What’s Wrong with the World

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The whim of the inquisitors

Some of the passing contrasts of our age present quite a scene for us. While our nation’s revenue collection service harasses Americans at home, obstructs the Congress from inquiring into its activities, hounds Americans abroad, adopting a most comprehensive and punitive concept of income tax disclosure, even unto renunciation of citizenship; this selfsame clutch of inquisitors then cries “computer crash!” or “dog ate my homework!” when asked to disclose.

While liberty for those private associations, business, charitable, religious, literary, community, which in legal form supply the sinews and muscle to civil society, is under constant threat of truncation, normally sensible men conjecture wildly about stripping them of legal standing at all. They would trade civil society for a slogan: “corporations are not people!” As if anyone ever imagined that by chartering a corporation a man had become a father to a child. The government is right now doing everything it can to truss and curtail the freedom of Catholic businesses and charities, by among other things coercing them into supplying contraceptives; while normally less excitable Catholics have plunged into a debate about whether Catholic business corporations should exist at all, since they are the very evidence of every avarice and excess upon the earth.

We are lectured about frugality and prudence with resources, while every other reckless or worthless boondoggle chartered as a clean energy enterprise, is laden with gifts and largess and favor and celebrity. Hollywood churns out grotesqueries of capitalist depravity; and then runs back to every third state legislator in the country for another production subsidy.

Hardly a week passes without exposure of new abuses and perfidies by prosecutors, generally having to do with their obligation to turn over exculpatory evidence; while new calls for aggressive prosecutions of various nuisances or offenses against propriety ring down from lofty media perches unceasingly. Even the stolid old patent office clerks now grow narrow-eyed and red-faced with umbrage at negligible infractions. Maybe it’s high time we prosecuted a prosecutor; and left venal aggravations and minor vices to the scorn of society and judgment of God.

We are fast becoming, not a nation ruled by law, not even a nation ruled by men, but a nation ruled by whim. Whim of social media fashion, whim of bureaucratic caprice, whim of officious grandstanding, whim of judicial hauteur, whim of meddlesome gossip, whim of puritanical licentiousness. At last we might find that the whim of a despot ain’t so bad compared to this. After all, a single despot must sleep.

The inquisitors of our day do not sleep. Ben Domenech put it in an essay on his newsletter The Transom: “One of the big lessons of life in the Obama era is that it’s important to avoid the attention of the ruling class – lest you be audited, harassed, or generally become a hot topic of media conversation as a proxy for some other battle. . . . If you live within the consciousness of a critical mass of people in power for whom all life is politicized, you will be made to bend to their will, by whatever means necessary.”

To preserve their liberty a people must keep their equipoise. Freedom is incompatible with a dominating urge to race off in sanctimonious purges whenever the fancy strikes. It is incompatible with the supreme powers of the revenue service made lawless. It is incompatible with boundless discretion for bureaucrats and rigid obligation for private citizens. It is incompatible with an eagerness for punitive reaction that issues in prosecutors who, secure behind their immunity, think little of disregarding their duties when the matter is urgent.

This rule by whim is for the birds, and we need to arrest it while will still have some liberty left to protect.

Comments (26)

What we're witnessing is what happens when the government become an interest group, understood in the normal democratic sense, all to itself. When even the one federal agency that still had a warm and cuddly image, the National Park Service, has become just another mailed fist in the service of an ever-expanding managerial class, something precious has been destroyed.

In Mark Steyn's recent article about Miriam Ibrahim (the woman held in the Sudan for refusing to renounce Christianity), something struck me. Steyn quoted a news article about immigration of spouses that said something like, "The process is difficult and complicated." Steyn said something like, "That means that they make it up as they go along. So let's decide what they ought to make up in this situation." That was so cynical and simultaneously so insightful that it stuck with me.

I'm afraid that is true everywhere: They're making it up as they go along. Only in the case of immigration of spouses, I suppose it's a little "better," because the "make it up as you go along" is to some degree built into the system--discretion of officials and what-not being left in place for the purpose of exercising prudence.

