I. What is a Right?
Healthcare in America is not a right and cannot be a right so long as we live in a country that still recognizes the United States Constitution as the law of the land. Our rights are embedded in Natural Law. They do not come from a king, they do not come from the President or any other politician, they do not come from Congress, nor do they come from the government as a whole or from some special group of policy makers within the government. They do not even come from the Constitution itself. Our rights emanate from the fundamental nature of our humanity or, if you will, from God. As individuals, we are born with them. The Constitution is the document under which our rights are protected. Protected from what or whom? Why, from the government of course. Or more to the point, the government’s inherent desire for ever more encroaching power and control over our lives.
Because our rights derive from our own individual humanity, healthcare, whether provided by the government or somebody else, cannot, by definition, be a human right. And why is this? Because if it were a right, we would be able to require of another person that he or she provide it to us, which would then infringe on that person’s rights. In other words, if a so-called right requires someone else to do something for you or give something to you (i.e., guaranteed care whenever you are sick) then it is not a right. So if healthcare is not a right, what is it? It is a good. A good is something we want or need, as opposed to something we naturally possess from birth. So healthcare is no more a right than is food, clothing, housing, high-speed Internet access, or a double mocha latte from Starbucks.
What are some examples of rights? We have a right to life, to speech, to worship, to travel, to due process (or fairness); we also have the right to be left alone. These basic rights and others are to be found among the first ten amendments to the Constitution, otherwise known as the Bill of Rights. But when you think about it, they are not really rights at all. There is nothing there that is being given to Americans that they do not already naturally possess. They are more like prohibitions – prohibitions placed upon the government; things that the government shall not do to infringe upon the rights of the individual. “Congress shall make no law…” this right “shall not be infringed…” this other right “shall not be violated,” the Bill of Rights is replete with such language. So if we already possess these rights, why were they even added to the Constitution? Because the people were, understandably, suspicious of government and in fact feared a government that would not only fail to secure their rights but actually, in the words of the Declaration of Independence, become “destructive of these ends.”
II. The Progressive View
Of course none of this squares at all with what Progressive politicians are saying. Those great liberal luminaries, Dennis Kucinich, Tom Harkin, Nancy Pelosi and even Barrack Obama, have all argued that healthcare either is or should be a right in this country. If they think it is already a right, then they either are unable or unwilling to comprehend the above analysis. On the other hand, believing it should be a right is even more troubling because that implies that they —the officials of the government — actually think they have the power to grant it as a right. Well, they who have the power to give, also have the power to take away.
But all this begs the question, why are these deep-thinking Progressives so hot to make only healthcare a right? What about food? What good is it being healthy if you don’t have anything to eat? What about housing? You need a place to sleep don’t you? What about a job? How about a car to get to the job? How about a place to rest when you go on vacation from your job? Sound good?
Well, believe it or not, these things can all be yours. Just one little catch: you have to leave the country. Yes, the governments of other fine nations, both existing and defunct, have provided in their constitutions for all of the above, including healthcare. Regarding the healthcare “right,” here is just a brief sampling:
Article 42. Citizens … have the right to health protection.This right is ensured by free, qualified medical care provided by state health institutions; by extension of the network of therapeutic and health-building institutions; by the development and improvement of safety and hygiene in industry; by carrying out broad prophylactic measures; by measures to improve the environment; by special care for the health of the rising generation, including prohibition of child labor, excluding the work done by children as part of the school curriculum; and by developing research to prevent and reduce the incidence of disease and ensure citizens a long and active life.
This comes from the U.S.S.R.’s Constitution of Fundamental Rights, as amended in 1977.
Here is the right to healthcare from the Constitution of the People’s Republic of China (as adopted in 1982):
Article 45. Citizens of the People’s Republic of China have the right to material assistance from the state and society when they are old, ill or disabled. The state develops the social insurance, social relief and medical and health services that are required to enable citizens to enjoy this right. The state and society ensure the livelihood of disabled members of the armed forces, provide pensions to the families of martyrs and give preferential treatment to the families of military personnel. The state and society help make arrangements for the work, livelihood and education of the blind, deaf-mute and other handicapped citizens
And to satisfy the Michael Moore crowd, the Cuban Constitution (as amended in 2002) also gives everyone the right to healthcare:
Article 50: Everyone has the right to health protection and care. The state guarantees this right; by providing free medical and hospital care by means of the installations of the rural medical service network, polyclinics, hospitals, preventative and specialized treatment centers; by providing free dental care; by promoting the health publicity campaigns, health education, regular medical examinations, general vaccinations and other measures to prevent the outbreak of disease. All the population cooperates in these activities and plans through the social and mass organizations.
Finally, there’s this one:
… Healthcare is a basic right … to be provided through a not-for-profit plan. We … include coverage for those excluded… We … free the states. We … have control over private insurance companies and the cost their very existence imposes on [our] families. We … provide a significant place for alternative and complementary medicine, religious health science practice, and the personal responsibility aspects of health care which include diet, nutrition, and exercise.
Actually, those are the words of Congressman Dennis Kucinich in a speech he gave just last Wednesday regarding his plans to vote on the upcoming bill for government managed healthcare in this country. Sound familiar?
III. America the Exceptional
I often get this from liberals: “Most of the industrialized world thinks that healthcare is a human right, why not the United States?” Well most of the world, industrialized or not, thinks a lot of things that are decidedly un-American, including the government’s power to bestow healthcare (and other things) as a right. One has to ask, how did America get to be America? By becoming like the rest of the world? By giving things away for free? Heck no! What makes us still today the shining beacon to the rest of the world is that we are different from the rest of the world. We are exceptional. And what allows us to be exceptional is the recognition that our rights and liberties are intrinsic to the individual and not derived from government. Where over the course of human history through to this day, governments of other nations have handed down rights to the peoples they’ve governed and have, in the name of those very rights, meddled, restrained and enslaved, in America the individual rights and liberties of our people have freed us to create, innovate, invest, build, grow and pursue success and happiness in every conceivable way, including giving it all away if that is an individual’s choice.
So really the question is not so much whether healthcare is or is not a right, because in America it is not. Rather the question is what kind of country we want to be.
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