And Free Chocolate Milk for All . . .

The uproar on the left over the Hobby Lobby decision has an explanation. That explanation is that we have allowed our understanding of what is meant by rights and liberties to become badly degraded. In fact, to simplify, the common understanding of rights has gotten into a condition of extreme labefactation. So to speak.

The left tends to think of political rights in terms of stuff — the right to affordable housing, the right to health care, the right to contraception, and so on. Conservatives tend to think of political rights in terms of non-interference — the right to free speech, the right to assemble, the right to worship God freely, and so forth.

Now rights always imply corresponding obligations. If I have a right to life, others have an obligation not to shoot me. If I have a right to keep and bear arms, others have a responsibility not to take those arms away from me. If I have a right to peaceably assemble, then others have the obligation not to disrupt my peaceful assembly, and so on.

In a similar — yet strikingly different — way, if I have a right to free chocolate milk, then somebody has an obligation to provide it for me. If I have a right to free health care, then someone has an obligation to provide free health care. If I have a right to free contraception, then someone must buy it for me.

Actually, the First Lady called. She wants to change it to free soy milk for all.
Actually, the First Lady called. She wants to change it to free soy milk for all.

This different conception of rights is why the right and left reacted in completely different ways to the Hobby Lobby decision. The left paraded placards that said they wanted their boss to stay out of their bedroom. But they sure wanted their boss’s wallet in the bedroom. If they have a right to free contraception, then their boss has an obligation to follow them into the bedroom with that free contraception. They cannot demand this, and then object to his presence there.

But they do object. They object because they are depending upon the “give me stuff” conception of rights, while still trying to utilize the old rhetorical power of the “leave me alone” conception of rights. But this is trying to have it both ways — and we have gotten way past the point where you can have it both ways.

Keeping the boss out of your bedroom is similar to keeping the government out of it. The government out of the bedroom, aye. This, from people who want the government to dictate how far apart the sheetrock screws in the bedroom wall have to be, how flame resistant the mattress is, how big the window is for an escaping adulterer’s ease of egress, or perhaps because of fire, and whether or not one can buy an incandescent light bulb for the lamps in that bedroom.

Because the government does not generate stuff, but can only take it, if the government becomes the guarantor of rights in the sense that the left demands, then it must become a predatory state. If the government respects rights in the sense that conservatives want, the government does so by not doing things. The government can leave you alone and remain small. In fact, being small helps. The government can stay out of your business, and operate within biblical boundaries for government.

But if every citizen has a right to be given something, and if the government is the guarantor of rights, it doesn’t matter how small the object to be given is, the government that gives it must be huge. If every citizen has a right to be given one toothpick annually, this is a trivial thing individually, but the government that ensured such a thing would have to be enormous.

And this brings us back to the central difference between the left and regular folks. The left loves coercion. They love making things mandatory. They love the sense of power it gives them, and this is why they insist on government of the fussbudgets, by the fussbudgets, for the beleaguered.

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Ben Bowman
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And not only will it have to be huge to give it, it will also have to be even bigger to take it from someone else in order to give it to others.

RFB
Guest
RFB

I travel, on a semi-regular basis, with the north east U.S. As a destination. It is interesting to observe the intrusiveness of government in so many minute areas of everyday life, while ignoring, to the point of negligence, things that could rationally be argued as legitimately within their purview. One must obtain a permit to dig a hole in their backyard. You cannot install your own water heater; you must obtain a permit and hire a licensed plumber. You cannot take an old sofa to the dump; you must buy (from government) a tag that then “allows” you to place… Read more »

A P A
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A P A

Really, this reflexive response, the tired old “the left liberal craven masses want to be coddled and rewarded, the proud old conservative to simply be left alone,” is simplistic bordering on absurd. The basic structure of health care provision through employment (the history of which must be the first question we all probe) is one of two things, but almost assuredly not a third. It’s possible (as Brad DeLong convincingly argues at equitablegrowth.org) that this is a product of a structural set up where in the early 20th century we endorsed the conservative notion that free markets can do a… Read more »

