Tuesday, March 20, 2012

No One Has a Monopoly on Liberty

The The New York Times has a wonderful piece on gender gap on health insurance costs. They key lesson of the article:
In a report to be issued this week, the National Women’s Law Center, a research and advocacy group, says that in states that have not banned gender rating, more than 90 percent of the best-selling health plans charge women more than men.(emphasis mine - JMG)
Buttressing this, The Atlantic Wire has great compilation of similar articles all pointing out the same thing: there is a inherent gender disparity in healthcare costs and services, that the current contracetion "debate" only serves to highlight.

I bring this up because I have seen and read a handful of conservative opinions concerning the mandate that all health insurance plans provide for contraception without co-pay. I am not going to take time to delve into the policy specifics right now. Instead I want to make a broader point about conceptions of liberty.

The conservative/libertarian point against a contraception mandate is couched in terms of contractual "liberty". Namely that:
[...] there is no need to be your sister’s keeper when she can keep herself.
What these opinions ignore, or cannot seem to comprehend, is that one class or group of people do not have a monopoly on "liberty".

Some people want the liberty to set the terms of their contract between their health insurer, free of regulatory mandates. I think women should have the liberty to choose the timing, spacing, and numbers of their child births. A freedom they do not have if there are barriers to contraception. I also think a people should be free from economic and medical discrimination based on their gender. A freedom women do not have, as illustrated by the above New York Times and Atlantic Wire articles.

"Liberty" is not some empirically, objectively established concept that one side gets to hold as a cudgel in political debate. It is a concept and a value that requires us to make normative judgments about what is, and is not, important to us as a society and polity.

Just because you want to be "free" from some onerous regulatory mandate does not make you a brave crusader for individual liberty. It just makes you a advocate for your own opinion of what liberty should mean in a regulatory context.

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