Are We Morally Obligated to Follow Obamacare?

 

When people are defending a law they like from moral arguments against it, one common retort is that we are a nation of laws, which creates an obligation to follow laws even when we don’t like them — because we otherwise open ourselves up to anarchy and various other existential consequences.

Rarely do I hear people coming to the defense of a law they personally dislike with the same ferocity as those they feel meet their prefered ends.

If someone had a way to avoid Obamacare illegally and get away with it, would it be appropriate to chastise him as a moral deviant for not following the letter of the law? Should we demand the government do more to prosecute him? Does the person become a criminal as long as he continues to successfully flout it?

Do we have a moral obligation to follow Obamacare, less we cease to be a country where our laws are respected?

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  1. Midget Faded Rattlesnake Contributor
    Midget Faded Rattlesnake
    @Midge

    Joseph Stanko:

    So do you think we’re only obliged to follow useful laws?

    I’ll also point out that there are different levels of obligation. One may feel obliged to do something merely out of prudence, and not because one feels there’s any inherent rightness in the act.

    • #61
  2. Stad Coolidge
    Stad
    @Stad

    Stad:There was a recent article in the Conservative Chronicle a couple of weeks ago. It referred to an interview by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, in which he stated the cases where we were obligated, or not obligated, to follow a law. I thought it was very interesting. Perhaps you should go to the Conservative Chronicle website, and see if you can find it. I will look for it tomorrow, and try to find a link I can post.

     The article is titled “Eric Holder Is Wrong Because MLK Was Right” by Terence Jeffrey:  http://www.cnsnews.com/commentary/terence-p-jeffrey/eric-holder-wrong-because-mlk-was-right

    • #62
  3. user_1938 Inactive
    user_1938
    @AaronMiller

    James Of England: Matthew 17 makes it clear that our compliance is not based on the rulers being right, but applies even where they are terrible.

    Are ancient rulers not different in kind from elected representatives?

    • #63
  4. Ann K Member
    Ann K
    @

    If illegal aliens get to pick and choose which laws to obey, then so do I.

    • #64
  5. Cordelia Inactive
    Cordelia
    @Cordelia

    Philo: As Jefferson often did, Hamilton was channeling Locke here.

    • #65
  6. AR Inactive
    AR
    @AR

    Joseph Stanko:

    Jim Lion: This law violates the conscience.

    What precisely does this law force you to do that violates your conscience?

    At a minimum, obamacare forces my family to pay for the slaughter of unborn babies. The fact that the federal government and the state governments also steal from us to do this in no way invalidates that this law is wrong to do so too.

    • #66
  7. Mike H Coolidge
    Mike H
    @MikeH

    AR:

    Joseph Stanko:

    Jim Lion: This law violates the conscience. 

    What precisely does this law force you to do that violates your conscience?

    At a minimum, obamacare forces my family to pay for the slaughter of unborn babies. The fact that the federal government and the state governments also steal from us to do this in no way invalidates that this law is wrong to do so too.

     It also forces us to impoverish our families in the name of what Washington thinks is good for us. We must spend more for less access to healthcare. I could create a health plan best suited for my family, but that is outlawed. We should be able to do what’s best for ourselves without fear of government admonishment. This violates my conscience.

    • #67
  8. AR Inactive
    AR
    @AR

    Aaron Miller:

    James Of England: Matthew 17 makes it clear that our compliance is not based on the rulers being right, but applies even where they are terrible.

    Are ancient rulers not different in kind from elected representatives?

     Further, there is a difference between following tyrants or rulers’ whims and following the law. Rulers and politicians may pronounce on high that it is now good, right, and salutary to kill unborn babies, trap generations of people in poverty and make them complicit in the government’s theft of their neighbor’s property, criminalize the sale and purchase of health insurance, enable stealing from your neighbor via the government, etc.But do those pronouncements actually change the law? Or merely put one at risk of punishment when the current rulers notice you’re not following their latest pet edicts? Especially when those new edicts conflict with the laws of the land (federal and state constitutions, moral law). How many years and how many tyrants must come and go before a nation’s or state’s actual laws are no longer valid? If that is indeed possible, we are all democrats now because Constitution was overwritten long, long ago by judges and politicians.

    • #68
  9. AR Inactive
    AR
    @AR

    Mike H:  It also forces us to impoverish our families in the name of what Washington thinks is good for us. We must spend more for less access to healthcare. I could create a health plan best suited for my family, but that is outlawed. We should be able to do what’s best for ourselves without fear of government admonishment. This violates my conscience.