But the present administration makes it up as they go along even where they *aren't supposed to do so*, and the result is a stink of corruption that rises to high heaven. Whom to audit? Hmm, let's see. Let's make it our political enemies. What non-profit applications to allow through? Hmm, let's see. Let's make it our political friends and block our enemies.

This is why small-government conservatives talk about a government of laws rather than of men and why they quote Lord Acton: "Power tends to corrupt." In my opinion, any reactionary who yearns for monarchy, assuming it will be benevolent, should look at what we are seeing here and contemplate anew the wisdom of a government of laws and not of men. In other words, it's often better *not* to make it up as one goes along.

Lydia, I think you are right. The difficulty, as I see it, is that (a) the more laws you make to ensure it is a "rule of law" instead of by human judgment, the more complicated and difficult it is to figure out how to actually follow the laws. I see this regularly in pension law, which is vastly overly complex from a number of factors but at least in part to take "judgment calls" out of the hands of individuals. (One of the judgment calls Congress took out of the hands of lesser people is the determination of what interest rate to use to estimate the present value of future liabilities to a pension plan. They did it by setting the rate by law. After they did that, they had to revise the law to make an exception when the market tanked in 2008, then they had to make another law revising how the rate is computed when the market didn't come back as fast as everyone assumed it would). A problem with applying complex, picky laws is that even smart, honest people can come up with competing interpretations of them in specific cases.

And (b) the more laws you have, the more difficult it is for anyone (including the legislature) to determine whether the men enforcing it really are enforcing it, and also whether that law is actually achieving its real purpose (or damaging other purposes to get that). It's too bloody complex for men to resolve in anything like a confident nod to justice.

I suppose it would be a LOT better if more of the laws were created and enforced at the local level, and we could vote on the local officials in all capacities. And if there were total transparency about the decisions being made (which is virtually impossible). But even as far as it is, people rarely take sufficient interest in local politics and let slide things that they should be putting to a stop.

Tony, you have a good point, and that over-complexification only enables corruption. I have had a contractor explain to me that sometimes the regulations literally contradict one another so it is impossible to be in compliance with all of them. I pointed out to him that that is a situation ripe for corruption on the part of some enforcer, and he agreed.

There has to be a better way, though. Neither throwing up our hands and just setting up enforcers as little kings to make up their own rules blatantly and openly nor writing mind-numbingly complex and impossible-to-follow laws can be wise governance.

I agree, at least in principle there has to be a better way (whether there is a plausible way of getting from here to there is a different matter).

I suspect that first off the list is to make small communities - neighborhoods - actually have the first level of government, and let them control real matters. Home-owners' associations, in fact, could be a model for that, if they were revised somewhat. The second is to impress upon EVERYBODY up and down the line that part of their job is to learn to restrain their itchy fingers about making rules because somebody out there once made a bad choice and hurt someone else. Yes, bad things happen, but making laws to prevent ALL of it is imprudent. Robert Heinlein once suggested a separate house of the legislature whose only function is to "unmake" laws, not make them.

Virtue in the citizens - at least the 2 virtues of paying attention to what their officials are doing, and that of not assuming "what's good for me must be what's right for everyone to accept" - is essential for any system that is even partly run "by the people." That, as much as anything else, is what we are missing here. And without a government that at least supports and promotes widescale virtue (though not mandating it), I don't see how any subset of the people can get an unvirtuous citizenry turned around.

Robert Heinlein once suggested a separate house of the legislature whose only function is to "unmake" laws, not make them.

That's a brilliant idea. I've often said that if (God forbid) I were ever President, one of my first acts would be to bring in a bunch of like-minded lawyers and ask them, "Bring me a list of all the things my predecessor did that you think I would want to un-do and tell me whether or not I have the authority under law to un-do them. If I don't, who does?"

