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Hobby Lobby, Contraception, and the Primitivism of Politics

July 1, 2014 in Economics

By Trevor Burrus

Trevor Burrus

Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties have won the right to run their businesses free from government-imposed mandates that violate their religious beliefs. As expected, many reactions to the decision have ranged from hyperbolic to irate. For those on the left, the rallying cry has been that a woman’s birth control is “not my boss’s business,” which is true in an ideal world.

But we don’t live in an ideal world. We live in a world where ham-fisted and misguided government regulations and self-interested, crony-capitalist politicians have manufactured a problem out of thin air–namely, the controversy over who gets to control decisions about health care coverage, employees or employers. Having manufactured the problem, the government then helped create two opposing factions supposedly fighting on opposite sides of a “war on women.” Now we’ve called on the Supreme Court to help solve our made-up problem in our made-up war. We’re bailing water from a sinking ship that the government keeps drilling holes in.

So how did we get here?

First mistake: During World War II, the government imposed wage and price controls in order to counteract inflation. Any economist will tell you this is a bad idea. Nevertheless, the government marched bravely into the abyss thinking, as usual, that the immediate, politically salient problem was more important than the long-term consequences.

Those wage controls then incentivized companies to start providing benefits, such as health insurance, as part of compensation packages. This, of course, is the predictable outcome of putting a limit on how high wages can go. Those employees worth more than the price ceiling would inevitably be compensated in other ways.

Second mistake: After the war, as many people were starting to get insurance through their jobs, the government codified a tax preference for employer-supplied insurance. That small thumb on the scale slowly helped push us into the strange system we’re in today. As reported by the CBO, 76% of insurance-eligible employees are enrolled in employer-based programs.

Third mistake: The preference for employer-based insurance was one of many factors that pushed the United States toward an insurance-centered health care system where insurance is seen as synonymous with health care. Insurance is not, of course, synonymous with health care. It is merely a method by which some people pay for some health care.

Real insurance insures against an unpredictable future. Just as car insurance shouldn’t pay for oil changes, health insurance shouldn’t pay for predictable expenses like birth …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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