The Etymology of the Cooptation of ‘Freedom’ by the Tea Party
Readers of my AB posts know that a recurring theme of mine is the right’s cooptation of the word “freedom” to disembody the word from actual physical freedom–e.g., from imprisonment–or from personal choice, and to instead define it as a Reagan-era Conservative Legal Movement checklist. And that these folks achieve this by declaring it mandated by the Constitution’s “structure,” an oddly phantom foundation visible only to them. It’s a pernicious gimmick that five current Supreme Court justices are using to effectively rewrite the Constitution.
In a lengthy article published yesterday in the New Republic, Cass Sunstein, a former longtime University of Chicago law professor, then an Obama-administration official, and now a law professor at Harvard, deconstructs the provenance of this stunningly successful gimmick. The article is called “The Man Who Made Libertarians Wrong About the Constitution: How Richard Epstein’s highly influential, highly politicized scholarship cemented Tea Party dogma.” The occasion for it is a review of a newly published book by the man in question: Sunstein’s former University of Chicago law school colleague Richard Epstein titled “The Classical Liberal Constitution: The Uncertain Quest for Limited Government.”
For those unfamiliar with the term “classical liberalism,” the Wikipedia article on it describes it as “a political philosophy and ideology belonging to liberalism in which primary emphasis is placed on securing the freedom of the individual by limiting the power of the government.” The article continues:
The philosophy emerged as a response to the Industrial Revolution and urbanizationin the 19th century in Europe and the United States. It advocates civil liberties with a limited government under the rule of law, private property rights, and belief in laissez-faire economic liberalism. Classical liberalism is built on ideas that had already arisen by the end of the 18th century, including ideas of Adam Smith, John Locke, Jean-Baptiste Say, Thomas Malthus, and David Ricardo. It drew on a psychological understanding of individual liberty, natural law, utilitarianism, and a belief in progress.
Sunstein makes two key points: One is that what Epstein calls classical liberalism is not universally accepted as actual classical liberalism, although Epstein and the Tea Party right pretend that it is. The other is that there is nothing at all in the Constitution itself or in the history of the era of its drafting to suggest that their claim about the purpose and nature of the Constitution is accurate. It is instead simply a modern-day rightwing political ideology that its proponents–i.e., they–trumpet as the framers’. It is, in essence, a fraud.
To those two points, I’ll add another: Whatever Epstein’s own beliefs are regarding the constitutional rights of individuals vis-a-vis the states, the five current “structuralist” justices invoke an imagined states-as-sovereigns construct inherent in the Constitution and attribute it to James Madison, in order to aggressively–obsessively–privilege the supposedly structurally sovereign state courts and state and local prosecutors over the constitutional rights of individuals, and over the federal government. The legislative and executive branches, though, are not so sovereign; not when their official acts conflict with the Republican political or ideological agenda, anyway. The Constitution’s Supremacy Clause could audition as a Cirque du Soleil performer. So, for that matter, could the post-Civil War amendments and the laws that effectuate them. They serve a purpose, but mainly as needed by rightwing culture warriors. The Voting Rights Act, for example, need not apply, notwithstanding that the Fifteenth Amendment expressly authorizes such a law; there’s that structural barrier, y’know, and the Constitution’s original framers wouldn’t approve.
Sunstein ends his article by calling this spade a spade. “[A] judicially engineered constitutional revolution is not what America needs now,” he says. But it is what we’re seeing.
When the federal government seeks to regulate even our decisions, one ought to be forgiven for wanting a more limited government.
Mandate of PPACA:
The requirement regulates activity that is commercial
and economic in nature: economic and financial
decisions about how and when health care is paid for,
and when health insurance is purchased.
And when the “choice” presented by the mandate of PPACA is to purchase more insurance than one needs or wants or pay a fine (pay me ten dollars or pay me nine), talk of freedom is a bit much.
Easy enough, sign a DNR so I do not have to contribute to the $thousands to maintain your life when you are not insured. Your rights as a minority should not impact my rights to pursue life because you choose not to take the necessary precautions when fully able to do so. You practice a tyranny by doing so through choice and I wish not to be forced to participate in your tyranny.
Run75441: Since when did anyone be FORCED to pay for someone else’s healthcare other than Medicare/Medicaid???
“Since when “was” anyone forced to pay for someone else’s healthcare?”
When you arbitrarily choose not to be insured and you can afford it. Where do you believe that care comes from and who do you believe pays for it?
Why do we need a second emancipation proclamation? Where did the Federal government gain the power to regulate each person’s decisions?
We have not, and could not, surrender our free will to the federal or state governments.
Your idea of freedom is as twisted and Beverly’s.
Your idea is twisted. You wish to do whatever you please no matter if it impacts the people around you. You choose to claim it as a tyranny of the majority to mandate a requirement to have healthcare insurance. I do not want to have to pay for you and your impinging upon my freedom because you wish to opt out as an expression of your freedom which is a tyranny of a minority. I am willing to allow you to opt out, just sign a DNR. Find a quiet corner to die rather than place your costs of healthcare upon the majority because you wish to have freedom.
Run75441: INSURANCE is NOT healthcare nor is healthcare insurance. One is a complex financial instrument used to enrich an investment corporation the other is a relationship between a Doctor(could even be a Priest or Witchdoctor or Aunt Jane) and a patient. Investment doesn’t mean healthcare.
