Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Is Contraception Euvoluntary?

The SCOTUS case on crafting emporium Hobby Lobby's owners' discomfort at being forced to provide contraception coverage for employees has revealed some interesting moral intuitions. A parade of blogs, tweets, and status updates have informed me of the inviolable rights of each party, of the immoral coercion imposed (again, by each party), and of the nasty overreach of the [company owners|government (pick one)].

Here's where I'm confused, and perhaps you can help me. I don't know for sure if contraception is a public good.

Let me be more clear here. Recall that a public good is one where the end user can't stop others from enjoying the benefits of its consumption. If Art paints a mural on Betty's building, Carl gets to enjoy it without paying for the privilege. In the case of contraception, if Betty is on the Pill, she and Art can make the beast with two backs to their heart's content and Carl won't have to worry about his tax money going towards the upkeep of the fruits of that union.

True, it's not a public good in the classic sense. Any spillover costs from an unwanted pregnancy exist only because of legislation, but let's ignore that for the moment and take the legislation as given. The thing that confuses me is that if contraception (or indeed, any form of health care) is a public good, why on earth should the costs redound to someone's employer? How in the nine hells are these two things even remotely related? Well, okay, given today's podcast, maybe there are some industries where it's salient, but arts and crafts? Nope.

Look folks, I'm not all that convinced that health care is a public good, but if you want to make the claim that it is, stop pussyfooting around the issue already and make it well and truly public. Go single payer or go home. This weird chimera fails to serve the public interest, it throttles euvoluntary exchange, and it wastes the court's resources. Shame shame and treble shame.

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Do you have suggestions on where we could find more examples of this phenomenon?