The Omelet

I think that Megan McArdle’s most recent post makes a valuable contribution to the discussion of the Supreme Court’s decision in the Hobby Lobby case:

I think a few things are going on here. The first is that while the religious right views religion as a fundamental, and indeed essential, part of the human experience, the secular left views it as something more like a hobby, so for them it’s as if a major administrative rule was struck down because it unduly burdened model-train enthusiasts. That emotional disconnect makes it hard for the two sides to even debate; the emotional tenor quickly spirals into hysteria as one side says “Sacred!” and the other side says, essentially, “Seriously? Model trains?” That shows in Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s dissent, where it seems to me that she takes a very narrow view of what role religious groups play in the lives of believers and society as a whole.

The second, and probably more important, problem is that the long compromise worked out between the state and religious groups — do what you want within very broad limits, but don’t expect the state to promote it — is breaking down in the face of a shift in the way we view rights and the role of the government in public life.

I recommend you read the whole thing.

I think that Ms. McArdle’s explanation is incorrect and that, as I’ve suggested in the past, there’s a more basic disagreement about the nature of law. For some rights and laws are strictly instrumental. When they don’t further the preferred policy they are to be set aside.

In my view our system is one of principles and processes; in the contrary view it’s one of policies and coercion. When you disregard precedent and blackletter law to further your preferred policies, “you can’t make an omelet without breaking eggs” becomes the whole of the law.

11 comments… add one

  • ...

    I believe the breakdown to be this:

    Does society inform and dictate your government, or does government inform and dictate your society?

    There are feedback loops either way you look at it, but this seems to be the fundamental split of right and left in modern America.

    Good luck finding many people squarely on the right in this construction. But you’ll find great swathes of America on the left: the entire Democratic party, corporate Republicans, judges and the legal profession almost to a man, hardcore libertarians (though they won’t believe it), most in the media, public employee unions, most teachers, etc. People can add to their list as they see fit.

    The best example of this is when the Supreme Court of the United States of America managed to drum up a right to abortion out of a document that mentions abortion not at all, nor hints at it. Government was used to alter society with no real consequence to the government. Meaning, if you own the right five people, you own society.

  • Meaning, if you own the right five people, you own society.

    The problem is that you don’t own it. You’re only leasing it.

  • steve

    I think it a bit more broad than you claim. You need to remember that it would not have cost Hobby Lobby any more money to cover the contraceptive care than it did to not cover it. I think people understand the idea of not forcing people to spend money on stuff to which they are opposed. In this case, Hobby Lobby was going to spend the same either way. In that case, it can also be seen as the state supported enforcement of the employer’s religious beliefs over those of the employee’s, who may suffer actual economic damages in some cases.

    Steve

  • jan

    Hobby Lobby’s disagreement with 4 of the drugs, mandated by the governments PPACA, went beyond a cost consideration. Their opposition was based on a religious principle dealing with the cessation of intrauterine life that would result from supplying these drugs. Furthermore, their opposition did not extend to contraception coverage, in general, as there was a plethora of pharmaceutical options for women to chose from that would still be in the HC coverage provided for by Hobby Lobby.

  • Guarneri

    Pretty long lease term……..

  • Modulo Myself

    Don’t most people on the left view religious conservatives as fanatics focused on sex and hostile to women? It doesn’t sound like ‘model trains’ to me. I don’t even know how McArdle has a job, actually. Who are the readers who are so desperate that they agree with that?

  • jan

    Don’t most people on the left view religious conservatives as fanatics focused on sex and hostile to women?

    No. Only people living in the socially progressive bubble feel that way.

  • TastyBits

    @Icepick

    Two of my favorites are Wickard v. Filburn and Kelo v. City of New London. Your property belongs to you except when the rich and powerful decide that it actually belongs to them.

  • Modulo Myself

    No. Only people living in the socially progressive bubble feel that way.

    Jan, my point was that the left does not the view the religious right’s viewpoints as equivalent to those of a hobbyist. The issue, which McArdle probably does not grasp, is that the left is not reverent towards the religious claims of conservatives. The right wants everyone, even those who disagree, to be reverent towards their claims about contraception. Short answer: it’s not happening. Long answer: the right is far too authoritarian to imagine a pluralistic world in which they coexist with others who do not defer to them in some way or another.

  • jan

    “Short answer: it’s not happening. Long answer: the right is far too authoritarian to imagine a pluralistic world in which they coexist with others who do not defer to them in some way or another.”

    I disagree with your general perspective, Modulo, regarding the right as being too authoritarian, and not wanting to coexist with those who do not defer to their way of thinking. IMO, it’s quite the opposite, especially in a diverse, pluralistic world of people valuing different values and principles. where it appears to be more the social progressive ‘left’ who continually stir the pot in order to nullify religious practices held by the religious right, forcing them into legal compliance battles that are simply at odds with deep beliefs of conscience.

    In the recent SCOTUS ruling, women were not harmed by exclusions given to a handful of contraceptive means that also could abort a live fetus. All it did was alleviate an employer from the burden of having to pay for their employee’s devices or medications that were subversive to long-held doctrines espoused in their faith. Women, though, continue to have the many outside options, free and otherwise, to receive medical treatment, medications to end unwanted pregnancies.

    In reality this decision was a win/win kind of compromise, which is unfortunately being politicized by the left as a lose/lose one, because the left didn’t win it all. Now that’s being ‘authoritarian!’

  • Andy

    I’ll just say again that this case illustrates fundamental problems with employer-provided health insurance in our society. In general I think enforcing public policy via employers is best avoided when other options are available. The sooner we move away from an employer-based health care system, the better.

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