Opponents of the Affordable Healthcare Act often claim that it is not fair to require everyone to buy health insurance, even with financial assistance for those who cannot afford the whole price charged by private insurers. It is simply their right, they argue, not to have insurance.
These claims are based on faulty reasoning. The basic principle of American freedom is that we have the right to do as we please as long as it does not harm others. This principle is often illustrated by reference to falsely crying “Fire!” in a crowded theater: It hurts others and is, thus, wrong.
This is the very principle underlying requirements such as purchasing a driver’s license and automobile insurance and driving on the right side of the street: Following these rules protects others.
The very same principle underlies the Affordable Healthcare Act. Uninsured citizens who become ill or suffer injury hurt others in that the others must pay for their medical care through taxes. It protects others to require all who can to purchase health insurance.
Even if we oppose the Affordable Healthcare Act for other reasons, it is our responsibility to think consistently about necessary restrictions on individual freedom in order to protect others.