Unless you were deep sea diving, in the jungles of the Amazon, or lost in space, you heard the Supreme Court has upheld the controversial Affordable Care Act. I don’t want to get into whether it is good law or bad law (it’s bad). Nor do I want to talk about alternative legislation to this government monstrosity.
I want to ask the question we seldom ask: Should the federal government be involved in the healthcare business? What is the role of government?
The basis for what the federal government should and should not do is in the Constitution. I don’t mean to offend by quoting an ancient document that doesn’t seem to have kept up with modern people and modern needs. However, there is wisdom in the Constitution that perhaps may help us see through the fog of policy and politics.
All we need to do is read the preamble to the Constitution to see that something is wrong with our current political course. The preamble is a summary of why the document was written. In awe-inspiring words unequaled in human political history, it declares that:
“We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”
Encapsulated in the preamble is the two-fold essence of government: Restrain evil and promote good.
The first purpose for government (restrain evil) is pretty obvious. The reason we have a military is to restrain evil from outside our country. Whether that military should be used to be the world’s “policeman” is a subject for another time. Likewise, we have police, border agents, and courts to control evil from within our country.
The first half of the preamble up to “provide for the common defence” is about the government’s responsibility to deal with evil. We typically get this. What we don’t seem to get is the second role of government: Promote good.
Notice the preamble says “provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare.” It does not say PROVIDE the general welfare.
Think about that. No, no … think about that.
Why did our Founders use the word “promote” rather than “provide” regarding the general welfare?
Oh, this is a good one … it’s not the government’s job to provide these things!
That’s right. It is not the federal government’s responsibility to provide housing, food, jobs, energy, education, student loans, or any of the other so-called “services” it now supplies. The role of the federal government is to promote these things, not do these things.
It is to encourage the doers of the good to excel in their service and hold them up as a shining example when they do it well. The government should remove every obstacle that inhibits the legitimate doers of the good from doing their job. That is promoting the general welfare.
Then if the government should not do good, who should? It is always those who are closest to the problem who are responsible for the solution.
The legitimate doers of the good are families, communities and community groups, churches, and synagogues. They are responsible for social services.
Any time the federal government attempts to provide social services, they are usurping the rightful providers. The government will always do it less efficiently, more expensively, less timely, and far less compassionately than a real person with a real face in the community where the problem exists.
The Real Life Center in Tyrone is a fabulous example of a church-based community group that really does the job. They do it better, cheaper, and in a way that is sympathetic to people, yet helps them out of their poverty without perpetual dependence on taxpayers.
It is beyond time the government got out of the social services business. Why not set a goal to systematically phase out service agencies one by one, and leave the responsibility for what services should be provided with real people?
The process could begin with allowing tax credits for people who voluntarily give to legitimate local groups who actually help people, not just with their immediate need, but help them so they no longer need aid.
As for healthcare, let people buy their own health insurance rather than companies (or governments) providing it. Let people go across state lines to buy their insurance, which will drive the cost down through competition. Remove government regulations and price-fixing the medical market through Medicare and the costs will go down.
Let’s have the government do what it is supposed to do for once: Promote people who provide ways to get quality healthcare. Let the government provide no longer.
But that is not the end of the story when government subsidies end. That’s when you and I must become our brother’s keeper. Maybe that’s why we are not so fast to get the government out of the service business. It’s easier to let the government do it than be like Mother Teresa.
[David Richardson of Peachtree City coordinates the Assumptions Project. He has a Master of Theology degree from Oxford University and is a recognized expert on the religious attitudes and beliefs of university professors. He, his wife, and his children have lived in Fayette County for over 22 years.]