Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Is Health Care a Right?

Walter E. Williams :: Columnist
Is Health Care a Right? 
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by Walter E. Williams Most politicians, and probably most Americans, see health care as a right. Thus, whether a person has the means to pay for medical services or not, he is nonetheless entitled to them. Let's ask ourselves a few questions about this vision.
Say a person, let's call him Harry, suffers from diabetes and he has no means to pay a laboratory for blood work, a doctor for treatment and a pharmacy for medication. Does Harry have a right to XYZ lab's and Dr. Jones' services and a prescription from a pharmacist? And, if those services are not provided without charge, should Harry be able to call for criminal sanctions against those persons for violating his rights to health care?
You say, "Williams, that would come very close to slavery if one person had the right to force someone to serve him without pay." You're right. Suppose instead of Harry being able to force a lab, doctor and pharmacy to provide services without pay, Congress uses its taxing power to take a couple of hundred dollars out of the paycheck of some American to give to Harry so that he could pay the lab, doctor and pharmacist. Would there be any difference in principle, namely forcibly using one person to serve the purposes of another? There would be one important strategic difference, that of concealment. Most Americans, I would hope, would be offended by the notion of directly and visibly forcing one person to serve the purposes of another. Congress' use of the tax system to invisibly accomplish the same end is more palatable to the average American. True rights, such as those in our Constitution, or those considered to be natural or human rights, exist simultaneously among people. That means exercise of a right by one person does not diminish those held by another. In other words, my rights to speech or travel impose no obligations on another except those of non-interference. If we apply ideas behind rights to health care to my rights to speech or travel, my free speech rights would require government-imposed obligations on others to provide me with an auditorium, television studio or radio station. My right to travel freely would require government-imposed obligations on others to provide me with airfare and hotel accommodations.
For Congress to guarantee a right to health care, or any other good or service, whether a person can afford it or not, it must diminish someone else's rights, namely their rights to their earnings. The reason is that Congress has no resources of its very own. Moreover, there is no Santa Claus, Easter Bunny or Tooth Fairy giving them those resources. The fact that government has no resources of its very own forces one to recognize that in order for government to give one American citizen a dollar, it must first, through intimidation, threats and coercion, confiscate that dollar from some other American. If one person has a right to something he did not earn, of necessity it requires that another person not have a right to something that he did earn.
To argue that people have a right that imposes obligations on another is an absurd concept. A better term for new-fangled rights to health care, decent housing and food is wishes. If we called them wishes, I would be in agreement with most other Americans for I, too, wish that everyone had adequate health care, decent housing and nutritious meals. However, if we called them human wishes, instead of human rights, there would be confusion and cognitive dissonance. The average American would cringe at the thought of government punishing one person because he refused to be pressed into making someone else's wish come true.
None of my argument is to argue against charity. Reaching into one's own pockets to assist his fellow man in need is praiseworthy and laudable. Reaching into someone else's pockets to do so is despicable and deserves condemnation.


  1. The whole article is silly.

    1. He discusses rights that one earns. Rights are not earned, especially under the current republican dogma. Rights are granted two ways according to Jame Madison, either by a creator or by the advent of a government, but niether of them are earned.

    2. rights constantly infringe on each other.

    3. the slavery thing is just stupid.

    4. We already have a system in effect for the situation he discusses. Our roads are maintianed by the government, our police dept, fire dept, school system. Would we stop funding completely for our roads, fire depts..etc?

    5. the right to healthcare isn't about forcing the doctor or hospitals to pay for our healthcare needs but a situation similar to our roads. everyone pays in and we all benefit.

  2. Healthcare is no more a right than is marriage..both are privileges afforded those of us in society who understand that we are also required to put forth some effort in achieving those things.

    Further, when Jesus talks about helping the poor in Matthew 25, he's referring to charity, which is giving OF ONE'S OWN HEART to help someone else. Taxation (ie Universal Health Care) is not charity. It is taxation.

    No, it's not a right.

  3. Does the Constitution Give the Right To Politicans To Take From One Citizen and Give to Another or "Redistribution of Wealth"!

    The Constitution Does Give the DUTY to Goverment to Protect Citizens From Foreign or Domestic Threats. Standing Army,Police and Fire!

    Bottom Line I Read Recently if You Rob Peter to Pay Paul What Happens When There Are More Pauls Recieving than Peters Who Are Giving! With the Deficit and Lack of Job Creation its a Possibility and Than Whom Pays For Big Government. If Middle Class Does NOT Think Tax Man Will Be Coming to PAY for All This,Than They Are Blind To The Facts!

    Administration Apperars to Want Our Nation to Take After Most Europian Nations and There Form of Government and How are The Doing? Citizens Have Never been Required to Be Like Anyone. Nation was Not Built into The Greatest Country EVER on This Planet Wanting to Be Like Anyone Else MOST Certainly Not EUROPE!

  4. JoeC's argument, oops I mean opinion, regarding Health Care vs. Rights were destroyed previously from another article I posted a few months ago. It appears time has done nothing to improve his position.

    1. You are correct, natural rights aren't earned, they are granted to you at birth.
    Government grants you no rights; they are simply formed to protect your God-given/Natural rights.

    2. Rights don't infringe on another, people do. Please give an example where natural rights infringe on someone else.

    3. "the slavery thing is just stupid." Wow, there's a powerful retort. The slavery analogy is a perfect example in regard to the issue of health care. What would you call it when someone is forced to provide services to another without just compensation?

    4. Classic fallacious argument. Because we already have a system in place that is poorly administered, inefficient and funded by only a portion of the population, let's start another one.

