There was a comment after an article on the Salon website about Justice Antonin Scalia that presented an argument I had heard before. It needs an answer, in case anyone else runs across it. If you click the link to Salon and then scroll down the page halfway or do a search on the commenter MJSHEP, you’ll run across it.
The commenter references the Act for the Relief of Sick and Disabled Seamen, passed in 1798 and signed into law by President John Adams. MJSHEP says that it authorized the forced deduction of fees from the wages of seamen for the purpose of funding medical care for sick and disabled seamen. The Federal government was to construct hospitals for their treatment. And he argues that if the founders, so fresh from the adoption of the Constitution, were in favor of this system of compulsory health care, why is it such a stretch for us now to just expand the group from seamen to include the general population.
Well, I looked up the law and when you find out what its real purpose was, it is a very big stretch from that to any type of general health care. First of all, go to the online printing of the Act Act for the Relief of Sick and Disabled Seamen. In Section 1, the introduction of the Act, it states: “Be it enacted … that … the master or owner of every ship or vessel of the United States arriving from a foreign port into any port of the United States, shall, before such ship or vessel shall be admitted to an entry, render to the collector a true account of the number of seamen … and shall pay to the said collected, at the rate of twenty cents per month for every seaman so employed; which sum he is hereby authorize to retain out of the wages of such seamen.”
It then goes into details about the authorization of the construction of hospitals to care for these men.
When you read this, it is clear that this falls under Congress’s power to regulate international commerce, going even beyond interstate commerce by applying to seamen on international vessels.
For more detail, you can see comments by Tom Woods, who has done some study on the legislative history of the Act and the rationale behind it.
I also found an instance of a reference to this Act as a justification for Obamacare in an online article in Forbes by Rick Ungar, titled Thomas Jefferson Also Supported Government Run Health Care.
I made a response to his article that the constitutional justification of this Act is clear – it is a regulation of foreign commerce. In a convoluted but very confident way, he declared that I didn’t know what I was talking about, whereupon I ended up quoting the law to prove my point.
Don’t get sidetracked by these crazy arguments by people whose agenda is to use surprise and intellectual bullying to establish a point that is completely bogus. People who are looking for the truth don’t act like that – don’t be distracted by them.
These people don’t have freedom burning in their bones like you and I do. Don’t waste time with them. They have a religion called “utopianism” where they imagine a future society that is perfectly managed and its people give up all their freedoms and independent thought to a central, totalitarian government. This man-made uptopia is their heaven, and the government that achieves it is their god. It fills strong psychological needs for them. They can’t be talked out of it, they just have to be defeated. And heaven help us to have that happen on Thursday when this Obamacare ruling is given out.
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