Nearly every argument in favor of universal (socialized) health care includes the premis that it is a “right.” But according to the U.S. Constiution, this is not so. Geoff Lawrence over at NPRI explains why by giving us a brief lesson (via the writings of John Locke) about how the Constitution does not in fact support “positive rights.” If you wish to effectively debate someone on health care reform (or any other entitlement program), you must understand this fundamental concept. I recommend that you read Geoff’s whole post, but here’s the opener to give you a taste:
In the ongoing debate over health care reform, I continue to hear pundits on the left claim that health care is a right. Yet, this notion that government exists to guarantee “positive rights” such as free health care completely misunderstands the development of constitutional government.
The entire notion of constitutional government can be traced to John Locke’s Second Treatise. Here it is explained that all men are endowed with a set of natural rights which include: life, liberty and property. In order to protect those rights, civilized individuals agree to a “social contract” in order to form a government whose primary purpose is to protect the rights of individuals. This is done by empowering government to restrain the actions of others (such as theft, physical violence, etc.) that might directly infringe on your own natural rights. Hence the expression “Your rights end where someone else’s begin.”
The primary problem with the concept of “positive rights” is that the purpose of government changes from protecting the natural rights of individuals to actively infringing upon those rights. Any requirement for government to provide individuals with a certain amount of goods means that those goods must first be confiscated from society – which is a limit on the natural right to control property.
For a wonderful treatise on why the government should not be in the business of deciding whether or how much to take from us in order to give to select others, read this story that was told on the House floor by Davy Crockett when he was serving as a U.S. Representative from Tennessee. It concerned two votes on spending bills and the temptation of Congress to distribute money that was not their own for “charitable” purposes.
Our federal and state legislatures, as well as the Oval Office, have too long been staffed by too many people who do not understand nor support our rights and protections as they ought to exist according to our Constitution. Through the increasing willingness of we, the citizenry, to allow government to do what we, as individuals, ought to be doing – helping and giving to the poor and needy as we are able and as we feel called to do – we have permitted our great Republic to become a tax-laden “social democracy” that reduces rather than protects our prosperity and freedom.
On May 23, 1857, in a letter to an American friend, Lord Thomas MacCauley wrote: “A democracy cannot survive as a permanent form of government. It can last only until its citizens discover that they can vote themselves largesse from the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority (who vote) will vote for those candidates promising the greatest benefits from the public purse, with the result that a democracy will always collapse from loose fiscal policies, always followed by a dictatorship.”
Are we there yet? Not quite, but I fear we are getting dangerously close. Educate yourselves, good people, and let us find ways to speak out and persuade others before this great Republic devolves into a pitiful excuse for the nation it once was.