    5. Except that not everyone pays in to the system. It's a well known fact that certain segments of the population are obtaining goods and services without paying for them. This fact is indisputable.

    Other than that, JoeC made some good points. The funniest thing about his comments is that were supposed to believe the ramblings of a partisan hack on an internet blog vs. the words of an esteemed, honored scholar. One that actually used facts and logic to make his points.

  5. The government doesn't give us our rights, we give our government its "rights". Come on now, Joey, where does Madison say that the government can stipulate what our rights are? A tyrranical government can for sure.

    I'm not even sure what you mean about "under the current republican dogma". Are you talking about the party or the system of government?

    I really have to agree with Paul on this one. Very well put Paul.

    Joey, are you saying that health care is indeed a right?

    And let's try to keep this clear, if we can; please distinguish between health INSURANCE and health CARE people! I am perfectly able to take care of my own health, just like everyone else is. But I'll be damned if my tax dollars go to Comrade FAILk's emphysema from smoking, or his tummy tuck because he's a hippo from eating Twinkies all day long and washing them down with Yoo-hoos.

  6. John,

    1. Madison was very clear that some rights are a mandate from the government, not the creator. This stems from the idea of the social contract.

    "The personal right to acquire property, which is a natural right, gives to property, when acquired, a right to protection, as a social right." James Madison

    2. By current republican dogma i am referring to the conservative ideologue stance about rights being only God given, and dismissing social rights.We know that most of the conservatives here follow that ill chosen belief. And we have had this discussion before.

    3. i am not saying that. I am saying that this wise and distinguished scholar attacked a belief poorly and even questioned some of yours and the blogs its on belief.

    4. Where do you stand on the earning of rights. Clearly to believe most of this piece you'd have to buy into the fact that rights can be earned, so do you?

  7. Paul, i know that clearly you could have done better, because after all you tell us who your forefathers are...

    3. The use of slavery was more for the negative image than for the plausibilty of the argument. No one is advocating any system of you working entirely for free to pay for another. The author knows this and i believe you do too.

    4. Since clearly we have systems in place that benefit us all and that we wouldn't wish to remove, we could add another that would benefit the nation without being overly burdensome on its citizens.

    Assuredly we could do with some reforms in our spending to better keep our budget, but the thiought that we could provide for all in a world were those who don't pay into the system already tax the system and drive our costs up is noble enough.

  8. Hey Joey -

    I'd just like to say, it's nice to see you making good arguments versus just dropping in to snark and then be off on your way. Sincerely, I know you could probably read this as sarcasm, but it is sincere. Folks that write in here are for the most part just looking for a good honest discussion. I can't speak for anyone else, but I appreciate it when you provide that. God knows we don't get anything like that from FAILk, so excuse me when my brain turns to mush for lack of "exercise".

    With regards to your "forefathers" remark, I think you are confusing Paul with Mark?

    In response to your question to me, I don't believe you "earn" your rights. We all have inherent rights that, I have to disagree with Paul a little here, we have even before we are born. I have the right to my life, and to live my life as I choose it. Let's not get into another monster abortion debate, but I feel women have the right to do whatever with their bodies, until they have another person living inside their womb. For instance, If you can prosecute someone for murdering a baby because he punches a pregnant woman in the stomach and she miscarries, yet that same woman at the same gestation could go get an abortion legally ... there's something wrong there.

    Now, with regards to your Madison argument, I have the right to life, and to property, and to defend that property. The government does not give me that right. What I create, or earn honestly, is mine to do with as I see fit. The government has no right to it any more than they would have the right to come into my house and take food out of my fridge and eat it.

    Now, I really think we need to break the discussion down into what the Federal Government is allowed to do, versus State and Community Governments. There used to be no federal income tax, right? That, to me, is how it should be. There is no reason for the federal government to tax us, take our money, and then re-distribute it to the states.

    Well, this friggin thing is getting too long again. Wish I could get to the point better. Anyway, let me just say, things like roads should be paid for by those who use them. Nothing exemplifies this more than the infamous "Bridge to Nowhere". I say make highways toll roads and surface roads based on use. Privatize them. That's my opinion. Government should NOT be in the business of business, or of picking winners and losers. Just leads to all kinds of problems.

  9. John, as a citizen of Michigan i can agree with your views about tax redistribution. I hate seeing that we are gross payer and a net returnee. I don't think it sits well with you either.

    I'd be all for a return to the idea that states control their own destiny more. The idea of instituting national laws that constantly deride and attack the referendum of the states bothers me, such as Gay Marriage and medical Marijuana.

  10. Right on Joey. Hoisting a tall frosty to that!

  11. Joe you sound like a Libertarian to me. Could that be right?

  12. Cathy, no. i'm way to left to be one of those. That's just my anarchist tendencies coming out.

    the reality is that if the federal government is going to control the money and through its bureaucracy fix the roads it would be one thing, but the current situation of gathering the spoils of our labor and then having a competition for the funds, through earmarks, grants...ect. is silly as hell. We still end up their bureaucracy and when it gets to the state level competing for the money we end up with another bureaucracy doing the work.

    Since the feds aren't giving up the purse strings and why would they its about power (both parties)it would be best to allocate a certain number of dollars for road and infrastructure repair a year and then dole it out per capita. each state gets so much per person. Lessen political earmark and lobbying issues.

  13. Joe -

    Paul Ryan had a good idea that I read the other day: whatever contractor gets a government contract cannot lobby the government for the duration of the contract. I thought that was a great idea. I guess we'll have to wait until Nov. to see if anything will happen with it.

  14. i think thats a great idea.


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