesterday interpreted the laws sent to it for review in a manner favorable to We the People. We should be cautiously optimistic that this trend might continue.