What Would the Founders Think of ObamaCare?

Is health care a "right?"

The liberal wing of the Democratic Party has long sought to make it so, and they may be on the verge of achieving their goal. Legislation currently winding its way through Congress would effectively make health care (or more properly, health insurance) open to every American citizen via government subsidized dispensation.

Of course, no such "right" is enumerated in our founding documents -- or is it?

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. ... That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men ...

So wrote Thomas Jefferson in the most radical and oft-quoted passage of the Declaration of Independence. An extremely wide reading of these words could conceivably include government-run health care. After all, both "life" and "happiness" are threatened by disease and injury.

(Liberals who would follow down this rhetorical road would do well to tread carefully. The same wide reading of the "life" clause of the Declaration could just as easily be used by conservatives to justify protection of the unborn: if government is justly instituted in part to secure life, then outright abolition of abortion could reasonably be inferred to follow.)

But of course, the founders meant for no such wide-ranging interpretation. Rather, the "life" clause of the Declaration refers to the government's responsibility simply to not kill its citizens, and to protect them from harming one another. (John Locke certainly inspired Jefferson's pen with his Second Treatise of Government, where he wrote that "no one ought to harm another in his life, health, liberty, or possessions.") Certainly you will search in vain throughout the Declaration, the Constitution, the Federalist Papers, the minutes of the Constitutional Convention, and the ratification debates which followed for the argument that government should be responsible for every citizen’s medical care.