Megan McArdle on Hobby Lobby

by Ed Whelan

In an insightful essay, Megan McArdle explores how the secular left, in complaining that Hobby Lobby is supposedly imposing its religious views on its employees, could confuse itself into thinking that “not buying you something [is] equivalent to ‘imposing’ on you.”

One part of the answer, according to McArdle, is that the secular left holds a diminished view of religion, seeing it “as something more like a hobby.” But the larger part of McArdle’s answer is that there has been a “shift in the way [many people] view rights and the role of the government in public life.” We have a “clash of principles designed for a world of negative rights, in a society that has come to embrace substantial positive rights — as well as a clash between old and new concepts of what is private and what is public.” (Emphasis added.) We used to understand that “there was a large public space … that was nonetheless seen as private in the sense of being mostly outside of government control.” But under the Left’s “totalizing view of government,” “this massive public territory is all the legitimate province of the state.” In short, the secular left’s worldview is deeply opposed to the classical liberal—the classical American—understanding.

While I’m at it, let me also highlight, from last week, McArdle’s excellent “Answers to All Your Hobby Lobby Questions.” A couple of excerpts:

9) Why is it any of my employer’s business what birth control I use?

It’s not, but once you make them pay for it, you make them a party to the transaction. You can’t, on the one hand, mandate that someone pay for something, and on the other argue that it is a matter of supreme indifference to them….

12) What if my employer says it has a sincere religious belief in human sacrifice — can he kill me?

Yes. If your employer has a deeply held religious belief in human sacrifice, they can strap you in a cage, reach into your chest with their bare hands to pull out your still-beating heart, then drop the cage into a fiery pit. It’s a tough break, but from time to time, the Tree of Liberty must be watered with the blood of patriots. Sorry about that.


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