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Jul. 7 2009 - 11:02 am | 196 views | 3 recommendations | 35 comments

There ain’t no such thing as a right to health care

The HM rating symbol (a caduceus).

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There.  I said it.  Someone had to.
The acronym would be TANSTAARTHC.  Nowhere near as euphonius as TANSTAAFL.

I broach the subject because I can’t seem to turn on a TV or radio without hearing, “Health care is a human right.” The phrase has entered the zeitgeist. Google it and you’ll get 25k hits. Google “right to health care” and you get 200k. Maybe I’m not listening hard enough, but I hear no one questioning its validity.

A right is intrinsic. It’s not given to you, it’s something you’re born with. Its existence is not dependent on the actions of others. In fact, only by the actions of others can it be taken from you.

I find the alone-on-a-desert-island rule a convenient way to differentiate genuine human rights from the poseurs.

Let’s start with the basics: life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. You’ve still got those on a desert island. You may not be happy there, but you don’t have a right to happiness, only to seek it out.

On a desert island, you still have the right to free speech. And freedom of religion. And freedom of sexual expression. You also have the freedom to smoke or inject whatever available substances you care to.

You do not have the right to three squares a day because there are no farmers to provide them; you do, however, have a right to grow or forage whatever you can. You don’t have a right to a roof over your head because no carpenters live on the island, but you do have a right to erect one.

And you don’t have a right to health care because doctors and nurses and drugstores don’t exist on the island.

No point in belaboring this. Genuine human rights do not require the participation of anyone outside the individual. Anything that does require the aid or intervention of another party is something else. I’m not sure what it is, but it’s not a human right.

Challenging health care as a human right, inevitably and unfortunately, casts one as a heartless person, blind to human suffering, who wants sick people to go untreated. Nothing could be further from the truth.

The question asked here is not whether our fellow human beings should receive the health care they need, but whether it is a human right.

Why is this important? Because health care as a human right is newspeak. It redefines a term to fit a given political or social agenda. Philip K. Dick said, “If you can control the meaning of words, you can control the people who must use the words.”

Wishing doesn’t make it so. No matter how badly you want it to, “Human right” does not translate into “You owe me.”

Nobody owes you health care. You have the right to negotiate for the services of someone who knows more about health than you do, but you don’t have a right to that person’s knowledge and effort.

If your society decides that all its members should have free access to health care, then you are the fortunate recipient of a gift or a mandated benefit or whatever else your society wants to call it. But it’s not a human right.



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  1. collapse expand

    Regardless of whether healthcare is delineated as a right enshrined within our constitution, it does make economic sense to consolidate health care delivery. We taxpayers are already paying through the nose for national health care through publicly financed emergency rooms. That has to be the most wasteful approach to offering basic health services available. The only beneficiaries of this approach are the insurance companies who – by this policy – can cherry-pick those who are most likely to profit the insurance company at the expense of not paying out for the actual health service they claim their corporate charter exists for.

    If you want to take issue with the ‘Health Care is a Right’ terminology, be my guest. But that won’t change the structural issue underlying the debate. An unhealthy population is an unproductive population. An unhealthy worker is an unproductive worker. And sick and dying children due to lack of access to health care is a blight on this nation’s conscience.

  2. collapse expand

    Well, the longer version of that phrase is “Health care is a right — not a privilege”, so in shortening it, it loses its original meaning.

    In the U.S. right now it is indeed a privilege to have health care because it means, increasingly, you are in an elite: 1) you have a job that offers benefits (at a time of record unemployment — and COBRA costs loom large the second you’re fired or laid off) 2) your spouse or legal partner has a job that allows you access to their benefits (ditto) 3) you make enough income as a freelancer or perma-temp to cough up as much as $1,200 a month, market rates, to insure your family. Back in 2002, Oxford was charging me $700 a month to insure just myself. That’s a mighty heavy financial burden when you are self-employed in lower-paid fields.

    What’s really at issue is not PC-speak but a fundamental question about what the state, or the government if you will, owes the citizens and residents whose income it taxes and from whom it derives billions in revenue. It is the social compact.