It so happens if a business makes a large contribution to a charity, it get's a tax deduction which means it pays less tax.

I may one day decide to be a member of the 'Church of Ayn Rand'. This church happens to hold that charity is unethical, it rewards the weak and unproductive which is bad for both giver and receiver.

So being a business owner I do not contribute anything. By the logic presented here, I can claim 'religious oppression' and I can demand that I be allowed to take the tax deduction even if I don't give anything to charity.

A tax deduction for a contribution never made? You speak for your own "logic," not mine, Boonton.

So my business has to pay a tax bill of $5,000. Your charity giving one pays a tax bill of only $2,500. So I'm paying a $2,500 tax on my religious beliefs.

Or how is this different from I'm not going to buy insurance for my employees therefore my taxes are different from you who does pay for insurance?

'Toon, you sound like you object to making distinctions between people and groups. Is that across the board - do you think that we ought to distinguish between some people (or groups) and other people (or groups)?

I'm not sure I'm following your question Tony. As I understand it the ACA says if you run a business of 50 or more workers, you can provide full coverage healthcare. If you don't you pay a tax of $2K per worker.

So one guy w/50 workers offers coverage another guy doesn't. The guy who does has a $2Kx50= $100K lower tax bill than the guy who doesn't. The guy who doesn't asserts that his religious beliefs prohibit him from buying 'full coverage' because the 'full' is defined to include things he objects too like contraception. (Of course left out of this equation is the fact that coverage costs about $6K per person so if he offered no coverage at all he'd have $4K per worker after paying the $2K tax).

How is that different from the guy who doesn't donate to charity for reasons that he claims are religious?

"do you think that we ought to distinguish between some people (or groups) and other people (or groups)? "

All laws distinguish between some groups and others. A law against speeding treats people going over the limit differently from those going under it. The Hobby Lobby case is problematic IMO because it claims that if you happen to be in one group because of your religious beliefs, you are entitled to an exemption from any negative consquence as a matter of right.

because the 'full' is defined to include things he objects too like contraception

This tendentious phrase is the keystone to upholding the straining arch of:

The Hobby Lobby case is problematic IMO because it claims that if you happen to be in one group because of your religious beliefs, you are entitled to an exemption from any negative consequence as a matter of right.

The whole import of this ominous "exemption" orbits around four abortifacients out of a standard dozen or more methods of birth control. Hobby Lobby willingly subsidizes for its employees over a dozen contraceptives, but the tyrants who run Obamacare insist on more.

And Boonton appears to really think that is some grave exemption from common obligations of citizenship.

You've dodged the questions on hand. There is no mandate to buy insurance by employers. Who cares if you think there should be an exemption that allows some to not cover things others do and still get the same tax treatment? You're the one who is claiming people are being 'forced' to choose between their religion and the law. The obligation is on you to back it up.

Yes, that's right, there's no mandate. Just like for Christians that choose to live under sharia law as dhimmis: there is no mandate that they pay the jizya tax. They could as alternatives either convert to Islam or just, ya know, DIE. Because dhimmitude is just a slice of different options. Not persecution.

Oh, wait a minute, the Obamanauts DESCRIBE the provision as a "mandate". Well, but after all, it is really just a tax, and different people are taxed differently depending on how they choose to arrange their income. Some people are taxed for complying with their religion, like...ummm...Oh, here's a good example: Catholics who comply with their Church's teaching throughout the 1900s that they are required to put their kids in Christian schools pay the public school tax, and THEN pay for the private school, too. Of course, this has ALSO been held up for ridicule as unjust taxation.

'toon, the US public rejected the notion of a government-run-all and government-pay-all system. That's why Obama had to work within a private system. But they want to have their cake and eat it too by FORCING people into that private system. There are incoherencies in that. But there is no use re-hashing that whole debate yet AGAIN.

could as alternatives either convert to Islam or just, ya know, DIE. Because dhimmitude is just a slice of different options. Not persecution.

