As Americans celebrate a long holiday weekend, we should take at least a moment to ponder the idea, advanced recently by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D–CA), that Obamacare “captures the spirit of our Founders.”
“As we observe the Fourth of July, [we remember that] our Founders talked about the Declaration of Independence guaranteeing life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness—that is what this is all about,” she said.
In reality, Pelosi could not be more wrong about what the Founders meant by “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”
The rights proclaimed in the Declaration of Independence are natural rights. They are not gifts the government gives you; they are rooted in the fabric of man’s nature. Everyone has a moral claim to liberty simply by virtue of being human.
The point of declaring that human beings possess natural rights is to limit government, for these rights form a resistance against anything that might try to take them away. They are the most powerful bulwark against unjust government that human beings possess.
For Pelosi and modern liberals, however, rights come from the state. They represent a moral demand that the government provide goods and services—welfare benefits, housing programs, and “health independence”—to its citizens, a task that requires more and more regulations, taxes, and bureaucracies every day.
So as America celebrates its 237th birthday, let us recapture and celebrate the true spirit of the Founders. Let us with eternal vigilance look to those principles expressed in the Declaration of Independence, seeing them as they really are: not a justification for Obamacare but a defense of liberty.
As Thomas Jefferson wrote on the eve of his death, 50 years after the nation’s birth, “Let the annual return of this day forever refresh our recollections of these rights, and an undiminished devotion to them.”
Joseph Griffith is currently a member of the Young Leaders Program at The Heritage Foundation. For more information on interning at Heritage, please click here.