The Obamacare Train Wreck

You’ve no doubt heard Obamacare referred to as a train wreck. It’s a good metaphor for a number of reasons, not the least of which is the fact that train wrecks don’t just destroy the train, they cut a swath of destruction through the countryside. Obamacare is wreaking havoc in many more areas than just the health insurance market.

One casualty of this train wreck is the rule of law itself. What counts as proper, objective law is a complex topic. But distilled to its essence, it means that the law must have both a proper end or purpose and proper means for achieving that purpose. The proper purpose of law, as both Ayn Rand and the Founders understood, is the protection of individual rights. As the Declaration of Independence puts it, governments are instituted among men to protect the rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Proper means in the law covers both how law is written or expressed and the various legal processes that government must follow in passing and enforcing it. So, for example, laws must be clear and understandable so that people will know what is prohibited, they cannot change at the whim of government officials, and they must comply with the Constitution, which is the source of the government’s authority to pass laws.

Obamacare fails on every count. Its purpose — forcing people to pay for the health insurance of others — violates rather than protects individual rights. And the law is being implemented and enforced as though the president has the authority to make up its terms as he goes along. First, he suspended the employer mandate when it became clear that many businesses would not be able to comply with it. Most recently, he suspended the provision that requires non-complying insurance policies to be canceled because so many people were complaining about the president’s “promise” that they could keep their policies. Obamacare is not being implemented as a law, but as a set of edicts from on high.

That shouldn’t surprise us because it’s not possible to implement a law like Obamacare in a principled way. The law is not based on any discernible legal principles at all, save “do it our way, or else.” The purpose of the law is to substitute the government’s choices about health insurance for your choices. So you don’t get to keep your policy or decide what coverage you need or whether you need any at all, and your insurer does not get to decide how to make pricing decisions or what to offer at what price or how to cover its costs. The government makes all those choices and many more for everyone. How can it assess all the factors and trade-offs that millions of individuals make in the marketplace and write objective laws to cover those? It can’t. All it can do is issue more edicts as new questions and problems arise.

Ayn Rand once said that if you can’t write an objective law on a given subject then that is a good indication that you shouldn’t write a law on that subject at all. With Obamacare (and many other laws) the government is busy trying to write thousands of non-objective laws that control everything we do. The question is, how much destruction will we allow this train wreck to cause before doing something about it?