Yea ok, so if I don't want to donate to charity do I also have to, ya know, DIE? Really, just be thankful no one has found a way to tax melodrama yet.

Oh, wait a minute, the Obamanauts DESCRIBE the provision as a "mandate".

It's a 'mandate' by law that I cannot sell crack. It's also a mandate that I return my library book on time. Between the two there's a pretty wide range of options. In general, I think the best test is can a lawyer ethically advise you to 'break the mandate'.

In other words, if I went to a lawyer and said I understand the penalty for selling crack is a $5K fine and a year in jail but I'm willing to risk that...he would be obligated to advise me to nonetheless not break the law. If I went to a lawyer and told him I don't want to donate to charity he would say 'fine, just don't take a charity deduction on your taxes then'. In theory the first is a true mandate in the sense that you're not supposed to break it regardless of how harsh or light the punishment is. The second is not a mandate in the sense you're free to choose the penalty for whatever reason you wish.

If you're talking in the context of economics, mandate is a fine word since it's purpose is to discourage waiting until they feel sick to try to get coverage just as the purpose of the charity deduction is to get people to give more to charity. Neither is a mandate in the sense that by law you must do either.

"Catholics who comply with their Church's teaching throughout the 1900s that they are required to put their kids in Christian schools pay the public school tax, "

I don't have kids, I pay the exact same property taxes as a Catholic family living in an equal piece of property in my neighborhood with lots of kids. Let me know when schools are funded with a kid tax rather than a property tax and maybe you'll have a valid point.

One last point:

"The whole import of this ominous "exemption" orbits around four abortifacients out of a standard dozen or more methods of birth control."

You know most people who work get insurance from their employer or from a spouse's employer. Something like 90%+ of those plans cover not only birth control but abortion as well. Almost all of those plans require the employees to pay something directly out of their paycheck for coverage. Been that way for decades now. Even now I have heard no one argue that there's a moral obigation for someone not to avail themselves of insurance coverage if the plan covers things like that on the grounds that even if they don't use contraception or abortion they may be indirectly paying for someone who does.

Only with Hobby Lobby has this new 'moral innovation' been discovered that says if someone pays for insurance they suddenly get property rights over everyone else in the insurance pool. I'd take this argument a bit more seriously if it didn't reek of a lot of ad hocism invented for the sake of those who oppose Obamacare but that mysteriously exempts everyone else from any burden (for example, why aren't individual Christians obligated to forgo coverage unless it excludes those things? Hmmm?)

As a matter of principle I'd caution that this idea that your boss gets to boss you around in your healthcare because he pays for your insurance (in exchange for your labor) opens the door to lots of things. For example, abortions and birth control are typically less expensive than child births. Why couldn't an employer suddenly declare that their 'conscience' can't participate in people who 'selfishly' have more than two children, therefore you're on your own if you're pregnant with your 3rd or more child. Hints of something like that have already happened when the CEO of AOL was blasted for 'shaming' the cost of employee healthcare on two cases of mothers who had premature kids who racked up hundreds of thousands of medical expenses (since everyone know who the mothers were, it was, to say the least an uncomfortable moment for them). I think most Americans are more comfortable with the idea that health coverage is a form of compensation which means the employee is the one who should be most free to decide how to use it (moral or not), not the employer.


Serious Christians (and really anyone who wants to follow the natural moral law) are called to do good and avoid doing evil. That means, for example, don't pay directly for abortions and/or contraceptives.

Obviously, as you rightly point out, only an employer as part of the employees pay package is paying for these immoral procedures/drugs via "healthcare" (scare quotes necessary as neither has anything to do with health).

As a matter of principle, no caution is necessary -- serious Christians have always objected to paying for such immorality, hence things like the Hyde Amendment in federal law and health care plans in the marketplace that don't include such immoral procedures/drugs. Along comes Obamacare and closes down this option for certain employers. Luckily, we have a First Amendment in this country and so we have various lawsuits.

