Thursday, August 06, 2009

Letter Sent to Senators Reid and Ensign, and the Honorable Shelley Berkely of Nevada

If you haven't already written to your representatives in congress, please do so during the recess.

6 August 2009

Dear Senator Reid,

As you consider the prospect of “reforming” healthcare over the congressional recess I would like to share my views with you, as one of your constituents. I am twenty-five years old and a doctoral candidate in American History. I spend most of my time examining and studying the early political and intellectual history of our republic. I do not normally feel compelled to write to my elected representatives, though I always take the time to consider contemporary issues and elections seriously as a concerned and engaged citizen of the republic.

At the conclusion of our Revolution, those various figures great and small whom we generally call “Founding Fathers,” faced as scary and uncertain a future as any faced by any group of men in the history of the Western world. This is not needlessly melodramatic, but a simple fact. No sizeable republic had existed anywhere outside of small enclaves in Italy, Switzerland, and Holland for well over seventeen hundred years in the days of ancient Rome. Self-government and, more importantly, limited government, was, at best, a noble dream. Whether it could work given the nature of men, the precarious position of the United States in a world soon to be consumed by the fires unleashed in Revolutionary France, and the contradictory institutional arrangements among the sections of the new republic was anything but certain.

The early government of the United States was not limited in scope, power, or activity because of weakness or inability to marshal resources not gained until the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. It was limited deliberately. Not because the Founders or anyone normally views it as a good thing that people don’t have employment, healthcare, food, education, or anything else commonly assumed to be a “right” today. It was limited because these items, items which are produced by other citizens, were not seen as the legitimate “rights” of other citizens. All men have the fundamental right to their own persons and the products of their own labor. They do not, however, own the products of other men by right. The critical development signified by the American Republic was the notion that government was instituted for the expressly limited purpose of protecting individual rights, including the fundamental rights of property.

Healthcare, no matter how vital we may think it is, is not a right. It is a service and/or series of services produced and offered by a whole host of our fellow citizens. One such citizen is my sister, a registered nurse in Clark County. This is not a question of prices and costs, but of rights. The government has been improperly intruding into the economy for over one hundred years now, with sometimes horrific effects, recently on display in the last year or so. The healthcare field is no exception to our mixed economy nightmare; it has been actively meddled in for decades from Medicare and Medicaid to the creation of HMOs, creatures of government interference. As awful as this situation is, the government is now considering, under pressure from President Obama, making matters much worse.

The government has no business getting involved in health insurance, even under the “benign” rhetoric of the current plan before congress. There is no mandate for this in the Constitutional charter ratified by the people of the United States in 1787-1789. Your job is, explicitly, to live within the confines of that document or to amend it for some non-delegated purpose. Creating a government insurance program is not a delegated power of the congress. There is a reason for this beyond the more primitive state of human healthcare in the late eighteenth century. A person cannot have a right to the products and services of another. That situation is normally called slavery. It was not compatible with human liberty when the republic was founded, and it is not compatible now. Such a situation is founded upon force, not liberty. It is, at base, fundamentally unjust and not worthy of this country. You should be working to rid the republic of all vestiges remaining that suggest force is a proper way for government to interact with the citizens who are its lords and masters.

Do not turn the American Republic, the republic of Washington, Adams, Jefferson and Madison into the “bread and circuses” nightmare of Imperial Rome. If we go down that road any further, there will be increasingly little chance that we will find our ways back. Our situation today of affluence, power, and technological dominance over nature was not an accidental development, nor is its continuation at all assured. Your actions now matter immensely. History will judge whether you acted, like the heroes of other epochs, to guarantee a rebirth of liberty, or whether you pandered with other people’s money to “guarantee” services provided by yet others. As a historian, I am as certain of how this moment will be recorded as one can be. One path is glory, the other is ignominy. Please consider these matters and please choose wisely.

My regards,
Alexander Marriott

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