This is an interesting, and increasingly painful, question, as Americans take a brief break this holiday weekend and fly flags, visit with family, enjoy picnics and recreation – or just rest.
I have posed the question with intent. I don’t ask if America is worth defending. People consider their homes and communities worth defending, most of the time – at least against outright military invasion.
My question is when America, as a political idea to which we are committed, is no longer worth preserving in her current form.
The question arises because of the numerous, extremely important ways in which Americans are, in fact, no longer free. Consider just a few of them, based on recent events in the lives of Americans.
1. Compulsory insurance coverage of elective abortions in California, including for religious institutions’ group plans. NewsBusters cued me to this one, as there has been very little said about it in the mainstream media. NewsBusters quotes the one AP story extant on the matter (bold in original):
CALIFORNIA: INSURERS MUST COVER ELECTIVE ABORTIONS
Health insurance companies in California may not refuse to cover the cost of abortions, state insurance officials have ruled in a reversal of policy stemming from the decision by two Catholic universities to drop elective abortions from their employee health plans.
Although the federal Affordable Care Act does not compel employers to provide workers with health insurance that includes abortion coverage, the director of California’s Department of Managed Health Care said in a letter to seven insurance companies on Friday that the state Constitution and a 1975 state law prohibits them from selling group plans that exclude the procedure. The law in question requires such plans to encompass all “medically necessary” care.
All Americans, including Californians, are compelled by law now to carry health insurance or pay a fine to the IRS. This means that one way or another, people who object morally to elective abortion are being required to pay for it.
Quite literally, the only way to avoid having the product of your labor used to pay for abortion is to not work. Under these circumstances, you’re not free.
This leads us to the next item.
2. Californians seeing their “private” Covered California (Obamacare) insurance plans cancelled, without their knowledge or consent, and being informed they are on Medi-Cal.
To begin with, this is happening to people who have already paid thousands of dollars in premiums. They are being given no information about whether they’ll get that money back.
But for another thing, California officials say this is happening because income information provided at sign-up by the Covered California customers is now being reviewed. In other words, people who chose to purchase private insurance on the Covered California exchange, and have willingly paid premiums to obtain that coverage, are being dumped off of it because their incomes qualify them for Medi-Cal – whether they want it or not.
There are several important points to make about this very disturbing development. But the relevant point here is that when government can do this to you, you’re not free.
3. Businesses forced to provide services to events they have a moral objection to. In each case so far, the business in question has faced not just the alternative of closing down, but the threat of fines and other punishment. In one case, the business person was required by the state civil-rights commission to participate, along with his employees, in what amounts to political, government-mandated “reeducation.”
In none of these cases has a customer been discriminated against because of his sexual orientation. The businesses in question have declined to provide services to events. If the customers had requested services for other events – birthday parties, retirements, graduation celebrations – to which the businesspeople had no moral objections, there is no reason to believe that the businesses would have turned those customers down.
I pointed out in February that no one bats an eyelash when businesses decline to provide services for other types of events, such as white supremacist conventions. What Americans face now is government so intricate that, at multiple levels, it arbitrarily specifies ever-longer lists of which moral objections will be tolerated in daily life and which won’t – and imposes penalties as well as conditions, to coerce the people into choosing between them.
Besides being improperly coercive, this is a government of men, and not of laws. It enforces law capriciously and unequally, depending on fads and emotion.
When government intervenes in such a way, whatever else there is to say about it, the most important thing to say is that you’re not free.
4. Teenager literally arrested for writing a fictional story about killing a dinosaur.
It would be one thing – it would be bad enough – if this incident merely involved a suspension of the 16-year-old boy for writing his story, or perhaps a report to child protective services or some similar form of officious, overanxious prophylaxis. A school district and a high school would be implicated in gross stupidity, misjudgment, and abuse of authority.
But it was far worse than that. The police were called, and the teenager was arrested, because he wrote a story about killing a dinosaur.
Nothing known to others about this boy – that he was sociable, normal, a good kid with an unblemished record – made a difference to a coterie of local authorities for whom the reflexive response was to arrest a minor.
When you don’t have recourse against government institutions that flail around uncontrollably, wounding you like this on a daily basis – you’re not free.
Readers no doubt have their own lists of encroachments by government on our consciences and daily lives. The America we live in today is increasingly one of compulsion and not opportunity. People with terrible judgment and foolish, hysterical fears can arrest our children and blacken their public records. People who merely disagree with us on disputable matters of conscience can use the power of government to take our livelihoods from us, and compel their preferred affirmations from us as a condition of employment. The price of being allowed to do honest work is being told by third parties what we must work for – and those same third parties can change the rules at any time, without asking us, and yet make us pay the freight.
The America that may be worth preserving is not this one. The perversion of the rule of law that is mushrooming around us rides along like a barnacle on the legitimate idea of “America”: a land of liberty, limited government, constitutional boundaries, and natural rights. In this guise, it purports to command our loyalty.
But these two concepts are not of the same America. One is not worth preserving: not worth paying for, not worth obeying, not worth dying for. That corrupted America might as well be any other nation on earth, for all its attitude of extortion toward the people and its dismissal of our rights.
The good news is that we can distinguish between these two Americas. The whole point of the unique political idea of America is that it’s proper and necessary to limit the functions of government. Doing so is the key to preserving ordered liberty. We needn’t be confused; the original idea of America is our guide to separating the sound ship from the barnacle.
Our Constitution even gives us the means to reach around the many liberty-killing arrangements that have been made in the people’s name over the last century. The possibility of restoration and redemption is there.
But first we have to realize what must change, as the Founders did when they signed the Declaration of Independence. First we have to realize the ways in which we are no longer free – and face up to them.