    I grew up in Canada and have lived in England and France, all three nations who’ve managed to figure out a way to offer quality healthcare to everyone who lives in those countries, funded through their taxes. In the U.S. we pay plenty of tax, yet still wake up every day in terror of some medical catastrophe bankrupting you and your family when your HMO shrugs.

    Whatever my right to “happiness”, it doesn’t include that chronic anxiety.

  3. collapse expand

    Your statement “healthcare is not a right” is correct as applied in the United States. You’re reasoning as to why it is not a right is just seriously “off” and, with all due respect, kind of bizarre.

    We have this thing called The Constitution that is all about the creation of rights. You might care to have a look at it one of these days. In point of fact, nowhere does the bible tell me that God gave me the right to bear arms upon my birth. It took the Constitution to create that right.

    Rights are not only those things that are intrinsic. And, in every industrialized nation in the world – except the United States- health care IS a right you are born with! Not because God said so – because somewhere along the way, legislative bodies created laws that deemed health care a right.

    You are perfectly entitled to believe that health care should not be a right in America – but by basing your perspective on a false premise, I don’t see how you do your argument any good.

    I would point this out to you — the United States is the only industrialized nation in the world where gun ownership is a right and health care is a privilege. In every other large nation, health care is a right and gun ownership is a privilege. Maybe its just me, but if we are to use your “intrinsic” test for rights versus privileges, doesn’t this American reality give you some pause?

    • collapse expand

      If gun ownership is a right, why hasn’t anybody given me one?

      You have a right to your life and therefore a right to defend it. So you may buy a gun if you wish, but no one owes you a gun.

      In response to another comment. See in context »
      • collapse expand

        I’m sorry but this is a truly ridiculous argument.
        You are pretending that the only “rights” that exist are natural rights when, in absolute fact, we have many non-natural rights.

        But, for the moment, lets go with your approach. If your point is that “you have a life and a right to defend it” – a natural right- therefore you may go purchase a gun if you wish, then why would you not extend this perspective to other “life defending” activities like, say, designed to defend (meaning keep oneself alive) like, say, health care.

        Now, you would say, that we have the right to go purchase health care in defense of our life. What some people don’t have that right because they cannot afford it. So, how does this square with your approach? We only have a natural right if we can afford to defend it?

        While you believe that the right to purchase a gun is an outgrowth of the natural right to defend one’s life, what about the rules that restrict gun ownership. Are these in defiance of our natural rights? What if I can’t afford to buy a gun?

        Are all the other countries of the world defying natural rights because they severely restrict gun ownership in the effort to PROTECT the natural right to life?

        Now let’s deal with reality. Your argument continues to remain ridiculous because the concept of “right” versus “privilege” is not solely defined as God given “natural rights” as much as you might like it to be. You may not like it but you simply cannot argue that rights are not created by laws. Your comment that the constitutional amendments are simply guarantees is, again, ridiculous. I think you want to play a semantical game, but if you actually think this is going to persuade anyone, I think it is highly unlikely given the fallacy of the argument.

        How do you explain non-natural property right?. How you explain non-natural rights such as the right to contract or things like the “right to a speedy trial” which is a non-natural right created by social contract? How do you explain the right to elect a jury of your peers?

        How do you explain the government impinging on my natural right to the pursuit of happiness when they make me pay taxes, which makes me unhappy?

        If you want to have the debate over whether or not health care should or should not be a right in the United States, that is a legitimate conversation to have. But your argument that, somehow, only natural rights “count”, is specious and completely detracts from whatever point you might actually have.

        In response to another comment. See in context »
    • collapse expand

      Actually, the Constitution is NOT about the creation of rights.

      It’s purpose is to define — and limit — the powers of the Federal government.

      If the Constitution says that the government can do a thing, then it can do it — provided that what it does lies within the limits of the words of the grant.

      The “Bill of Rights” — the first ten Amendments to the Constitution — do not Grant “rights” to the American people. What they do is to forbid the government to interfere with the natural “rights” that people already possess due to their being living, breathing human beings.

      The name Bill of rights is English. It is accurate in England. The English Bill of Rights of 1689 was a list of permissions which British government granted to its subjects. And a government that grant a permission can always withdraw the grant.

      So, when an Englishman spoke of his “Liberties,” he meant the same thing an American would mean if he asked, “May I take the liberty.” That is, a permission to do a certain act.