Ben
Guest
Ben

“The government can leave you alone and remain small. In fact, being small helps. The government can stay out of your business, and operate within biblical boundaries for government…” When are all the small government advocates going to realize that no coercive government can ever remain small in the long run? If you give a group of people a monopoly on force, no constitution will ever serve as a shield against them. You even admit that “…the government does not generate stuff, but can only take it…” yet somehow think that keeping it at a certain small size (and what… Read more »

A P A
Guest
A P A

The case of the disappearing (intended to be thoughtful, not hostile) comment. Too semi-Pelagian?

A P A
Guest
A P A

Ooh, pardon my hasty! It’s back.

Ben
Guest
Ben

My main question for minarchists is, why cut out most of the tumor knowing that it will grow back, when you could just cut out the whole thing? I know the Bible says we must submit to governing authorities, but does it say these authorities have to be coercive in nature? In other words, yes, we submit to governing authorities as they currently are but in the meantime, why not try and move society toward something better (which you and other minarchists certainly do)?

Daniel Berkompas
Guest
Daniel Berkompas

Ben, I think there is more Biblical data regarding anarchy. As a Christian anarchist, how you explain what happened in the two periods where we had relative anarchy: before the flood and during the time of the judges?

richard
Guest
richard

yes, take the left’s view, the 2nd amendment gives the right to bear arms, so either the government or my employer had better buy me a gun.

JDM
Guest
JDM

@Ben, all authority is coercive in nature whether big or small. Otherwise authority is an illusion. This is the challenge of entrusting authority of any type with depraved man. The genius of our founders, as Doug said the other day, is they understood all of this. Government is necessary, all authority is coercive, man is depraved. So they fashioned a system of government that by its nature restrained depraved people in positions of authority. It is not a question of moving forward into something better. It is a matter of returning to a state of gospel centered self-awareness that understands,… Read more »

Ben
Guest
Ben

@JDM”….all authority is coercive in nature whether big or small.” This is simply not true. In fact, just about every type of earthly authority except governmental authority is voluntary. A pastor’s authority, a boss’s authority, a husband’s authority over his wife, etc., are all voluntary in the sense that one’s submission to these authority figures is not coerced through the barrel of a gun. In these examples, both parties voluntarily chose that relationship. If you’re going to work at a particular company, the boss has the authority to tell you how to perform your job, but if you don’t he… Read more »

JDM
Guest
JDM

@Ben. It is possible that we agree and are just using different definitions. In your example, the threat of my boss firing me, is a form of coercion.
Coercive – relating to or using force or threats.
In other words coercive authority is not limited to the ability to shoot someone.

JDM
Guest
JDM

Also I would not say the founding fathers failed. Man is depraved and so regardless of how effective the restraints are any given society will eventually reflect this. That is has taken over 200 years to get to this point is a reflection on how successful they were.

Andrew Lohr
Member

Yeah. If you want me out of your pants stop groping my wallet.

Ben
Guest
Ben

Sorry but I have to disagree on your definition of coercion. You make the choice to work for someone, and they make the choice to hire you. If your boss is forced to keep you as an employee or be put in jail, then it is he who is being coerced (assuming he didn’t agree beforehand to let you work there for a certain period of time). Your boss saying, “Perform this task or I’ll fire you,” is fundamentally different from a government agent saying, “Pay this tax or I’ll put you in jail.” You never made an agreement with… Read more »

JDM
Guest
JDM

…and since people will continue being depraved this side of eternity, any government, regardless of how small it starts off, will ultimately become like a cancer, big enough to cause more harm than good.

How Should We Then Live? :)

Ben
Guest
Ben

We should do our best to convince people that a voluntary society is the best way, both morally and practically. It’s moral because it doesn’t make sense that coercing someone through the barrel of a gun into paying for a product or service is wrong between individuals, yet permissible for the state, and it’s practical because it completely eliminates the misallocation of resources and capital that the government by its very nature creates.

