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|Rights don't cost money; health care does...|
I recently was sitting in a saloon in Natchez, Miss., when I overheard a conversation among a group of men about the health care legislation that Washington lawmakers are pushing to lay on the president's desk some time in February.
I was much more interested in enjoying my adult beverage than intruding on a conversation that, as far as I could tell, was laden with more emotion than I was willing to invest.
There was something said, however, that nearly made me put my two cents in without invitation. Then I thought of my adult beverage which might get warm if I were to get ensnared in debate, so I kept silent.
What almost made me forget my priorities was when one of the men blurted out. "health care is a right." No one else seemed to argue his assertion, most likely because they agreed.
I found out later that the men were Canadians making their way down the Mississippi River in canoes. That doesn't really matter, though, because what was said could have just as easily been said by a U.S. citizen. An example is Sen. Richard Durbin of Illinois, a member of the Democratic leadership, who declared on the floor of the Senate that the often heated debate over health care reform would determine whether "health care is going to be a right or privilege in America."
To understand where the idea of "rights" in our national lexicon came from and how they worked their way into the Constitution, you must first have a rudimentary understanding of the thinking of the men who penned the Bill of Rights.
At the risk of sounding smarter than I am concerning the forming of the Constitution, I tend to read a great deal, something that has been helpful for a man who makes his living writing. Like most, I read what interest me, so I have read much about our country's founding.
The Founding Fathers were nothing if not influenced by Enlightenment thinkers, one which shaped their thinking the most was the 17th Century philosopher John Locke, who, interestingly enough, was a physician.
Locke wrote that mankind was created by God with the inherent right to life, liberty and property. So they could protect these rights, governments were created, Locke believed.
When governments became so large that they could take away these rights, they were no longer legitimate. As Locke put it, why hide from wolves in the den of a lion?
Looking at the Bill of Rights, it's easy to see that they were written to protect citizens from government abuses of inherent rights given by The Creator.
There are many things people need to live a better, and even sustainable, life. Among them are food, clothing, shelter and, yes, health care.
While these things are desirable and needed, the founders never would have thought to elevate them to rights.
They are commodities and goods that the men who wrote the Constitution assumed people could secure for themselves if unencumbered by outside interference.
It might be worth noting that I have been an insulin dependent diabetic for years, so I have a deep understanding of the need for good health care. Since there is no way to really assure my good health, only to take my medications and try to take care of myself, I count on the free market to keep my medications and treatment affordable without government or third party providers arbitrarily driving up costs.
One distinguishing feature that separates the rights enumerated in the Constitution and assumed rights is that the rights our founders wrote in the 10 amendments don't cost anything. Providing universal health care, however, could cost trillions.
For a nation already $12 trillion in the red, paying for the assumed right of health care insurance means devaluing the dollar by printing money or borrowing from other nations who will certainly be looking out for their interest instead of ours.
We should have the right not to be beholden to these nations and the right to not burden future generations with debt that will undoubtedly limit their freedom.
Unlike the adult beverage I almost allowed to warm by eavesdropping on the Canadians, these rights, like the Bill of Rights, cost nothing.