The Survival of Obamacare Means the Death of Charity

When you think that all good things come from the government, you end up creating a world where good things can only come from the government. The existence of Obamacare, and the arguments in favor of it, bear that out pretty clearly.

I’ll show you what I mean. Slate’s Dahlia Lithwick had the blogging equivalent of a grand mal seizure when last week’s oral arguments before the Supreme Court created the possibility that Obamacare might be struck down. Let’s have a look:

This morning as the justices pondered whether the individual mandate—that part of the Affordable Care Act that requires most Americans to purchase health insurance or pay a penalty—is constitutional, we got a window into the freedom some of the justices long for. And it is a dark, dark place.

Freedom also seems to mean freedom from the obligation to treat those who show up at hospitals without health insurance, even if it means letting them bleed out on the curb. When Solicitor General Donald Verrilli tries to explain to Justice Scalia that the health care market is unique because “getting health care service … [is] a result of the social norms to which we’ve obligated ourselves so that people get health care.” Scalia’s response is a curt: “Well, don’t obligate yourself to that.”

But we seem to want to be free from that obligation as well. This morning in America’s highest court, freedom seems to be less about the absence of constraint than about the absence of shared responsibility, community, or real concern for those who don’t want anything so much as healthy children, or to be cared for when they are old. Until today, I couldn’t really understand why this case was framed as a discussion of “liberty.” This case isn’t so much about freedom from government-mandated broccoli or gyms. It’s about freedom from our obligations to one another, freedom from the modern world in which we live.

So, what we have here is a person who believe that, unless we are forced by law to care for the sick and injured, then it won’t happen. No only do you have to be profoundly ignorant to believe this, you have to have a great deal of contempt for your fellow man to think that he would behave so callously if left to his own devices (and/or you have to have a pretty inflated sense of your own morality). Anyone with a passing familiarity with the real world is aware of the huge role played by non-profit, charitable organizations in providing health care. Add to that all of the private cases of people just taking care of each other–nursing elderly parents, raising money for a friend’s (or a stranger’s) cancer treatment, and on and on–and you’d have to be pretty dense to say that freedom in health care necessarily means freedom from responsibility.

Lithwick must also close her eyes, stick her fingers in her ears, and go “la-la-la!” every time she passes a hospital, elseways she would have noticed that there aren’t piles of people left to “bleed out on the curb” in the absence of government-enforced charity.

In spite of that, government-enforced charity is what Lithwick et al have decided that we must have. If they get their way, if Obamacare isn’t struck down, government-enforced charity is all we will have.

Because the law was written by people who think that all human interaction must be managed in some way to keep society from becoming a version of Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome with more Blaster and less Master. If I have to make decisions based on how they look to the bureaucratic Sadducees enforcing a 2700-page law–never mind if I’m a doctor or hospital administrator–then I’m going to make a lot fewer decisions. And I’m going to make sure that the decisions that I do make adhere very strictly to the letter of the law.

In spite of Lithwicks ignorance of it, charity exists. If you take charity out of the hands of free people and give it over to a micro-managing bureaucracy, you’re going to get a lot less charity.