PATIENTS PAY FOR IT, plus, with insurance, PATIENTS PAY for a whole industry of financial paper leaches.
Run75441: What YOU are really saying IS, “I want a EVERY Young Person who is most likely NOT a patient to PAY for doctors to work on OLD FOLKS like U&I who most likely ARE patients.”
No, I am not saying such. I am saying you should not burden others with your decisions not to care for yourself. You are attempting to qualify the discussion and I will not allow you to do so. The same as there is a tyranny of the majority, there also exists a tyranny of the minority of which both groups wish to lay the responsibility of their actions upon others.
In your other reply, you are conflating the issue through unnecessary explanation. You wish to have free healthcare which does not exist today. The ticket to free healthcare is either to be a Koch Bros. or have an insurance policy which covers the cost of healthcare plus your contribution. That is the way it is today. I propose if you wish to opt out, then sign the DNR so I do not have to pay for you.
Qualifier: I have The VA waiting for me to die.
When the federal government seeks to regulate even our decisions, one ought to be forgiven for wanting a more limited government? Hansberry, make you can explain why the problem is only with the FEDERAL government seek to regulate even our decisions. It’s fine when STATE and LOCAL governments do, right? It’s only a problem when the government that is seeking to regulate even our decisions is the FEDERAL government, right?
Of course, what you’re saying isn’t that there’s an inherent problem with government seeking to regulate even our decisions but instead with the FEDERAL government seeking to regulate even our decisions that the POLITICAL RIGHT doesn’t want regulated. The far right has a pretty chameleon-like idea of “freedom”. Which was the point of my post and of many others I’ve written here, and of Sunstein’s article.
Mike Meyer, what in heaven’s name do you think is how employer-based healthcare insurance works, if NOT having every every young person covered by the employer’s insurance plan pay for doctors to work on old folks? I mean, really.
PS to Mike Hansberry: One thing that is so striking about America’s current far right is how thoroughly and consistently their arguments are just a recitation of cliches. E.g., “When the federal government seeks to regulate even our decisions, ….” Not, “some of our decisions,” or “certain types of our decisions,” but instead “When the federal government seeks to regulate even our decisions.” The very nature of government, at every level of government, in a civil society is the regulation even of some of our decisions. Yet you folks are either clueless about that obvious fact or think their readers are. Why?
It’s just an incessant string of blather.
“It’s just an incessant string of blather.”
Yeah especially when one considers we are the federal, state and local government. And when one considers there are 6 billion plus people on this planet that have to figure out how to best live together while burdening each other the least because there is always someone’s decision that is going to influence the out come of one’s own decision, (not even considering that stuff just happens to effect one’s results). Not having the ability to get health care (insurance or other wise) is just one example which simply cost society more. Thinking everything one does is simply their own doing is another.
But then again, a non selfish person would get this and such posts as Bev’s would not be needed.
Beverly said: “Its just an incessant string of blather.”
Then she goes on to defend society’s supposed need to regulate people’s decision -not merely their actions mind you -but even their decisions. Thank God that she sees the need only to regulate some of our decisions.
Well I wish it were just blather, but below is excerpted from an act of Congress, not some far right wing conspiracy theory, but rather an act of our American Congress claiming the authority to regulate our decisions.
Mandate of PPACA: The requirement regulates activity that is commercial and economic in nature: economic and financial decisions about how and when health care is paid for, and when health insurance is purchased
How does Congress tell one decision from another? Are they labeled within our minds so that Congress can read each and decide which are economic in nature and which are not? Can Congress ban all decisions on the theory which held sway in Raich?
How does Congress know what any person has decided on any topic?
Perhaps Congress could consult some superior intelligence such as Sunstein or Beverly, but what if neither is available, is it not possible that Congress will not know with any certainty whatsoever what any person has decided?
Beverly Mann: Its an EMPLOYMENT BENEFIT. The Employer PAYS on top of that benefit and its VOLUNTARY, don’t want the insurance, don’t take the job. NO FORCED participation and most likely its a welcomed perk. But STILL it is what it is, a financial instrument used to enrich an investment corporation.
Daniel Becker: What about the Unemployed? Which policy should they buy? How about the Homeless or even the Undocumented?
Ah Mike Meyer,
If it were up to me, no one would be purchasing a policy. Instead, we would collectively pool our fund and dedicate them for health care expenditures. It would avoid the middle man and would be taking advantage of the greatest effect of the concept of insurance: pooling. It would be the largest pool and thus the least expense per person for everyone.
As it is, those unemployed or homeless don’t have to buy insurance, they are to have been covered by the expansion of medicaid. As for undocumented, I would include them in any program we came up with because it is cheaper for me and you in the end.
That’s the money answer. However, my true answer is everyone would be included just because it’s the unselfish thing to do.
It would be far less expensive and economically sound if we designed healthcare insurance as “insurance” rather than pre-paid healthcare plans.
Also, why stop at the national boundaries? Under your logic, pooling the resources of the entire globe would lower per person costs even more, and then you solve the whole undocumented issue.
And unless you yourself expect to pay more under your idealized plan, please stop calling it “unselfish”. Calling for others to behave unselfishly if you’re not subject to similar sacrifices isn’t unselfish at all.