Support First Things by turning your adblocker off or by making a  donation. Thanks!

The debate over Obamacare is about to take an ominous turn. Critics are quite correct to point out that the cancellation of millions of insurance policies, apart from its being a breech of trust from what the President promised, will result in many people being forced to pay much larger premiums for what will sometimes be the same or inferior coverage. Of course some will find better policies on the exchange, as the President and Secretary Sebelius have argued, but many will not.

The utter indifference to these losers is stunning. Even if it proves true that there are more winners than losers, what kind of government, in a system based on individual rights, can say to millions of people: too bad for you, you just have to pay more. The sacrifice of some to a utilitarian calculation of (supposedly) more winners than losers is at odds with the fundamentals of a society of law. It is no different than a government, needing to pay for any program, simply picks at random a set of citizens and makes them—and them alone—bear the full burden. The willingness of some to accept this standard, to vaunt it, makes a mockery of the rule of law. It is an appropriation of property. If Obamacare has costs, the only way a lawful society should pay for it—assuming one favors it—is through the general revenue, not by forcing some random subgroup to foot the bill.

Critics today point to those who are losing something; proponents boast of the many more who will gain. They are both ignoring the real issue: the mere act of calculating the thing in this way is a gross violation of the idea of the rule of law.

I have no doubt that there will be those who gain—whether more than those who lose no one can now say. Once the gainers get something and keep it for a time, any effort to divest them of it will be regarded as imposing a special burden on them. Even a change will then require a payment to them. What the politics of Obamacare portends is a result in which more and more people believe that government has dealt with them in an arbitrary and unjust way. This is no formula for creating social peace. The damage to the rule of law is the greatest cost of this ill-advised measure. Even if one thinks the goals are justified, the means are not.

Comments are visible to subscribers only. Log in or subscribe to join the conversation.



Filter First Thoughts Posts

Related Articles