Saturday, February 5, 2011

The Truth About the U.S.'s Gun-Loving, Socialized-Health-Care-Mandating Founding Fathers

As a form of protest against the health care reform law, South Dakota state legislators have introduced a bill that would require all S.D. residents to purchase a firearm "sufficient to provide for their ordinary self-defense." One of the sponsors, Rep. Hal Wick, summarizes the logic of their protest bill thusly:
Do I or the other cosponsors believe that the State of South Dakota can require citizens to buy firearms? Of course not. But at the same time, we do not believe the federal government can order every citizen to buy health insurance.
Funnily enough, the Founding Fathers (who, we presume, did not need to debate about the Founding Fathers' intent when it came to passing laws) passed two very interesting laws shortly after establishing the United States as a country:
  1. The Militia Act of 1792: "Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America, in Congress assembled, That each and every free able-bodied white male citizen of the respective States, resident therein, who is or shall be of age of eighteen years, and under the age of forty-five years (except as is herein after excepted) shall severally and respectively be enrolled in the militia, by the Captain or Commanding Officer of the company, within whose bounds such citizen shall reside, and that within twelve months after the passing of this Act. And it shall at all time hereafter be the duty of every such Captain or Commanding Officer of a company, to enroll every such citizen as aforesaid, and also those who shall, from time to time, arrive at the age of 18 years, or being at the age of 18 years, and under the age of 45 years (except as before excepted) shall come to reside within his bounds; and shall without delay notify such citizen of the said enrollment, by the proper non-commissioned Officer of the company, by whom such notice may be proved. That every citizen, so enrolled and notified, shall, within six months thereafter, provide himself with a good musket or firelock, a sufficient bayonet and belt, two spare flints, and a knapsack, a pouch, with a box therein, to contain not less than twenty four cartridges, suited to the bore of his musket or firelock, each cartridge to contain a proper quantity of powder and ball; or with a good rifle, knapsack, shot-pouch, and powder-horn, twenty balls suited to the bore of his rifle, and a quarter of a pound of powder; and shall appear so armed, accoutred and provided, when called out to exercise or into service, except, that when called out on company days to exercise only, he may appear without a knapsack."
  2. An Act for the relief of sick and disabled seamen (1798): "Be it enacted ... that from and after the first day of September next, the master or owner of every ship or vessel of the United States, arriving from a foreign port into any port of the United States, shall, before such ship or vessel shall be admitted to an entry, render to the collector a true account of the number of seamen that shall have been employed on board such vessel since she was last entered at any port in the United States, and shall pay, to the said collector, at the rate of twenty cents per month for every seaman so employed ; which sum he is hereby authorized to retain out of the wages of such seamen ... It shall be the duty of the several collectors to make a quarterly return of the sums collected by them, respectively, by virtue of this act, to the secretary of the treasury ; and the president of the United States is hereby authorized, out of the same, to provide for the temporary relief and maintenance of sick, or disabled seamen, in the hospitals or other proper institutions now established in the several ports of the United States, or in ports where no such institutions exist, then in such other manner as he shall direct: Provided, that the moneys collected in any one district, shall be expended within the same.
So, we see that the Founding Fathers themselves 1) did in fact mandate that Americans buy guns, and 2) passed socialized medicine and mandated health insurance. They wrote the Constitution, and they obviously thought mandatory socialized health care was constitutional, so can we please stop arguing about this and move on, please? Balkanization put it well:
The notion that being asked to either buy health insurance and make health care accessible for one's fellow citizens--or to pay a small tax-- is a form of tyranny akin to George III's regime is simply bizarre: it shows how perverted and twisted public discourse has become in the United States. The assault on the individual mandate is really an assault on the public duty to assist other Americans in need, and in particular, an assault on the legal obligation to pay taxes to contribute to the general welfare. The assault on the health care bill is not a defense of liberty. It is a defense of selfishness.
I'll also point out that the Republicans' characterization of the heath care law as "tyrrany" is a classic example of the pervasive stupidity in U.S. political discourse - never give up the fight against stupidity!

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