    Thank you for reading my mind and expressing it so elegantly.

    • #69
  10. Spin Coolidge
    Spin
    @Spin

    Joseph Stanko:

    One may well ask: “How can you advocate breaking some laws and obeying others?” The answer lies in the fact that there are two types of laws: just and unjust. I would be the first to advocate obeying just laws. One has not only a legal but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws. I would agree with St. Augustine that “an unjust law is no law at all.”Now, what is the difference between the two? How does one determine whether a law is just or unjust? A just law is a man made code that squares with the moral law or the law of God. An unjust law is a code that is out of harmony with the moral law. To put it in the terms of St. Thomas Aquinas: An unjust law is a human law that is not rooted in eternal law and natural law.-Martin Luther King, Jr, Letter from a Birmingham Jail

     Awesome.  I may have to read that to the kids on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.  

    • #70
  11. user_3444 Coolidge
    user_3444
    @JosephStanko

    Aaron Miller:

    James Of England: Matthew 17 makes it clear that our compliance is not based on the rulers being right, but applies even where they are terrible.

    Are ancient rulers not different in kind from elected representatives?

    Perhaps, but if you believe that the just powers of government derive from the consent of the governed, it would seem to me that the laws enacted by elected representatives should impose a stronger moral obligation on us than the edicts of ancient rulers.

    • #71
  12. user_3444 Coolidge
    user_3444
    @JosephStanko

    Mike H: It also forces us to impoverish our families in the name of what Washington thinks is good for us.

    How far do you extend this principle?  Do you claim paying income tax violates your conscience?

    • #72
  13. Mike H Coolidge
    Mike H
    @MikeH

    Joseph Stanko:

    Mike H: It also forces us to impoverish our families in the name of what Washington thinks is good for us.

    How far do you extend this principle? Do you claim paying income tax violates your conscience?

     Of course, but I’m not trying to convince people of the extreme, I’m trying to convince people about an obvious case of a law that appreciably endangers life and limb.

    • #73
  14. user_3444 Coolidge
    user_3444
    @JosephStanko

    Mike H: Of course, but I’m not trying to convince people of the extreme, I’m trying to convince people about an obvious case of a law that appreciably endangers life and limb.

    So do you believe there are any laws that impose a moral obligation on you to obey them?

    • #74
  15. Mike H Coolidge
    Mike H
    @MikeH

    Joseph Stanko:

    Mike H: Of course, but I’m not trying to convince people of the extreme, I’m trying to convince people about an obvious case of a law that appreciably endangers life and limb.

    So do you believe there are any laws that impose a moral obligation on you to obey them?

     Laws don’t govern my morals. Majority opinion does not govern my morals. My morals are independent of laws. I don’t (usually) break traffic laws because traffic laws are useful, it’s usually dangerous to break them, and free riders are jerks and I’m not a jerk. I still pay my taxes because of the government’s legitimate monopoly on use of force, but I have no moral obligation to do anything the government forces me to do.

    • #75
  16. user_3444 Coolidge
    user_3444
    @JosephStanko

    Mike H: Laws don’t govern my morals. Majority opinion does not govern my morals. My morals are independent of laws.

    Laws don’t govern my morals, either.  Murder is wrong regardless of what the law says about it.

    However, I believe that it is immoral to break a just law.  Laws impose additional obligations above and beyond things that are already wrong according to the natural and divine laws.

    For instance, there’s nothing in the natural law that makes it inherently better to drive in the right lane vs. the left lane, but when you drive in the United States you are obliged to obey the law and drive on the right side of the road.  When you visit England you should obey their laws and drive on the left side.  Breaking either law is immoral.

    • #76
  17. Mike H Coolidge
    Mike H
    @MikeH

    Joseph Stanko:

    Mike H: Laws don’t govern my morals. Majority opinion does not govern my morals. My morals are independent of laws.

    Laws don’t govern my morals, either. Murder is wrong regardless of what the law says about it.However, I believe that it is immoral to break a just law. Laws impose additional obligations above and beyond things that are already wrong according to the natural and divine laws.For instance, there’s nothing in the natural law that makes it inherently better to drive in the right lane vs. the left lane, but when you drive in the United States you are obliged to obey the law and drive on the right side of the road. When you visit England you should obey their laws and drive on the left side. Breaking either law is immoral.

    Because traffic laws are morally equivalent to Obamacare? Traffic laws that serve as convention are about as amoral as laws get. Must we follow Obamacare because if we don’t people will drive on the wrong side of the road since the laws are the only thing preventing them from swerving in and out of traffic? These digressions are worthless. Just because I have a certain model for how the world works, it has no relevance to following an objectively unjust law.

