Saturday, August 15, 2009

Rights vs. Privileges

The drumbeat of pro-Obamacare letters continues in New Jersey's largest newspaper. The following LTE appeared in the 7/30/09 addition. From the Star-Ledger Reader Forum:

Health care a right

After reading the article, "Twenty-somethings contemplate Obama's health care plan," (July 27) it became even more evident to me the national crisis we face with our health care system. As a college graduate, I have seen so many of my friends struggle to find jobs and have an even harder time getting insured after they were kicked off their parent's insurance plan.

America is one of the leading industrialized countries, and yet has one of the worst health care systems in the western world. The health care system we have now will never sustain itself, and it is time for reform.

If we reform our health care system we will also be strengthening our economy. So many Americans are left uninsured and have no other option but to go to the emergency room for even minor health problems. Because of this, taxpayers pay more.

Having private companies compete with a public health care option will bring the cost of the health care down for even the people who are already insured.

With health care reform our economy will recover and job opportunities will increase. Most importantly, the health of our nation will improve. It is not a privilege, but a human right to have health insurance.

Victoria Maione, Hamilton

Victoria Maione’s letter reads like a collection of unsubstantiated leftist talking points, but it ends on the fundamental issue underlying the entire healthcare debate. She states;

“It is not a privilege, but a human right to have health insurance.”

We can probably infer from her statement that she also believes that health care itself is a “right”. What’s interesting here is that she declares that health insurance/healthcare is not a “privilege”. She complains that;

“As a college graduate, I have seen so many of my friends struggle to find jobs and have an even harder time getting insured after they were kicked off their parent's insurance plan.”

Leaving aside the question of the high cost of healthcare and insurance in America (which, as I have been exhaustively explaining, is primarily the result of massive government intervention), Ms. Maione apparently equates earning the means to cover your own healthcare expenditures with a privilege. So what, exactly, is a privilege? According to Webster’s, it is:

An exceptional law made in favor of or against any individual… a right, immunity, benefit, or advantage granted to some person, group of persons, or class, not enjoyed by others and sometimes detrimental to them. (Emphasis added.)

So, according to Ms. Maione’s terminology, if you earned your healthcare, you have been granted a privilege…rather than having exercised your right to spend your own money as you see fit. Granted…by whom?

What, then, constitutes a right? As laid out in America’s founding documents, a right is not a grant from any politician, state, or collective such as society or a democratic majority. A right is an unalienable sanction of the freedom to take action, such as freedom of speech, association, religious practice, etc. As Ayn Rand explains:

[F]or every individual, a right is the moral sanction of a positive—of his freedom to act on his own judgment, for his own goals, by his own voluntary, uncoerced choice. As to his neighbors, his rights impose no obligations on them except of a negative kind: to abstain from violating his rights.

A right is not an automatic claim on the products, services, earnings, skills, or property produced by others. Rights are political, not economic…a crucial distinction all but forgotten today.

Now, keeping in mind the definitions cited above, consider the claim that a manmade product such as healthcare (or health insurance) is a right, and what it actually means in practice. If someone requires medical care, then the doctors, nurses, pharmaceutical and device makers, etc., must be legally obligated (i.e., compelled) to provide their services to that person. Likewise, that person’s neighbor, or the person 3000 miles away, must be legally obligated to pay for his treatment. In other words, the providers whose skills make medical care possible, as well as those whose taxes pay for it, are serfs.

Every person in a free society has a right to take the actions required to satisfy his own healthcare needs, so long as those actions don’t entail the violation of anyone else’s rights. Thus, he has no right to rob his neighbor to pay for them, nor force any provider to “serve” him, nor elect politicians to impose those obligations. There is no such thing as a “right” to healthcare or any other man-made product, beyond what one can pay for himself through a voluntary transaction with those who produce it.

What Ms. Maione has actually accomplished is to invert the meanings of the words privilege and right. Or, put another way, she has substituted economic “rights” for political rights. In so doing, she has, in essence, called for the replacement of freedom with slavery. This is the nature of the inversion that today threatens the survival of America as a nation based upon the unalienable rights of the individual and the government as protector of those rights.

Re-read the definition of “privilege”, and you can easily see that it applies to any alleged “right” to any man-made object, service, or what have you. Once again quoting Rand:

It was the concept of individual rights that had given birth to a free society. It was with the destruction of individual rights that the destruction of freedom had to begin.

The “gimmick” was the switch of the concept of rights from the political to the economic realm.

Jobs, food, clothing, recreation(!), homes, medical care, education, etc., do not grow in nature. These are man-made values—goods and services produced by men. Who is to provide them?

If some men are entitled by right to the products of the work of others, it means that those others are deprived of rights and condemned to slave labor.

Any alleged “right” of one man, which necessitates the violation of the rights of another, is not and cannot be a right.

No man can have a right to impose an unchosen obligation, an unrewarded duty or an involuntary servitude on another man. There can be no such thing as “the right to enslave.”

The concept of economic rights establishes a perverse new version of the master/slave relationship…the provider as slave by virtue of his ability to produce the needed value, with the consumer of the provider’s product as the master by virtue only of his need for those services. This new privileged class of healthcare consumer is, thus, granted “rights” that are “detrimental to” and “against” the very people needed most…doctors and other providers. The alleged “right” to health insurance is actually a privilege granted to some by force of government, at the expense of the freedom and property of others.

There are essentially two types of persons – those willing and able to support themselves by their own effort, and those who aren’t. In a moral…that is to say, in a free and capitalistic…society, those who do are free to use their surplus wealth and time to help the others by voluntary choice. Those who fail to provide for themselves must rely on whatever goodwill charity is available, motivate themselves to improve their lot in life, or make due as best they can on whatever their own efforts yield.

The medical socialists propose to establish a new class of privilege composed solely of the non- or sub-productive, since the amply productive (the vast majority in a free country) have nothing to gain by this new entitlement called “the right to healthcare”.

Victoria Maione should learn that words have meanings because what she and her ilk advocate, whether they are honest enough or even conscious enough to acknowledge…is“the right to enslave.”

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