In a recent letter to the editor, Sean Lowrie asks the essential question:
We are debating health care nationally yet we don’t ask the central questions of liberty. Ask what is the cost, ask who will pay, ask what regulations and panels there will be, but never forget to ask “does this jive with liberty?” Ask “is it permissible by our own Constitution?”
He’s got a pretty good answer too:
The answer bluntly is no, at least, not nationally. In Article I, section 8, the convention in Philadelphia granted a new Congress 18 powers, none of which entitle it to legislate health care or health services. Congress has never been given the power to entitle one person to another person’s labor or property. Yes, Congress often does so, but always illegally. Just because it has been normal to do so for the past 80 years doesn’t make it legal.
The 10th Amendment forbids the federal government from taking any power not specifically given to it. Neither Congress, nor president, nor court, nor bureau has the authority to establish national health care.
While there are more than just the 18 powers in Article I, Section 8 (there’s about 30 powers throughout the Constitution, which you can find at this link), the principle remains the same – that which has not been delegated to the federal government is the sole domain of the states – or the people themselves. As the latter determines, of course.