Wednesday, July 4, 2012

“Public Servants” and Citizens--Both Stewards of Freedom

We are a nation that has a government—not the other way around. And this makes us special among the nations of the Earth. Our Government has no power except that granted it by the people.
-- Ronald Reagan,  January 20, 1981

In his first inaugural address, President Reagan reminded us that government is to be a servant of the people.  That is, “civil servants” are to be “servants” of the people, and to exercise stewardship of the power granted to them.  At the same time, we as citizens have a responsibility as stewards of the freedom and opportunity afforded to us by our founders.   We exercise our stewardship by holding elected officials accountable as stewards of the privileges and responsibilities of their offices.  All of us are ultimately stewards of the rights endowed by our Creator.

On this Independence Day, 2011, one of my U.S. Senators from Ohio, Sen. Sherrod Brown, e-mailed a statement which prompted me to reply to him online.   His statement is below followed by my response to him:

Two hundred and thirty-seven years ago, farmers, merchants, laborers, and soldiers celebrated a new nation – fixed in freedom and equality. They faced tough odds, but they were armed with the vibrant American spirit and rock solid patriotism that has carried our nation forward since its founding.  – Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio)
Senator Brown,
Thank you for your e-mail reminding us to celebrate Independence Day.  In your opening statement, you have emphasized two important ingredients that have been valued by Americans for centuries--"freedom and equality."  Please allow me to respond in the spirit of the Founding Fathers as expressed in the Declaration of Independence which states (emphasis mine)

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. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to affect their Safety and Happiness.
The intent to our founders was to establish a nation in "freedom from" the tyranny of the King of England whose policies no longer respected individual freedoms.  To the Founding Fathers, "freedom" was based on "truths" that were "self-evident"; namely, that basic "rights" are "unalienable" and exist as an endowment from a Higher Power, not simply from man-made laws.   Based on this foundation, our Constitution encouraged individual initiative, entrepreneurial spirit, and investment in business and technology that has made possible a standard of living (including a health care system) unequaled in the world.

Senator Brown, you also used the word, "equality."  However, wouldn’t you agree that the Founding Fathers meant to give us a system of government that provides more than "equality?" Wasn’t their aim to assure "freedom" under the law so that each person would have "opportunity" for the "pursuit of happiness" as stewards of their individual abilities and opportunities?  The Founders understood what many of us have forgotten; namely, that each person is endowed genetically from his Creator and is nurtured by his environment (parents, family, and local community) to achieve at a given level in a vocation (or "calling") that fits his or her abilities. Not all can be doctors, or farmers, or NBA stars, or United States senators.   But as much as possible, each should have the opportunity to "earn" their way to a fulfilling way of life.

Yes, there are injustices in America today.  But these can be corrected by enforcement of the law, not by taking from those who have worked hard to gain an honest living and "giving" to those who have less as if to "create” equality.  This merely creates dependence and a dehumanized class of Americans that also happens to be a voting constituency for politicians who, like drug dealers, promise them another "fix" (at an ever increasing cost).   Those such as yourself who are in positions of power must steward that power by being protectors of individual freedom.  Government assistance is needed to meet acute needs, but government should also create an environment that constantly promotes individual self reliance.

As a U.S. Senator in our American culture that seems to have forgotten the importance of individual responsibility and initiative, you may soon have an opportunity to vote for or against the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.  In the spirit of offering “a fair share” of “affordable health coverage” to all Americans, this legislation fails on at least four counts. 

First, it is “unaffordable” by our nation which is already trillions of dollars in debt.  Second, as far as I can tell it does not provide health and nutritional incentives to Americans, many of whom have undisciplined lifestyles and eating habits.  Thus, it would require those of us who are individually responsible for a healthy lifestyle to subsidize those who make bad nutritional choices, or who unfairly take advantage of health care because it is “affordable.”

Third, it will further “shelter” health services from a “free market” environment wherein healthy competition could both improve quality of care and reduce costs.  However, if enacted, the proposed legislation would promote the same deterioration in health care that we have witnessed in our public educational system.  Can we not learn from the failed attempts of government-managed education as well as Social Security and Medicare (both deeply in debt)?   Government has been unable to “compete” with “free market” approaches to providing goods and services—whether it be transportation (recall Amtrack), postal service (U.S. Postal Service versus FedEx), or recent attempts at “green energy” in which taxpayer dollars were poorly invested (Solyndra).

Finally, it appears that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act will further erode the doctor-patient relationship which has been historically crucial to the quality of health care in America.  As Ronald Reagan stated in a radio address, July 6, 1977, “…wouldn’t it violate everything we believe in to adopt a system based on the idea that the patients have a right to a doctor’s services without regard for his right to say how and on what terms those services will be delivered?”

And so, today, as my U.S. Senator and “public servant”, I invite you to join me in celebration of “freedom from tyranny” and celebration of the fact 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.”  I also commit to pray that you and your colleagues in the U.S. Senate will reexamine these principles and recommit to enacting legislation that will respect the limits of government and protect the rights of the individual and local community.  After all, human health in America has historically rested upon a Judeo-Christian moral code that has guided our families, communities, and institutions; and inspired our health care professionals who need the freedom from bureaucracy to provide for the health care needs of their patients.

John Silvius
Cedarville, Ohio

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