      Instead of being called a Bill of Rights, the first ten amendments to the Constitution should more properly be called a Bill of Prohibitions. They forbid the government from doing certain things.Let’s see, the words are:

      Amendment 1: “Congress shall make no law. . . .”

      Amendment 2: “… the right of the people (not the privilege or permission, but the RIGHT)of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.”

      And it does not say unless, or except, it says “shall not be infringed.” PERIOD!

      Amendment4: ” The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, …”

      I could go on, but I think you get the message. These are actions that are forbidden to American government.

      They do not “grant” rights, they “acknowledge” them.

      In response to another comment. See in context »
  4. collapse expand

    We are born ignorant, free and naked – that’s the reality, a brilliant point made succinctly.

    Let each care for self and all will then be cared for.

    Each life is forged by the personal choices made; no one can save someone from his reality of this fact.

    Development toward personal responsibility is the ubiquitous challenge for every human being seeking his own self-reliance & self-governance.

  5. collapse expand

    You know, if you substituted “right to health care” with “right to bear arms,” and “doctors and nurses and drugstores” with “guns and ammunition” in your desert island analogy you would have an argument against the Second Amendment.

    Based on the Repairman Jack novels, I don’t think that’s an idea you’d support, so I can’t help but wonder if you’ve thought this through the whole way.

  6. collapse expand

    I think Ms. Kelly and Mr. Ungar’s objections can be better understood if we differentiate between *natural* rights, which are what I believe Mr. Wilson was really trying to address in his article, and *positive* rights, which are additional rights we can create and give to people through a system of law.

    Mr. Wilson did a fine job of defining natural rights. I’d add that natural rights so-named because they are rights which a individual would have “in a state of nature” — that is, without a government around. Mr. Wilson’s “desert island” example is a good way to conceptualize what rights you’d have in a state of nature — your natural rights.

    I believe Ms. Kelly and Mr. Ungar are mainly talking about positive rights.

    I take it that Ms. Kelly wants us to create laws that give individuals a right to demand that others (the state, ultimately other taxpayers) pay for their healthcare. I don’t agree that we should create such a positive right, and I suspect Mr. Wilson doesn’t either. But I am familiar with the position.

    Mr. Ungar doesn’t seem to acknowledge natural rights at all, and seems to have missed Mr. Wilson’s desert island example. If you were on a desert island, and could build yourself a weapon, you could most certainly bear it. Mr. Ungar also seems to be insufficiently familiar with Bill of Rights in the US Constitution, whose Ninth Amendment makes it clear that individuals have all number of unenumerated natural rights, and that the listing in the Bill of Rights of some of our natural rights should not be taken to mean that the listed rights are the only rights we have. I recommend Ninth Amendment scholar (and Cato Fellow) Randy Barnes’ book “Restoring the Lost Constitution:The Presumption of Liberty” for further reading.

    Mr. Wilson, Ms. Kelly, and Mr. Ungar, I welcome your corrections if I misunderstood or misstated your views.

