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What The Founding Fathers Would Say About HR 3962

DrRich has not read the healthcare reform bill (HR 3962) passed by the US House of Representatives late Saturday night, and he does not plan to. He spent far too much time this summer wading through the prior version of the bill (HR 3200), only to conclude that it did not say anything in particular, but rather, was intentionally vague on most key points. The new bill, being nearly twice the length of HR 3200, must necessarily be twice as vague.

So that anyone hoping for DrRich’s analysis of the new bill won’t go away disappointed, he offers here an observation on the new bill, which, he asserts, you can take to the bank.

The observation originates from James Madison, the primary architect of the US Constitution (and ironically, a founder of the Democratic Party). It is an observation DrRich quoted this past summer in reference to HR 3200. It holds doubly well here:

“It will be of little avail to the people, that the laws are made by men of their own choice, if the laws be so voluminous that they cannot be read, or so incoherent that they cannot be understood…” – The Federalist #62

HR 3962, being so protracted in length and incomprehensible in content, so mind-numbingly turgid as to utterly dissuade the efforts of any but the most dull-witted of bureaucrats and regulators to get through it (though to these latter, to be sure, the bill represents a treasure trove of opportunities to construct new toggles, switches, dials and yokes with which to steer the unwashed masses onto more right-thinking, right-acting paths), one can only hope that the spirits of Jimmy Madison and the other Founders have long since grown tired of observing the destructive thrashings of their degenerate posterity, and have moved on to more ethereal pursuits.

In any case, Mr. Madison was reminding us that representative governments only work if the representatives of the people act with complete transparency.

The founders understood that our elected representatives might not – and ought not – always enact the expressed will of the people. (Indeed, they believed that a system of government which always followed the current passions of the electorate – that is, a direct democracy – would be, as it always has been throughout human history, a precursor to tyranny.) But for a representative government to actually function, at intervals the representatives would have to present themselves – and most importantly, their body of work, fully revealed for all to see – to be judged in the polling booths.  So, Madison says,  complete transparency – open disclosure as to what our elected representatives have really been up to – is vital to the function of a legitimate republic.  When our representatives obfuscate what they’re really doing, then for all practical purposes they might as well be running a dictatorship, even if it’s a “soft” dictatorship.

Thus, “voluminous” and “incoherent” laws that defy understanding, and that therefore must be finally interpreted – and indeed, finally written – by unnamed and unseen bureaucrats, is itself a form of tyranny, and entirely undermines the purpose of representative government.

Hence, it is of little avail to we the people that HR 3962 was made by men and women of our own choosing. Indeed, it matters little whether you favor or deplore the public option, the public funding of abortion, the inclusion of illegal aliens into the new system, or any of the other controversies that we have all grown so fond of debating in these recent months.

What really matters is that the process we are witnessing, by which this healthcare plan (and TARP, and the stimulus bill, and Cap and Trade, and God knows what else) are all being enacted, a process which has been embraced at one time or another in recent years by both major political parties, is fundamentally destructive to the sovereignty of “We the People,” and can only result in a tyranny. The only question of interest to future historians will be whether that tyranny turns out to be one established by intellectuals (i.e., “right-thinkers”), or of strongmen (either of the left or of the right). And even that matters little to we the people, since any tyranny over us – even a “soft” tyranny – will be ultimately sustained by the exertion of force.

The issues of healthcare and healthcare reform are very important, but in comparison those issues fade to insignificance. And the spirits of our Founders – if indeed they have not moved on to more fruitful pursuits than to observe our poor flailings – are begging us not to become distracted by the passions of the day (even if those passions are related to almighty healthcare), and to focus instead on the more transcendent question which so obviously begs our attention.

*This blog post was originally published at The Covert Rationing Blog*

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