    • #77
  18. user_3444 Coolidge
    user_3444
    @JosephStanko

    Mike H: Must we follow Obamacare because if we don’t people will drive on the wrong side of the road since the laws are the only thing preventing them from swerving in and out of traffic?

    No, we must follow Obamacare (with the exceptions I outlined above) because it was passed by Congress, signed by the President, and upheld by the Supreme Court.

    • #78
  19. user_385039 Inactive
    user_385039
    @donaldtodd

    James of England #6

    If I remember correctly, when Caesar demanded worship and the Christians refused, they were punished, often by death.  If that is a correct understanding of what occurred, then one might suggest that resisting the law will evoke a penalty which must be met.

    There are laws which cannot be obeyed.  The demands of Obamacare with regard to abortifacients would fall into the area where there are a lot of people whose religious demands require something other than support for abortifacients.  One would assume that at least a portion of those people will resist, and then they will be punished.

    • #79
  20. OkieSailor Member
    OkieSailor
    @OkieSailor

    The Supreme Court is not infallible. They were dead wrong when they ruled that Dred Scott was not a person and were equally wrong when they ruled that US Citizens can be mandated to buy any product or service simply  because they exist. Not to use any available means to resist a plain violation of our inalienable rights is to dishonor the sacrifice of the founders as well as the many who have fought and/or died to preserve liberty for us today.

    He who will surrender a necessary liberty to obtain a little security will lose both and deserves neither.

    • #80
  21. Mike H Coolidge
    Mike H
    @MikeH

    Joseph Stanko:

    Mike H: Must we follow Obamacare because if we don’t people will drive on the wrong side of the road since the laws are the only thing preventing them from swerving in and out of traffic?

    No, we must follow Obamacare (with the exceptions I outlined above) because it was passed by Congress, signed by the President, and upheld by the Supreme Court.

     We’ll just have the fundamentally disagree, which I realized about two pages ago. We’ll always have immigration, Joseph. :)

    • #81
  22. James Of England Moderator
    James Of England
    @JamesOfEngland

    Donald Todd:James of England #6If I remember correctly, when Caesar demanded worship and the Christians refused, they were punished, often by death. If that is a correct understanding of what occurred, then one might suggest that resisting the law will evoke a penalty which must be met.

     Yes. Daniel and the books of the Maccabees are the obvious guides, and they basically come down on Esther’s line, which is essentially the line Joseph is taking (although Joseph may be less hardcore than Esther; while I appreciate the clarity of the bible, I think I’d have trouble obeying a law that sold an entire people into slavery, let alone a people I identified as mine, and I would not be shocked if Joseph shared my discomfort at the rift between secular and sacred values). 

    There’s some awful stuff Catholics wrote in the 17th century, for instance, permitting people to lie to their persecutors through gimmicks, but it’s pretty hard to condemn them for writing heretical nonsense when that small heresy appeared to them to be the only way that they could combine their duties to God with the duties to their families that could only be fulfilled if they lived.

    There are laws which cannot be obeyed. The demands of Obamacare with regard to abortifacients would fall into the area where there are a lot of people whose religious demands require something other than support for abortifacients. One would assume that at least a portion of those people will resist, and then they will be punished.

    I imagine that, if Hobby Lobby loses its case (and, obviously, Hobby Lobby’s victory should be high in our prayer list), the chief way of complying with both divine and secular commands will be to cease to provide insurance for employees, thus earning a jizya (and unjust taxes are binding). I don’t think we’ll see many people take a much more martyrdom oriented route, although I could be wrong.

    • #82
  23. James Of England Moderator
    James Of England
    @JamesOfEngland

    Spin:

    Joseph Stanko:

    Awesome. I may have to read that to the kids on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.

     If you do that, be sure to emphasize to them that MLK, while a great man, lacked the research resources available to your kids today. For instance, whereas it is relatively easy for us to see that Augustine never said this, it would have been hard for MLK to do so.

    Aquinas also never said the quote that has frequently been attributed to him, although he does have a tripartite understanding of laws in which “unjust” laws are not law. Aquinas’ demands for a law to be just, though, merely involve the intention of the law including just objects. These explicitly include laws that compel subjects to act in the manner that the scriptures instruct us to. As such, laws telling us to behave like the Good Samaritan and give our money to others for healthcare or to heal the sick are valid (also laws demanding that we preserve our own health, our bodies being temples of the Holy Spirit. Obamacare is a terrible way of going about that, but Aquinas makes it clear that human law doesn’t need to be sensible; however our lawgivers feel they should go about pursuing those ends is fine.