    • collapse expand

      I’m not quite sure why you would suggest that I don’t acknowledge natural rights. That would be rather foolish, would it not? What I doing is also acknowledging that there are rights created that are non-natural rights that are created which Dr. Wilson seems to ignore. In making the case that there is no right to health care, of what value is an analogy to living on a desert island as any of us who are able to read his post do not, in fact, live on a desert island (unless we just happen to drop into civilization in time to read his piece.) Further, if you review Dr. Wilson’s own analogy regarding how gun rights are somehow tied to the right to defend our life (an extension of our natural right to life), maybe you can explain to me how defending our life by access to medicine that keeps us, in fact, living is somehow different? If you can do that, maybe I’ll begin to understand you. The Dr. is using a non-natural right that was granted by the Constitution as an outshoot of a natural right. By this argument, it seems impossible to argue that health care would not be such a non-natural right, despite the fact that, in this country, it is not. Thus, proving my point that we have a variety of granted and non granted non-natural rights.
      As for suggestion that I do not understand the Bill of Rights, while I am often correctly accused of many things, I haven’t come across too many who would level that charge at me. Indeed, your reference to the 9th Amendment serves to illustrate my point. The 9th Amendment states,
      “The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.”
      That alone makes it crystal clear that there were rights enumerated in the Constitution that are IN ADDITION to the natural and other rights. The 9th Amendment simply makes clear that the rights created in the Constitution were not intended to abrogate existing rights – only to add to them. Thus, we have rights in this country, as acknowledged by the 9th Amendment, that are additions to the natural rights.
      Despite the fact that Randy Barnes is a Cato Fellow, I have read the book you referenced. There is absolutely nothing contained in that book that would suggest in any way that the rights possessed by Americans are solely reserved to the natural rights granted by God or whomever you wish to credit with the same. I would dare say that there has never been a Constitutional scholar that has suggested that ALL American rights are either natural or derivative of natural rights. I’m curious – do you believe the creator gave us the right to vote? Do you believe that the creator gave us the right to a speedy trial? Neither you nor Dr. Wilson answered these questions when I posed them in an earlier comment. Maybe you will actually answer these questions and then tell me why health care could not qualify as a right should the nation, by legislative or Constitutional amendment, choose to do so. Notice I have never said that health care is currently a right because it is not. Like many of our rights, such a determination would be man made. Thus, the foolishness of Dr. Wilson’s initial argument. You simply cannot rationally argue that the right to bear arms is, in some way, a “natural” right borne out of our right to defend our natural right to life yet the right to health care is not. The right to bear arms is a right only because it was included in the Constitution- period.

      In response to another comment. See in context »
      • collapse expand

        Mr. Ungar, thank you for clarifying that you accept the existence of natural rights. I think where I got confused was your assertion that the Constitution is “all about” creating positive rights. Certainly the Constitution creates many positive rights, but much of the Bill of Rights is enumeration of pre-existing natural rights, not just creation of positive rights. Freedom of speech and of religion are clearly natural rights, are they not?

        Anything I can do without a government’s help (and without infringing the rights of others) is a natural right. Speaking freely, developing my own belief system, and, yes, even bearing arms — these are all things that are naturally available to me without a government or system of law in place.

        *I* am not quite sure why you would suggest that *I* don’t acknowledge *positive* rights. That would be rather foolish as well, would it not? Perhaps you have accidentally lumped me in with Mr. Wilson. I’m not sure whether Mr. Wilson recognizes positive rights. I suspect he prefers to call positive rights “privileges”, and reserves the term “rights” for natural rights exclusively. Yes, the right to vote and the right to a speedy trial are positive rights. These two rights would not exist without a government or system of law in place to give them meaning.

        So then, what are my natural rights with respect to healthcare? I can care for myself, and I can non-coercively persuade (often pay for) others to care for me. Certainly no government should ever deny me the right to care for myself, or deny others their right to care for me if those others freely choose to care for me.

        Yes, as I said before when discussing Ms. Kelly’s position, we could choose as a society to create a positive right for me to demand that others (the state, ultimately other taxpayers) pay for my healthcare. Unfortunately, that infringes others’ natural rights to their own life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness. As such, it would be morally wrong for us to create such a right. Not to mention that it perverts charity into coercion.

        I’m very interested to know more of your views on these matters. I know this is getting tangential, but I’m keenly interested to understand how you don’t see bearing arms as a natural right. People make and carry weapons even where there aren’t governments or systems of law in place. Obviously bearing arms isn’t something you need a government or system of law in place in order to do, so it’s not a positive right like voting or a speedy trial. It’s clear to me that it’s a natural right that governments often infringe.

        In response to another comment. See in context »
      • collapse expand

        I have to disagree with Mr. Ungar, and think that he is missing a well-made point by Mr. Wilson. Another way to put it is this: rights do not cost money. By saying there is a right to health care, that puts the transfer of wealth/value on morally equal footing as the freedom from oppression. Ultimately, the provision of health care is an economic question, and I think that we would consider it to be on par with freedom of speech, right to due process, etc. to be an indictment of how little we value those freedoms. We have been given them at no cost, and are at risk of losing them to the creeping authoritarian state that taps our phones, reads our email, and flouts the constitution.

