Allow me to first apologize that I was still unable to get through all of the health care bill passed by the House of (Non)Representatives on Saturday night. I am working through the first half of the week preparing for my business to run without me for the second half of the week. Never an easy task. Please remember all that I will have articles set to post for the second half of the week, but I will not actually be here posting them. I will attempt to jump in whenever possible to take care of any moderation, but can make no promises. I will return home after the memorial services on Monday and should be back in full swing then. For tonight I am going to focus the health care discussions on the premise stated in the title. Just a Citizen posted an interesting interview last night and when I watched it I was reminded of the right versus privilege debate. It seems that at the center of the health care debate is the debate over whether health care is a right, and it is time for us to discuss this….
The video in question is one from MSNBC where the moderator was interviewing Florida Democrat Representative Debbie Wasserman-Schultz. The topic was the passage of the health care bill in the House. You can see the video here (will open in a new window):
For those unable, or unwilling, to watch the video, Representative Schultz comes right out and declares the following: “Well, I think we are going to send a bill to the President, finally making health care a right not a privilege, by the end of this year. I feel confident about that. I think the momentum that has been building is really unstoppable at this point.” (Just for grins and giggles, watch the rest of the video to see Schultz’s further comments about women and the Republican party. She is either seriously demented in her assessment or intentionally misrepresenting the party in order to cause another false divide in America)
The Congresswoman makes a clear statement here that one of the things they are intending to do is to finally make health care a right, not a privilege. JAC, I have to personally thank you for finding that video, because it is enlightening to see the intent of the Democrats in Congress.
I don’t think this is a unique situation for the Democratic party. In my recollection, the progressive movement in America has consistently made their stance that all sorts of things are rights rather than privileges. I mean let’s be honest, there are a ton of new found “rights” according to the progressive liberal movement. People have the right to to a government sponsored public education. A right to government provided housing. A right to own a home regardless of ability to pay for it. A right to take money from those that earn it. A right to a government provided cell phone. A right to come into the country illegally and stay. A right to a wage determined by the government rather than the market. A right to cheap goods and extensive services at the expense of those greedy capitalist pigs. A right to not be offended by a Christmas parade they were not forced to attend. And now a right to health care.
In fact it seems the only rights that the progressive movement doesn’t support are the ones in the actual Bill of Rights. They seem to despise the right to own guns, the right to wear a christian symbol in public, the right to run a news organization that is critical of a Democratic President, the right to keep the fruits of one’s labor. But I digress, yet again.
The fact is that health care coverage is NOT a right. It is a privilege. To determine that it is a right is nothing more than a political play. This goes back to the progressive mantra that we must allow emotions to rule the day. It sure would be nice to see everyone in great health. It sure would be nice to see health care be affordable and available to everyone. But that does not make it a right my friends. No matter how many times you say it.
The founders felt that rights were given to man naturally (by the creator or nature depending on your beliefs). They are not the creation of government, they were there the whole time. That is why they were the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. We have a right to those things without or without government’s mandate. Most of us can agree on that premise. If it is a “right” we have it whether government grants it or not. We have it whether government exists or not. The very reason that our country was founded was because the people of that time felt that the Crown did not recognize their natural rights! Remember that the Constitution spoke out and identified our natural rights, it did not grant them. The government has no power to grant natural rights, and is supposed to have no power to infringe upon them.
Health care is not a natural right, folks. It was endowed to us by the creator (or nature). It is a scientific process that helps humans to better care for or repair our bodies. To believe that it is a right is to fall prey to the belief that our rights are the construct of government, that rights are given to us by government, rather than the other way around. To believe that health care is a right is to believe that rights only exist through positive government action.
I read somewhere, although I cannot find it again, a quote from someone that said something along the lines of “The rights to life liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are individual rights that I can pursue or neglect as I wish. Governments are instituted merely to secure these rights by providing the necessary infrastructure for their flourishing—this involves instituting a rule of law and order.” To me, that is the reality around rights. We have them. Government’s only purpose is supposed to be protecting them.
