February 15, 2010

Is Government-Run Health Care a Good Idea?A Worldview Analysis

It may be true that you can't fool all the people all the time, but you can fool enough of them to rule a large country.
— Will Durant, American writer, historian, and philosopher (d. 1981)

There is a huge debate across our nation as to whether government-run health care is a good idea. Those who believe that government should be involved in providing medical care for citizens see healthcare as a basic right of the people. If so, then government should provide this service in the same way it provides other services, like police and fire protection or other community services.

On the other hand, others are convinced that government should not be in the health care business. They are convinced medical concerns are best left in the hands of individuals and their doctors. They say that private charities, not government, should help those who cannot afford medical treatment.

How should we think about this debate? Is there a right side to this issue, or is it just a matter of personal opinion? Are there biblical principles that can help us decide?

To answer these questions, it is helpful to keep in mind a comment made by Alexander Hamilton, who not only signed the Declaration of Independence but also penned many of the Federalist Papers in support of the new Constitution. Hamilton wrote, "In disquisitions of every kind there are certain primary truths, or first principles, upon which all subsequent reasoning must depend."

A worldview perspective provides unique insights into how first principles relate to any issue at hand. Therefore, whether government-run health care is a good idea or not can only be understood in light of other, more fundamental, primary truths; specifically, an understanding of human nature, the purpose of government, and the basis for legal rights. Only when the primary truths of these three areas are firmly in mind will we be in a position to arrive at the best answer to the question.

Human Nature and Two-sided Coins

First, there is a primary truth about human nature. According to the Bible, humans are like a two-sided coin. One side reflects how we are wonderfully made in God's image. This means, among other things, we are capable of doing much good in the world.

However, the other side of the coin reveals a deep moral failing. Not only does the Bible present this picture of fallen human nature, but all of recorded human history confirms it. Even President Obama, during a speech this past December in Oslo, Norway, referred to "human imperfections." Of course, the result is the full range of man's inhumanity to his fellow man, from the seemingly trivial to the grotesque.

Human nature being what it is, we are led to a primary truth about government. James Madison, the chief architect of the U.S. Constitution and our 4th President, provided great insight when he wrote, "What is government but the greatest of all reflections on human nature. If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on the government would be necessary."[1] Put differently, since we are not angels and not governed by angles, we must find ways to control the passions of those who rule over us.

Any system of government that seeks to secure individual freedom must take into account these first principles of human nature and government. Therefore, to minimize the potential for abuse, the founders of the United States designed their new government with three built-in safeguards. First, the Federal government was limited in what it could do. Only twenty-one responsibilities were specifically listed so there would be no misunderstanding.

Second, the various powers of the national government were distributed into three non-overlapping branches. For example, the branch that passes laws does not have the power to enforce them. Those who judge cannot create the laws. The executive branch may propose a budget but cannot appropriate the money for it. Separating powers further limits the likelihood for any one individual or group from gaining too much power.

Third, the U.S. was designed as a Republic. A Republic is characterized by the rule of law, not the rule of man. The rule of law establishes what are legitimate rights. The Founders grounded these rights not in the changing whims of politicians but in the unchanging character of God. This brings us to the primary truth about God-given rights.

Legal Rights and Dodo Birds

The Dodo bird truism: "That bird was never made to fly!"

Because of its design, it is obvious that a dodo bird was never meant to fly. In a similar way, government was never designed to do certain things. To find out what government should and should not do, we must consider the difference between two kinds of human rights: negative and positive.

Negative rights are those that cannot be negated, or taken away, without diminishing our fundamental humanity and freedoms. In The Declaration of Independence, these rights are listed as life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness. Further, human rights are considered "unalienable," meaning they are basic to our human condition as creatures made in God's image and, therefore, cannot be taken away or manipulated by government.

Genesis 9:1–6 records God's mandate for establishing civil government; to protect our right to life and liberty by bringing evil doers to justice. The government, therefore, is the social organization designated to protect God-given rights from being abused or taken away by others.

Positive rights, on the other hand, are aspects of human life that contribute to our basic needs for survival. Examples are food, shelter, education, and medical care. These needs have traditionally been the responsibility of the individual, the family, and local community groups, such as the church and charitable organizations. This has been the teaching of the church and comes from a number of biblical passages. Jesus said, for example, to help the poor and the sick, but this was spoken to his disciples, not the Roman government.[2] Jesus also taught that Caesar's authority was subordinate to God's.

We find, then, a primary truth about social order — sphere of sovereignty. This means that different social institutions are given differing responsibilities. The family, being naturally the fundamental unit of society, is for nurturing children and preparing them to be responsible adults. The Church has the task of spreading the Gospel, gathering in corporate worship, and teaching Christians to live Godly lives. The State is required to maintain social order by protecting human rights. As the church should not interfere with the responsibility of the State, the State must not usurp the responsibilities of the family or the Church.

Government is your Uncle, not your Sugar Daddy

Back to the central question; should government try to provide positive rights? Based on the primary truths of human nature and the role of government, we find at least two reasons that government is not designed to provide positive rights.

First, positive rights involve too many variables. An individual's positive needs (for food, shelter, etc.) vary from year to year, even day to day. For example, an able bodied 32-year old has different needs than a 31-month old or a feeble 93-year old. A bureaucrat sitting in an office somewhere cannot possibly know the changing needs of every individual citizen or how best to meet them. The most a government agency can do is try to enforce general guidelines, a one-size-fits-all approach, and because it cannot anticipate the variables of day-to-day life, there will inevitably be shortages, inefficiency, and waste of manpower and money.

This principle is clearly seen when government intervenes in economic matters. As Thomas Jefferson wrote, "Were we directed from Washington when to sow, and when to reap, we should soon want bread." Jefferson understood the limits of what government is capable of doing. It is not designed to orchestrate people's basic needs, even one as fundamental as food.