        In response to another comment. See in context »
  7. collapse expand

    Seems to me your starting point, that rights are intrinsic, is an example of the logical fallacy called begging the question. That is, you proclaim as a fact something that actually is arguable. I believe human rights had to be invented and fought for, one by one, and that this process is ongoing. You say your true concern here is the meaning of words but I don’t see any misuse of words in people contending that health care is a fundamental human right. If we, as a society, decide to make it so, then a human right it will be.

    • collapse expand

      I think differentiating between natural rights (rights that exist “in a state of nature”) and positive rights (rights that are given by law) is useful in understanding Mr. Grossberger’s position as well. Mr. Grossberger’s assertion that (all?) human rights “had to be invented and fought for” indicates he doesn’t acknowledge natural rights and believes (all?) human rights are positive rights that “we, as a society, decide to make”.

      My question to Mr. Grossberger would be, if all human rights are positive rights, what makes one human right ‘fundamental’, and another not? I’m not asking rhetorically — I truly don’t understand what people mean by “fundamental human rights” if not natural rights.

      In response to another comment. See in context »
  8. collapse expand

    “If we, as a society, decide to make it so, then a human right it will be.”

    Correct me if I’m wrong, Lewis, but you seem to be attitudinally aligning yourself with the guy who says, “Art is what I point to and say, ‘That is art.’”

    My point all along is that human rights – those that are yours because you are a sentient being – cannot be granted, they can only be taken away. They aren’t bestowed by a just society, they are protected by it.

    A privilege that society grants you – such as compensating medical professionals on your behalf – is something else entirely.

  9. collapse expand

    You know, I’ve got to say I’m heartened by the level of discourse here. I hesitated posting the above. I thought people would get all ad-hominemy, but that hasn’t happened.

    It reinforces my opinion that this is one of the best sites on the web, and I’m proud to be among you all.

  10. collapse expand

    My attitude is that there can be no such thing as a “right” to consume the product of somebody else’s effort.

    To claim otherwise is to claim a “right” to enslave.

    Ken V.

  11. collapse expand

    Nah, we may be contentious, but we’ll stay civil!

  12. collapse expand

    I’m glad I’m not the only one troubled by the issue of a right to healthcare. I agree with Mr. Wilson on this one. While I agree that the cost associated with use of ERs and general lack of access to routine care is enormous, it is one thing to move to universal healthcare as a matter of fiscal responsibility and better care, but another entirely to assert that there is a right to healthcare. And as someone that regularly works with government healthcare programs, I am certain I don’t the feds hands in my healthcare – they have already mishandled veterans care, Medicaid, and Medicare (especially the mess they call Part D). We’ve already make healthcare an entitlement for seniors and the poor, and look where that got us. I can’t think of any current right that is capable of bankrupting the country; they all protect rights necessary to live as free citizens.

  13. collapse expand

    Mr. Wilson,

    It would seem that the entire point of your piece is the rather pedantic point there is no current legal right health care in the United States and that if the US government began providing it, it would not be a right but a privilege. This true enough but do you really think that no one knows that? I think the vast majority of Americans are quite aware of these details. Those who argue that health care is a “human right” are implicitly acknowledging that there is no “legal right” or even “government privilege” and that there ought to be. The only question is what are the pros and cons of making it a right or privilege. These didactic distinctions do not contribute to any meaningful discussion of the issues.

  14. collapse expand

    This article is distracting at best and disingenuous at worst. No one is saying that health care is a right — people say that *affordable* health care is a right. Would you not agree that a totalitarian regime that controlled the food supply and forced food prices to be exorbitantly high would be in violation of human rights? Yet affording to eat would not fall under your “desert island” rights. A government that forced people to pay high prices to use the bathroom (a la Urinetown) would be committing human rights violations.

    I argue that a government that allows insurance companies to deny coverage for health problems, and allows insurance companies to deny coverage for pre-existing conditions is going against human rights. I think the entire insurance model of providing medical care is wrong. A government whose people regularly have to choose between medical care and staying out of bankruptcy is going against human rights. People living in a society as decadent as ours should be able to get affordable medical coverage, and right now, they can’t.

    So even if you have defined the debate to be about what kind of right or privilege health care is, it doesn’t make it any less *necessary* for America to have. Tell me, are you going to bother pointing out that education, police protection, fire departments, and military-based national security aren’t “rights” and therefore don’t deserve the same distinction as Free Speech in our society?

