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Essay Contest

A unique opportunity to explore, write, and be read

ISI’s essay contest attracts submissions from undergraduate students across the country and addresses themes from the prospects of conservative social justice to the virtues of the free-market economy.

2014 Essay Contest: Is Health Care a Right?
Health care is a human right

One of the questions that divides Americans most is that of universalized health care. Many on the Left now claim that the argument was settled by the passing of the Affordable Care Act. Some conservatives respond by asserting that the truth is not arrived at merely by political victory, and that the laws men make do not always reflect the transcendent moral order that Conservatism is meant to uphold regardless of policy disputes. But what if this rigorous conservative claim were applied equally to the American founding and the framing of the constitution? Perhaps conservatives are right to be proud of the victory of the American Revolution and the careful policy debates that formed our political order. But were the founders right simply because they prevailed? Conservatives honor the Constitutional law of the land, but is the law to be revered merely because it won the day at our nation’s birth? In this year’s Essay Contest, we invite students to pause, to consider the perspective of those who shaped our country, and to sincerely ask the question: Should health care be a constitutional right?

In offering a substantial answer to this question, contestants may take many routes of inquiry. What is the nature of government? What are rights, and what role does rights language play in conservative and progressive solutions to social and political problems? What is the relationship between liberty and duty? What is the value of authority in the lives of citizens and subjects? How does one determine whether that authority is legitimate or, as our founders believed of the Crown, has outstripped its proper role? What of economics? Can the goods of health care be delivered in a state-planned economy divorced from the free workings of the price-system? On the other hand, how universally can health care be provided in a context of socioeconomic freedom?


Contestants are kindly asked to consider the following readings as they construct their entry essays. These are not required readings, but recommended.

Contestants are encouraged to make use of one or two of the above sources, as well as any other sources from which they may wish to draw.



1st Place: $5,000
2nd Place: $3,000
3rd Place: $1,000


Registration and Submission

Registration is required prior to submitting an essay and is open to any undergraduate residing in the United States. Essays must be in Microsoft Word format and sent to Essays are to be roughly 2,000 words long. Whether written from a political, a philosophical, or an economic point of view, winning essays will be chosen both for their style and for their sound reasoning. Ideal essays will be well-organized, and clearly, eloquently, and logically written.



The contest deadline has passed.

Questions? Contact