We've had an interesting debate on whether to nationalize health care going on in our guest columns the past few weeks. Today, Leonard Goldstein takes up the affirmative with what seems to me to be some very revealing remarks about his side of the political spectrum:
Next, he asks us to find authority for universal health care in the Constitution, as though every government activity is listed in our Constitution. Of course there is no reference there to UHC, but I call his attention to the preamble to this great document, which reads in part, “In order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, ensure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare.” I submit that “promote the general welfare” would include the availability of health care for all Americans. I subscribe to Harvard Medical School professor Arnold Relman's position that “we need to accept the idea of health care as a social good rather than an economic commodity.”
But the Constitution was drafted by people who purposefully limited the federal government to only those few and specific powers enumerated in that document. That was the whole idea of this nation, in fact. And that intent has been subverted ever since by people who have stretched "general welfare" to cover just about anything. It's a sad fact that so many people such as Goldstein now pooh-pooh the very idea that something the federal government government does must actually be in the Constitution, but fact it is.
And he doesn't exactly come right out and say that health care should be a "right," but he gets pretty close with identifying it as a "social good, rather than an economic commodity." That gets to the heart of the real dispute, doesn't it?. "Rights" were once understood in a negative sense -- that is, a right was something either natural or God-given that government couldn't take away. Rights in that sense were the foundation of our liberty. "Rights" today are increasingly meant in the positive sense -- some good or service that must be supplied to us if we lack it. Rights in that sense are at the foundation of the movement for equality -- of results, not opportunity. And since we can't get a bigger share without taking away from someone else's share, such a claim of rights is anti-liberty at its core.