Saturday, August 22, 2009
Health Care Is Not A Right
I've thought about this occasionally, but only recently have I come upon what I believe is a truer expression of a liberal philosophy of health care.
The political argument is obvious: by calling health care a "right", you automatically justify guaranteeing coverage to everyone. By evoking a natural principle, you are fundamentally answering opponents by claiming that health care is a moral, not economic issue.
But this is not generally how we think of rights. We usually think of them as simple freedoms that require little in the way of effort on the part of others. Freedom of speech, movement, worship, or privacy all require little other than being left alone. Of course, the definition of a social contract includes the quality of living with others. Thus it implies a level of engagement with one's fellow man.
It is within this expansion into the social realm that the liberal inserts an added clause: duties. Duties are all the things we must do for one another to maintain our individual freedoms, or "rights". They are of course more difficult to define, much less to achieve. But they are as elemental to the provision of man's rights as the established state itself.
Throughout our nation's history we have defined them differently, as have other modern democracies: We reserve the right to draft men into military service to protect from foreign threats. We reserve the right to declare martial law. We reserve the right to tax income and commerce. We reserve the right to guarantee things like education or legal defense. Though at times they may be defined differently, they are the same in that they represent an expression of duty towards the common good. Each requires a level of sacrifice - often different depending on the individual - to the idea of the "common good".
Universal access to health care is now being called for by liberals. It is being argued that, by virtue of being a citizen (for many like myself, simply a human being) one should be guaranteed a minimum standard of free health care. Or to put it another way, it is the DUTY of every citizen of this country to contribute in some way to ensuring universal health care coverage to every man, woman & child.
Health care is a duty.