Posted by: Debby Durkee | April 12, 2010

The Constitution and the “right” to health care.

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The Constitution and the “right” to heath care.

Two writers who attended the Southern Republican Leadership Conference have come back and written brilliant essays about the Constitution and how it pertains to our biggest political fight – health care. Where in the Constitution do Congress and the president have the power to declare health care a “right,” and what rights are Americans losing in the process?

Is there a “right” to health care?

No, of course not, because you are demanding that others serve you. It’s basically stealing the labor of others to serve your purpose. Didn’t we fight a Civil War to prevent slavery? Ed Morrissey of  has a brilliant piece that coincides with the Southern Republican Leadership Conference in New Orleans. He responds to the few protestors carrying signs that said, “Health Care is a Human Right.”

… health care is not a right, at least in the terms understood in the American experience.  In fact, the insistence that health care is a right contradicts the basic fabric of liberty: property rights.

…the founders focused on the “unalienable rights” of free men: “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”  The only other right mentioned specifically in the Declaration of Independence is the right to overthrow any government that does not respect those unalienable rights.

…In Article I, Section 8 (of the Constitution), the founders provided Congress the power to create an environment for creativity and industrial impulse by “securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries.”

This gave Americans the right to control and profit from their own intellect, treating their works as individual property that the nascent nation would protect to help build a prosperous America…

The Bill of Rights also followed a pattern, which was to lift the innate, natural rights of citizens above the power of government…The rights to speech, assembly, privacy, petition for redress of grievances, to keep and bear arms, and so on come from the individual himself as a consequence of his humanity – and require no gift or confiscation from government.

Note that the founders did not add a right to health care, or to food, or shelter, or even water in this bill.  … to grant a right to food, as an example, would directly contradict the idea that the farmer who grows the food has a right to ownership of the fruits of his labors – literally speaking, in this instance.  It sets in motion a confiscatory requirement to satisfy that right.  Someone has to seize that food and distribute it to others in order to bring that “right” to fruition.

Rights cannot be confiscatory in a society that respects the individual right to property.  That’s why none of the enumerated rights in the Constitution involve confiscation.  Americans have the right to free speech, but they do not have the right to demand publication in a newspaper, nor do they have the right to demand that other people listen when they speak.   Snip –

none of us have the right to confiscate the services of a doctor or nurse without their consent, and without their ability to set a price for their time and expertise.  We don’t have the right to walk into a grocery story to demand apples when we’re hungry, either, although we should have access to the market without bias when we can properly compensate its owner for the goods.

Arguing that we have a right to health-care goods and services disconnected from our individual ability to provide that compensation takes us down a much different path than that envisioned by the founders.  It owes much more to schools of thought where private property rights have little or no meaning, where the individual gets subsumed by the society in which he lives, and where all property belongs to the people as a whole.  We have seen massive experimentation with those systems in the 20th century, and they had several points in common: they resulted in a sharp decline in individual liberty, in production, and in standards of living.

I have often written that no where in the discussion of health care that has taken place over the past year has anyone ever brought up the rights of doctors and other health care providers to be compensated justly for their services. How would anyone in any other profession like it if the full force of the federal government rained down on their heads demanding they serve the community without just compensation? Where is a doctor’s freedom in all of this, and why don’t those on the left think they deserve their freedom? Morrissey’s column is one place where he does this complaint of mine justice. Please read all of Ed Morrissey’s piece here:


For the Tea Partiers it’s the Constitution.

Rick Moran of was also at the Southern Republican Leadership Conference and was impressed by the attendees, many of whom were also Tea Partiers and were well-versed in the Constitution. He sees what’s happening with the involvement of the Tea Partiers as a turning point for Americans. The political fights with the left this year have stirred Americans’ interest in the Constitution and the founders and have made them focus on how the country got too far away from those ideals over the past 60 or so years. (Actually, I’d say the past 100 years, and it has just gotten worse year by year.)

The Southern Republican Leadership Conference wrapped up on Saturday afternoon after three days of speeches dripping with red-meat criticisms of Democrats and President Obama…

But there was also something most unusual about the conference: an uncommon amount of talk and discussion of the United States Constitution. Ordinary people from all walks of life, not a constitutional scholar or lawyer among them, are actually trying to come to grips with the fundamental meaning and purpose of our founding document.

If the numbers of tea partiers can be believed — and they were omnipresent at this gathering — perhaps millions of citizens are reading the Constitution and trying to place the actions taken by our government within the confines of our founding document’s strictures. …there is a profound feeling of unease about not just what Obama and the Democrats have done to expand the power of the federal government, but Republicans as well…

… If you start to talk to them about spending, inevitably the conversation will turn to the Constitution and their understanding of how that document should be interpreted.  Snip –

It may seem to some a quaint exercise in good citizenship for these millions to wrestle with such convoluted and complex questions as the meaning and reach of the commerce clause or the constitutionality of the individual mandate to buy health insurance. The condescension is misplaced — and totally unwarranted.

The Constitution was not written in legalese despite the presence of so many lawyers at the Constitutional Convention. It was written in plain, accessible English so that the document could be read and understood by ordinary Americans. It was printed in newspapers, slapped on the walls near the village commons, and mailed far and wide. It was discussed in churches, in public houses, at family dinners, and between neighbors from New England to Georgia.

Never before in history had a country thought and debated itself into existence. When that generation of Americans looked at our founding document, could they have imagined that one day a congressman would say that the Constitution doesn’t matter? Or that congressmen could not answer the question of where in the Constitution did it authorize the federal government to force citizens to buy health insurance?  Snip –

For 60 years, we have largely accepted the justifications of our elites for expanding the size and reach of government. It’s been done in the name of “fairness,” or “social justice,” or “to help those less fortunate,” or “to level the playing field” in economic matters…

… We’ve been involved in a war against the forces of expansion, and regardless of the reason or the cause, and no matter if the issue is “social justice” or some other noble undertaking, the result is the same: the Constitution being used not to define limits on power but to justify control over citizens.  Snip –

If there is one thing to take away from this conference, it is that there is a large segment of the populace who have been aroused — angered by what they perceive to be a government grown too big, too fast, and consequently spending us into oblivion.

A tipping point has been reached. Perhaps it should have been reached earlier. Maybe it’s unfair to the Democrats to single them out when both parties have done their best to grow government beyond the worst nightmares of the Founders and the Americans of the generation that birthed this nation. But regardless of fault, the interest in our founding document and people’s struggles to come to grips with its meaning in modern America is what is going to be one of the primary issues that candidates will have to address in November if they want to win.

Our Greatest Generation fought to keep Americans free by beating Nazism and Fascism over in Europe and Japanese totalitarianism only to see the country slowly succumb to the left via socialism ever since. It is up to the children and grandchildren of those who fought Hitler, Mussolini and Hirohito to fight a similar evil on our own shores. Read it all here:


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