I can well understand the urge to make fun of left-wingers hyperventilating over the Supreme Court’s “Hobby Lobby” decision against the ObamaCare contraception mandates. Responses such as those collected by Moe Lane here at RedState, and Sean Davis over at The Federalist, are worthy of giggle-snorts. But I can’t help thinking these folks are not merely ignorant or high-strung. They’re not so much ignoring facts as assaulting them. They are deliberately creating a continuity in which all resistance to the collectivist wisdom of the State is tantamount to either anarchy or theocratic tyranny. They’re saying some very silly things today, but a lot of that absurdity was manufactured years ago. Those who peddle it clearly don’t think it has reached its sell-by date.
It’s increasingly ridiculous to use the word “liberal” to describe the modern American collectivist. There’s nothing liberal about them at all. They’re shooting for the ultimate subversion of liberty, by re-defining “liberty” as a form of compulsion. In other words, they’re saying you are being oppressed unless a wise and virtuous dictatorial authority can force other people to give you what the authoritarians have decided you “deserve.” You aren’t “free” as long as you must provide for yourself. Liberty becomes a term used to describe its exact opposite: a set of active obligations placed upon other people. It’s right up there with any perversion of language and thought described by George Orwell in “1984.” Actually, it is one of the perversions he laid at Big Brother’s feet: “Freedom is slavery, and ignorance is strength.”
The contraceptive mandate battle is only one front in that wider ideological war. Its roots stretch deep into the founding works of collectivist thought, from Rousseau to Karl Marx, this idea that expecting people to work for what they “deserve” is soul-crushing drudgery, breaking the spirit of common men by forcing them to their knees before the cruel taskmasters who sign their paychecks. Far better to be on your knees before the almighty and inescapable State, where you get to cast one vote in millions for the maximum leaders, every couple of years!
I can’t help borrowing a bit of music from the Sixties to frame the idea, since conservatives and libertarians are, unquestionably, the counter-culture now: “Freedom is just another word for nothing left to buy.” It’s an idea pushed aggressively and explicitly with respect to mandated contraceptive purchases. We are told that if our employers don’t pay for those things, we are being “denied access” to them – as if the Supreme Court had just given Hobby Lobby the power to ban condoms, or fire every employee it catches with birth control pills. The early version of this argument pushed by activist Sandra Fluke was based on her completely fabricated numbers about how expensive birth control supplies supposedly were… but when she got called on this nonsense, and it was made clear she had the costs wrong by upwards of 900 percent, she didn’t back off. She doubled down. The fact that these goods are readily available, and incredibly inexpensive, was transformed into a reason their compulsory provision should be demanded even more strongly. We were told it’s even more unreasonable, anti-scientific, and extremist for those Bible-thumpers to cite their First Amendment rights and refuse to provide contraceptives and abortifacient drugs, because they’re so cheap.
It’s tough to beat a proud, free people armed with a glorious Constitution into submission with a single, devastating blow. They tend to resist, and when the great mass of the American people stands on principle, the sight is terrifying enough to send collectivists scurrying back to the safety of the nearest faculty lounge. No, you’ve got to cut their hamstrings with thousands of small incisions, dividing and conquering by getting the bulk of the populace to yawn and ignore small depredations that don’t affect them directly. A mountain of liberty-crushing precedents is built from the bones of countless small “extremist” dissidents. By the time the majority realizes they’re trapped beneath that pile of bones, it’s too late for them to do anything about it. Too many sympathetic and politically active people will have grown dependent upon what has been taken from us; no effort to retake those liberties will be viewed as morally sustainable.
It was only a matter of hours before opportunistic collectivists recovered from their shock at the Hobby Lobby decision – which didn’t exactly bring the edifice of benevolent tyranny crashing down, but the Left well understands the value of symbolic victories and defeats – and began pushing the notion that even more government power is the only proper response. Get Hobby Lobby’s owners, and like-minded dissidents, out of the picture completely by funding the great contraceptive crusade from general tax revenue… with the rest of health care to follow, in the single-payer nightmare no industrial society ever awakens from. The American people were hoodwinked into accepting ObamaCare with the illusion of private-sector control – health insurance is still a consumer product, which the government now regulates and subisdizes more heavily than ever, and forces citizens to buy. The Left always intended to yank that illusion of control away eventually; the alleged urgency of “guaranteeing access” to contraceptives will be used to step up that timetable. Once the last vestige of capitalism, which is the practical expression of liberty, has been purged from the system, the moral and religious convictions of individuals won’t matter any more.
What if we went the other way, harnessing the power of entrepreneurial capitalism to make everything truly “accessible” by making it less expensive – which was the great achievement of the past two centuries – and letting everyone pay for their own goods? The people who own Hobby Lobby aren’t trying to ban contraceptives, or forbid their employees from using them. Of course, in such an environment, there would be no opportunity for the elite to skim power and money for themselves off the top… or for the elite to crush designated enemies with tax and regulatory burdens, for the amusement and moral reinforcement of their devoted supporters. The core belief of collectivism – its absolutely indispensable idea – is that ordinary people cannot be trusted to act responsibly. No leftist wants to risk damage to that core belief by putting it to the test They put a lot of effort into frightening Americans out of giving it a try: you’ll starve, you’ll die, you’ll be discriminated against, you’ll be enslaved…
Human beings have a great hunger for simplicity. The ObamaCare business dragged before the Supreme Court was very complex, part of a larger system that is unsustainably complicated. Left-wingers saying crazy things about the Hobby Lobby decision are appealing to their audiences’ hunger for simplicity. True liberty is much simpler, and so is “benevolent” tyranny. This will all resolve in one direction or the other, before too much longer.