The Fundamental Right to Buy

By Cyberquill 10/12/201710 Comments

The Trump administration has announced a rollback of the legal requirement for companies to include contraceptive coverage in their employees’ health plans.

This move is being widely denounced as an access restriction and hence as an infringement of a woman’s right to birth control.

Of course, having to pay for anything is an access restriction. My being charged eighty cents for a pack of Doublemint circumscribes my freedom to chew gum, a freedom proportional to my ability and willingness to pony up the cash.

Although reasonable people may differ on whether there exists a constitutional or otherwise fundamental right to chew gum, there does exist—love it or hate it—a fundamental right to “keep and bear arms,” which the Constitution explicitly instructs “shall not be infringed.”

Strangely, no one ever seems to decry as a fundamental-rights-infringing kind of access restriction the fact that if you want a Glock or a hunting rifle, you must pay for it out of your own pocket.

Employers have never been mandated to cover their employees’ personal firearm expenses, nor does the government issue “gun stamps” for the indigent.

So if denying or restricting birth control coverage amounts to the denial or restriction of a fundamental right, then how come the absence of a legal framework designed to provide the people with free firearms doesn’t do likewise?

Related Post: Sex and Obamacare

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  • Richard

    Perhaps by some convoluted logic employers are perceived as instrumental in bringing the sexes together under the same roof and therefore responsible for the cnsequences.

    Either that or opposition to anything Trump tries to do is an evolved reflex action.

    • Cyberquill

      The question is, does my having to pay for my own movie tickets infringe upon my right to watch movies? And if nobody buys me a megaphone, can I legitimately say that my free speech rights are being violated?

      • Richard

        And by exposing the absurdity of such a proposition you demonstrate the absurdity of the legal requirement, unless by some stretch of the imagination there is something that distinguishes it.

        Neatly done!

      • Cyberquill

        I’m never sure whether I’m exposing an absurdity or whether there’s a flaw in my logic.

        I suppose fundamental rights could be ranked by fundamental importance, whereby — depending on the philosophy of whoever’s doing the ranking — the right to nourishment outweighs the right to keep and bear arms or the right to freedom of expression. And maybe that’s why the government issues food stamps but no gun stamps and no coupons that can be redeemed for the printing of pamphlets to spread one’s message.

        • Richard

          You erect castles of impregnable logic. I lay siege with peashooters, scale the ramparts with rotting ladders and tunnel halfway, only to be decisively repulsed.

          You are right about perspective and priorities. We work to earn money to choose our own priorities, as I think you said in your linked related post. The state steps in for those who in its estimation do not have enough money to pay. In a universal requirement, no such estimation is made.

          Where reliance is placed on direct handouts from the state, freedom is curtailed. To what extent should we be clients of the state? Requiring an employer to make the handout is a covert tax and leaves the state free to choose the priorities without accounting for them.

          In the UK, the law requires employers to pay a substantial part of the employee’s national insurance. Redundancy payments are made initially by the employer and reimbursed by the state. Income tax and the employee’s share of national insurance is deducted from wages and sent to the state. The state thus avoids the cost of administration. VAT is similar.

          Ultimately, then, it is, as you say, dependent on the philosophy of whoever doing the ranking -- invariably those wielding the power of the state and their supporters.

        • Cyberquill

          Ramparts and peashooters? You’re such a poet.

          I take it, then, you concur that my right to eat isn’t necessarily being infringed upon because I’m expected to use my wages to pay for my food.

          I suppose the one thing that distinguishes birth control from the right to eat, to exercise free speech, or to keep and bear arms, is that the financial burden of birth control is rather unevenly distributed among the sexes, and that for the state to subsidize it or to require employers to cover it could be seen a way of getting the male half of society to pay their fair share.

          That, at least, makes sense.

  • Richard

    I keep returning to this post because I am amused by the title.

    “Right to Buy” is a familiar political tag in the UK for controversial legislation introduced by the Thatcher government. It conferred on local authority tenants the right to buy the property they lived in at an extremely generous discount. Socialists argued that it was an unsustainable diminution of the publicly-owned housing stock.

    In vain, I try to align your post with the Tory case in favour of the policy. One day I shall succeed, do you think?

    • Cyberquill

      “A strong enough why takes care of almost any how.”

      • Richard

        In this case the “how” dominates the “why” since the “why” lurks inexplicably in the “how”.

      • Cyberquill

        The why’s h certainly starts off the how.

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