Hope for your financial life and beyond

What Good Is Freedom When You’re Told What To Do With It?

U.S. Constitution - We the PeopleIn 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?

Image at WikiMedia Commons

Next Post: My A – Z List of Blog Related Things I’m Thankful For

Prior Post: There’s A Robber Stripping You of Wealth

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  1. The scary part of Obama Care is where the politicians determine what’s good for the consumer. These policies that got cancelled were deemed insufficient by the government. I dislike when politicians decide things for people.

  2. I don’t really think the idea behind mandating insurance is any difference than the idea behind forcing people to pay into Social Security or any of the other “taxes” we have. I think we can certainly debate the merits of each one and whether it’s beneficial, but I don’t personally think that what’s happening now is really a big step from the things that have been happening for a long time now. Yes, freedom is good. And yes, there’s plenty of debate to be had about how much freedom we should have in different areas. But one of our government’s roles is to help foster a society in which everyone has the opportunity to better their lives, and taxes like this are part of the deal.

    • I think you are too easily dismissing the impact of this law. It is the greatest incursion of the government into our private lives in my lifetime. Estimates are already coming out that 80-100 million more insurance policies will be cancelled in 2014 because they are not ACA compliant. What will I do if mine gets cancelled? I’ll be forced into only two options – pay a fine or pay a much higher premium for a compliant policy. Neither of those choices is palatable for me. I’m struggling to see how removing choices is fostering a better society.

      • In my opinion, the point you’re bringing up in your comment here is one of implementation. As in, did they do a good enough job of implementing the law if there are people losing their policies? I think that’s a very fair debate and I would agree that there’s a lot that could and should be improved upon as time goes on, and it may in fact turn out to be a harmful law. But it may end up being beneficial overall. Only time will tell.

        My main objection is to the idea that an individual mandate is more unconstitutional than any of the other taxes we already have. To me it’s not really any different. We have had to pay into Social Security for a long time. Now we have to pay into health insurance. We can debate whether either of those are a good idea, but the premise behind them seems to be the same.

  3. Color Me Frugal says

    I agree that it feels like a loss of personal freedom and that does not feel good (and I would hate for the government to come in and start dictating to us about our automobiles or media services and the other things you mentioned)… on the other hand, I do think that it’s important that everyone have some form of health coverage as a matter of personal responsibility. As Kim mentioned, hospitals end up writing off costs in some cases for people who cannot pay, which contributes to driving up the cost of health care for everyone else- someone’s got to pay for it, after all. It’s a vicious circle. That’s certainly not the only reason that the cost of health care is rising- there are many more- but it’s one of them.

    • Kim’s got experience in the medical field so she knows what she is talking about there. No one is denied health care in our country…anyone walking into an emergency room will receive treatment. Whether they can pay for that is another story, and that’s what hospitals end up writing off. I get that it drives up costs for us all…I’d still rather be under that type of system and maintain the freedom to choose.

  4. I am totally on board with personal freedoms, however people without health insurance have no way to pay for huge medical bills then the government or the hospital is on the hook, which drives the costs up for everyone else. It would be fine if people who chose not to get insurance agreed to pay for their medical bills, but that’s impossible in many cases. Thanks for the mention!

    • You bet Kim! I thought you did a good analysis of the pros and cons. In either scenario, costs go up. I’d rather have my costs going up while still maintaining the freedom to choose.

  5. Funny how no one complains when they are forced to get coverage for their automobile…

    • Haha…I had the exact same thought when writing this. Perhaps it’s because we love our cars more than we love ourselves. 🙂

      • Because your auto coverage also covers other individuals/property that you might harm with your vehicle. Otherwise people would be getting their behind kicked if you hit someone’s car.On the flip side, health insurance is like comprehensive/collision insurance. It protects you and the vehicle for the most part but it’s optional. That’s why people want their health insurance to be optional.

        • That’s correct and I’m glad you covered that. Sometimes I just like to be goofy with my answers. 🙂

        • Well, if you don’t have health insurance and you fall sick and get treatment, but can’t pay for your bills you are kicking the doctors and the nurses and the hospitals behind. And hence the need for insurance. Just like an accident, anyone can fall sick.

    • Holly Johnson says

      But, when it comes to auto insurance, I can choose what I buy. I can buy high-deductible minimum coverage, for instance. Due to the new healthcare law, everyone has to buy benefits that they don’t need like maternity and mental healthcare.

      • No they don’t. I don’t have obamacare. Like auto insurance the law mandates you need to have insurance. No one is forcing you to have Obamacare.

        • The law (Obamacare) mandates that you purchase ACA compliant insurance or pay a fine. If you don’t purchase and refuse to pay the fine, eventually you will have IRS agents showing up at your door.

      • That’s correct Holly. Everyone will be required to have an ACA compliant plan at some point. That means a 60-year old man will be forced to pay for maternity coverage because it is being written into the policies going forward.

  6. Our freedoms have been at stake for many years before this law took effect. Look at how many times the government skews the lines in order to pass a bill. We have a big problem here with how our government is interpreting the constitution and how they are acting in their best interest to change it. The healthcare law is just one straw in the stack. There are many other examples of how our government has gotten way out of control.

  7. I think the current health care act has problems, no doubt, but I believe the intention is good in that all americans should have access to health care. Hopefully the kinks will eventually be worked out. When you look at other countries though, I’m so thankful I live here where I have so many freedoms. We take it for granted because it’s just part of the norm.

    • “We take it for granted because it’s just part of the norm.” That’s the scary part to me. I wonder what it will take to wake us up out of our complacency?

  8. I don’t disagree with your argument, but I also don’t see the health care bill being overturned. The best shot at it being called unconstitutional and being struck down was the Supreme Court and I’m still pretty shocked that it wasn’t overturned. The biggest implication of the bill is definitely personal freedom. I’m a Ron Paul supporter and I can’t help but think it will take a larger-scale shift of thought process to libertarianism before we see any major change in DC.

    • No, I don’t see a big government program like this being overturned either DC. It’s unfortunate and I think it’s only the beginning of further deterioration of freedoms. This has definitely thrown a complication into people’s lives that didn’t need to be there. The old system had its flaws, but was in no way this bad or this intrusive.

  9. Holly Johnson says

    Thanks for the mention! Yeah, I do believe our freedoms are at stake here….but it’s more than that. We’re required to purchase something no matter how much it costs….which is incredibly scary. And those above 400% of the poverty line have no protection in terms of the percentage they can pay for healthcare. In my opinion, the ACA creates many more losers than winners and creates disincentives for people to work harder or make more money.

    • It’s a scary proposition for sure Holly. It also creates disincentives for people to stay healthy, as the law prohibits insurance companies from charging a different rate based on a person’s medical history.


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