You focus on the employees -- but no one has to work for any particular employer. Don't want to be shamed by AOL for trying to save your premature kids -- go work somewhere else (and consumers take note of AOL's attitude toward mothers!) Don't want to work for a serious Christian boss -- go work somewhere else. I would hope most Americans still respect private property and freedom of contract.

Boontoon's cartoonish comments began by inviting us to consider the hypothetical of someone claiming a tax deduction for a charitable contribution that was never contributed. Now we're asked to consider the employer who contracts with an insurer to supply pregnancy and childbirth coverage for only two children, no more. Strictly speaking, my position is "let the employer contract with the insurer as he wills." I certainly don't think we need a federal mandate to prevent such an arrangement, if for no other reason because I suspect such an employer would find himself quickly under a rather severe strain of public opprobrium for doing so.

As for abortion coverage, since abortion is a species of premeditated murder, and premeditated murder should be illegal in all circumstances, it follows that subsidies for murder should also by illegal.

Hobby Lobby's contraceptive coverage is perfectly sufficient. The inquisitors who run Obamacare have pushed us to this.

Jeffrey S

"That means, for example, don't pay directly for abortions and/or contraceptives. "


"Obviously, as you rightly point out, only an employer as part of the employees pay package is paying for these immoral procedures/drugs via "healthcare" "

Well no. First most employees are expected to contribute something per pay check towards coverage so if your corporate health plan covers abortion and you pay $100 a month for coverage it's a bit of a stretch to pretend that there's no way some of your money may not be going towards your co-workers abortion.

"You focus on the employees -- but no one has to work for any particular employer. Don't want to be shamed by AOL for trying to save your premature kids -- go work somewhere else ..."

That's a cute solution but a real hardship if you expect people to take you seriously. For many finding jobs with acceptable coverage is difficult so declining coverage simply because the plan covers immoral things is asking a lot. If people like you were asking that, it would be one thing, but you're not. Your position seems to be Hobby Lobby's position is moral and requiring them to change would be a real burden....but individuals are free to do whatever they want without any worry about these supposed moral problems unless they themselves are actually writing a check to an abortion clinic or handing one their debit card.

The solution, of course, is in your word 'pay directly'. No one is paying directly here for anything. Just because we are both in the same insurance pool doesn't mean I am morally responsible for your use of insurance coverage anor does it make you responsible for mine. If you 'pay directly' for an abortion with your insurance coverage, that doesn't mean I'm 'paying directly' just because we are in the same insurance plan anymore than if you pay for an abortion by check I'm 'paying directly' because I happen to deposit my money in the bank you draw your check on.

Consider an Amazon gift card. Can you buy lots of stuff from Amazon? Sure. Can you buy anything? No, only stuff Amazon sells. I give you a card and you go out and buy morally uplifting books. I give someone else a card and they go buy porn. Now suppose instead I buy some uplifting books and some porn from Amazon, put it in a room, and tell people "go in and pick out one item". The end result may be the same (one person walks away uplifted, another with porn), but you can't quite say both cases are the same. In the gift card case, the critical decision is left to the holder of the card. In the room example you can fairly saying I'm *directly* buying both types of material. In the card example I can fairly say any purchase is only indirectly related to me. Long story short, don't talk about anyone being forced to provide contraception or abortions unless you literally have a law requiring someone to buy a bunch of birth control pills and pass them out to people.

Of course this would be applicable if the law said you must pay employees some portion of their pay in Amazon cards. The case for persecution gets much, much weaker if the law simply says that paying in gift cards results in lower taxes than paying in cash.


Now we're asked to consider the employer who contracts with an insurer to supply pregnancy and childbirth coverage for only two children, no more. Strictly speaking, my position is "let the employer contract with the insurer as he wills."

I have no problem with that. Yet I would not treat such coverage as meriting what the law defines as full coverage. An exmployer who provided such a scaled down policy would simply be providing a different type of compensation, like Amazon gift cards.