Second, the only means government has to accomplish its goals is the use of force. George Washington put it this way, "Government is not reason. Government is not eloquence. It is force. And, like fire, it is a dangerous servant and a fearful master." Force works well when it comes to protecting negative rights, which is the reason for the military, police, and the courts. But to place the power of government over the day-to-day lives of citizens sets up a tremendous potential for abuse. People begin to demand more services. This is a formula for creating shortages, leading to unmet expectations by citizens, which creates social unrest. This is the opposite of the state's responsibility for maintaining social cohesion and order.

Not only that, but special interest groups begin lobbying for a larger piece of the government payout, which not only diverts money from helping those in need to pay for the lobbyists, but also it pits one group against another, thus producing discord among the citizens. We change from being a nation united to a nation of special interests demanding their "rights." The role of government morphs from protector of rights to provider of favors and we end up replacing Uncle Sam with Daddy Starbucks.

Government's Power is Strictly Limited

The Founders of the United States understood these first principles and built safeguards into the U.S. Constitution by restricting the Federal government from engaging in legislating positive rights. Thomas Jefferson wrote, "Congress has not unlimited powers to provide for the general welfare, but only those specifically enumerated." Article 1, Section 8, of the Constitution lists the specific duties of the Federal government. Each of the 21 duties involves either protecting negative rights, such as establishing a national defense and a Federal judiciary, or concerns practical matters like standardizing the national coinage, weights and measures, establishing a national postal system, and issuing patents.

In listing responsibilities of the Federal government, the Constitution does not name one "positive" right, such as providing for education, food, housing, or retirement benefits. That is why, as early as 1794, James Madison, the Father of the Constitution and our 4th President, railed against his fellow politicians who were seeking to redistribute the wealth of its citizens:

I cannot undertake to lay my finger on that article of the Constitution which granted a right to Congress of expending, on objects of benevolence, the money of their constituents. . . . If Congress can do whatever in their discretion can be done by money, and will promote the General Welfare, the Government is no longer a limited one, possessing enumerated powers, but an indefinite one, subject to particular exceptions.

Like Madison, Davy Crocket sought to preserve the rules of the Constitution that he swore to uphold when taking the oath of office. On April 2, 1828, Crocket, as a representative from Tennessee, stood to challenge the constitutionality of one of the earliest welfare spending bills. A piece of legislation was submitted to provide for the widow of a distinguished Navy officer. Crocket got it right when he said to his fellow legislators,

We have not the semblance of authority to appropriate [Federal money] as charity. Mr. Speaker, I have said we have the right to give as much money of our own as we please. I am the poorest man on this floor. I cannot vote for this bill, but I will give one week's pay to the object, and if every member of Congress will do the same, it will amount to more than the bill asks.

But, some may ask, can't the legislature, elected by the majority of citizens, pass laws providing for national healthcare? The answer is "No," because in order to change what Congress is allowed to do, the Constitution must be changed. The Constitution allows for change, but the procedure involves amending the constitution by a vote of two-thirds of the state legislatures. It cannot be changed by a simple act of Congress.

Unless and until the Constitution is amended, the Congress does not have the authority to pass laws regulating or establishing a national health care system. To do so would be to break the contract ratified by the people of the United States as embodied in the Constitution. But not only that, if the Constitution was amended to include providing positive rights, it would be a bad idea for the reasons mentioned above.


Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passion, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.
— John Adams, U.S. Diplomat and Politician (1735–1826), "Argument in Defense of the Soldiers in the Boston Massacre Trial," December 1770

There is one undeniable fact: mankind is morally flawed and tends to abuse political power. Based on these fundamental truths, we can deduce the following:

  1. It is a good idea to limit the power of government.
  2. Government-run health care does not limit the power of government, in fact, it greatly enlarges government's scope and power over the people.
  3. Therefore, government-run health care is not a good idea.

It's as simple as that! Or, as humorist P.J. O'Rourke sagely phrased it, "Giving money and power to government is like giving whiskey and car keys to teenage boys." 'Nuf said!

In the next installment, we examine why keeping medical care out of the hands of congress is the most moral and compassionate means for helping those in need.

  1. James Madison, Federalist No. 51, "The Structure of the Government Must Furnish the Proper Checks and Balances between the Different Departments." The entire article can be viewed at http://www.constitution.org/fed/federa51.htm.
  2. See, for example, Luke 10:8; Matthew 25:31–46.

This post has earned 30 Comments so far.

Jump to comment form
  • February 24, 2010 // 08:51 am //  # 
    Ray Ciervo's avatar Ray Ciervo

    The “primary truths” and “first principles” mentioned here are natural law which is based on God’s character. Who better than Christians to ascertain the character of God and translate it into the moral legislation before us. Make no mistake, every bit of legislation is someone’s morality. All laws bind us to themselves, so we ought to be first to interpret the natural law available to all men. Our gauntlet is to not be “politicized,” but actively express God’s character in the rule of law. Not an easy task, but one that we must be involved in. Great article!

