"It profits me but little that a vigilant authority always protects the tranquillity of my pleasures and constantly averts all dangers from my path, without my care or concern, if this same authority is the absolute master of my liberty and my life."

--Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America

Monday, March 12, 2012

An Essential Point

If the federal government can mandate that Catholic institutions provide free contraception as part of their health insurance plans, what can't the federal government mandate?   Allysia Finley, writing in the WSJ, makes an essential point through the time-honored rhetorical move of reductio ad absurdum:

Studies show that coffee can ward off depression, Alzheimer's disease, type 2 diabetes and sleepiness—which makes it one of the most powerful preventive treatments. Workers who drink java are also more productive and pleasant. While many offices have coffee makers, some employers—most notably those affiliated with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints—continue to deny workers this essential benefit. All employers should have to provide workers with freshly brewed coffee. Oh, and workers must also be able to choose the kind of coffee regardless of the price.

Republicans might argue that requiring Mormon charities to serve coffee is a violation of "religious liberty" since the Mormon church's doctrine proscribes coffee, but this argument is a red herring. Leading medical experts recommend drinking coffee. Moreover, 99% of adults have drunk coffee at one point in their lives (including most Mormons).

She goes on to discuss why employers could theoretically be mandated to provide employees with gym memberships, massages, yoga classes, and salad bars.   Now, a lot of employers already do these things.  (For instance, the Regular Guy's law firm makes available massage therapists and yoga classes for the staff, and subsidizes their gym memberships, all in the name of cutting health costs in the long-term.   We also provide free coffee.)   But the point is:  the federal government ought not be in the business of requiring them to do these things.  

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