Andrew Cuomo’s Extralegal Coercion

‘If we wish to preserve a free society,” Friedrich Hayek observed, “it is essential that we recognize that the desirability of a particular object is not sufficient justification for the use of coercion.” New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is a cautionary example.

Mr. Cuomo issued a statement in April warning financial institutions that they faced “reputational risk” if they do business with the National Rifle Association: “I am directing the Department of Financial Services to urge insurers and bankers statewide to determine whether any relationship they may have with the NRA or similar organizations sends the wrong message to their clients.” Soon after, the DFS hit an insurance company and a broker working with the NRA on policies for gun owners with large fines for license violations. The one-two punch of the warning and fines sent a chilling message to corporations with lawful business ties to the NRA.

This wasn’t the first time Mr. Cuomo had used extralegal coercion. In February he tried to change the rules in the middle of a transaction in which Fidelis Care, a nonprofit health insurer operated by the Diocese of Brooklyn, was purchased by a for-profit company, Centene. The governor demanded a massive cut because Fidelis earned much of its revenue from state-funded programs like Medicaid—money that was for services rendered.

Mr. Cuomo threatened both to withhold state approval of the sale and to push a bill through the Legislature confiscating the money whether or not the sale took place. They couldn’t stand up to the threats and will pay Mr. Cuomo a $2 billion ransom.

Photo: Seth Wenig/Associated Press