  • February 24, 2010 // 11:17 am //  # 
    Jane E Kouts's avatar Jane E Kouts

    The new health care bill does greatly enlarge our government and we can NOT afford it. These are the most recent additions to the proposed Obama Health Care bill: Elimination of the Medicare Part D (prescription drug) deduction ($5.4 billion);
    A 0.5 percent hike in the Medicare payroll tax for single earners over $200,000
    A tax on branded drugs ($22.2 billion);
    An annual tax on the health insurers ($60.4 billion)
    A 40 percent excise tax on “high value” health care ($149.1 billion in new taxes over the next 10 years); and joint earners over $250,000 ($53.8 billion);
    Changes in health savings accounts (HSAs), ($5 billion);
    A $2,500 cap on FSAs in cafeteria plans ($14.6 billion);
    An increase from 10 percent to 20 percent in the penalty for early non-qualified HSA withdrawals ($1.3 billion);
    A tax on companies that manufacture or import medical devices ($19.3 billion);
    An increase in the floor of the medical expenses deduction from 7.5 percent of adjusted gross income to 10 percent, except for seniors, who will stay at 7.5 percent ($15.2 billion);
    A mandate on companies with more than 50 employees to provide health coverage or pay a $750 penalty per employee for those who obtain coverage through the insurance exchange ($36 billion over 10 years) and a mandate on individuals to obtain coverage or pay a tax penalty.
    We can not afford our government CHANGE to include responsibility to oversee ALL our health care. Just look at the new taxes levied against health care providers. Wow. Government run amok. Thanks for letting me vent a little. Jane E Kouts, mother of x 5 children; two have attended Summit Camp in CO Springs and one attended a Summit study group back in the late 90’s.

  • February 24, 2010 // 02:06 pm //  # 
    Josh's avatar Josh

    If life is a negative right, wouldn’t healthcare that saves lives be something the government should provide?  Take away healthcare and you inevitably take away life.  If left untreated, many diseases can result in death.  Wouldn’t treating these diseases with government backed healthcare be something the government can and should do?

    The church in its present state can not possibly pay for all the medical care of people who cannot provide for themselves.  To let these people be sick and live sub-par lives does not seem like something anyone would advocate.

  • February 24, 2010 // 06:10 pm //  # 
    Ed Herford's avatar Ed Herford

    In response to Josh’s straw man, I must add that no one is proposing that government should “take away healthcare”; the legislation under consideration at this time is geared around a government takeover of healthcare. There is a big difference between taking something away and taking something over!

    Josh also makes the unsubstantiated plea that the church doesn’t have the resources in its current state to pay for the services needed by those who can’t provide for themselves. Think about it…. neither does the government. Although, I think the church could handle it much better than the government. First of all, the church doesn’t have the debt that the government has and secondly, the church has consistently demonstrated better stewardship of its resources than the government. Josh, is it ethical to give what one does not have?

    Perhaps you may remember the parable of the woman who gave from her poverty. Jesus commended her for giving all that she had. Do you think Jesus’ response might have been different if she gave more that she had?

    You might also consider the fact that charity or compassion are voluntary actions. Anything done under compulsion should not be considered an act God loves (2 Co. 9:7). As far as I know, our tax code is compulsory, not voluntary.

    Last, no one is advocating that we neglect the treatment of the sick and leave people to die. Even in our current imperfect situation we are treating those who do not have the money to pay for their medical expenses. 

    Thanks for the great article.

  • February 24, 2010 // 08:12 pm //  # 
    Josh's avatar Josh

    Thanks for reading my post and responding reasonably Ed.  Healthy debate is always good for any issue. 

    I was under the assumption that a central point of current legislation is expanding access to healthcare (to those who do not have sufficient access already).  I admit I haven’t read any of the proposed plans so please correct me if that statement is incorrect.  The article seems to clearly state that healthcare should not be a right.  I would contend that a good portion of healthcare services are essential rights because they are part of our right to live.  Just as the government ensures that our life is safe from human murderers it also should ensure that our life is safe from natural murderers: diseases.   
    Therefore access needs to be universal which is what part of the legislation is aiming towards.

    I don’t think there is a planned “takeover” of healthcare at the current time.  Government intervention is intended to correct some of the current problems with our system not take it over.

    Yes, the government is in debt but national debt is very different from personal or corporate debt.  The government continues to operate with its debt and most economists will state that some amount of national debt is a good thing because it keeps people and other nations dependent on the success of our nation.  If we owe China a significant amount of money, China is not very likely to attack us or institute policies that will hurt our economy because a good portion of their wealth is wrapped up in our economy.  Debt that churches have is never a good thing.  Churches cannot continue to operate in increasing debt.  Eventually they are forced to close their doors.  The church cannot handle the massive cost of healthcare because it cannot operate in massive debt.  The government can do this and also has the power to tax its citizens to recover costs.  Church organizations are dependent on the good will of their donors and unless there is a huge increase in donations, there is simply not enough money to cover the costs of everyone who needs healthcare and doesn’t have it. 

    Would it be better if the church could handle healthcare?  Yes, but I really don’t see a practical way for that to happen right now.  If there is a way, why isn’t it happening?  Therefore, we are left with two options.  Let the church do what is doing now (which doesn’t cover everyone) and hope for improvement or allow the government to step in and ensure coverage for everyone.   

    I don’t completely agree with the huge spending plan Obama is proposing but also don’t completely agree with the article.  I think there is a place for government in healthcare.

  • February 25, 2010 // 04:20 am //  # 
    Ken's avatar Ken

    You might want to search for the word “angles” and change it to “angels” smile

  • February 25, 2010 // 08:44 am //  # 
    Nicole's avatar Nicole

    Josh, I understand where you are comming from, however, the government does not want to cover only those who cannot afford insurance, it wants to cover those who choose to not have insurance.  By instututing a fine for all those who do not have insurance, they mandate that everyone must have healthcare which is beyond their responsibility to demand. 

    Also, people are not dying of disease because they don’t have healthcare.  Hospitals cannot and will not turn away anyone who comes in need of life-saving operations.  Some hospitals will, however, turn away those who come for minimum care if those patients have medicare or medicaid.  Often, the government does not reinburse the hospitals for their services, and the times they do, the payment is often insufficient.  A hospital in Pennsyvania went bankrupt a few months ago because a majority of their patiens were on medicare or medicaid, and the government did not fully reimburse the hospital for medical procedures.  If the government cannot even run medicare, how can they run a healthcare system that covers even more people.