Jeff
Guest

Anyone who thinks the Hobby Lobby case is about free anything obviously hasn’t read it. Employer-paid benefits aren’t free any more than employer-paid wages are. Both are compensation for services rendered. If employers have an Allah-given right to dictate what medical procedures your health plan may or may not cover, on the pretext of “I don’t want to pay for it,” they could just as well argue that you can’t spend your wages on birth control, either. After all, as long as you’re drawing your paycheck from them, anything you spend your paycheck on is “their” money – or was,… Read more »

Ben
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Ben

@Douglas Wilson: So are the “kings” being referred to in those passages purely monarchs, or is it a more generic term for rulers? I’m assuming you’re pointing out those verses to show how my position is unbiblical, but if “kings” means solely “monarchs,” then minarchy would be unbiblical as well since minarchy is small government run by the people, certainly not kings. But if it has a more generic meaning of “rulers,” to where it could also be referring to our Congress, President, etc., then do you just assume that it can only be referring to governing authorities who use… Read more »

Scott Diesing
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Scott Diesing

Ben, I want society to be structured as much as possible on voluntary associations. But your statements seem naive. We ultimately need to be governed by the civil magistrate. He exists for our good. Otherwise, the strong and ruthless will take from the weak and ethical. What will stop them? Children need to be governed by their parents. They are not mature enough to make decisions. So when a parent makes a rule, it must be backed up with force. And obviously shooting someone is not the only kind of force. Even a “time-out” is force. Church members need to… Read more »

JohnM
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JohnM

Ben, In terms of political philosophy I think Dough pretty much answered your fundamental objection with: “And the small part that government plays is not a necessary evil at all, but rather a positive good.” After that all the objections you pose are kind of like if I say I eat too much of the wrong things, I need to cut back and then you say “if you don’t like eating why do you do it all?”

RFB
Guest
RFB

Ben, A number of things. First, your premise of convincing people of the goodness of a voluntary society is impractical. God says that absent regeneration, that no one seeks good: “All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” Jesus said “you (all) must be born again”. Anything less is trying to explain the color purple to a dead man. The founders of this country were operating in a larger culture that had Christianity as an a priori foundational principle. It is futile without a Savior, and there is Only One. He is… Read more »

jay niemeyer
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jay niemeyer

Here is the actual text of the decision. http://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/13pdf/13-354_olp1.pdf Note: “At issue here are regulations promulgated by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 (ACA), which, as relevant here, requires specified employers’ group health plans to furnish “preventive care and screenings” for women without “any cost sharing requirements”. Congress did not specify what types of preventive care must be covered; it authorized the Health Resources and Services Administration, a component of HHS, to decide. Nonexempt employers are generally required to provide coverage for the 20 contraceptive methods approved by… Read more »

Ben
Guest
Ben

scott: “Ben, I want society to be structured as much as possible on voluntary associations. But your statements seem naive. We ultimately need to be governed by the civil magistrate. He exists for our good.” It seems more naive to believe that a group of people with a monopoly on force can ultimately be restrained by a piece of paper. It worked reasonably well for a few decades in our country, but ultimately it failed in spectacular fashion, as the wealth that was created from our relative freedom enabled the U.S. government (which is not “us” by the way, regardless… Read more »

dchammers
Member

Connecting a rational health care policy to the Hobby Lobby decision and a major tip of the hat to DW: “Right: Left / Right.”
http://notaboutme.typepad.com/not_about_me/2014/07/rights.html

Don Smith
Guest
Don Smith

Pastor, this piece is so simple even the most dedicated liberal must at least see the logic…oh wait, logic is not the “stuff” that big government provides.

JohnM
Guest
JohnM

Ben – On the contrary, I think many people have answered your question. And yes, I, and probably the others, feel strongly about the need.

