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Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Health Care Reform Boosts Community, Liberty... and Farms!

Harvard economics prof and blogger Greg Mankiw grumbles that health care reform represents a trade-off between community and liberty:

I like to think of the big tradeoff as being between community and liberty. From this perspective, the health reform bill offers more community (all Americans get health insurance, regulated by a centralized authority) and less liberty (insurance mandates, higher taxes). Once again, regardless of whether you are more communitarian or libertarian, a reasonable person should be able to understand the opposite vantagepoint [Dr. Greg Mankiw, "Healthcare, Tradeoffs, and the Road Ahead," blog, 2010.03.22].

I understand the opposite vantagepoint, but I see a more complex equation than "more community = less liberty." It's not a zero-sum game. Community does not take away liberty; community is the basis of liberty.

Health care reform gives us more economic liberty. Consider job lock: right now, lots of people are sticking with jobs they don't like, jobs they aren't optimally suited for, simply to cling to their employer health plans. Make health insurance easier to get and keep, and people will feel more free to pursue new jobs and even self-employment. And what's more liberating than being your own boss...

...or growing your own food?

The reforms banning practices such as denying coverage due to pre-existing conditions also will affect farmers, Tolbert said.

Doug Sombke, president of the South Dakota Farmers Union, said he likes the bill. He said his sons had trouble coming back to the family farm due to pre-existing conditions from football injuries.

“This will fix that sort of coverage and help us as young people want to come back and get into agriculture,” Sombke said [David Montgomery, "Experts: Be Patient with Health Care Changes," Pierre Capital Journal, 2010.03.23].

Young people living and working where they want: that's liberty. Even as we increase community. Neat trick!


  1. You are either insane or a supreme propagandist to even suggest that this unconstitutional health care measure does not rob the American people of their liberty.

    "Community" exists where people willingly help those who are in need of their own volition.. Their is not a single shred of choice or volition involved in being forced to do this or that, or in being forced to surrender ones hard-earned property to pay for things that are given to others who may or may not need them (and I guarantee you--if an income of $88,200 for a family of four entitles someone to another person's stolen property, then there are definitely people who will be receiving booty who do not need it).

    This is nothing but pure oppression and legalized theft. You sully the very word "liberty" to mention it in connection with this unconstitutional and un-American scheme.

    Shame on you!

  2. Cory: I love that bit about "Community does not take away liberty; community is the basis of liberty." I would have thought that the basis of liberty was the natural right of human beings, as Jefferson and Lincoln would have thought. Communities are indeed necessary to protect liberty, so I guess we are not far apart on this one.

    But on this one: "Young people living and working where they want: that’s liberty" we are far apart. Does liberty require that I be offered a job in whatever town I wish to live in? Those who think that individual self-determination should take a back seat to improving the material conditions of the many have, historical speaking, winded up with neither.

  3. Read Sombke's statement again, Ken. We're not requiring anyone to be offered a job. Universal health care widens the range of action available to individuals who want to start their own farms or businesses rather than working for a large employer who offers health insurance. Universal health insurance doesn't guarantee that young farmer will turn a profit; it simply increases his/her practical liberty to choose to enter that field.

    Community is the basis of liberty. We form community to have liberty. There is no liberty outside a social contract to guarantee it.


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