Boontoon's cartoonish comments began by inviting us to consider the hypothetical of someone claiming a tax deduction for a charitable contribution that was never contributed

It is cartoonish yet you can't quite explain why your principles aren't leading right to toonland. The charity giving business enjoys a significant tax advantage over one that doesn't. If the latter refuses to donate out of deep religious based convictions exactly why is he precluded from making your hysterical claims of persecution and dhimmitude? Why is society free to tell him "look we like charity so we're going to encourage it with the tax code, you're free not to give but that's your loss.


I think we might be getting closer to understanding.

1) Yes, you are correct that both the employee and the employer are paying for the immoral procedure (let's stick with abortion for now to remain ecumenical). But you are wrong to suggest that your $100 is paying for anyone else, except in the very, very attenuated sense that when an employer is large enough and covers enough people, the insurer will probably give him some sort of discount (because the insurer can cross-subsidize people). But make no mistake -- each person hired pays premiums to the insurer for their own plan -- the employer pays the bulk of those costs and as you point out the employee picks up some share of the cost as well.

2) "For many finding jobs with acceptable coverage is difficult so declining coverage simply because the plan covers immoral things is asking a lot." -- Huh? I'm not sure what this comment is supposed to mean, but if Obama and the Democrats had listened to conservatives about ways to reform the healthcare system in the U.S. then we would have decoupled the link between coverage and employment and injected more and more market reforms into the system giving individuals and their families more options at better prices.

3) "The solution, of course, is in your word 'pay directly'. No one is paying directly here for anything." Well, no; post-modern word games won't save you here -- either Hobby Lobby is paying directly for an insurance plan that offers abortions or they aren't. Now, you are right -- not every employee has to go get an abortion -- but if they do, then Hobby Lobby has formally cooperated in an evil act. The fact that there is a middle-man collecting the money from Hobby Lobby (i.e. the insurance company) and distributing it to the abortionist in no way gets Hobby Lobby off the hook. That's why the Obama Administration "compromise" proposed to the U.S. Bishops and other Catholic institutions like the Little Sisters of the Poor was unacceptable to them -- it did the same thing and tried to wash the Catholic institutions' hands of blood -- but natural law ethics doesn't work that way.

1. The employee pays for insurance, period. By that I mean consider:

I offer you a job, $50K with a $6K insurance policy of which you have to pay $1K if you want it. You cost me $55K ($49K in payroll to you, $6K in the form of a check to Blue Cross). You cost me that much because that is your pay which you receive in exchange for your work. Just because a portion is in a form other than cash doesn't mean it's some type of gift from me over which I have domain.

2. Delinking your insurance from your job may be a good idea but that's a different issue.

Most Americans have rejected the idea. They want reform that preserves the majority of coverage people have while expanding coverage towards those who don't have it. That may be inefficient but there's a reason conservatives who have proposed 'delinking' have often done so by burying the idea in their policy documents rathat than touting it loudly.

And it's not clear that delinking is a good idea. The employer does have advantages in the market that an individual doesn't such as bargaining power, the ability to dedicate experts to selecting insurance plans etc. The interesting thing about the ACA is that it's flexible in either direction. It could evolve into a system where few people have employer insurance and more buy it individually or employer insurance could remain the norm with the exchanges the route for freelancers and people with less traditionally stable jobs.

3. You can't reconcile any moral obligation on the employer to bear responsibility for what the insurance offers without an equal obligation by the employee. If it's immoral for HL to offer insurance with contraception then how can you say it's morally neutral for you to sign up for your corporate insurance that covers both contraception and abortion!? It would seem you'd have a moral obligation to decline such insurance even if it puts you and your family at risk. Yet for all the banter about this, I have never heard any moral or religious leader articulate such an obligation on regular people.

