Listening to MSM reports about the Supreme Court judges questioning lawyers on ObamaCare has been kind of comical. As Rand Simberg points out, both the media and the government’s lawyers seemed wholly unprepared for the basic questions from the judges — questions they would have heard a million times by now if they ever actually listened to conservative commentators instead of simply demonizing them. The conservative judges especially are only asking what Tea Partiers at town hall meetings have been asking since the bill was passed: “If the government can force you to buy insurance for your own good, what CAN’T it force you to do?”
Underlying this question though is a larger issue, put forward by economist Friedrich Hayek in “The Constitution of Liberty”:
Not only is liberty a system under which all government action is guided by principles, but it is an ideal that will not be preserved unless it is itself accepted as an overriding principle governing all particular acts of legislation. Where no such fundamental rule is stubbornly adhered to as an ultimate ideal about which there must be no compromise for the sake of material advantages—as an ideal which, even though it may have to be temporarily infringed during a passing emergency, must form the basis of all permanent arrangements—freedom is almost certain to be destroyed by piecemeal encroachments. For in each particular instance it will be possible to promise concrete and tangible advantages as the result of a curtailment of freedom, while the benefits sacrificed will in their nature always be unknown and uncertain.
In other words, there’s always a good reason to take your freedom away — your health, the poor, your evil opinions, the lousy way you raise your kids — and never a reason to preserve freedom except the love of freedom itself. Thus, so often, the people destroying the American way of life are actually nice people who just want to help.
As C.S. Lewis observed:
Of all tyrannies, a tyranny exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end, for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.
When my son was an adolescent he and his friends used to play what you might call an age-appropriate game. Whenever they would read the fortunes in fortune cookies, they would add the words, “In bed.” So if the cookie declared, “You will have good luck,” they would add, “in bed.” And hilarity would ensue.
I would like the government to play a similar game with the words, “And keep us free.” So when they propose an answer to rising health care costs or poverty or traffic jams or whatever, they are forced to show how the solution will not encroach on our liberty. Because if liberty is not the first principle of government, it will soon be no principle at all.
(Thumbnail assembled from multiple Shutterstock.com images.)