Has health care become unaffordable to many? You bet it has, especially if you find yourself in the unfortunate position of facing a truly difficult diagnosis. But we must first remember that the situation we find ourselves in in regard to health care costs have been driven by many folks who have implemented market controls or market distortions without any regard for factual economic consequences (yes, I am again talking about you, Keynes disciples). As a result it has become more and more a privilege that is more accessible for the wealthy. And that is somewhat of a problem here in the good old US of A. However, the fact that the prices of health care have grown out of control does not change the definition of what is a right and what is not.
Dr. Leonard Peikoff, whom some of you may remember from our “Building a Better Foundation” Series, offers that the founders were clear in defining that our rights are quite limited in that they are a right to action. He defines his terms better than I, and here is an excerpt, the entire speech of which can be found as the second link at the end of the article:
Observe that all legitimate rights have one thing in common: they are rights to action, not to rewards from other people. The American rights impose no obligations on other people, merely the negative obligation to leave you alone. The system guarantees you the chance to work for what you want — not to be given it, without effort, by somebody else.
The right to life, e.g., does not mean that your neighbors have to feed and clothe you; it means you have the right to earn your food and clothes yourself, if necessary by a hard struggle, and that no one can forcibly stop your struggle for these things or steal them from you if and when you have achieved them. In other words: you have the right to act, and to keep the results of your actions, the products you make, to keep them or to trade them with others, if you wish. But you have no right to the actions or products of others, except on terms to which they voluntarily agree.
To take one more example: the right to the pursuit of happiness is precisely that: the right to the pursuit — to a certain type of action on your part and its result — not to any guarantee that other people will make you happy or even try to do so. Otherwise, there would be no liberty in the country: if your mere desire for something, anything, imposes a duty on other people to satisfy you, then they have no choice in their lives, no say in what they do, they have no liberty, they cannot pursue their happiness. Your “right” to happiness at their expense means that they become rightless serfs, i.e., your slaves. Your right to anything at others’ expense means that they become rightless.
I found this to be the absolute best description of the rights of the people in America that I have read. I urge all of you to read Peikoff’s entire speech, which was given back in 1993 in opposition to Hillary’s push for a government health care system. One of my favorite lines of all time in the world of political discourse happens to come from this speech, which is why I know the speech so well and remembered to include it in this discussion. Later in the speech, Peikoff says precisely how the American political system has gotten out of whack in terms of rights versus privileges. That favorite quote of mine is:
The original American idea has been virtually wiped out, ignored as if it had never existed. The rule now is for politicians to ignore and violate men’s actual rights, while arguing about a whole list of rights never dreamed of in this country’s founding documents — rights which require no earning, no effort, no action at all on the part of the recipient.
You are entitled to something, the politicians say, simply because it exists and you want or need it — period. You are entitled to be given it by the government. Where does the government get it from? What does the government have to do to private citizens — to their individual rights — to their real rights — in order to carry out the promise of showering free services on the people?
Therein lies the problem with the direction of society today. The invention and reclassification of so many things into the category of “rights” is morally corrupt and denies the acknowledgement of the true “rights” that we have. Our country has lots of issues. Health care costs are one of them. We are in need of some forms of health care reform. While I am ideologically opposed to government intervention in the market, there has already been far too much meddling by government to do nothing now. The question instead becomes what is the proper approach? I submit that the approach we are taking now is completely wrong. Addressing the costs is the way to go. That could work in some ways. And there are moral approaches that could be taken should addressing the high costs become the route pursued.
But establishing health care as some sort of “right” is a recipe for disaster. The current path is unsustainable in even the short term, and will result in a catastrophic change to the American health care system, which is the best in the world, despite the inane claims to the contrary. Beyond that, declaring health care a right is morally wrong, as it ignores the fact that real rights are there whether Nancy Pelosi dictates them to you or not.
And that is why I am opposed to the health care reforms being presented today on principle alone. Declaring health care a right dooms us to an eventual dependence on government for that vital service, which is already being provided for every single person in America, regardless of the abundance of or lack of health insurance. The question becomes not whether we should offer universal health care. The question is whether we are to be equally self-reliant, or equally dependent.
Below I offer a few articles that I either quoted above (in Peikoff’s case) or that I felt did a good job of laying out their arguments. There are articles from both sides of the issue. OK, now you can all fire away at me.