My earlier point was that when Doug clarified his position as minarchy, vice anarchy, your appropriate response would have been “Oh”. It’s just that you seem perplexed as to why people don’t march in step with you when they’ve already explained they’re not in your parade.

kyle s
Guest
kyle s

A P A, my understanding is that the move to health care provision through one’s employment, which is inefficient, wasn’t either of those things, and was a third. Offering health insurance and other benefits was the only means left for employers to compete for labor during a time of … wait for it … federally mandated wage and price controls.

Jane
Member

APA, where I believe your analysis fails is that it is not an inexorable market process. Hobby Lobby could, or could not, choose to cover the first penny of every drug someone might desire. They have not, up until this moment, winked out of existence, or even filed for bankruptcy, for failure to do so. The fact that the government had to mandate it demonstrates that it is not an inexorable effect of market processes. Therefore, there is a reasonable foundation to say that given that there are/were real world choices open to them as to what form they would… Read more »

melody
Member
melody

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness,–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall… Read more »

melody
Member
melody

And as to the ‘free chocolate milk for all’ – we have that. At least in the public school system in which I teach. We have free breakfast, lunch and after school snack. We also serve free breakfast and lunch (and maybe even dinner) on non school days: http://www.fns.usda.gov/sites/default/files/CA-SFSP.pdf Many of my high school students come to first period with their breakfast in hand expecting to eat it during class (choir in this instance) because they can’t get themselves to school early enough to finish before the bell rings. There are only five minutes after the cafeteria stops serving breakfast… Read more »

A P A
Guest
A P A

Anyone who is remotely talking about whether or not this is an issue of the government mandating an employer pay anything should pay close attention to the SCOTUS injunction for Wheaton last night.

Jane
Member

APA, the argument that “this isn’t the employer paying for anything” proves that when an employer is paying an employee’s salary, he isn’t paying anything.

Does that really make sense?

A P A
Guest
A P A

Uhhh, yes. Yes, it does. They’re not paying for the salary of the employee out of the goodness of their hearts. They’re filling a contract for the labor they’ve purchased. It’s not their money to do with as they choose–it’s the employees’ money, not the employers’. If you’re going to say that the employer is paying this compensation, in the rhetorical sense that the Right keeps using, then there’s an implication that they retain some authority over that compensation, that it’s somehow theirs. But labor is a two way street. They’re paying for labor. The labor is paid to them.

A P A
Guest
A P A

You’re using “pay” in two rhetorical senses in the same sentence. It’s not even two separate rhetorical senses, but two separate meanings. You’re taking “pay” as a verb for the transaction — the disbursement of funds, the allocation of money — and then equating it to “pay” in the sense of giving up money that’s theirs, which is an idea I’m objecting to. If it’s compensation for labor, then if an employer can control the end use of any of it, they can control the end use of all of it, which is an absurd idea. But payment isn’t the… Read more »

jay niemeyer
Guest
jay niemeyer

APA says rightly that employers are essentially “filling a contract for the labor they’ve purchased.”
Okay. Well and good. But why then should (HHS) be granted the power to compel mom and pop employers to provide a certain kind of insurance that includes a pharmaceutical that kills the preborn? That’s the issue. A federal regulatory agency does not have the right or power to force people to make a certain kind of contract with provisions that run contrary to religious beliefs – especially in light of the Religious
Freedom Restoration Act legislation.

A P A
Guest
A P A

The government has all kinds of power in contracts. Contracts don’t exist in an unregulated vacuum. It’s a basic raison d’être for government to ensure that in exchange relationships in society, a powerful actor cannot systematically exploit a less powerful actor, as can easily (and does easily and inexorably) happen, particularly in employment. That’s why government can say that an employer can’t lock textile workers in their rooms while working, and can’t negotiate employees down to a starvation wage — and both of those things, unlike contraception, DO have financial impacts on companies. They cost the companies money. But there… Read more »

Jane
Member

If it’s compensation for labor, then if an employer can control the end use of any of it, they can control the end use of all of it, which is an absurd idea. That simply doesn’t follow. The point is that they cannot control what they give you in case, but they can control what form they give you non-cash compensation in. Back to the Facebook credits example — on what basis can an employer justly refuse to pay you in Farmville credits if it’s “already your money” and “already your money” by definition means that he doesn’t get any… Read more »

Jane
Member

Sorry, “case” in the first sentence should be “cash.”

