Individualism and the Individual Mandate: Two Incompatible Concepts
For the last few days the Supreme Court has listened to a case in which they have been asked to decide the constitutionality of the individual mandate of the Affordable Care Act.
This case is not about health care. It’s not about lowering premiums or rectifying the problem of the uninsured shifting healthcare costs to the insured, it’s not about increasing access to health care. It is simply a debate between whether or not the federal government is adhering more to the principles of individualism or collectivism.
The individual mandate is based upon the principle of collectivism which is the opposite of the principle of individualism,which the federal government was originally founded upon. But over the course of the last 225 years after the Constitution was ratified more and more laws have been passed that were based upon the ideas of collectivism and most have been upheld as “constitutional” by the Supreme Court.
Ayn Rand wrote in her awesome essay, Textbook of Americanisms, that “Individualism holds that man has unalienable rights which can not be taken away from him by any other man, nor by any number, group or collective of men. Therefore each man exists for his own sake and not for the sake of the group.”
On the other hand the Individual Mandate which forces every American to purchase a product is based upon the ideas of collectivism because it’s the majority who are using the force of Government to coerce individuals to act in a certain way.
In Textbook of Americanisms, Ayn Rand explained what the principle of collectivism really boils down to:
Collectivism holds that man has no rights; that his work; his body; his personality belong to the group; the group can do with him as it pleases; in any manner it pleases; for the sake of whatever it decides to be it its own welfare.
But we must remember that the Affordable Care Act with its individual mandate is not the first Law based upon collectivist principles passed by the Congress. In fact over the last 100 years there have been innumerable laws that violate the Inalienable Rights of individuals for “the greater good of the collective” and the Affordable Health Care Act with its individual mandate is just the latest of these.
One of the most dastardly of those laws that usurps individual land confiscates justly earned property is the Social Security Act which was passed back in 1935. Judge Ginsberg even cited this very law as a precedent during arguments in the individual mandate case.
Judge Ginsberg said Social Security caused “a big fuss about that in the beginning because a lot of people said — maybe some people still do today — I could do much better if the government left me alone. I’d go into the private market… I’d make a great investment, and they’re forcing me to paying for this Social Security that I don’t want; but, that’s constitutional.”
If Congress wants to address the problem of the uninsured then, Ginsburg said, “Social Security is its model.”
The Individual Mandate deals with everyone’s fundamental right to their property and their ability to dispose of that property as they see fit. Collectivism holds that no individual has a right to dispose of his property except by how the administrators of the “people’s will”, the State deems appropriate. The myriad of laws based upon collectivism that brought us the tyranny of the income tax, Social Security, Medicare, Medicare Part D, food stamps, corporate welfare, public education, and agriculture subsidies have all laid the foundation for the “individual mandate” in the Affordable Care Act. All of these laws have taken the property of some individuals for the benefit of others. If the Government can take any of your property by force it can take it all. The question is how much can they get away with at anyone time and that is what is currently being argued in front of the Supreme Court.
Some would argue it’s not the government who is taking your money. The government is just forcing or “Mandating” that you pay insurance companies for health insurance. Well that’s not true. If someone can direct by force where an individual spends his income then that person no longer owns that property. Someone else does. And it is insidious if you think about the government taking possession of your property and then handing it over to a private company all for the “greater good”. That is frightening.
If the individual mandate is struck down as Unconstitutional that will not eliminate all the other collectivist laws that are currently on the books. Even if it’s not struck down it gives those who love liberty a great chance to talk to folks who may not understand the underlying principles involved on both sides of the argument. For any of your friends and family who are unsure about what is truly at stake in front of the Supreme Court and really at stake every time any law is passed; a great way to get them thinking in these terms is to ask them the following question:
Do you want to live in a country where your rights are respected as inalienable and that they are part of who you are or do you want bureaucrats, politicians and your neighbors determining how much of your property you can keep, where you can live, who you can associate with, what products you must buy or whether you should live or you should die?
Frederic Bastiat, a French economist and ardent defender of Individual Liberty described in his classic, Harmonies of Political Economy, what a government based upon the principle of Individualism would say to the citizens who constituted it.
“You have invested me with the public Force. I shall apply it exclusively to those things in which the intervention of Force is permissible, and there is but one—Justice. I shall force everyone to conform himself within the bounds of right. You may work freely and as you please during the day, and sleep in peace at night. I have taken under my charge the security of person and property—that is my mission, and I will fulfill it—but I accept no other. Let there then be no longer any misunderstanding between us. Henceforth you shall pay me only the light tribute that is necessary for the maintenance of order and the administration of justice. Keep in mind that henceforth every man must depend upon himself for his subsistence and advancement. Turn no longer your longing eyes to me. Ask me no longer for wealth, for employment, for credit, for education, for religion, for morality. Never forget that the mainspring of your development is in yourselves. As for me, I never act but through the intervention of force. I have nothing, absolutely nothing, but what I derive from you, and for this reason I cannot confer even the smallest advantage on one except at the expense of another. Cultivate your fields, then, manufacture and export your products, carry on trade, afford each other credit, render and receive services freely, educate your children, set them out in life, cultivate the arts, improve your minds, refine and purify your tastes and sentiments, unite, form industrial and charitable associations, join your efforts for your individual good and that of the public, follow your inclinations, fulfill your destinies by the free exercise of your powers, your ideas, and your foresight. Expect from me only two things—Liberty and Security— and depend upon it you cannot ask me for a third without losing the other two.”
This passage from Bastiat’s ”Harmonies of Political Economy” rings so true today. It was first published in 1850 during a time when Socialistic thought was being embraced by the majority of the French People. Unfortunately the same Collectivist ideas that existed back in Bastiat’s time are alive and well in America today as evidenced by the passing of laws like the Affordable Care Act. What would are current Federal Government say to us today? I believe it would say that you are not an individual you are part of the “Collective”. The will of the majority determines your rights. I am the administrator of the “Collective will”. I confer to others confiscated property of some to benefit others in order to grow my power. Everyone who lives within my borders is my property and all the product of their labor is mine to dispose of as I see fit. Everyday I am working to ride myself of the last chains of the Constitution in order to fully express my desire for unlimited power. That is exactly what the Federal Government is doing before the Supreme Court with the Individual Mandate Case.
But I am hopeful, not necessarily for the outcome of the case currently before the Supreme Court but for the ideas that are being exposed by this blatant power grab by Government and the Collectivist Ideology that underpins it. Never before since the American Revolution has there been so many individuals cognizant of the difference between Individualism and Collectivism and between Liberty and Coercion.
I don’t advocate for a violent revolution like the one that started this Nation. I advocate for peaceful political change. This “Change”will only happen when more and more individuals understand that the words ” You are endowed by your Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness” are not dead words written on an ancient sheep skin but are an expression of living Natural Law. And that it is only when the law of man is congruent with the Natural Law will individuals be able to flourish and become what they are capable of becoming. A government that is based upon the principle of individualism is the only government that can create an environment where no law is passed to violate the natural rights of individuals. Under this environment a free market emerges and technological advances occur, food is produced in abundance and everyone has the best chance at creating the life that they desire.
Under a political system based upon Individualism as Ayn Rand wrote ” No one has a right to initiate force against another individual”. And that includes using the Force of Government to coerce uninsured individuals into buying health insurance.
But as more and more laws are passed based upon the ideas of Collectivism that violate the Natural Law, the ability of individuals to innovate and create diminishes, products become more scarce and more expensive and human potential rots on the vine. No amount of social engineering can change the immutable laws of Nature.
Individualism or Individual Mandate. We can’t have both!