In observation of Thomas Jefferson’s birthday (13 April 1743) it seems appropriate to consider what the passage of the new health care law means for the Jeffersonian principles of liberty and limited government that were once, in his words, “an expression of the American mind.”

We might ask what does the “American mind” look like today? How do Americans view their relationship to the state? Or, perhaps more importantly, how does the state view its relationship to the American people?

The Recovery Act helps confirm that Democrats are the party of centralized, big government.  As I wrote about here, provisions in the new law like the individual mandate, capping flexible savings accounts, and new industry levies further consolidate power in the hands of government, remove control from the individual, and foster a culture of dependence that has come to define so much of American life.

Perhaps there is no better time than today to reconsider Jefferson’s words:

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.

I know supporters of the new health care law will claim that access to health care is a rightWhile I disagree, I’m willing to engage in the argument. If these supporters believe that health care is a right, we ought to have passed a very different law — one that would have given individuals the greatest freedom of choice, improved care, and made treatment more affordable for all.

Congress should have pursued a law that would have allowed individuals to be in control of their health care through health savings accounts and long-term health insurance. We should have adjusted the tax system so that individuals could shop for the health insurance that fits their needs, rather than a law that forces private insurance to offer every imaginable service, no matter the cost.  And lawmakers could have engaged in medical malpractice reform, which too often dictates how doctors are practicing medicine. 

A law that simply requires health coverage for all will not provide health care for all. But it will try at the expense of both liberty and the pursuit of happiness. I wonder what Jefferson would think about that.