Monday, May 2, 2011

Lucidicus: Is Healthcare a Fundamental Human Right?

Jared Rhoads of the Lucidicus Project recently responded to a question on the popular Q&A site, "Is healthcare a fundamental human right? Should it be?"

I really liked his answer, so I'm reposting it here in its entirely with his permission:
Jared Rhoads, Director, The Lucidicus Project

Healthcare is not a right. A right cannot grant a good or service to one person by imposing an obligation upon another person to provide it. In other words, you can't declare something a right for one man if it creates a slave out of another.

If you object that "slave" is too a strong word to use in this context, remember that rights are moral absolutes. It makes no difference whether a man is forced to provide for the entirety of his neighbor's care, or whether he only is forced to provide only for part of his neighbor's care because "society's" resources are pooled. It is still an obligation that is imposed upon one person to satisfy the alleged right of another.

It doesn't even make a difference whether the man who is taxed to provide healthcare for others could also someday be eligible to receive healthcare for himself by the same system. To confiscate money, property, or effort today and promise a benefit tomorrow is still a violation of rights.

The only fundamental right that exists is the right to one's life. Essentially, this means the right not to be interfered with as you go about living your life. The only thing that others are "required" to do is leave you alone, which is not the same as an obligation to provide healthcare, food, clothing, or anything else no matter how much or how little of a necessity it is.

The right to life does not mean the right to be kept alive by others, to be kept healthy by others, or to be cured by others when you are sick. It means that you are left free to pursue your own life and health to the best of your ability, based on what you can accomplish yourself and what you can gain from others by trading with them voluntarily. (Seeking charity does not violate the rights of others, assuming it is given voluntarily.)

Some people like to carry on about which goods and services individuals should be forced to provide each other through government programs. Healthcare is a popular one. Retirement pensions are another. Education is yet another. The list is long.

But the question of whether these things are rights in the precise sense of the word, is not debatable. They are not. Rights are determined objectively, not by governments or the United Nations. When someone wishes to institute a new "right" to a good or service, what they are actually trying to do is sell you on the proposition that it is worth violating the one real right (the right to life) of some people in order to appropriate something else for others.

It is not in anyone's long-term interest to live in a society like that.

8:4 on Fri Apr 29 2011
(More about the Lucidicus Project.)