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.
Nor is this surprising -- the entire raison d’etre of our national existence is the desire for less government in our lives, less taxes and regulation, not more. Let us never forget the glorious antipathy to tax that was the tinder which nourished our revolutionary flame.
Our founders would be astonished to learn that the tax-hating citizens of their limited republic were now on the verge of swallowing the mammoth new tax rates which will be necessary to create a new, government health care regime (but will never be enough to sustain it: per Maggie Thatcher, the problem with socialism is that eventually you run out of other people's money.)
Surely this prospect would horrify the men who drafted our founding documents and waged our republican revolution, for a government which controls your medical decisions has power of Orwellian proportions. Barack Obama and his legions in Congress do their best to conceal this (aided, as always, by a pliant press), cleverly framing the issue as one of choice -- the government-run option will be just another competitor in the market, they say. Or, as Obama put it, "if you like your health plan, you can keep it." But this is pure chicanery: government is never just another competitor -- it can offer services and goods at far below market value, driving any sensible profit seeker out of the business.
So what will you do when you have no other option? When the government refuses to pay for your dialysis because you are over 65 and it isn't “cost effective” to keep you alive (as happens in Britain)? Or when you have to wait six weeks for that MRI, never mind your crushing headaches (as happens in Canada)?
Nothing. The government, under the rubric of securing your "life," has instead gained complete mastery over it. The founders would no doubt observe these monstrous proceedings and wonder what on earth they fought for.
What indeed. In 1775, a British emigrant arriving in Maryland surveyed the fermenting colonial scene and concluded that Americans had gone "liberty-mad."
The madness, it seems, has subsided.