    • collapse expand

      “Tell me, are you going to bother pointing out that education, police protection, fire departments, and military-based national security aren’t “rights” and therefore don’t deserve the same distinction as Free Speech in our society?”
      Those are not rights, you do not have the right for there to be teachers to teach your children, you don’t have the right for a fireman (or woman or transvestite or whatever etc for the rest of the post) to risk their life for you or your property, nor for a soldier to place their bodies between wars desolation blah blah blah it goes on.

      In response to another comment. See in context »
  15. collapse expand

    I will argue that the Bill of Rights creates no rights, but merely enumerates several existing natural rights and their derivatives as deserving special protection.

    Regarding the “right to vote” and the “right to a speedy trial”, these are derivative from natural rights, to wit: “The right not to be governed without your consent”, and “The right not to be arbitrarily punished”. The Constitution merely points out a particular way that society has chosen to guarantee those rights.

    No one in the US has the positive right to have a firearm. You have the right to *keep* and *bear* those firearms which you possess, like any other property. They are worthy of special mention simply because so many governments have violated that right in the past.

    The difference between the 2nd Amendment guaranteeing your ability to practice your right of self-defense, and the right to “protect your life by seeking healthcare”, is that there is no difference. No one says you don’t have this latter right.

    What you don’t have is the right to force other people to pay for it without their consent.

    Indeed, no one has the right to life, even. Tell it to a corpse. You merely have the natural right not to have your life taken by others. The supposed “right to life” is not mentioned outside a preamble, and is basically a metaphor/abbreviation.

    The creation of positive rights is a non-sequitor. Governments can only create privileges. Indeed, if any of these things were “rights” then a change in government could not legitimately take them away.

    Rights are those things that governments cannot legitimately infringe. Nothing more, nothing less. Trying to stretch the word to mean more than that is just an abuse of language, and an unnecessary one. Privilege works just fine, and is more accurate.

    • collapse expand

      hacksoncode, gotta say, you make a very cogent argument. I do understand where you are coming from, but rights can, in fact, be created, or as you might say, recognized as having been there all along, as society shifts and comes to value and address different aspects of existence. This is why I don’t view the notion of all rights being “natural” rights and the Constitution simply acknowledges and defends them.

      In response to another comment. See in context »
  16. collapse expand

    If health care is a “right” what right does the doctor have if he does not wish to provide his services to you? Only an someone who is stupid, insane or evil believes in a right which must be provided at the expense of another.

    A “right” to health care would mean that the doctor must be a slave as all doctors are under socialist health care systems. No freedom to set prices or deliver services.

    Anyone care to bet on how much this idiocy will cost. I have lots of investors willing to wager on the outcome of this stupidity. After all if you really believe in a right to health care put your money where your mouth is.

    If you are not willing to bet on the outcome we can only assume that you are a liar.

  17. collapse expand

    I think the basic point is that one person does not have a right to the labor of another, whether that is working in a field or working in an operating room. The self defense analogy is actually very good. An individual has the right to defend himself from immediate threats where a firearm or other weapon is the best tool, or use a medicine to prevent or treat an illness. But while you have a right to obtain and use the tools of medicine to treat your illness, you do not have a right to labor of the doctors who treat you or the product of the pharmaceutical companies that make the medicine. You are absolutely free to bargain for those goods and services, however.
    I don’t think you increase access to anything, or bring the cost of anything down, by slathering layers of new bureaucracy on tip of it. It will, however, create lots and lots of new jobs. I mean, they’ll have to hire hundreds of thousands of people to stamp “NO” on all those medical test requests and the like.

  18. collapse expand

    A valid point about human rights – I never thought of it that way. Whenever we discuss health care we usually mention sense of morality, equality, and compassion as why everyone needs equal access to good health care regardless of ability to pay. It is not an issue of human rights but doing what is right is what really should be the emphasized when talking about health care reform.

    • collapse expand

      But, who decides “what’s right”? What’s the moral or ethical basis for that decision? And what about the people who don’t adhere to that moral or ethical system?
      I think people have access, now, many of the uninsured have chosen to spend their money on other things. It’s their money, who are you, or I to tell them how they must spend it?