    No, the government debt is not any different from private debt.  Yes, the government can still function while in debt just the same way an individual can function while in debt to his or her credit card company.  The debt will eventually pile up, however, and then sytem collapses.  The only reason the government is still functioning today is because they have more money which lasts longer.  Debt to other countries is a good thing in small quantities, but once a single country takes over a majority of our debt, they can contol us. 

    Finally, we are not left with only two options.  If healthcare were cheaper, more of those who cannot currently afford it would then have the ability purchase coverage.  If the government would let companies compete over state lines, the competition would lower prices of insurance and this would lead to affordability.  Once the prices of private coverage are cheaper, there will be less uninsured to take care of.  Then the church and charities step in with donations for those who cannot afford even the cheapest coverage. 

    Letting the federal government get too big is dangerous and should be avoided at all costs.  Even if this healthcare plan would not turn into a takeover, it would exponetially increase the size of government which will affect us greatly later on.  The right to life is different from the right to healthcare.  Hospitals take care of emergency needs, even the needs of those who are here illigally.  The healthcare plan simply wants more control over the lives of the people.  If they really want to help, the government should remove restrictions on interstate competition and improve medicare and medicaid rather than take on a bigger and more complecated task which could turn into another bankrupt system much life Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and the Post Ofice.

  • February 25, 2010 // 12:54 pm //  # 
    Dave Cox's avatar Dave Cox

    Thank you so much for a very well put together article. The government was designed NOT to provide what its citizens should provide for themselves. The health care is a matter between the individual person and their doctor. The negotiation for providing the care is best put there.

    The health care bill as it is, is designed to take individual freedoms away from the people and the doctors and put that into the hands of a dictatorial government & czars as they are called. This will effectively destroy the form of government as we have always known it.

    Every patriot who loves this country should oppose this terrible legislation! If we don’t, we will one day wake up to tyranny! That is right around the corner from government mandated health care BO care as it is named! Is this what I want? or our fellow citizens want? I don’t think so!

  • February 25, 2010 // 04:25 pm //  # 
    Josh's avatar Josh

    Nicole, I agree with a lot of what you’re saying.  As I said before, I do not fully support what Obama wants to do with healthcare.  The point I’m trying to make is that this article is incorrect in stating that basic healthcare is not a right and should be completely avoided by the government. 

    You seem to agree that the lifesaving healthcare hospitals currently provide is a basic right.  I agree with this.  But if we want to lower costs, we need to give everyone access to primary care not just the ER.  A major problem is that people who aren’t insured go to the ER for everything that’s wrong with them and do not have a primary care doctor.  If the government provides insurance for these people so they can have a primary care source, costs will be lowered.  The most cost effective way of providing lifesaving care is through preventive medicine not forcing people without healthcare to go to the hospital.  Without universal coverage, that cannot happen. 

    Although allowing insurance competition over state lines would be good, I don’t think it would drop costs enough to eliminate the need for government assistance.  The point I was making with government vs. individual/corporate debt is that churches and charities cannot go into debt to cover people’s healthcare while the government can.  Will it have some consequences?  Yes, but it is not impossible like it would be for churches.  I think healthcare is important enough to endure those consequences.

  • February 25, 2010 // 05:00 pm //  # 
    Ed Herford's avatar Ed Herford

    Josh, healthcare does not equal life. I concur that it is reasonable to make the connection but this must be done apart from the legislation now being considered. The problem is that the devil is in the details. I implore you to read the legislation before defending it. For instance, in one of the bills and in the compromise plan, abortion is advocated. Abortion means certain death, death is the opposite of life therefore these bills at least contain elements that are opposed to the preservation and protection of life. Moreover, if you were to take the time to read them with an open mind you might conclude that they are more about the expansion of power than the noble cause your admitted assumptions have led you to believe. 



    Does the fact that only one party was involved in the writing of these bills bother you? (The other significant party was completely excluded from the process) Does it bother you that these bills were voted on before they were written? Does it bother you that amendments and bills from the other significant party were suppressed and not even considered? Does it bother you that the will of the people is not a consideration in this particular legislation? (Polls consistently reveal current healthcare legislation continues to be opposed by a majority of citizens) What form of government arrogantly disregards the will of its people?

    Do the GOP proposals appeal to your desire to solve the healthcare problems? Did you know they existed?


    No one is opposed to government intervention; it has been going on for decades. We simply want intelligent intervention, something the current legislation seems to be missing. In fact, if you were to research this topic a little you would find that many of our problems with healthcare were caused by government intervention. After reading or at least perusing these proposals you might reconsider which best fits your impression of government intervention and which might arguably be called or lead to a ?government takeover? of healthcare. 

    Additionally, you may want to ponder a more rational evaluation of the Obama compromise, if so, please read the following analysis:


    Josh, no one has suggested the church go into debt. I’m sorry that you don’t seem to be alarmed by the massive scale of debt we are heaping upon our children. You seem to think that it’s okay to place our burdens on others.

  • February 25, 2010 // 07:05 pm //  # 
    Josh's avatar Josh

    Thanks for the information Ed, I will take a look at those links.  I would like to re-clarify that I am not defending the health care bills.  Many of those issues do bother me especially the abortion one.

    May I ask you how you came to the conclusion that healthcare does not equal life? 

    I have not read the actual proposals and don’t think I can without some training in law.  I don’t think you have read and understood the actual proposals in their entirety either unless you are a lawyer with lots of extra time on your hands.  I do not think the process should be rushed through for this reason.  Groups like Heritage Foundation are excellent for trying to sort through all the legal language for us.  Keep in mind that Heritage Foundation is very biased towards the right (which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but would make them naturally try to find fault with anything the Democrats propose.)  People need time to dissect what is being proposed.

