Emotional Pleas

This letter to the editor was printed in the Kansas City Star today:

Frank Schwendeman whines about liberals forcing him to buy health insurance (4/2, Letters). What about states forcing people to buy car insurance? Obviously with your wealth you could afford taking a hit for your expensive vehicles or the liability, which would ensue if you were involved in a fatal accident that was your fault. Why not whine about that?

Also, what about mortgage companies “forcing” people to buy overpriced homeowner’s insurance on overpriced residences? Why not whine about that?

What about the government forcing people to pay taxes such as income taxes, property taxes, Social Security, Medicare, gas taxes and sales taxes?

What this is truly all about is that we are a civilized society, and these things are necessary for the welfare of the human community.

J.M. Harris

Kansas City, MO

This is a good example of someone making an emotional plea and not thinking it through to provide a logically valid argument.  Below are my responses to J.M. Harris.

“What about states forcing people to buy car insurance?”

First, that is a state not Federal government.  State and Federal government are not considered the same things here in the U.S.  The powers of the Federal government are fairly clearly defined for anyone willing to read the Constitution.  The rest of the powers are distributed to the states and the people. To argue if a state has the right to mandate liability insurance coverage you’d need to look at the specific state constitutions, which the letter writer does not do.

Second, mandating liability insurance coverage to owners of a vehicle is a requirement for having the privilege to drive my vehicle on the road.  I can avoid this mandate by not owning or operating a motor vehicle.  So, the mandate is conditional.  Our children and those who use public transportation, walk or rider their bikes are not required to carry liability insurance.

“Also, what about mortgage companies “forcing” people to buy overpriced homeowner’s insurance on overpriced residences?”

  1. Nobody is forced to purchase a home.
  2. Nobody is forced to purchase an overpriced home.
  3. Nobody is forced to buy a home by borrowing money from a mortgage company.
  4. Mortgage companies (at least some of them) are not the government.
  5. Maintaining homeowner’s insurance is term of a voluntary contract one enters into willingly when deciding to borrow money to buy a home.

“What about the government forcing people to pay taxes such as income taxes, property taxes, Social Security, Medicare, gas taxes and sales taxes?”

If you read the Constitution, you would find out that the power to levy tax is a power granted to Congress (see Article  I, Section 8).  There are likely similar provisions granting such power to state legislatures in the Constitutions of the respective states.  However, there may be some legitimate arguments as to whether the Federal government has been granted the power to tax for the express purpose of redistribution as is the case with Medicare and Social Security, and those arguments should be given more consideration by people who would rather hand over more power to government.

“What this is truly all about is that we are a civilized society, and these things are necessary for the welfare of the human community.”

True.  We are a civilized society.

However, that does not make this letter a convincing or logically valid argument for support of Federal health insurance mandate for all the reasons I have listed above.

This letter is an emotional plea by someone who has only a vague understanding of the world that goes on around them.  And, unfortunately, we give such emotional pleas too much credence and don’t take the time to debunk them.

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