It has been alleged that the Republicans in the House of Representatives are holding the country hostage by refusing to approve any budget fully funding Obamacare. This accusation is an absurd calumny, which deserves nothing less than to be discounted as the falsehood it is. The only excuse for such a statement is total ignorance of the principles involved.

Both houses of Congress must approve all federal budgets, with each house having the authority to approve as much or as little spending as its members desire. The pro-liberty wing of the Republican Party has rightly refused to fund Obamacare because it is a flagrant violation of individual rights and it represents the annihilation of what little remains of freedom in American healthcare. The House passed a budget that would fund all other aspects of the government, avoiding a government shutdown.

What has been the response of the Democrats — to delay or repeal this unjust law? Of course not. They refuse to provide funding for any branch of the government unless the pro-liberty Republicans surrender their principles and kowtow before them — that is, unless they agree to fund Obamacare in full.

The Democrats, along with most of the media, accuse the Republicans of holding a gun to the nation’s head and precipitating a needless government shutdown. But it is the Democrats themselves who hold the power to fund the government’s essential activities by accepting the House’s budget and delaying the implementation of Obamacare — a law which is not only a violation of rights but lacks the support of half the country and half of Congress. We are thus treated to the absurd spectacle of a hostage-taker chastising his victim for the victim’s irrational refusal to compromise in meeting his demands, thus leaving the hostage-taker no choice but to pull the trigger.

The opposition will, no doubt, argue that the situation is exactly the reverse of the way I have described it. Why should Obama have to give up the Affordable Care Act — his “glorious” achievement — simply because he lacks Republicans’ consent? If he gives in on this, they say, he will be forced to dismantle the welfare state until nothing remains for the government to do but to protect life, liberty and property: what a horrible fate!

The only way to resolve such a situation, in which each side accuses the other of hostage-taking, is to determine who holds the moral high ground. An apt example of this can be found in the Civil War. President Lincoln discovered that the Confederates were executing captured black soldiers. In response, he ordered that, for every black Union soldier killed, an equal number of white Confederate soldiers would be killed.

Had this plan been carried into practice — and it was not, since the Confederates ceased executing black soldiers in response to this decree — who would have borne the moral responsibility for the deaths of the Confederate prisoners? Lincoln — or Jefferson Davis? Anyone with an ounce of moral fiber would have to put the blame on Davis, since it was the unjust actions of his government that warranted an act of self-defense by the United States. He was in the wrong, and Lincoln was in the right.

Similarly, if the pro-liberty Republicans should refuse to pass a budget, or raise the debt ceiling, unless Obamacare — or any other law that violates individual rights — be repealed, the moral responsibility for any government shutdown or default does not lie with them. The blame lies with those who insist on ramming through such laws in violation of the rights and prosperity of the American people, even if it means precipitating economic collapse. The fault lies with those who shut down the government because they cannot implement their unjust laws, not with those who try to resist these laws.

If they had any moral backbone, the House Republicans would refuse to surrender their principles by agreeing to the implementation of Obamacare, even if the government should shut down for a week, a month, or a year. They would be entirely innocent of any resulting hardships.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce — proving, to no one’s surprise, that it has no such backbone — has called for the Republicans to “compromise” on this issue to avoid a shutdown. But one can only compromise with people who share his goals yet differ on how to accomplish them. There can be no compromise between people of fundamentally differing views, or between liberty and despotism. One side or the other must surrender. And the cause of liberty must never surrender.

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