Silly liberals, of course health care is not a right
Despite its bromidic ring, the mantra “health care is a right” is absurd. These five words that Bernie Sanders — and other progressives — can credit for a good chunk of their political success have wide appeal, I won’t disagree. But embarking on a courageous examination of all its implications beyond the alluring slogan? It’s bunk at best. More likely it’s a disturbing (albeit ingenious) premise used to extend the reach of government into every crevice of our lives.
A few weeks ago during Tom Price’s confirmation hearing to head up the Department of Health and Human Services, democrats grilled him on this question over the nature of our entitlement to health care. They asked the question as if a wrong answer would have been tantamount to a murder confession. My answer of course would have been “You silly liberals, of course health care is not a right!” I don’t recall his response verbatim, but it was slightly more deft and diplomatic; his job in that moment was to navigate a news cycle eager to ensnare, not make a grand slam political point.
First we must clarify the language. When liberals say health care is a right, what they mean is that citizens have a right to have health care provided to them, hence the push for a single-payer system touted regularly by Barack Obama before he realized such a system at that point was politically unfeasible. For them it’s not a right to simply pursue health care, but rather a right to demand it from the collective.
Because I despise wasting time with people who refuse to have a civil discussion, I recently had a very short exchange online with a guy over this very issue. When I made the point that our 2nd Amendment right to bear arms did not burden the government with providing guns to all those who want them, his cerebral response was approximately “You moron, guns and health care are different.” He didn’t elaborate why government is expected to fund, deliver, and accommodate one right but take an adversarial posture toward another. I sighed and shook my head. It’s so hard being a moron.
In nearly every instance I can conceive, indulging in a right is always initiated by the citizen who’s claiming it, and not a government that is providing it. Rights originate within an individual’s innate proactive capacities. Government’s job is to largely stay out of their way. Rights don’t require massive wealth redistribution. Rights typically are signals to the government to stay away, not get more involved. In fact, the Founders articulated our rights in order to protect them in part from an intrusive government.
In Bernie’s world, the idea of rights has been stretched from behaviors we are free to choose, to comprehensive clinical services we can demand. In our hearts we know this is wrong because it’s not sustainable. The idea that health care is a right comes with so many complex questions that it can’t possibly be defended intellectually as a traditional right: Are all possible procedures under the health care banner part of that right? Breast augmentation, nose jobs, and sex changes? If not, who decides? What about health concerns that arise out of stupidity or poor dietary choices? Which bureaucrats are designated to issue the annual list of the thousands of procedures we have rights to, and which we do not? Isn’t giving that decision-making power to a Washington bureaucrat frightening?
Lastly, if health care can be construed into a demandable and government-provided right, then what can’t be? Why is food not a fundamental right? Or Mobility? Should government provide groceries and cars to everyone? This can spin out of control very quickly.
Do individuals have a right to pursue available health care? Absolutely. But to stubbornly insist that the collective owes comprehensive coverage to each individual who typically has significant control over the state of their own health — displays a sad lack of understanding about the basics of liberty.
Stretching the concept of rights to legitimize claiming the wealth of others and expanding the reach of government is not only absurd, it is a Pandora’s Box we do not want to open.
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