It is definitely big news that Obamacare is on its way to being repealed, but after watching the debates on the House floor yesterday afternoon, I was struck by how little I had actually learned about Obamacare’s replacement. It’s called the “American Health Care Act”. That’s about all we know about it.
Taking the politicians at their word will only leave one more confused. This is especially true if one remembers the debates from 2009 when Obamacare was first passed. Many of the arguments given by Democrats are now being used by Republicans. In 2009 Republicans blasted Democrats for “looting” Medicare to pay for the new healthcare program, and today Democrats are angry at Republicans for doing the same thing.
One thing is clear – we cannot expect to learn anything about the AHCA from politicians. Democrats will exaggerate its flaws; Republicans will minimize them. It’s a shame that healthcare is an issue controlled by Washington, because that means that at best it will only be a convoluted mess that no one understands.
It is for that reason that we must on occasion take the statistics, “facts”, and rhetoric out of the equation and return to what our nation was founded on. Natural rights – those of life, liberty, and property – should be the basis for every argument for or against government expansion. What is the role of government? It is time to get back to basics.
What is the role of government?
The founders’ view on what the role of government should be is pretty clear. The government is here to protect our rights from being violated. Our rights – the holy trinity of life, liberty, and property – are natural, meaning we have them regardless of whether government says we have them. That is self-evident, as the founders saw it.
These rights present an obligation to all other individuals. One man’s right to life, puts an obligation on everyone else not to kill him. One man’s right to liberty puts an obligation on everyone else not to enslave him. One man’s right to property obligates everyone else not to steal from him. Those three rights – the “holy trinity” of life, liberty, and property – are the basis for American society. They need to be the basis for American society if we as a nation wish to continue in our prosperity.
Lockean political theory dictates that as one violates the rights of others, he relinquishes his own rights. If a murderer takes the life of a man, the murderer gives up his own right to life. If a thief steals the property of a man, the thief gives up his own right to property. If a slave owner enslaves a man, he gives up his own right to liberty. This is what our system of justice is based on.
Government exists not only to protect our rights. It also exists to deal our justice against those who violate the rights of others. A kidnapper can be put in prison. A thief can be fined. A murderer can be put to death. The punishments vary according to the circumstances, but ultimately, it is the violation of rights that deserves punishment.
Healthcare is not a right.
Today the battle looms over healthcare. Congress argues over who should provide healthcare and how can government protect people with preexisting conditions from paying high insurance rates. Children, the elderly, and those with life-long ailments are trotted out as “victims”. Victims of who, isn’t quite so clear. If a person pays a higher price for health insurance because they have a preexisting condition, were their rights violated?
The answer is no. People do not have a right to healthcare. They do not have a right to insurance, nor a right to “affordable” insurance. Insurance is a product, and the creator of that product can sell it to anyone for any price they wish. If an insurance company charges a chain smoker with a drinking problem, a failing liver, and an awful diet MORE than a healthy person, were anyone’s “rights” violated? No.
The right to life, liberty, and property place a negative obligation on the rest of society. Society has an obligation NOT to enslave, NOT to steal, and NOT to murder. The “right” to healthcare places a positive obligation on the rest of society. A right to healthcare means an obligation for someone else to provide it. A positive obligation in this case means a violation of the right to property. In order for government to give someone something, it must first steal it from someone else.
Life, liberty, and property, are inalienable.
It is often said that the rich can or should pay for the needs of the poor, yet this again violates the philosophy of the founders. America was founded on the inalienable rights to life, liberty, and property. This means that they cannot be taken away or lessened just because someone has more money than someone else. A rich man’s right to property is just as sacred as a poor man’s right to property. Theft is theft even if the victim is rich.
No matter which plan is proposed, neither side seems to question whether healthcare is something government should be involved in in the first place. Is there a role for government in healthcare? As far as constitutionality, no. There isn’t. As far as natural rights philosophy goes, no. There isn’t.
It is these discussions and arguments that need to be had. Unfortunately, Americans can’t count on their politicians to question the basic fundamentals of our governmental system. Notice that every sector of the economy that government gets its paws on magically becomes less efficient and produces a worse product at a higher price. Energy, education, healthcare. Is more government really the answer? Can we have that conversation?