Health Care and Our Inalienable Rights, by Scott Lazarowitz
January 2, 2010 © American Thinker 2009
With threats from federal officials to seize control over the health care system and further intrude into our private matters, many Americans are trying to find ways to protect their lives and liberty. Given America’s dysfunctional economic situation that the federal government caused and has been making worse, government can only make the health care system go from dysfunctional to despotic. The regulations, mandates, and restrictions currently in place already violate the individual citizen’s God-given, inalienable natural rights to “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness” referred to in the Declaration of Independence.
Leftist supporters of government health care do not seem to understand or are hostile to the concept of the individual’s right to life and liberty. Leftists prefer that the collective have power to make demands on the individual, and that the individual be dependent on the state for cradle-to-grave care. A system of cradle-to-grave care necessitates state control over the individual, as we have seen in places such as the former Soviet Union, and eradicates the individual’s right to control one’s own life. It is a system of massive invasion of liberty.
There are now efforts to have states “nullify” the dictatorial mandates of health legislation being considered by Congress. By nullifying ObamaCare, a state declares those intrusions as void or not applicable in that state. Some people view the Tenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution as recognition of such states’ rights. Unfortunately, others express doubts that states will be able to constitutionally nullify these proposed federal health care laws. Some view such nullification efforts as merely symbolic and not enforceable.
While the Tenth Amendment protects states’ rights, the Ninth Amendment is geared more toward the individual’s natural rights not included in the Bill of Rights. The Ninth Amendment of the Constitution states,
The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.
Constitutional law expert Randy Barnett has written that the Ninth Amendment protects the natural rights that we have “prior to the formation of government.” Barnett views unenumerated rights in the context of “presumption of liberty.” This is a reasonable interpretation, as the Founders believed in the aforementioned natural rights. The Bill of Rights can’t possibly enumerate all individual rights “endowed by their Creator,” which is why the Founders included the Ninth Amendment.
There is no explicit Constitutional right to “privacy,” although while the Ninth Amendment can be used to protect an individual’s natural right to privacy, the Fifth Amendment‘s protection against “self-incrimination” can and should be a vehicle to protect an individual from being compelled to report one’s insurance or medical status to the government. Would George Washington and his fellow revolutionaries approve of jail for citizens who don’t report such personal information to the government? I think not.
With our inalienable rights to life and liberty, one might assume that among our unenumerated rights would also rest the rights of voluntary association and contract (such as the relationship between a doctor and patient) and the right to not buy insurance if one doesn’t want it, as well as the right to opt out of a government health scheme. One might also assume that individuals have an inalienable, natural right to not report their medical status to the government.
The Founders were clear that such unenumerated rights would be recognized by natural law — that is why they wrote and unanimously approved the Declaration of Independence — but our natural rights may not be protected by constitutional law. Barnett has also wondered whether “mandatory insurance” is unconstitutional. However, given that our natural rights are inalienable, meaning that government may not take them away for any reason, it really should not matter if any of the health care proposals in Congress are unconstitutional. As economist Hans-Hermann Hoppe explains,
As the Declaration of Independence noted, government is supposed to protect life, property, and the pursuit of happiness. Yet in granting government the power to tax and legislate without consent, the Constitution cannot possibly assure this goal but is instead the very instrument for invading and destroying the right to life, property, and liberty … the Constitution is itself unconstitutional, i.e., incompatible with the very doctrine of natural human rights that inspired the American Revolution.
A part of the Declaration of Independence that might recognize the rights of both the individual and the states to reject harmful federal dictates reads:
That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it… it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.
The government has become uninterested in securing our rights as it instead invades them. We need to “throw off” such proposals that further assault our rights. Throughout this health care debate, we have seen officials conniving to pass legislation as quickly as possible. Legislators have included quite invasive requirements, including draconian IRS provisions. One wonders whether those lawmakers actually know that health care in the U.S. is dysfunctional because of the regulations, bureaucracy, and intrusions already in place. Congress’s actions now seem almost conspiratorial, given how so many Americans oppose these sweeping changes.
Eventually, this health care legislation will become a government-run, single-payer system, as is the intention of the politicians in control.
Whether the states can nullify federal health mandates and intrusions is unclear, but the individual surely has a right to not participate. However, such attempts of individual non-participation could get one thrown in jail, which shows what a gross violation of one’s natural, God-given rights these federal orders will be. Additionally, the quality of a government doctor’s care will probably not be as good as that of a private doctor currently in business.
Economist Gary North has written about how the current government-regulated health care system may be culpable for the death of his son. Given how government has run other activities, one can speculate whether there will be an increase or a decrease in the occurrence of medical “errors” when government controls the health care system. But if the ignoramuses and hooligans of the United States Congress actually do pass this tyrannical, Soviet-like medical scheme, Gary North has this perhaps more useful advice: “Do not get sick.”
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