In comments, Sebastian writes:
You’d have to squint pretty hard to get the idea that freedom from state coercion is a general organizing principle of progressivism […]
See for example recent progressive discussions about the state forcing employers to provide birth control access (the original Obama proposal especially). Religious exemptions? Not interested. The need to have employers provide birth control? Obvious, because employer-employee relationships ummm clearly implicate birth control?
Health insurance is not something employers buy as a gift to employees. It’s compensation. It’s part of our pay.
(In comments at Bleeding Heart Libertarians, SavannahRob asks “If similar unfortunate accidents of history had given us employer-funded mortgages, would we be arguing about whether the employer could dictate living arrangements to the employee based on religious sentiments?”)
Sebastian could with equal sense — which is to say, no real sense at all — argue that employers should be able to put restrictions on what we do with our paycheck. Should a Jewish employer be allowed to forbid his employees from using their paychecks to buy pork products? After all, it’s the employer’s money; why shouldn’t the employer be able to control how it’s spent?
But it’s not the employer’s money; it’s our money. And, in the same way, it’s not the employer’s health insurance; it’s our health insurance.
Sebastian’s heart is breaking at the thought of a poor, poor boss being coerced by the government — but the idea of that same boss using compensation to shove his religious beliefs down his employees’ throats doesn’t appear to give him a moment’s pause.
That’s a perfect illustration of the different ways libertarians and progressives view freedom. For a libertarian, the only freedom that counts is freedom from the government. For a progressive, freedom from government isn’t enough freedom; Someone who is “free” to live in poverty under a bridge, or “free” to have their life controlled by their boss, isn’t really free. What we should be working for is the most substantive freedom possible. That includes (or should include) trying to fight the government’s abusive behaviors; but it also includes using the government to secure ordinary people greater freedom from coercive employment practices, and more generally with freedom from economic coercion.