In the fall of 1620, a group of 102 passengers sailed from the coasts of Western Europe across the Atlantic. Their journey was filled with danger as they traveled in a craft none of us would dare think of sailing today. Much like the courageous astronauts of the 1960s, they faced considerable danger and extreme conditions as they pioneered into an unknown and mysterious world.
Colonies had been established before in the New World but none for such a reason as this. The purpose of those earlier establishments in the Caribbean, and more recently in 1607 at Jamestown, had simply been about wealth creation – find the riches of the new land and return them home for the glory of the mother country.
Simple. Materialistic. Focused.
While some on the Mayflower sought economic prosperity, there was a group aboard interested in something much deeper and profound than the accumulation of wealth. These were known as the Separatists who were fleeing religious persecution inflicted on them by the Church of England. The church in that time controlled religion, dictating to the people how, when and where they were to worship. Choose to worship in a way the church forbid, and you would face severe punishment.
So faced with bigotry and religious intolerance, they fled to a new world with the hopes of fulfilling the one deep desire burning in their hearts…the freedom to choose.
When they arrived in Plymouth, John Carver, William Bradford and 39 other men put their signatures to the Mayflower Compact. That historic document, signed before they even set foot on land, served as the basis for our present form of government. More importantly, it was the starting point for all our freedoms – the desire for such freedom that would one day lead to the birth of the United States of America.
The Government’s Role
Any systematic and objective study of American history reveals that our country was founded on the principles of personal freedom and liberty and a belief in God who instilled those desires in humanity’s soul. We long for freedom to chose our own path because it’s built into our very nature. The founding fathers knew that freedom would inspire our country to greatness.
So they limited themselves and the role government could play in the lives of the American people by drafting one of the greatest documents the world has ever known – the U.S. Constitution. In its preamble, we are told the document’s purpose is to:
Form a more perfect union (create an improved government structure)
Establish justice (develop a system of laws)
Insure domestic tranquility (to keep the peace at home)
Provide for the common defense (to protect us against foreign aggression)
Promote the general welfare (do what’s best for the citizens)
Secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity (maintain freedom for generations)
The implementation of U.S. Constitution brought boundaries to the political process. Checks and balances were devised so one branch of government could not gain too much power. And the will of the people was also intricately woven into the plan so that our leaders would sense some accountability for their actions.
So when the government steps outside the bounds of the Constitution it becomes something the founding fathers did not intend for it to be. That’s what I’m afraid is happening with the current healthcare law. Its legalization was a reach beyond the scope of our government and has taken away some of our freedom.
Healthcare No Longer An Option
Up until now, health insurance coverage has been an option. Individuals either received a benefit through their employer or purchased coverage on their own in the open market. Some have elected to have it and others have not. Some have been able to afford it and others have not. In essence, health insurance is a consumer product that we can choose to buy just like anything else.
Now, because of the passage of the Affordable Care Act, we are being forced to purchase coverage no matter what our circumstances or desires. The government has said you must have health insurance or pay a fine – a penalty that will most assuredly increase in severity as the law evolves. That sounds eerily similar to the Church of England’s actions against those who dared worship in alternative ways.
Loss of Financial Freedom?
Financial freedom is what we strive for and promote in the personal finance world. I love to see people make wise decisions about their money, using it for what matters most to them. Now the government has stepped in and decided what is financially best for you. How’s that feel?
What will be the next shoe to drop on our pocketbooks?
Will the government force the purchase of other services on us? What about dictating to us what type of cars we must drive or what media services we subscribe to? Will they tell us what foods we are allowed to eat? (Oh, wait…the mayor of New York City is already trying that one, attempting to ban the sale of sweetened drinks over 16 ounces.)
What about penalties for what the government thinks is excessive income or savings? Will we be forced to cap our investment net worth and give what spills over the limit to the government? With this law they have applied an additional 0.9 percent Medicare Tax on an individual’s wages and a new 3.8 percent surtax on investment income earned in households making at least $250,000 ($200,000 single). What’s to keep that income number from being lowered to $100,000? Or $50,000? (For a full list of the law’s provisions click here.)
Taken to its logical conclusion, the government could dictate every financial facet of our lives. Where’s the incentive then to save and invest so that I can better myself? At that point, I would only be benefiting the pockets of the government.
That’s not financial freedom at all.
Only One Issue Matters
You can debate all you want about the pros and cons of how the law was written and who it’s going to benefit. Many in the personal finance blog world have expertly done so (Kim at Eyes on the Dollar and DC at Young Adult Money) and discussed how the law is impacting them (Holly at Club Thrifty and Alexa at Single Moms Income). Granted it will take time to play out, as this is a massive government overhaul of a huge industry. However, I don’t see a scenario – short of repeal – where this leads to an increase in personal freedom.
That’s the big issue that matters to me.
On this holiday week, I’m very thankful for the freedoms we possess in this country. Many have sacrificed their lives through the years so that we can be a prosperous nation – choosing to live and worship, buy and sell as we please. My thoughts are that the implementation of this law fundamentally changes the course of our nation and makes me question the motivation and goals of our leaders. Their actions do not convince me they truly believe in personal freedom.
Freedom is the foundation of our nation. What good will it be in the end though if we are told what to do with it?
Do you believe our freedoms are at stake here? What changes are you making to adjust to the new law?
Prior Post: There’s A Robber Stripping You of Wealth