    What I am defending is the validity of government’s involvement in healthcare, especially in ensuring coverage to those who could not get it otherwise which the article explicitly rejects.

    In order for the church to provide for the healthcare of everyone who does not have it, it would have to go into massive debt.  Currently, the church is doing no such thing because churches and charities cannot be sustained in massive debt.  (And most churches don’t feel like this is really their responsibility.)   

    Am I alarmed by our country’s massive debt?  Absolutely.  I think the recent stimulus will be harmful in the long-run.  However, I more alarmed by the fact that a good portion of population does not have sufficient health care insurance and think it is certainly in government’s scope to address this.

  • February 26, 2010 // 06:00 pm //  # 
    Ed Herford's avatar Ed Herford

    Josh, you don’t give yourself enough credit. Though these bills are difficult and rather boring to read, they can be comprehended by laymen. Take it from one who has read them without any legal training.

    I realize that you are parroting a talking point of those legislators who would prefer that us common folk not read their bills. When you say that legal training is necessary in order to comprehend these bills, what are you saying about the many legislators who compiled these bills without a legal degree themselves? Your point on the complexities of legal jargon is well taken. Our laws should not be so lengthy and complex that no one can comprehend them, including our representatives who also lack legal training. This should be a red flag to you as you decide whether or not to support such legislation.

    You went on to ask, “how (I) came to the conclusion that healthcare does not equal life?? My answer is simple. Life is possible, even probable without healthcare. Wild animals always live without healthcare and throughout most of human history: humanity has experienced life without it as well. More importantly, healthcare is not synonymous to life.

    In 1776 when the Declaration of Independence was written, healthcare existed, yet the writers of that document did not see fit to include it in their declaration nor in the Bill of Rights. Why? If it were their intent to include healthcare as a right they would have made it clear since health issues were a much greater threat to life at the time. To me it seems rather tortuous to try to force such an interpretation. The founding fathers of this nation also seemed to disagree with you on the role of government in such matters…

    “I cannot undertake to lay my finger on that article of the Constitution which granted a right to Congress of expending, on objects of benevolence, the money of their constituents.?
-James Madison, 4 Annals of congress 179 (1794)

    Nuff said.

  • February 27, 2010 // 07:37 am //  # 
    Josh's avatar Josh

    So you’re saying healthcare does not create life which I agree with.  Healthcare does preserve life though which could put it under our right to life.

    Keep in mind that our country has changed quite a bit from its founding days.  What may have been imprudent then may be acceptable now.  Medicine was very primitive then and did not have the promise of life that it has now.  There are many diseases that we can easily treat today that have the potential to kill.  In the 1700’s, medicine was not much more than administering placebos and medical treatments could hardly ever ensure life like they can now. 

    Over the years, our government elected by the people has determined that people do have the right to basic services.  The Bill of Rights is about limiting government abuses not about necessary government services.  Do you oppose government providing roads, libraries, and emergency services?  None of these were originally provided by the government but were added in over the years as our ability to provide them grew and they became more necessary.

  • February 27, 2010 // 09:21 am //  # 
    Evetta's avatar Evetta

    Your comments have been very interesting.  You say that over the years elected officials have determined that people DO have the right to basic services.  Yes they have, and they have strayed away from the Constitution to determine this.  Yes, people Do have the right to basic healthcare-ask anyone who works in the ER.  Let’s talk about the ER.  By giving basic healthcare to everyone, the Government sat the hospital ER’s up to be over used and understaffed.  Anyone can walk into an ER and get care.  Who pays, when the patient can’t for that care?  The patient(personal responsibility), or the Hospital (pass on costs to everyone who uses the hospital because the hospital is owned by “we the people” in the county, or a group of people who invest to build, and then expect a return on their investment - not government, not charities, but builders who create jobs!!)  Josh, if you had to pay a part of the bill for everyone walking into the ER, you would be yelling about it, and trying to limit the amount of care given in the ER.  Josh,are you willing to give 50%, 60%, 75% of your take home pay back to the Government in order to give EVERYONE (even those who are not citizens of this great Country) healthcare?  That is what this Bill is asking everyone to do, and to extend it out to your children, and grand children…do you really want that?  After all, you are the “Government” as is everyone else, my self included.  You can give to charity because you feel in your heart it is “right”, you give to the “government” because you are obligated by law, and there is no changing it.  Be careful of what you ask for - you may just get it.  There are a lot of us who think that the Constitution has kept this Country great for centuries, this healthcare bill will trample the Constitution, by federalizing healthcare (doctors, hospitals, patients, insurers, drugstores, etc.) like they have banks, car makers, nursing homes, etc. How do you “feel” about that? It will control jobs, and income for those jobs.  The Constitution says that Government shall not do these things.  And, how can you expect us Christians to agree with abortion?  We believe in life as a God given right.  In passing this bill, all Christians will be “obligated by Government” to pay taxes that fund those abortions. Healthcare “for all” is a huge blanket, seemingly “warm and fuzzy”, but in reality, thin and almost threadbare because we cannot afford all of the fine threads needed to make it “warm and fuzzy”.  A nice dream, but reality BITES!!!

  • February 27, 2010 // 09:33 am //  # 
    Ray Ciervo's avatar Ray Ciervo

    Josh - since you are the main “opposing” voice to the original article, and as you’ve stated you’re not completely in favor of Obama’s plan, but you think the original article is “wrong” because you state “healthcare is an [inalienable] right (?)” Could you defend your premise with more than an assertion.

    What you must do is make more than an assertion that it is a “right” but prove it is a right logically, not anecdotally.

