As we begin the year 2011, the old ideological struggle between laissez faire economics and the progressive tradition is again involved in a great struggle over the future of America.
Laizzez faire celebrates individuality and risk taking, while progressivism promotes the idea of a person’s right to a minimum standard of living and a safety net of protections for all citizens.
So we have the new constitutional debate over the health care law, whether everyone in the United States is entitled to health care coverage. Conservatives regard any expansion of government protections as a threat to capitalism and freedom of choice.
But this battle has raged for a century and more in different ways, such as the following:
1. The 16th Amendment, the federal income tax, which became part of the Constitution in 1913, was called an attack on individual freedom and a threat to the American experiment.
2. Social Security in 1935 was called a plan to make the United States a copy of the Soviet Union.
3. The minimum wage and mandated overtime pay in 1938 were considered steps toward Communism, Marxism, Fascism and Nazism.
4. After Brown V. Board of Education started the modern civil rights movement in 1954, many thought that it would destroy the nation, was an abuse of judicial power, and was unconstitutional.
5. When Medicare was passed in 1965, it was considered unAmerican and a socialist attack on the American economy.Â It was denounced by Ronald Reagan as taking away the freedom of the American people.
So passionate opposition has always followed every expansion of the social safety net or promotion of civil rights, but when one looks back, it is obvious that the laissez faire and conservative attacks are just hysteria and promotion of fear by those who don’t wish to promote the ultimate “American dream”, that all of us are entitled to basic human rights, not just the rich and the privileged who just want to deny those rights because it might make it necessary that they part with some of their self centered view of what America is all about!
It is seen as likely that after many constitutional challenges over the next two years, the Supreme Court will uphold the Health Care legislation passed last year, by a 5-4 or 6-3 vote, and in future years, many will look back and wonder why such tumult developed over what will be seen as a basic human right, the right to medical care for everyone–rich, middle class or poor in this nation!