With the GOP attempting to move Obamacare repeal and replace bills through Congress, debates have again flared up nationwide. While the discussion of privatized versus socialized medicine is worth having, there’s one statement being made by socialized healthcare supporters that is advocating a very dangerous idea:
Healthcare is a right!
This idea opens up a can of worms that I highly doubt the supporters realize they are opening. They are also saying that robbery and slavery are ok, that the risk of depleting the Earth’s food and water supply is ok, and that everyone should be given a gun for free.
WHAT?! I can hear some people saying that already. Let me defend my strong claim.
The two key words in that quote – healthcare and right – create an important conflict when combined. Simply defined, healthcare is “efforts made to maintain or restore physical, mental, or emotional well-being” (Merriam-Webster). That is, healthcare is a collection of products and services provided by medical professionals.
To define “right” takes a bit more investigation. Simple dictionary definitions leave out the critical distinction of rights versus privileges, which are commonly confused. In political philosophy, the two are distinguished as negative versus positive rights, respectively. That is, a negative right is a genuine right that all people have, merely because they are human. A positive right, on the other hand, is actually a privilege, which no one is obligated to provide to another person unless they agree to a voluntary exchange. (For more info, see here, here, and here.)
So which is healthcare? Well, negative rights are those that merely require others to not (hence “negative”) do things to you. The right to not be harmed, robbed, or kidnapped are simple examples. They can’t be guaranteed to people, but people are legally allowed (at their own cost/effort) to do whatever they need to, in order to stop those things from happening. Positive rights, however, are when someone does (hence “positive”) have to give you an object or perform a service for you without restriction.
Therefore, healthcare is a positive right, which isn’t a right at all, it’s a privilege. That’s because healthcare isn’t just about being allowed to seek out medicine, it’s the actual act of getting the products and services that professionals supply. No one has a right to those; they must pay for them, just as we all do.
So, when people say that healthcare is a right, they’re saying that government must force medical professionals to give away their products and services! I’m certain that we all know what robbery and enslavement are, and that they are wrong.
Advocating healthcare to be a right also means that a lot of other things must be rights, too, or else the law would be inconsistent. Eating is critical to health, as is healthcare, so it should be a right, too. All the people who work in restaurants now must feed and serve everyone, at no cost. Charging money would mean that some people can’t get it, and that the restaurant would be denying these supposed rights! Also, safety is critical to life, so everyone must be given a gun and instruction at no cost. Don’t forget water, either, which is a basic human need, which must also be provided to everyone at no cost and with no restrictions (i.e., water conservation laws would then be illegal).
Beyond the fact that positive rights are robbery and slavery, they also create dangerous economic consequences. The Laws of Supply and Demand teach us that things that are free are likely to experience extremely-high demand, which will quickly deplete the supply. Psychology also teaches us that things that have no cost aren’t conserved as much as things that have cost. So, if you’re concerned about people abusing healthcare or depleting the planet’s food and water supply, and don’t support robbery and slavery, then you should never make the dangerous assertion that positive “rights” like healthcare are actually rights. Once healthcare actually became a right, the others would eventually follow.
Before I end, let me address a few likely counter-arguments:
“Well, I have a right to have police protect me, so your definition of rights is wrong.”
False. Not only do police have to be paid just like everyone else, but they have absolutely no duty to protect you. If you were under a different impression, review Warren v. DC (SCOTUS, 1981) to hear a horrible story that illustrates why this is incorrect. The reasoning behind that case is very similar to the reason that healthcare is not a right.
“Saying ‘healthcare is a right’ isn’t supporting slavery or robbery!”
But it is. Otherwise, what are you really asking for? It’s certainly not asking for the right to seek out a doctor or hospital; we already have that right. It’s not asking for the right to be cared for if you have money or insurance; we already have those, too. And it’s not calling for things to be cheaper, as that statement can easily be made without use of the word “right.” It’s calling for healthcare to be free. That either means the medical professionals are forced to give the products and services for no cost, or that someone else is forced to pay the medical professionals for it. In either of those cases, someone is being robbed or enslaved, in some way, to pay for other people’s medical costs.
Thanks for reading, and be sure to protect your negative rights!