Monday, February 13, 2012

Too Damn Big...PERIOD!

A friend sent along this piece by Matthew J. Franck who, with many others, found serious fault with the Administration's  announcement last Friday of a "compromise" with religious leaders over their objections to the contraception insurance mandate currently included in Obamacare.  He argues that not only politically powerful religious institutions, but also individuals who have moral objections to the mandate, religiously informed or not, should be accommodated as well.

Overall, I'm sympathetic to Franck's argument.  Moreoever, I applaud him for highlighting as well a very important distinction:
This is not, by the way, anything like the argument sometimes heard that “I should be able to withhold the share of my tax dollars that goes to” some purpose the speaker strongly disapproves on some moral ground. Our representative government collects taxes, and spends the public fisc, on those purposes that are deemed, by the processes of majoritarian democracy and the rule of law, to be part of the common good. When Caesar spends his coin, even though much of it is raised by taxing the faithful, the taxpayers are not individually ensnared in the commission of any wrongful acts from which they may claim a right to disengage themselves. Their responsibility as citizens, in such a case, is to try to turn Caesar toward doing right instead of wrong. This is the principle involved in consistent federal refusals to fund abortion directly (the Hyde Amendment) or to fund the destruction of embryos for research (the Dickey-Wicker Amendment). 
But in the present circumstances we have something different—not taxing and spending on an evil, but bureaucratically coerced personal and institutional involvement in the commission of an evil. This is an affront to every American, religious or non-religious, pro-life or pro-choice.
However, as important as this distinction is, I doubt it will hold up under scrutiny.  Our legislators quite routinely through "the processes of majoritarian democracy and the rule of law, [as] part of the common good", empower all the bureaucracies and their chiefs to rule and regulate as they see fit.  This practice has been the bane of conservatives since the New Deal at least and our record of success for objecting to it has been spotty at best.

I'm afraid the real problem is even more fundamental than this current affront to religious liberty or individual conscience, that is, the national government is just too damn big and over-reaching, PERIOD!  The point of constitutionally limited government is to constrain its grasp and keep it as far away as possible from the individual, his conscience, his family, his more local communities and free associations, thereby avoiding, or at least minimizing occassions for this kind of conflict in the first place.

A relevant analogy can be found in how we conservatives fret over the size of the capital gains tax rate, or agitate for a flatter, less progressive income tax rate.  While both of these are important battles to wage, we should be careful about doing so if it means losing sight of the real issue.  And the real issue is not so much HOW the government taxes us, but rather HOW MUCH it taxes us.

Anyway, despite my qualifications, if this issue, even as its being argued, serves to galvanize the Right, I'll take it.

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