I’ve gotten tired of hearing from Progressives, Liberals, and Democrats that healthcare is a right.  It’s not and even the Founding Fathers knew this.  To start with, allow me to provide you with what’s probably the most recent example (as of this post) of a U.S. congressman stating this fallacy:

Dem. Rep.: ‘Pursuit of Happiness’ and 14th amendment

This is a good example because, as one sworn to defend the U.S. Constitution, Representative John Lewis should know what’s in it.

First off, the obvious mistake is that ‘pursuit of Happiness’ isn’t in the U.S. Constitution (USC) …it’s in the Declaration of Independence (DoI).  For those who don’t understand the difference, the DoI declared to England why we were forming our own nation.  The USC is how we set up the government of our own nation.  Second, the 14th Amendment of the USC also doesn’t mention ‘pursuit of Happiness’…it mentions ‘life, liberty, or property’.  Maybe Mr. Lewis was referring to some other part of the 14th Amendment but, if he was, the reason escapes me.  (If you know what he was talking about, please post a Comment below.)

But let’s go with Mr. Lewis’ premise that the Founding Fathers intended the government to provide for the Happiness of the People of the United States.  Is this what they actually intended?  The short answer: NO!  Is there evidence that supports the short answer? YES!  Allow me to provide it.

Let’s look at the origin of the following section of the DoI:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

The Founding Fathers thoughts about civil government came from John Locke and this portion is almost directly lifted from John Locke’s “Second Treatise of Civil Government”, specifically from Chapter 2, “Of the State of Nature”, Section 6.  Here’s the relevant portion:

“The state of nature has a law of nature to govern it, which obliges every one: and reason, which is that law, teaches all mankind, who will but consult it, that being all equal and independent, no one ought to harm another in his life, health, liberty, or possessions: for men being all the workmanship of one omnipotent, and infinitely wise maker; all the servants of one sovereign master, sent into the world by his order, and about his business; they are his property, whose workmanship they are, made to last during his, not one another’s pleasure: and being furnished with like faculties, sharing all in one community of nature, there cannot be supposed any such subordination among us, that may authorize us to destroy one another, as if we were made for one another’s uses, as the inferior ranks of creatures are for our’s.” (emphasis is mine)

You should notice two differences between what Locke wrote and what the Founders put into the DoI.  Where Locke says ‘health’, the Founders omit it.  Where Locke says ‘possessions’, the Founders change it to ‘pursuit of Happiness’.  These changes are not accidental.  The change of ‘possessions’ to ‘pursuit of Happiness’ is easy to understand and well-documented in history: the Founders original intent was to eliminate slavery but were unable to form an union and abolish slavery at the same time so, to prevent from establishing a precedent that would result in perpetually institutionalizing slavery, they used ‘pursuit of Happiness’ instead of ‘possessions’.  The logic is simple: slaves were property and any attempts to free the slaves would have lead to cries that ‘life, liberty, or possessions’ was being infringed upon without due process.  The conscious decision to make this distinction is further emphasized and validated by the 14th Amendment where the subsequent guardians of the USC now use the phrase ‘life, liberty, or property’.  Since the 13th Amendment had, at long last,  put an end to slavery, humans could not be considered to be ‘property’ and so usage of that word could be used.

(But the abolitionist bias of the majority of the Founders is not my topic here.  Maybe I’ll address this at a later date but let me move on for now.)

So why was ‘health’ omitted?  Since the Founders obviously drew upon the work of Locke, it’s omission cannot be an accident.  Locke’s work here is specifically talking about the individual state of man and man’s responsibility to not harm the life, health, liberty, or possessions of another man.  The Founding Fathers, in the DoI, state that the unalienable rights they listed…’life, liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness’…are to be secured by governments “instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed”.

Two points here:
First, ‘secured’ is not the same as ‘granted’, ‘given’, or ‘provided’.  It is the carving out of a space in which man can exercise his rights.  Inside of this carved out space of security, the government is not permitted to interfere.

Second, the ‘health’ of an individual is the responsibility of the individual and cannot be delegated to a third party.  Some might argue that ‘pursuit of Happiness’ covers both ‘health’ and ‘possessions’ but they would be making a faulty argument because an individual cannot give his ‘health’ to another.  I can surrender my ‘life’ to someone else.  I can surrender my ‘liberty’ to someone else.  I can even surrender my ‘pursuit of Happiness’ to someone else.  But the one thing I can’t surrender to someone else is my ‘health’.  And even if someone still wants to make the argument that it’s covered by ‘pursuit of Happiness’, allow me to point out that it is the ‘PURSUIT of Happiness’.  As a pursuit, I can strive for Happiness but I will have to individually achieve it and therefore the government cannot be infringed upon to attempt to provide it for me.

In summary, the Founding Fathers understood that our rights were unalienable and could not be taken from us except by force since no man would willingly give them up, except in a possible unretractable instance of self-sacrifice (i.e., the pursuit of Happiness in the form of a sacrifice).  They were aware of Locke’s work and that he understood that health was an intrinsic part of man for which he was individually responsible.  Furthermore, in regard to health being an intrinsic part of man, no man should cause harm to the health of another but simultaneously recognized that an individual’s health was not a right that man could ascribe to government or anyone else because, again, health is intrinsic to the individual.  For these reasons, and many more that I could delve into, health is not a right that can be secured by governments for the individual (i.e., healthcare as a right) .  Therefore, healthcare is not a right and attempts by governments to provide it through regulation and/or mandates is actually an infringement upon individual rights, especially in the form of universal healthcare.

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