Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Obama, The Leviathan , & The HHS Contraception Mandate

A great essay at First Things  by Patrick J. Deneen is an Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Notre Dame. See President Obama’s Campaign for Leviathan .

I keep noticing this chatter to that he is talking about :

..............This picture of a radically individuated human being gave rise to the observation during the Democratic National Convention that “government is the only thing we all belong to” [sic]. In spite of the communitarian language struck at the Convention, the actual underlying theme is that the State is needed to ensure our individuated liberty—and thus, the particular emphasis upon sexual liberation for women (and, presumably, men as well). In an admirable display of philosophical consistency and logic, the Obama administration thus implicitly and effectively endorsed the Hobbesian liberal ontology that there ought exist only individuals and the state—all other competitors are to be regarded as oppressors, and require an expansive and empowered government for individual liberation.

This is just the way in which the HHS mandate has been justified. At a recent conference in which I participated at the Georgetown Law Center, a number of speakers and participants described the HHS mandate as the necessary requirement that will liberate women from the “coercion” of the Church that seeks to restrict their access to free contraception—including abortifacients—and sterilization. The expansion of state power is justified for its liberative effects, freeing women from the oppression of an antiquated institution (its irrelevance was reinforced by frequent citation of the questionable statistic that 98% of Catholic women use contraceptives).

Note the conceit: Employees at Catholic (or other similarly informed religious institutions) are “coerced” by not having free contraceptives provided as part of their health plans. The state, through the threat of punitive fines (estimated by President John Garvey of the Catholic University of America to be $62 million per year should CUA refuse to comply), acts as the liberator of these oppressed people. This narrative seems plausible to many, because we have been deeply shaped and trained to associate the word “liberty” with the freedom of individuals “to pursue their own ends”—requiring, among other things, the liberation of recreational sex from any consequences—and not the rights, privileges, immunities and liberties of groups, societies, associations, even a corpus mysticum like the Church. In such a view we find Leviathan run rampant.............

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