Imprimis

Health Care in a Free Society

Paul Ryan
U.S. House of Representatives


Paul RyanPaul Ryan is the United States Representative for Wisconsin’s First Congressional District, where he was first elected in 1998. He is the chairman of the House Budget Committee and a senior member of the House Ways and Means Committee. A lifelong resident of Wisconsin, Ryan holds a degree in economics and political science from Miami University in Ohio.



The following is adapted from a speech delivered on January 13, 2010, in Washington, D.C., at an event sponsored by Hillsdale College's Allan P. Kirby, Jr. Center for Constitutional Studies and Citizenship.


Americans take pride in self-government, which entails providing for their own well-being and the well-being of their families in a free society. In exchange for this, the promoters of government-run health care would make them passive subjects, dependent on handouts and far more concerned about security than liberty. At the heart of the conflict over heath care reform, as I said at the beginning, are two incompatible understandings of America: one is based on the principles of progressivism, and would place more and more aspects of our lives under the administration of unelected “experts” in federal bureaucracies; the other sees America as a society of free individuals under a Constitution that severely limits what the federal government can rightfully do.

We have seen many times over the past 100 years that the American people tend to be resistant to the progressive view of how we should reform our system of government—and I believe we are seeing this again today. Americans retain the Founders’ view that a government that seeks to go beyond its high but limited constitutional role of securing equal rights and establishing free markets is not progressive at all in the literal sense of that word—rather it is reactionary. Such a government seeks to privilege some Americans at the expense of others—which is precisely what the American Revolution was fought to prevent.

Americans understand that the problems facing our health care system today, real as they are, can be addressed without nationalizing one-sixth of the American economy and moving us past the tipping point toward a European-style social welfare state. They know that we can solve these problems while at the same time remaining a free society and acting consistently with the principles that have made us the greatest and most prosperous nation on earth. It is our duty now as their representatives to come together and do so.