The answer, of course, comes from what you said about 'directly' paying for immoral things. There is a huge difference between directly paying for an immoral thing and indirectly paying for it. That is the purpose of the Amazon Gift Card illustration. In that example it is possible the person who gets the card may buy something immoral. That simply is not the same as you buying something immoral and then giving it to the person. In latter you are directly buying the questionable item. In the former the control over what will be purchased is not in your hands but in the hands of the person who gets the gift card.

Do you have to buy into my moral distinction between direct and indirect buying? Of course not. If you think there is no distinction then I wish you good luck. Modern life is full of all types of indirect interactions with other people so if you really wanted to live so as to avoid even indirect facilitation of immorality then either a hermit or monastic type of lifestyle is probably your best shoot, even that may not quite pan out, though. But I must insist that you be consistent. Don't pretend in one context there's no different between direct and indirect then in another context pretend there is to make your life easier.

Which brings me to HL, which pays it's employees in money. And money is pretty problematic since it's the ultimate indirect good since anything HL doesn't want to cover in the health plan can be easily purchased with those green paper bills we have here in the US. How exactly is paying someone in money not like paying them in an Amazon card or in insurance coverage all of which may be used for either moral or immoral ends? Unless HL has some type of employment policies that bans immorality by employees outside of company hours regardless of how it is paid for it seems to me they already made their choice.


Closer and closer.

1) O.K. But in that example, the employer also pays for insurance. Both employee and employer are paying for the insurance policy.

2) Fair enough -- this would take us far OT and we can argue healthcare policy another day.

3) No, no, and no again. The Amazon Gift Card example clarifies nothing. What you are trying to do is morally indict every employer for every employees' sins via some sort of moral double-effect. But basic natural law ethics doesn't work that way. There is a difference in giving someone money for a job well done and then that person takes your money and spends it on sinful deeds versus providing that same person with a menu of services (instead of money) that includes one option called "killing babies". If you can't see the distinction by now, there is probably nothing else I can say at this point to convince you. I tried.

#3 A 'menu of services' would be not akin to the Amazon Gift card but akin to buying various things from Amazon and putting them in a room for someone to pick out the item they want. In that example, to the degree that buying porn is immoral, you have done it directly whether or not the person opts to take it. In providing a gift card, though, you are not deciding what is to be purchased. That decision pivots around what the person who receives the gift card does.

The only difference between the gift card and money is the menu of possible things you can buy with money is bigger than with the gift card (although these days Amazon is pretty huge in that respect).

I could understand if you push this system to there are limits. For example, if I gave someone a gift card to an adult bookstore where 99% of its inventory was porn but they also sold gum at the checkout counter, I don't think in that case you could say your hands are clean on the grounds that maybe the person would use the card to buy gum.

You also referenced #3 but didn't address it. If HL has a moral obligation to not offer contraceptive covering insurance, then how is it moral for you to accept your company's health plan (let's assume it covers both contraception and abortion)? You admitted in #1 that you are paying for your company's plan, even if the employer writes the bulk of the checks to it.

Since we seem to be making some progress either coming to an agreement or at least distilling down our disagreement to the most simple statements possible, let me toss out two other points that will probably cause you to be yet more annoyed with me:

A. Opening up health insurance as a tool to bludgeon people into moral behavior is a huge can of worms. You can argue with actual abortion that you have a medical procedure that has only a single purpose (to end a pregnancy) and since our disagreements are so sharp we should make provision for it to be excluded from coverage. The ACA moved in that direction as exchange provided plans actually require abortion coverage to be paid for directly by the subscriber. Everything else, though, gets very touchy. Covering pregnancy? What about unwed mothers? Or consider the humble 'birth control pill'. OK let's accept your assertion that it may cause abortions in some cases (an assertion not fully accepted and clearly it prevents abortions in many cases since many people using it would have abortions if they conceived). It carries a lot of uses outside of birth control. For example, if your're a woman who has the BRAC gene and you do not want to have a hysterectomy to guard against ovarian cancer using birth control pills until you're ready to have a child can dramatically lower your risk. The pills are also used for other conditions where birth control is only a secondary intention. (Also a lot of treatments are bad for pregnancies. I believe just about all forms of chemotherapy will kill an embryo. Huge numbers of medications are contra-indicated for pregnancy)