    I should note that Aquinas is probably no more helpful in an MLK context; Aquinas lived in a world with many legally segregated communities, and I’m not familiar with arguments that those communities were living in circumstances different to those advocated by Ezra and Nehemiah, or saw people enjoying privileges different from those endorsed by Paul.

    • #83
  24. James Of England Moderator
    James Of England
    @JamesOfEngland

    OkieSailor:The Supreme Court is not infallible. They were dead wrong when they ruled that Dred Scott was not a person and were equally wrong when they ruled that US Citizens can be mandated to buy any product or service simply because they exist. Not to use any available means to resist a plain violation of our inalienable rights is to dishonor the sacrifice of the founders as well as the many who have fought and/or died to preserve liberty for us today.He who will surrender a necessary liberty to obtain a little security will lose both and deserves neither.

     If you do nothing, and hence have no income, Obamacare does not force you to do anything. You’re not even forced to sign up for Medicaid. Once you start doing stuff and earning an income, you will eventually hit a threshold where the government will start to take some of that income, but unless you oppose the income tax, too, your grounds for claiming that this payment is illegitimate need more work than appears in this comment.

    • #84
  25. Fake John Galt Coolidge
    Fake John Galt
    @FakeJohnJaneGalt

    Do I have to follow the law.  Yes.  Why?  Because the government has more force, more guns and is willing to use them.  

    I note that the government on the other hand since it has all the power pretty much follows or ignores the law as it pleases.

    • #85
  26. user_3444 Coolidge
    user_3444
    @JosephStanko

    James Of England: If you do that, be sure to emphasize to them that MLK, while a great man, lacked the research resources available to your kids today. For instance, whereas it is relatively easy for us to see that Augustine never said this, it would have been hard for MLK to do so.

    My understanding is that MLK literally wrote the Letter from a Birmingham Jail in a jail cell, from memory, with no books or notes available (and certainly no Google).

    • #86
  27. user_3444 Coolidge
    user_3444
    @JosephStanko

    James Of England: although he does have a tripartite understanding of laws in which “unjust” laws are not law. Aquinas’ demands for a law to be just, though, merely involve the intention of the law including just objects.

    I believe he has a four-level (quadripartite?) understanding: (1) eternal; (2) natural; (3) human; and (4) divine.  An additional requirement of a just human law is that it not contradict the other 3 levels of law, hence as I said (and you agreed) the law cannot compel support for contraception or abortion.

    Otherwise I agree with your analysis, it is not unjust according to Aquinas for the state to compel us to buy health insurance, nor is it unjust to impose taxes and use them to pay for socialized medicine.

    • #87
  28. James Of England Moderator
    James Of England
    @JamesOfEngland

    Joseph Stanko:Otherwise I agree with your analysis, it is not unjust according to Aquinas for the state to compel us to buy health insurance, nor is it unjust to impose taxes and use them to pay for socialized medicine.

     I’d like to distinguish my definition of justice from the one Aquinas uses. Aquinas applies something close to a rational basis test for justice, of necessity since the Persian and Neronian Roman empires that are explicitly upheld as “just” could only meet a very low bar indeed; slavery, arbitrary systems of justice, a total lack of due process for almost everyone, etc..

    In other words, I think that, eg., the Taliban, Obama, and Soviets met the criteria to be divinely legitimate rulers whose authority should be respected and whose laws should be obeyed where they did not prohibit observance. When I use the word justice in my own sense of the term, though, I generally mean it more aspirationally than that.

    Edit: Also, yes, I wrongly conflated eternal and natural law. I appreciate the correction.

    • #88
  29. James Of England Moderator
    James Of England
    @JamesOfEngland

    Joseph Stanko:

    James Of England: If you do that, be sure to emphasize to them that MLK, while a great man, lacked the research resources available to your kids today. For instance, whereas it is relatively easy for us to see that Augustine never said this, it would have been hard for MLK to do so.

    My understanding is that MLK literally wrote the Letter from a Birmingham Jail in a jail cell, from memory, with no books or notes available (and certainly no Google).

     Right. I really wasn’t intending to slight MLK. I just thought that if kids were being taught this stuff it represented both an opportunity to remind them of the awesome resources they possess compared to previous generations. It also seems like an opportunity to see how theological ideas can be appropriated and transformed, so that they can be on watch for that sort of thing when it is practiced by less noble theologians than MLK.

    • #89
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