Government’s Role in Health Care
by Jack Cottrell (Notes) on Friday, September 11, 2009 at 10:35am
I recommend the reading of an essay on “The Ethics and Economics of Health Care”, by John W. Robbins, found at http://www.trinityfoundation.org/latest.php . Here is a story included in that essay:
Now let me turn from the New Testament to American history with a story about Congressman Davy Crockett from his biography, The Life of Colonel David Crockett.
Crockett, as a member of the House of Representatives, once voted to give $20,000 to the homeless victims of a fire in Georgetown. One of Crockett’s constituents, Horatio Bunce, told Crockett he would not be voting for him in the coming election because of that vote.
Crockett objected, “Certainly nobody will complain that a great and rich country like ours should give the insignificant sum of $20,000 to relieve its suffering women and children, particularly with a full and overflowing treasury.”
Mr. Bunce proceeded to explain why the vote was wrong:
It is not the amount, Colonel, that I complain of; it is the principle. In the first place, the government ought to have in the treasury no more than enough for its legitimate purposes…. The power of collecting and disbursing money at pleasure is the most dangerous power that can be entrusted to man. While you are voting to relieve one, you are drawing money from thousands…. If you had the right to give anything, the amount was simply a matter of discretion with you, and you had as much right to give $20,000,000 as $20,000. If you have the right to give to one, you have the right to give to all; and as the Constitution neither defines charity nor stipulates the amount, you are at liberty to give any and everything which you may believe, or profess to believe, is a charity, to any amount you may think proper. You will very easily perceive what a wide door this would open for fraud and corruption and favoritism, on the one hand, and for robbing the people on the other.
No, Colonel, Congress has no right to give charity. Individual Members may give as much of their own money as they please, but they have no right to touch a dollar of the public money for that purpose….There are about 240 Members of Congress. If they had shown their sympathy for the sufferers by contributing each one week’s pay, it would have made over $13,000. There are plenty of wealthy men in and around Washington who could have given $20,000 without depriving themselves of even a luxury of life. The Congressmen chose to keep their own money, which, if reports be true, some of them spend not very creditably; and the people about Washington, no doubt, applauded you for relieving them from the necessity of giving what was not yours to give.
So, you see, Colonel, you have violated the Constitution in what I consider a vital point. It is a precedent fraught with danger to the country, for when Congress once begins to stretch its power beyond the limits of the Constitution, there is no limit to it, and no security for the people.