Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Judge Hudson's Monstrous Decision

Judge Hudson's ruling yesterday in the Federal District Court in Richmond that the insurance mandate is an assault on liberty is a moral monstrosity.

His decision reflects the same terror about government encroachment on individual liberty that drives the Tea Party movement. In October the judge had commented that the insurance mandate sets a "boundless" precedent for government control that could lead to forcing individuals "to buy an automobile, to join a gym, to eat asparagus." The absurdity of his comment reflects the intensity of his fear.

Anyone who knows anything about health care understands that the U.S. has two - and only two - ethically acceptable choices. We can go with a Rube Goldberg scheme like the Affordable Care Act, in order to cover (almost) everyone while avoiding a single payer system, or, as a majority of health professionals would support, take the route of single payer. Paradoxically, by yielding to his fear of asparagus, Judge Hudson makes it likelier that the U.S. will end up with the option conservatives fear most!

There is, however, one more choice - the monstrous one that Judge Hudson's ideologically driven folly points towards. Each of us can be given the "liberty" to be uninsured until leukemia or a motor vehicle accident hit us. At that point, our fellow citizens can exercise their liberty to say "it was your free choice - live, or rather, die, with the consequences."

But as much as I believe that Judge Hudson's decision is erroneous law and monstrous ethics, he teaches an important lesson to those who, like me, endorse a more communitarian ethical perspective. Liberty is truly our country's guiding spirit. The Tea Party (and asparagus-fearing judges) are vigilant in defending "liberty from" tyranny. But the rest of us haven't made an effective case about the other founding principle in our Declaration of Independence and Constitution - "liberty to" pursue happiness.

Our liberty to pursue happiness is meaningless without health.

Judge Hudson's sound bite rhetoric about an asparagus conspiracy is 100% consistent with the Founders' commitment (in the Declaration of Independence) to maximum individual liberty. But it's 100% inconsistent with their commitment (in the Constitution) to promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity."

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