    It is was stated previously that it is not a right that the government must enforce by providing healthcare from its own resources.

  • February 27, 2010 // 09:49 am //  # 
    Evetta's avatar Evetta

    I think you were refering to the comments made to Davy Crocket while running for office by Horatio Bunce.  he indicated he could not vote for Davy, because he was not upholding the Constitution(an oath that all Congressmen and Senators give but are not upholding today)

  • February 27, 2010 // 01:54 pm //  # 
    DemDem's avatar DemDem

    Josh: I appreciate the time you took to reply with your thoughts and concerns. I agree with them almost entirely.

    A similar point to that regarding roads, schools etc. in role of government is where legislation concerns car insurance, wearing seatbelts, texting while driving… I don’t remember a conservative principled reaction against any of these, yet they fall under the positive protections.

    I suspect there are a lot of people who simply don’t want to be forced to into mandated health insurance because it would mean participation in a program that enables practices (procedures, discussions) to which they are morally opposed.

    Perhaps churches could create an alternative care system. I wonder if all those hospitals with saint names started out that way?

  • February 27, 2010 // 03:57 pm //  # 
    Evetta's avatar Evetta

    You just proved Ed’s article to be correct.  You can call a lot of laws created by individual states such as Car Insurance, Schools, texting, seatbelts as “positive protections”, and that is your opinion, you are entitled to it.  Tell me where these positive protections are found in the Constitution.  Some say yes, “everyone” must have them, what about people who do not drive, what about people who home school…your threadbare blanket is smothering us! (and making us poor at the same time)

  • February 27, 2010 // 05:51 pm //  # 
    Josh's avatar Josh

    Thanks DemDem.  Its good to hear someone else expressing support. 

    Evetta:  We are already paying for people visiting the ER without insurance through higher medical costs.  If everyone had insurance (which will only happen through a government plan) then unnecessary ER trips would be cut down and necessary ER trips would also be reduced because people would have primary care doctors who would help maintain their health.  In this way, universal coverage would save everyone money.  (There are other aspects that will cost us.)  Out of all the concerns I have heard about the bill, I have not heard any worries that it will be declared unconstitutional by the supreme court.  I am not a expert at constitutional law but I am imagine that if we have managed to allow other services like roads and libraries under the Constitution, this would fit as well.  I understand that the original founders would not have supported a similar system in their day, but as I mentioned in my last post, medicine and our country has changed dramatically since then.  Also, the constitution is not a list of everything the government is allowed to do so you’re not going to find everything the government does explicitly mentioned in it. 

    Ray:  In short healthcare is a right because it protects life and we believe that life is a right.  If it is in our power to prevent someone from dying, it is our responsibility to do so.  In our current society, the only way to ensure everyone has access is through government involvement.

  • February 28, 2010 // 05:51 am //  # 
    Ray Ciervo's avatar Ray Ciervo

    Josh, if I understand you correctly you would structure your position this way
    1. Healthcare is a right because it protects life (assumption: life is a right)
    2. Because we can prevent someone from dying, it is our responsibility to do so
    3. Therefor, the only way to ensure this access (in our current society) is through government involvement.

    Josh, first let me say that I hear your heart and believe it is commendable.

    However, I’m not sure everyone agrees on the definition of “life” as it is stated in the Declaration of Independence. The “inalienable” right is for “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” Obviously one has to be alive to enjoy life - no brainer. However, the other two, liberty and pursuit of happiness are mentioned as co-rights. It could be argued that if we impinge on the other two by supporting one, it would be a violation of those rights.

    In one sense, it is easy to equivocate on the term “life.” It should also be noted this is the Declaration of Independence and not the Constitution.

    2. Is not law but an ethical virtue. In other words, if it is true it is something we ought to do. This is probably your strongest premise.

    3. The conclusion doesn’t necessarily follow. This is the weakest of the three. To state this is the “only” way to ensure everyone has access is through government involvement in hard to prove. Realistically, everyone has access right now. Hospitals cannot refuse treatment and those without healthcare by choice are refusing access. I say this as an example, not as the best possible plan.
    Anecdotally, the government programs established to “help” in the past have been disastrous.

    As a point of clarification I believe you would be better served if you stated that healthcare, sustains life, rather than protects it.

    Some of what has been advocated in the bill only protects the life of those considered valuable. In general, healthcare practiced correctly ought to sustain life, that is, keep it going.

    Thanks for taking the time to state your position as I requested. You didn’t have to, but took the time to spell it out. Again, that is commendable. Also, your opposing position takes courage to continue to wrangle with other not-so-logical positions. Most, if not all the arguments are politicized and have been gutted of any real value.

  • February 28, 2010 // 07:03 am //  # 
    Ed Herford's avatar Ed Herford

    Evetta, thanks for your lucid input on this issue. Incidentally, the quote I posted is the words of the acknowledged father of the Constitution, James Madison, when he opposed a relief fund for some French refugees in 1794.

    However, you are right about Davy Crockett. He said something similar in 1827, after he was elected to the House of Representatives. During his term a congressional relief fund was proposed to assist the widow of a naval officer. Davy Crockett opposed the measure saying, “Mr. Speaker: I have as much respect for the memory of the deceased, and as much sympathy for the suffering of the living, if there be, as any man in this House, but we must not permit our respect for the dead or our sympathy for part of the living to lead us into an act of injustice to the balance of the living. I will not go into an argument to prove that Congress has not the power to appropriate this money as an act of charity. Every member on this floor knows it. We have the right as individuals, to give away as much of our own money as we please in charity; but as members of Congress we have no right to appropriate a dollar of the public money.?

    I wholeheartedly agree with his sentiments! It’s always easy to give away someone else’s money.

