“You still have your health (and Obamacare is watching)”

The Founders envisioned the government of the United States to be run by “self-governing” individuals, people whose morals and conscience would enable them to consciously embrace certain principles and ideals, and whose intelligence and experience would allow them to apply their skills in new and varied situations.  They believed that morals and conscience allowed an individual to at least partially “know” natural law, or the divine order of the cosmos.  This was a popular theme during the Age of Enlightenment, and one that was the subject of many writers, including Thomas Paine who went all the way back to the ideas of Cicero when writing of this subject.  They believed that a person of conscience was compelled to follow the natural law, thus promoting the pursuit of all that is good and harmonious.

In other words, a person was ideally not to be commanded to do good by anyone – not another individual, certainly not a government, and really not even a divine being – but rather the impetus to do good would come from within, from their conscience.  (Anthony Burgess in A Clockwork Orange wrote: “Does God want goodness or the choice of goodness?”.)  An individual’s conscience, in turn, came from the use of reason when examining the needs of individuals and society, which promoted moral behavior, leading to a better society, which in turn would lead to an enhanced conscience, and so on and so forth.   A person of conscience would become a self-governing individual, and self-governing individuals would organize into a self-governing society.  As society tended to become more “perfect”, the need for government would lessen, as there would be increasingly fewer occasions for government to exercise civil and legal powers to protect individual rights.

“You still have your health” is often used when someone has lost financially, or some other misfortune has befallen them, the idea of course being that health is life, and life is precious, and a healthy, competent individual has a good chance to get back on his or her feet again.  In truth, our corporeal bodies might be the only physical thing we truly own.  Physical objects we may possess, and have a legal right to (at least, subject to the whims of our government), but we only truly own those things when they are in our control.  Cars can be stolen, bank accounts can be compromised, etc., but our bodies and our health are uniquely our own.  This might be at the root of the aversion many feel at the thought of Obamacare:  that an impersonal, overreaching governmental behemoth may suddenly have access to us at a very personal level.  A government that was envisioned to be formed of individuals of conscience, that was entrusted with the responsibility to protect the rights of its citizens, now assuming powers that it was never imagined to possess.  This is not on the road to the self-governing society that Paine envisioned.  Will we still have our health if the government becomes a controlling force in healthcare?  Or will the government “have” our health?  Will they be the ones truly in control of our physical selves?  Given the failures of the recent administrations when attempting to undertake tasks of much smaller scale, I feel there is plenty to be worried about.

Down south there is another term:  “You still have your religion.”  When you’ve lost everything, and your health is failing, that term is used.  If you still have faith and hope, you at least have faith and hope, if nothing else.  “Losing your religion” truly means to lose everything, including your faith.  I wonder how many of us will lose faith in our government within the next three years, as direct or indirect result of Obamacare.

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