October 1, 2013

ILYA SOMIN: “Terrorism,” “Hostage-Taking,” and the Government Shutdown.

Terrorists and hostage-takers are evil because they threaten lives and property that do not belong to them. “Your money or your life” is a terroristic threat, because the person making the threat has no right to dispose of either your money or your life. But there isn’t any terrorism or hostage-taking if you say you won’t give me any of your money unless I do something you want me to do.

In the case of the government shutdown, the GOP-controlled House of Representatives has no constitutional or other obligation to pass a funding bill that includes funding for Obamacare or any other particular government program. Part of the reason why the Constitution gives Congress the power of the purse is so they can decide which government programs are worthy of funding, and which are not. It is also worth noting that the Republicans are not the only side in this dispute who are willing to shut down the government if they don’t get what they want on health care policy. President Obama and the Democratic-controlled Senate could just as easily avoid a shutdown by accepting the House bill. In its latest version, it doesn’t even defund Obamacare completely, but merely delays implementation by a year and repeals the medical device tax, which is currently part of the law. This is not to say that Obama and the Senate Democrats are acting as “terrorists” or “hostage-takers” either. The Senate is not obliged to pass the House bill. If they do, Obama has every right to veto that bill if it gets to his desk. But there is considerable symmetry between the two sides’ positions.

But not, however, in the press coverage they receive. Because the press is deeply suspicious of anyone who stands in the way of the orderly and efficient expansion of the state.

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