  • February 28, 2010 // 05:07 pm //  # 
    Ed Herford's avatar Ed Herford

    Ray, I was curious about the ending statement in your last post referring to:

    “other not-so-logical positions. Most, if not all the arguments are politicized and have been gutted of any real value.”

    In order to clarify, may I respectfully ask if the probability of “all” includes your own arguments? Because I thought your arguments, some in the form of questions, were logical and not overtly politicized considering the fact that this is a political topic. I also thought the posts by others were well thought out and logical, having at least some “real value? considering the relationship of first principles to current healthcare concerns.

    Additionally, I agree with you that Josh’s wrangling with many opposing positions is commendable and to his credit, he even commented on the value he observed in our opposing views.

    Last, are you asserting that his position is logical, as opposed the “other not-so-logical positions?, while politely making the case that it is not?

    Thanks for your valuable input.

  • February 28, 2010 // 06:18 pm //  # 
    Ray Ciervo's avatar Ray Ciervo

    thanks for you comments and questions. If I am guilty it is of hyperbole - “most, if not all” referring to arguments that are politicized. Perhaps, “many” would be a better term than most.

    By politicized I mean coming from a particular political position rather than being open to truth as the original article stated, unless I misunderstood the reference to first principles and primary truths. Most of the arguments I read, here and other places, talk right past one another because they are politicized. Our political problem, in my opinion, is that we no longer look for truth in anyone’s word, but protect our political persuasions.

    Here’s an example: “The health care bill as it is, is designed to take individual freedoms away from the people and the doctors and put that into the hands of a dictatorial government & czars as they are called. This will effectively destroy the form of government as we have always known it.” The validity of any argument is found in its premises. Can they be proven? Or is it just another assertion? “Dictatorial gov’t.” (?)

    No, I don’t think his argument is good logic, (No offense, Josh) that’s why I asked for clarification or for him to go beyond assertions. Particularly, the use of the word “life” and “protecting life” is very difficult to define or better to come to an agreement on what we mean. We could argue for an anti-abortion/pro-life position much more easily with the use of the word.

    Of course, everyone uses logic, just not good logic. Appeal to emotion, hasty generalizations, special pleadings, etc. Just making a point to Josh. He seems passionate about his position and again, I commend him for his courage to take the heat. I was simply trying to help by clarifying his argument as it’s easier to deal with once it is clarified. You seem to want me to do the same thing.

    Excuse me for not continuing to elaborate. I’d be happy to continue in another venue.

  • February 28, 2010 // 07:31 pm //  # 
    Josh's avatar Josh


    Thank you for your very clear, open, and gracious analysis.  I looked at your website and appreciate the time you are taking out of your busy life to help us understand this better.

    I would agree with you that healthcare sustains life.  But I also think sustaining life is synonymous with protecting it.  When we stop criminals from murdering people, we are sustaining the lives of those who would have been murdered.  We are sustaining it by protecting it. 

    The only reasons hospitals give treatment to everyone is because the government forces them to.  In this sense we already have universal coverage arranged by the government and paid for by the hospitals (and ultimately us, the taxpayers, through higher medical costs).  If the government instead gave insurance to everyone who didn’t have it, these people would use primary care doctors instead of the expensive and unnecessary ER.  We would pay more in taxes but less in medical costs.  Either way we pay and the government is the one arranging the coverage.

  • March 01, 2010 // 12:45 am //  # 
    Steve's avatar Steve

    Interesting read. But, as with most things, there are more than two sides to the ‘health care’ issue’. Framing it only as government or not government run is way too simplistic; and does not begin to get at the root of the real problems.

    If the health care system was working adequately for most of the citizenry would we even be talking about it? I don’t think so. I think everyone, or nearly so, believes there are real problems with the current system. Resolutions to fix those problems are where things get fragmented, including articles like this one that don’t want government to run it, or even be involved.

    As someone who works daily in resolving problems I know that one of the first thing that needs to be done is actually define the problem(s) and then come up with possible solutions to each of them; and ideally choose the best set of solutions to fix the problem(s) and any foreseen side effects.

    As I see it part of the ‘problem’ starts with there being a profit motive involved on the insurance side of the health care equation. As long as big business (a legal construct without a soul, or limited by morality, specifically created to produce a profit) is involved there is by definition a conflict of interest between making a profit and doing the Christian thing by helping an individual in their time of medical need. From there it quickly goes downhill with denying coverage for ’preexisting’ conditions or failing to cover a procedure, medicine or duration of care; all in the name of maintaining profits.

    A second part of the ‘problem’ is the exorbitant cost of providing medical care. There are multiple facets to this too. Over prescription of tests for any and all potentially related issues as a CYA procedure on the part of the medical providers to minimize suits brought by the over litigious legal system brought on by greedy people believing that they are owed. Human beings are not widgets on an assembly line where repairs can be achieved with 100% success; we are fragile, complex organic constructs being cared for and operated on by other human beings with the same limitations all humans have. But, because of the greed, lawsuits, malpractice insurance and plethora of tests the direct costs of medical care have gone up faster than the cost of living for years. (This does not take into account that often the patients are doing too little on their own behave to live healthy lives by getting enough exercise or eating healthy food (don’t even get me going on what we are doing with our food supply and all the processing that also has a direct bearing on our health, or the lack thereof) and this lack of stewardship of their own bodies is a contributing factor to their lack of health and the need for increased medical care.)

    A third part of the ‘problem’ is the lack of competition in the medical insurance arena. This has been done over the past 20 years and in that time the insurance business has gotten very smart and hired (at great expense) lobbyists to provide an uneven playing field that benefits the existing companies at the detriment of new companies in their market and the patients they are insuring, once again in the name of ever greater profits.

