April 6, 2012

Letter: Response to “An unhealthy Constitution”

“One beautiful fact about the United States is that the founders were scared of absolute power and sought to guarantee as much freedom for the citizenry as possible. This slow expansion of government power, at the expense of the individual, is a danger to American society and goes against the original intent of the Constitution.”

As much freedom for the citizenry as possible? Is our idea of freedom such that freedom from curable disease and freedom from the burden of hospital bills are not freedom? The “individual mandate” is really no more than a tax-incentive, like many other mundane tax-incentives: If one does not buy healthcare, one is penalized, and so one has an incentive to buy healthcare. This does not represent a radical break from the standard practice of public policy.

Far more Orwellian than an “individual mandate” is propagating an idea of freedom under which the citizenry is freer when it is sicker, when it is less able to care for itself, when essential services are inaccessible or scarce for millions of people, so that precious resources and energy that could be used by individuals to improve their lives are lost to the behemoth of rising healthcare costs.

Our government is a democratic-republic—by the people. The people elected a Congress, and that Congress passed a law that benefitted the people. Why does this represent a frightening expanse of government “at the expense of the individual”? Rather, this law is a victory for democracy and for government that responds to the demands of the people. It will be a blow to our democracy if this law is overturned, a blow to our elected Congress by an exceedingly small, unelected body of judges (who all have excellent healthcare) and ultimately a blow to the Court itself, who by defying the will of the people—in favor of an idea of freedom so narrow as to resemble horse blinders fastened to the dispossessed and suffering populace—will show itself the true institutional home of arbitrariness and tyranny.

Michael McCown is a second-year in the College majoring in philosophy.