Liberals assure us that we need not fear the Obamacare individual mandate. It's simply a way to ensure that individuals behave responsibly, they say. Fine, if it's such a great idea, then let's mandate that every individual be responsible and get a job. Unemployment problem solved.
At the core of every policy decision is a fundamental question: Can Americans be trusted to be free? We like the word freedom, but we use it so loosely and even in such contradictory ways that it risks losing its meaning.
Liberals say that man is not free until he is free from want and so the government must guarantee his comforts - everything from housing to health care, cellphones to sustenance. But this notion inherently contradicts itself. For the government to provide for all wants, or even just the important ones - and our leaders know the difference - they must plunder the property of other would-be free Americans. Worse yet, by attaching strings to every giveaway, they plunder the liberty of those on whom they lavish their largess. This notion of freedom destroys freedom. So a better definition must exist.
Freedom is man's power to exercise his own faculties as he chooses as long as he prohibits no other man from doing the same. Law exists to ensure that no man takes another man's life - other than in self-defense - or deprives him of his liberty or property. If it is wrong for one man to plunder, then surely it is equally wrong for a group of 20 men to plunder. And if it's wrong for 20 men to plunder, then it's equally wrong for 100 million men to plunder - even if they have codified it into law.
Consider, then, the Obamacare individual mandate. It is perhaps the most egregious use of government force in our lifetime, if not our nation's history. It makes a mockery of American freedom. You cannot be trusted to determine your own health insurance needs, your governing betters declare, so they will take that liberty from you, as well as a good measure of your property. As government-run health care continues its inexorable decay, many of you will ultimately pay with your lives.
President Obama to his credit, you may recall, actually campaigned against the abomination that is the individual mandate. "I mean, if a mandate was the solution," declared Mr. Obama as a candidate in 2008, "we can try that to solve homelessness by mandating everybody to buy a house." Yet once ensconced in power, he could not resist that intoxicating compulsion to demand his subjects' obedience, to bend men's wills like a potter molds clay.
Where must rulers like this go to find their solace? Surrounding themselves with mere mortals as we who cannot be trusted to choose health insurance, light bulbs or even lemonade vendors without government intervention, it must be enormously burdensome to be in sole possession of the enlightenment to guide each man's destiny. Is there a mountaintop high enough? A gilded castle large enough? The irony, of course - and I wonder if he realizes it - is that these same people whose decisions Mr. Obama so distrusts are the very ones who decided to make him into a president.
In his brilliant satire, Dr. Paul Hsieh, the co-founder of Freedom and Individual Rights in Medicine, an advocacy group for free-market health care reform, suggests that the same heavy-handed principles of Obamacare be applied to Mr. Obama's new jobs program ("Let's Model ObamaJobs After ObamaCare!" Pajamas Media, Sept. 7). Impose a "hiring mandate." Impose fines on companies that don't provide jobs. Implement price controls. Institute more public-private partnership. In short, let the government take over.
Dr. Hsieh, a diagnostic radiologist, understands that government health care is about government, not health care. So, too, is the president's government jobs program.
"My singular focus is the American people. Getting the unemployed back on the job, lifting their wages," declared Mr. Obama on the 961st day of his presidency. Rather than embracing American freedom, however, this president feels free to micromanage your company. He knows better than you whom you should hire. How else can you explain his proposed tax credits for companies that hire the people of his choosing? Nice token.
Meanwhile, sitting in the gallery as an honored guest of the president was the crony corporatist Jeffrey Immelt, the General Electric Co.'s chief executive officer, whose well-connected company earned $14.2 billion in profits last year but legally paid nothing in taxes - zip, zilch, zero - as in the total number of jobs Mr. Obama's America created last month. Mr. Immelt must have had a good laugh at the bread crumbs this president was offering the common folk.
Once again, our government is poised to bribe Americans - with their own confiscated money - to do their rulers' bidding. This isn't Mr. Obama's invention, of course, or even a phenomenon limited to Democrats. Republicans, too, have perpetrated their own carrot-and-stick attempts to manipulate would-be-free Americans' behavior. We may be sympathetic to the rulers' stated goals and even be the recipients of their rewards, but something of liberty dies with each attempt to coerce a free man, especially when it comes with false promises of prosperity, be they jobs or health care.
American sovereignty must reside in its people, not its government, lest we violate that radical 18th-century, self-evident idea that all men are created equal. Otherwise, we surrender our freedom to enlightened poseurs whose ideas are anathema to liberty and common sense.
I mean, if a mandate is the solution for health care, why not solve unemployment by mandating everybody get a job? You've got to be firm with these people. Right, Mr. President?
Dr. Milton R. Wolf, a Washington Times columnist, is a cousin of President Obama's. He blogs at MiltonWolf.com.