    During the time of the founding fathers and the writing of the constitution corporations as we know them, did not exist. The modern corporation came about at the end of the civil war; and in my opinion was one of the biggest mistakes ever made.

    I do not want government to run medical care, but I want the for profit insurance businesses to run it even less. I can at least vote for who represents me in the government, I have no say about the business except to go to another business; unless there is a monopoly, as there is currently in many markets, and I’m left with nowhere to go.

    The article mentions the negative rights outlined by the bill of rights to the constitution (Life, Liberty and the pursuit of happiness). There are unspoken assumptions in these rights in order to have Life, Liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Without clean air to breathe and clean water to drink Life, and health, may be compromised. If Life is compromised there cannot not be a pursuit of happiness. If Life is compromised and there is no pursuit of happiness, there is no liberty.

    To protect our rights of Life, Liberty and the pursuit of happiness government has enacted rules and laws to protect us from greedy individuals and amoral corporations coveting cheap profits at the expense of our inalienable rights and the unspoken assumptions they are based on. This has brought us clean air and water laws, anti-pollution laws and environmental protection laws. Corporations and their lobbyists have fought each and every one of these and continue to try to get them reversed or watered down, all in the name of a cheap profit today, regardless of the expense to our overall health today or that of future generations.

    So, to really address the health care issues in America, as I see them, are multiple, connected and must be dealt with together:
    1.  For profit medical insurance – The current insane levels of profit to pay exorbitant salaries and afford expensive lobbyists and campaign contribution is too much. What is a reasonable profit level?
    2.  If an insurance company is going to be in the medical health insurance business they should not be able to deny coverage for a preexisting condition, or decide to not cover a procedure proscribed by a medical provider. But this means they need larger pools to amortize costs over.
    3.  Over proscribing of tests and procedures to protect against litigation and resulting exorbitant malpractice insurance needs to be addressed. Part of this is tort reform and part of it is curbing greed and the sense of entitlement.
    4.  As individuals we need to be more responsible for our own health. If we live an unhealthy lifestyle, because it is our inalienable right to do so, we should not expect others leading a more healthy lifestyle to underwrite our medical expenses that result from our chosen lifestyle. We may be equal under the law , but we are not equal on the operating table.

    Addressing these in isolation will not address the underlying problems. The first three will take changes in the law, which involves government, that doesn’t mean the government has to run it, but they do have to define the framework and provide enforcement. The last item cannot be legislated, may not be attainable, but if it can be done, will take a cultural change and moral leadership, which will never come from amoral corporations that have our leaders and media in their vest pocket calling the tune they dance to.

  • March 08, 2010 // 06:26 am //  # 
    Bet's avatar Bet

    Where in the Bible does it say we’re like two-sided coins? I purely just want to know; I’m trying to be more in the Word.

  • March 11, 2010 // 07:55 am //  # 
    Chuck Edwards's avatar Chuck Edwards


    Good question. Actually, I should have phrased it differently to make my point more clear. The Bible does not use the metaphor of a two-sided coin, but it does imply the concept. I should have written, “A biblical worldview contains the idea that human nature is like a two-sided coin.”

    I hope this clears up your question.

    ~ Chuck Edwards

  • March 11, 2010 // 09:50 am //  # 
    Bet's avatar Bet

    Alright, so it’s just a Biblical-minded metaphor?
    Thank you for responding! I know it’s not the focal point of the article, but still neat to know.

  • March 11, 2010 // 11:03 am //  # 
    Chuck Edwards's avatar Chuck Edwards

    Josh, (and others who entered into the discussion regarding Josh’s comments)

    You wrote: “If life is a negative right, wouldn’t healthcare that saves lives be something the government should provide?”

    I appreciate the exchange everyone has had on this question and, while there were many good comments, here’s my response:

    Josh, your question involves a misunderstanding of the definition of negative rights. The short answer to your question is this: the state is given the task of PROTECTING a person’s life, not PROVIDING for a person’s life.

    To elaborate briefly: read again the section on negative and positive rights and you will find a negative right is a right that cannot be taken away from a person. Applying this definition to the “right to life” means a person’s life cannot be harmed or killed (excepting just cause or due process of law). Thus, the state is set up to PROTECT negative rights.

    This is the opposite of PROVIDING certain things for people (i.e. positive rights). People need a host of things to live and thrive: parents (for babies and children), food, shelter, clothing, medical care, a way to make a living, etc. If your idea is followed to it’s logical conclusion, then not only should the government provide medical care, but also care-givers, food, clothing, housing, etc. This means every citizen would ultimately look to the state for literally EVERYTHING they need to sustain his or her life! I hope you find this, as I do, entirely absurd. (BTW, this is the socialist’s Utopian dream, yet is totally impractical and unworkable for reasons outlined in the article.)

    I hope this helps you gain a better understanding of why health care does not come under the definition of a negative right, and is, therefore, not a legitimate responsibility of the state.

    One last thing. Even if I’m wrong on the above point, government-run health care is a bad idea for the other reasons mentioned in the article. Notice the logic of the final deductive argument in the summary. To counter the conclusion of that argument, one must show specifically how one or both of the two premises is not true or how the conclusion does not follow.

    Thanks, again, for thinking about this and expressing your ideas. This is how we sharpen each other and arrive at the best conclusions, not only for ourselves, but for our country.

    I wish you the best, my friend,


  • July 12, 2010 // 04:01 pm //  # 
    Anne's avatar Anne

    I am new to this website and a devout Christian.  I find these arguments on both sides to be well thought out and intelligent, yet I’m struck by the lack of any discussion on what is morally right and what would Jesus want us to do.  My understanding is that Jesus would want us to make sure that the sick and those who could not take care of themselves were cared for.

Join the discussion

Commenting is not available in this section entry.