In 1992, the Republicans promoted a health care plan to compete with the White House’s Hillarycare. In the end, neither was passed, and health care reform was taken off the table. Upon taking office, Barak Obama, in direct contradiction to his campaign promises, picked up the Republican plan and passed it. The Republicans are furious about this, referring to their own plan as socialist, Marxist, etc. Libertarians can laugh at the entire spectacle – until we get sick, of course.
In any case, the most offensive and obviously illiberal part of the plan is the individual mandate. A group of Attorneys General challenged that aspect of the law, arguing that it was unconstitutional to require people to purchase specific products from a small group of specific companies. They were right, of course. The Supreme Court ruled differently, of course. Since the mandate does not have as a remedy jail time, but rather a fine, the Court simply redefined the fine as a tax, and ruled that the entire mandate falls under the power to tax.
This is an interesting legal argument, to be sure, but leaves a gaping hole. My challenge to those who oppose the Affordable Care Act, particularly the Attorneys General who filed the lawsuit, is: are you willing to make use of the gaping hole, in other areas, to promote other freedoms? More to the point – will you do so when it would free people who cannot vote?
This ruling clearly implies that any individual mandate, any legal requirement to buy or use a product from a limited number of vendors, is unconstitutional and illegal if the remedy cannot be classified as a tax. This would not apply to, say, car insurance, because, it would be argued, the choice to buy a car is a voluntary one. So a mandate, under this decision, is only unconstitutional if it applies by virtue of pure existence, and if the penalty for non-compliance is non-monetary.
There is a group of people in this country who face precisely such a mandate. There is a group of people, a rather large group, all of whom are forbidden to vote, who face the requirement to either make use of a particular government service or purchase a government-approved alternative, or prepare a government-approved alternative at home (although this last option is constantly in jeopardy.) They face this requirement, not in light of any voluntary action, such as owning a car, but rather simply by virtue of age. I refer, of course, to students and mandatory school attendance.
I will, no doubt, be referred to Jefferson and his comments about an educated population. I note that Jefferson, living 100 years before Horace Mann, did not, at any time in his career, propose a mandatory school attendance policy, or even a public education system. If he did not believe that his comments justified such laws, I find it hard to see why others should either. Further, Jefferson referred to an educated population, not a schooled population. Whatever goes on in schools, it is hard to refer to it as education. That aside, certainly education can take place outside of schools.
Further, Jefferson, in my opinion, misspoke. He should have said that a learned population is necessary, not an educated one. Learning is a natural process, a most pleasant one, one that people of all ages do naturally, with no compulsion necessary. It arises from curiosity, and from the baby’s natural desire to categorize the stimuli they are exposed to and to learn to manipulate their world. If not interfered with, this natural desire to learn will last a lifetime. Our schools have performed the remarkable task of making our most natural desire into a chore that few want to bother with.
Children do not belong in school. They belong in the world – participating in it, and experiencing it. This is what learning is made of. Education is another means of learning, and is sometimes useful. Schooling may be useful for the professions, but certainly not for children. Children need to learn about the world, the universe, and everything in it. This cannot happen in a building cut off from reality – it takes place by experiencing reality and questioning. Between natural curiosity and constant exposure, together with access to those who can encourage questioning, provide answers when needed, and guide research, learning is a non-variable trait in children.
So I ask the Attorneys General – will you act, in accordance with your demonstrated beliefs, to remove mandatory attendance policies, as an individual mandate whose remedy is criminal, not tax? If not, please explain to the voters why some individual mandates are acceptable. Is it because the only victims are children? Children are more defenseless than others – they require more defense from aggression, not less. Is it because you claim there is social value in schooling – if not education, then perhaps socialization? Spend some time in a school to disabuse yourself of that notion. There is no socialization in an age-segregated building, where authority figures provide the schedule, tell you what to think, and assess your success at following instructions. Children learn socialization by socializing, particularly with people of various ages. Even the limited socialization that can go on in schools is cut where possible – students have few outlets to speak to each other in school, and teachers are required to maintain ‘professional distance’ which means not socializing in an organic way with students. The school is shut off from the world, and teaches an anti-social worldview. That aside, that very argument – that the mandate is good for society even if it hurts individuals – was made for the ACA. You rejected it there. Explain why it is valid here.