Jane
Member

And finally, the contraceptives in question Do. Not. Kill. The. “Preborn.” This is a really hard myth to kill, it seems.

It is really not that open and shut. But accepting it arguendo, eating pork does not corrupt your soul. That does not obviate the RFRA’s protections against requiring a Jewish or Muslim employer to require a portion of compensation to consist of Heavenly Ham gift certificates.

Matt
Guest
Matt

But accepting it arguendo, eating pork does not corrupt your soul. Injunctions against the consumption of pork are clear and uncontroversial rules of the religions in question, given their assumptions. But the same doesn’t hold for the contraceptive question, since it is argued from a general medical perspective rather than a special text or tradition. It can therefore be judged false or true without contravening a religious practice. The state may still want to not make such a judgement for other reasons. Also, if pork were considered vital to a person’s well being, then religious freedom could be overruled and… Read more »

Matt
Guest
Matt

It’s a basic raison d’être for government to ensure that in exchange relationships in society, a powerful actor cannot systematically exploit a less powerful actor, as can easily (and does easily and inexorably) happen, particularly in employment. Well I agree with you, but the American right doesn’t. Many conservatives consider it impossible for exploitation of this kind to take place. Others consider it to be immaterial since both parties agreed. Still others think that exploitation is just fine so long as the weaker party benefits at all, no matter how minimally. In any case, the government is never to interfere,… Read more »

Jane
Member

“This is why you can’t do things like refuse to serve black people in the name of religion, no matter how “authentic” the practice was.”

There’s also the burden test and the least restrictive test. There is no less restrictive means of respecting black people’s rights than serving them. There are plenty of less restrictive means of letting people obtain a freely available service than by supplying it through an employer-provided plan. Since this isn’t a bare First Amendment case, but an RFRA case, the civil rights nightmare scenarios aren’t part of the picture.

jay niemeyer
Guest
jay niemeyer

“Contracts don’t exist in an unregulated vacuum. It’s a basic raison d’être for government to ensure that in exchange relationships in society, a powerful actor cannot systematically exploit a less powerful actor”

So we call upon this world’s most powerful executive actor – who happens to be in cahoots with the most powerful corporate actors – to use his bureaucratic muscle to force many less powerful actors into playing an essential role in financing the very destruction least powerful of all?

CJ Hodges
Guest
CJ Hodges

It has been proven that soy “feeds” cancer cells and it also can cause breast swelling in young boys. NO to soy milk.

Dave Henry
Guest

The first part of this blog makes no sense–Progressives don’t appreciate the right of free speech, the right to assemble, and Freedom of Religion? Horseshit. Progressives go to the mat for these things ALL THE TIME. And I seem to remember conservatives not giving a rat’s ass about free speech or the right to assemble during the Bush administration, with protesters relegated to “free speech zones” miles away, and anyone who dissented labeled a traitor. It’s also kind of funny how you talks about the right to bear arms immediately after talking about having the right not to be shot,… Read more »

Jane
Member

“they want to control the sex lives of their workers, too, and impose their morality on everyone else. ”

How were they doing that? I really want to know how you think Hobby Lobby was attempted to control people’s lives and impose their morality on other people.

Katecho
Member

Dave Henry wrote: “God’s design for the state in the Bible includes taking care of the poor.” I guess the Church got it wrong all this time, with their acts of charity for the poor, caring for widows and orphans, building hospitals, pantries, storehouses, etc. Apparently God gave the sword of His wrath to the State so they could feed the poor with it (Romans 13:4). I wonder what Dave Henry thinks the Church was supposed to do with God’s tithe? Simply build cathedrals and satellite broadcasting networks? (See Malachi 3:8-10.) If only modern Americans knew what the principle of… Read more »