Whenever the subject of the government shutdown comes up, countless people criticize the Republican Party and Tea Party movement, accusing these groups of “throwing a temper tantrum” over the Affordable Care Act (AKA ObamaCare) and shutting down the government because they could not get what they wanted. ObamaCare is the law, these people point out, and not only did the Supreme Court uphold it, but voters re-elected the president who championed it and the legislators who voted for it. On the Daily Show, Jon Stewart even yelled, “It’s an [expletive] law!” and compared the Republicans’ actions to the Giants (hypothetically) threatening to shut down the NFL after losing a football game.
What proponents of these views are completely missing, however, is that whether or not something is a law has absolutely nothing to do with whether or not it is right.
There are objective moral principles, and first among those is the principle of individual liberty. To require individuals to purchase a product or service from a company, as the Affordable Care Act does, is simply wrong. It is wrong regardless of what judges think about its constitutionality, regardless of how legislators vote, and regardless of the opinions of the public. Although democracy is a good way of deciding on some disagreements, fundamental rights – such as the right to decide how to spend one’s own money – should never be subjected to majority rule.
This is why Jon Stewart’s analogy is, frankly, one of the dumbest I’ve ever heard. Whether or not individual rights should be respected is not a game, like football is. Losing a game is never fun, but as long as the rules were followed and the refs made the right calls, you can’t really complain about the outcome. On the other hand, laws that violate people’s rights are wrong regardless of how they came about, and we should fight against them with every means available.
Instead of basing moral beliefs solely on the laws that happen to be on the books at a particular time, people should think for themselves about what is right and what is wrong. There are plenty of existing laws that should be abolished, and plenty of laws that should exist but don’t. I admire lawmakers such as Ted Cruz and Rand Paul, who have not stopped voicing their opposition to ObamaCare, despite the (incorrect, in my opinion) decisions made by the Supreme Court and by voters in the 2012 election. Standing up for what you believe in is not a “temper tantrum,” it is honorable and brave.