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Compromise can bring people together

I'd like to frame the current health care debate in terms of the inalienable rights listed in the Declaration of Independence: Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. In doing this, I'm relying on the second characteristic of democracy (in addition to universal suffrage, the rights of minorities are protected), and a practical matter (that compromise is critical to the democratic process).

Conservatives complain that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) constrains liberty by taking away a choice we'd otherwise make ourselves. Fair enough. Liberals complain that absent the ACA, Americans who cannot afford health care are at risk of preventable, manageable and/or curable illnesses. What's more, left untreated, these diseases reduce the quality of a patient's life and, sometimes, the expectancy of remaining alive.

Referring to the inalienable rights, lack of universal health care constrains the pursuit of happiness and often life itself for people who cannot afford healthcare insurance. Understandable.

Thus the debate about the Affordable Care Act asks us to weigh a threat to the liberty of those who currently pay for health insurance or receive it as a benefit of employment against a threat to life and the pursuit of happiness for whom insurance is unavailable.

In other words, insisting on repealing ACA causes one group to give up some benefits of inalienable rights while insisting that its application does the same thing for the other group.

How to handle this? Compromise, I think, is in order so that both groups give up things that benefit them. Doing so allows everyone to realize some benefits sought by the writers of the Declaration of Independence.

Compromise, further, is both at the heart of democratic processes and epitomized by the debate that threw out the Articles of Confederation and produced the Constitution.

Viewed this way, insistence on one view at the total expense of the other is inconsistent with American values and actions.

Hank Slotnick