Obamacare and Involuntary Servitude
However much one learns to squirm out of one's inconsistencies, logic usually bites one in the butt. Of course, strictly speaking logic is the formal system that's supposed to guide our reasoning process and on its own doesn't serve much more than that vital, indispensable task. That is why it is usually studied in symbolic form − As and Bs or ps and qs. When one complains that someone is being illogical, it means that he or she isn't following the guidelines of logic.
In any case, the discussion of President Obama's federal policy requiring that everyone obtain health insurance has frequently focused on the fact that either an employer or individual would be forced to obtain private health insurance instead of, or as Wikipedia points out, "or in addition to the institution of a national health service of insurance." And many have suggested that this is a very unusual measure since it mandates specific performance from citizens, contrary to the legal tradition of the country. One may be forced to give up property but never to carry out a task, something that is reminiscent of slavery or involuntary servitude and thus directly in conflict with the idea of a free society.
It has been noted, now and then, that some laws do require specific performance despite all this, such as being forced to prepare tax returns, but this has been dismissed as rather trivial. However, there are requirements imposed upon nearly every citizen − namely, jury duty and complying with subpoenas − which often take several days, even weeks from one's life and impose specific conduct that one must perform. Is this not just like the individual mandate to obtain health insurance − to go out and purchase this service?
In America jury duty has been objected to mainly by libertarians who have a firm conviction that the right to liberty is a natural − and should be a constitutional − right. Thus to coerce someone to serve on a jury in opposition to what he or she chooses to do would be to subject the person to a form of − maybe not Draconian but still significant − involuntary servitude.
Thus, the argument goes, as a matter of consistency the USA is already awash with a type of compulsory individual mandate and those who complain that Obamacare is breaking with a powerful American principle and tradition are wrong. Or, put more precisely, there is strong precedence for doing this so Obamacare isn't something extraordinary in requiring specific performance from the citizenry.
There is a good case to be made to counter this, however. Both jury duty and complying with a subpoena do demand specific performance from American citizens, yes, but arguably in consequence of a voluntary commitment they have made in choosing to be citizens of the country. Both jury duty and complying with subpoenas are deemed as necessary for the pursuit of justice. And citizenship in a free country has exactly that as its central purpose, namely, to secure justice for everyone.
So if someone has witnessed a crime and is the only one who can provide testimony about it, refusing to do so is arguably going back on the free choice of a citizen of the country committed to securing justice for all. Refusal to serve on a jury might be so construed as well, although in that case the particular individual's compliance could well be dispensed with. One could obtain the service involved by hiring a fellow citizen to sit on the jury. This is no option in most cases that one is subpoenaed to testify about what one has witnessed.
In any case, when one performs jury duty or testifies in response to a subpoena, it could be construed as fulfilling an implied promise one has made by becoming or being a citizen of a country the legal system of which is committed to securing justice for all. And that is clearly not involved in the individual mandate that's part of Obamacare.
Obamacare would, in fact, set at least a federal precedent by compelling citizens to follow a mandate they haven't consented to follow, to submit to the demand for involuntary servitude!
Posted by dave jr on 02/23/12 08:59 AM
Obamacare will mandate persons to engage in commerce. The only other law I can think of which does this, is the requirement to pay proprty tax at the local level. In either the purchasing of insurance or in seeking employment to obtain health insurance, is to engage in commerce. This requirement will be another new precedent for the Federal Government.
Posted by DwightJohnson on 02/23/12 08:42 AM
Seer, you make an excellent point. Around the world there are a great many very happy, very comfortable, very well-cared-for serfs. But it will eventually break down. No one is every completely satisfied with the lack of human dignity that comes with enslavement.
Posted by seer on 02/22/12 07:01 PM
Two major points: (1) When these liberalized rebels get cancer or get in a car wreck and need care they do Not hesitate to throw themselves on the Mercy of the care facility and doctors. (2) I guess in a sense Japan. England,France, Taiwan,Canada, Germany, Finland, Sweden and Switzerland who provide universal health care through MANDATORY taxes and more CHEAPLY than the USA promote this Involuntary Servitude on their populations. Oh wait, one of these countries was voted recently as the best country in the world to reside. No Man is An Island; however some are more simple-minded than others.
Posted by Friend_of_John_Galt on 02/22/12 06:12 PM
I'm not sure that it's valid to compare the involuntary servitude of Jury Duty or even filling out reports of income for the assessment of taxes in the same way as being forced to purchase health insurance.
First, tax reporting is inherent in the 16th amendment that establishes the income tax. There is no "health care" amendment.
As for jury duty the Supreme Court held in Butler v. Perry (240 U.S. 328 - 1916) that the thirteenth Amendment (that abolished slavery) does not prohibit "enforcement of those duties which individuals owe to the state, such as services in the Army, militia, or on a jury, etc." Jury duty has a long history going long before the U.S. was established.
And frankly, few people are stupid enough to serve on a jury if they are completely unwilling to do so -- which is a weakness of the jury system, in that a trial is being judged by the 12 citizens who are too stupid to get out of serving on the jury.
Thus there is both a legal precedent and a long societal tradition that is quite separate from the "duty to buy insurance" that Obamacare is attempting to establish. The legal theory is based on an extension of the commerce clause -- but before Obamacare, the commerce clause was used to prohibit actions -- not to force action to be taken. Obviously the validity of Obamacare's requirement to purchase insurance is going to be argued before the Supreme Court later this year.