Freedom's Just Another Word for Being Uninsured

In the case against ACA, petitioners argued that the individual mandate violates individual consumer’s autonomy. If Congress is allowed to impose an insurance mandate, consumer liberty will be at an end. By their logic, the purest expression of individual liberty is our right to buy or not to buy things, and the government cannot compel us to buy anything. If we allow Congress to violate consumer liberty, what’s to stop Congress from making us eat broccoli? But if this is such a precious liberty, enshrined in the Constitution, why are states allowed to violate it?

This gets to the heart of the Right’s mistrust of the Federal government. The petitioners were splitting every hair related to what Congress is authorized to do by the Constitution. Some things are prohibited by ‘rights-protecting’ language, like the First Amendment. Other things may be deemed prohibited because they do not appear on the Constitution’s list of Congressional Powers. The individual mandate is said to be unauthorized because it’s not on the list. For decades, Congress has used the Commerce Clause to justify its actions with regard to balancing private power and public purpose. The Right now sees an opportunity to greatly narrow the scope of the Commerce Clause and further curtail Congress’s ability to regulate economic activity. As we now know, losing the argument before the Supreme Court does not settle matters for the Tea Party right. Their followers really do believe a precious liberty is at stake. The right to be left alone, uninsured, on your own. It is a dismal notion of freedom, one that does not recognize the social nature of the self. 

A wder vision of freedom:

Freedom from is part of freedom to and freedom of. In order to have self-determination and autonomy, basic things are needed. Health, education, shelter, culture, arts, music, ideas; these are things we don’t get on our own, all by ourselves. They are things that require collective action and social engagement. The self is a combination if individual and social. The social nature of the self was recognized by no less a revolutionary free-thinker than Thomas Paine. Society is each individual collected, working together to make history. We each have the potential to make history; but what enables us to act on it? A supportive family, a nurturing community, freedoms from as well as freedoms of.

Civil rights leaders knew this. They tied freedom to the notion of a beloved community. A sense of the self as part of a collective. “I am because we are.” And a sense of shared fates. That civil rights would free all of us; humanize all of us; help us recognize our mutuality.