So how exactly does this work if HL gets its way? You're a female employee, you go to your doctor and discuss contraception and request the pill for another reason. You now have to document to your employer that you're not getting the pill for birth control but for some other condition. Likewise your doctor has to report that you used a portion of your visit to talk about contraception and since the employer doesn't want to cover that in any form (HL has argued that not only should they not cover contraception but also doctors appointments where it's discussed), he must pro-rate some portion of the visit to bill you directly. In contrast a 65 yr old male co-worker goes to the same doctor and asks for Viagra. He is not asked to document that he is legally married to a woman, he is not asked to promise not to use the viagra as an aid for extra-marital sex. He pays his copay gets his script and goes off all confidential and quick. While HL may have their reasons for wanting to build a customized type of insurance coverage, the public has an equally valid reason for not wanting to subsidize such coverage as the norm.

HL has an alternative, if they are a religious organization they can assert that their employees are essentially ministers and require them to abide by their religious teachings regardless of what their plans cover as condition of employment. That would make the whole 'indirect question' moot. If your employee is bound not to use birth control, you don't have to worry about paying her with money, coverage, or gift cards. Granted that may be a tough sell for a retail store chain to make but that option is readily available for many organizations that are religious orientated but are not actual churches (i.e. schools, charities, even hospitals).

B. When it comes to abortion and contraception covered by a health plan, the only people who are paying for it are those who use it, not those that don't. This is counter intuitive but IMO it's the only way to make any sense of who is paying for what. Let me explain:

Some auto insurances will fix dings in your windshield for free. So imagine an auto insurance company introduces this feature...they will spend $100 to fix your windshield if it has a ding or crack in it, no questions asked. Yet when this new feature is introduced, they do not raise any rates. How can that be? Whose paying the repair guy $100 every time he fixes a window?

Well there's two ways this could happen. One way is that fixing all those windows prevents some accidents so the company is finding that the reduced accident cost offsets the windshield cost. Another way is that the windshield policy attracts new customers, customers who don't have many accidents but like the windshield policy. Those new customers pay premiums but don't make claims so they end up offsetting the cost of the repairs.

In the first case the people who are really 'paying' are the people who would have had big expensive accidents but didn't. Granted no one wants to be in a car accident but if they were they would have received huge claims from the company and now they don't. Those claims are going to pay for everyone's fixed dings. In the other case the people paying are the people who want the 'free' windshield fix so they get policies with the company.

Whose paying then? The people who have abortions or use birth control. They would have been either big claims for pregnancies or wouldn't have been paying premiums to begin with. So IMO if you're having babies being covered by a plan that also covers abortion, you needn't worry morally. You're actually having your babies off the dime of those who want the abortions and contraception. Somewhat ironic, isn't it?

Boonton, you're still operating on the basis of false factual claims concerning Hobby Lobby's provision of contraception. Are you under the impression that Hobby Lobby's current insurance plan does not include birth control coverage?

You also appear to be misinformed about, for instance, the Catholic Church's position vis-a-vis treatment by contraceptive prescriptions for other medical reasons. (Hint: the Church does not forbid such treatment.)


Possibly fair point but why is it relevant? HL's position is that this is their religious/moral position. If it's *their* position that may or may not be aligned with the Catholic Church's position. Tomorrow they may very well decide the Church is far to soft on such matters. Likewise another employer may take some other position based on an entirely different set of religious beliefs (for example, no medicines that come from animal products or experiments).

I also didn't say the Church doesn't forbid the use of contraceptive pills for non-contraceptive treatments (such as preventing ovarian cancer). The problem comes from trying to enforce such rules in an insurance policy, which IMO essentially is asking for insurance to start being something most Americans do not care it to be.

Boonton makes this topic VERY boring.

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