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The Declaration of Independence Defines Our Principles

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Townhall.com.

It is encouraging news that the Supreme Court has decided to consider the constitutionality of key provisions of Obamacare.

By the end of next summer we’ll know if the federal government can force individuals to buy health insurance and if they can force states to comply with a newly expanded Medicaid program.

Professor Walter Russell Mead blogs that in the debates to ratify the Constitution, it was considered a weakness “that important laws could be passed and would operate for some time before people knew whether they were legal…”

He points out that there are more clever ways that forced purchase of insurance could have been constructed by Obamacare drafters that would have made it less vulnerable to a constitutional challenge.

But is that really the point?

Is it not sad that the most fundamental aspects of our ability to live as a free people boil down these days to how nine Supreme Court justices choose to read and interpret a word or phrase?

Is it not sad that most basic violations of individual liberty are not intuitively obvious to so many citizens and members of Congress?

Or perhaps even sadder, that liberty may no longer be the objective?

It so happens that this is the anniversary of Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, delivered November 19, 1863 – one hundred forty eight years ago.

Lincoln opened the address with his famous “Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in Liberty…..”

His point of reference defining the vision of the nation was 1776 – The Declaration of Independence.

One hundred years after the Gettysburg address, Dr. King stood in front of Lincoln’s statue and gave his most famous speech, and the words he chose to quote also were those of the Declaration, about the “unalienable Rights” of “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.”

Now that the Supreme Court has agreed to review Obamacare, a lot of jokes are circulating recalling how cavalier then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other leading Democrats were regarding the constitutionality of what they were doing.

But regardless of how they may or may not have thought about how the words of the Constitution might justify what became Obamacare, it would be impossible to justify such actions through the lens of the ideals of liberty stated in the Declaration.

To suggest that a nation “conceived in Liberty” can tolerate a handful of Washington bureaucrats telling several hundred million citizens what health insurance is and forcing them to buy it is beyond absurd.

Perhaps what the ongoing saga of American history is about is the struggle to understand and apply our operating manual – our Constitution – in a manner consistent with the principles of our nation’s founding.

We, of course, began day one off track by rationalizing slavery into the Constitution.

The evidence today is we have a long way to go to align with those founding principles. A good start would be to even think about them and see them as relevant.

If we did, there is no way Obamacare would have passed.

Nor would we have concluded that our financial crisis was caused by too much freedom rather than too much government. Now we’ve hamstrung our whole financial services sector with ill conceived new laws while the government backed entities that caused the whole thing – Fannie and Freddie – remain standing unscathed, still sucking up billions of taxpayer funds and paying their executives million dollar bonuses.

How about a government that wastes hundreds of millions of taxpayer funds in uneconomic “clean energy” ventures and then rejects a pipeline project that would deliver millions of barrels of oil, create tens of thousands of jobs, and their only request from government is a permit?

It’s obvious what’s wrong today. We’ve either forgotten what being American means, or we no longer care.

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