      In response to another comment. See in context »
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    First of all sir, I love RMJ and the I think your La Nague stuff is almost as socialy important as Heinlein (sorry but he’s awfully hard to beat).
    On a second note perhaps people should know what TANSTAAFL means before they involve themselves in posting on this. I take it that’s where you’re getting the “correct” (to my mind) idea of what a right is.

    Not for you sir, but for the others it’s there ain’t no such thing as a free lunch. It’s always true, someone pays somewhere. You can’t have free things. Even just the effort you put into making something yourself means a cost was paid.

    As far as the constitution giving people rights (as noted by others above) I have never been given anything by a piece of paper, I wont argue that the armed forces of the USA protect my rights, for or against. If you think other people can give or take away your rights, well I guess you’re right. Heh, like people say, if you think you can, or you think you can’t, you’re right.

    I do happen to think tho that state funded medical care could be the way to go, just as long as it’s possible for someone to choose to have a private practice. I don’t know if you agree with that or not, but that’s your opinion which I figure you’re entilted to (as a Dr. maybe more then me but everyones got one.. uh opinions that is) just as I am mine.

  20. collapse expand

    There is precedent for acknowledging that citizen’s rights cost money. We very cheerfully spend thousands of dollars of police, prosecutor, public defender, judge, and staff time to give trials to our most contemptible citizens. Much more than we would spend to get them health care. That “right to liberty” that’s so inherent – respecting it in practice costs the state a lot of money.

    A huge amount of public funds go into roads, and everybody has a “right” to use public roads. Do people have a “Right” to a PUBLIC road system, or could the government decide to let all roads be privately built and charge tolls so that the poor could not travel?

    Clearly they could, but the “Right” to travel the land has been assumed for so long in our culture that it would be hopelessly unpopular – everybody sees the facilitation of free movement as a bedrock minimum job requirement of their government: THAT kind of “right”. Like, “I have a right to be defended from invasion by some kind of armed forces.”

    Here in Canada, though, dreaded health care “socialists” that we supposedly are, one doesn’t hear the “Right” word much except from the most overwrought activists.

    You don’t have debates about a “Right” to police service or to fire service these days – but a few centuries back, both were available only as private services. But if anybody ever tried to go BACK to a patchwork of private emergency services, you’d probably hear about the “Right” to fire and police from those opposed to the change.

    It’s obviously not an intrinsic human right, or acknowledged as a constitutional right under any of the constitutions of nations that have universal health care I can think of; certainly it’s not in Canada’s constitution.

    But here’s what I think is the right of any human that agrees to participate in a society and its social compact: the right to be treated with some respect and concern when in need. It’s wrong to step over somebody lying in front of you.

    If you CAN improve police and fire service by making it publicly-funded and universal, thus covering everybody and ensuring the whole city is under one umbrella, and it doesn’t on the whole cost society much more than a bunch of private systems, then you SHOULD. If it costs less measured across the society, then it’s a no-brainer. But even if it costs more, up to a point, it’s not moral to let all those people who can’t afford police contracts and fire contracts fall through the cracks.

    I think Canada is just a culture that would pay (a little) more for a public health insurance system just because we do see ourselves as brother’s keepers. But fortunately, it clearly costs a lot less to do it our way, so the moral issue about everybody’s “Right” to health care doesn’t really arise.

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    I was born in a happier time (when folks were celebrating the end of the Permian Extinction). I've been called the world's most skeptical man, but I doubt that. I've been writing since second grade and practicing family medicine since 1974. I've written 40 or so novels (you stop counting after a while), some of them NY Times bestsellers, most of them not. I attended Xavier high school in Manhattan and then Georgetown University, both Jesuit schools. I revere the Jebbies because they encouraged my questioning nature (and as a result I'm a devout agnostic). I lived through the birth of rock 'n' roll, the sixties, Vietnam, the Carter administration. I played in a garage band, and still noodle drums, guitar, and piano. I'm a blues hound and am currently teaching myself slide guitar (at this point, I suck, but I'm getting better). I live at the Jersey shore on an elevated tract of land I believe will gain an ocean view after the great tsunami. Oh, and for some unfathomable reason I joined Twitter and Facebook.

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