Amidst all the health care debate, there is one underlying assumption that hardly anyone challenges: the notion that people have a right to health care. The truth is that it’s a nonsensical notion. People no more have a right to health care than they have a right to education, food, or clothing.
After all, what does a right to health care mean? If I have a right to something, then doesn’t that mean that you have a correlative duty to provide it? If you’re a doctor, then it means that you are required to serve my needs, like it or not. If I need an operation, then you cannot say “no” because that would be denying me my right to health care.
Thus, isn’t the right to health care actually a power to force doctors to provide people with medical services?
Now, the proponent of health care as a right might say, “That’s not what I mean. Why, to force doctors to provide health care services to others would be akin to slavery, especially if it’s for free. I think that doctors deserve to be paid for their services.”
Fair enough. But then doesn’t the right to health care entail the power to force someone else to pay for it? Let’s assume, for example, that I need hip-replacement surgery that will cost $25,000 and that I don’t have the money to pay for it. Since I have a right to health care, that means that I have a right to get the money from you to pay for my operation. It also means that you can’t say no because that would be interfering with my right to health care.
Thus, the right to health care entails the power of everyone to get into the pocketbooks of everyone else. That’s not only a ridiculous notion of rights but also a highly destructive one. Since obviously people can’t go and take the money from others directly, it inevitably entails converting government into an engine of seizure and redistribution. Or to paraphrase Bastiat, such a concept of rights converts government into a fiction by which everyone is doing his best to live at the expense of everyone else.
Meanwhile, while everyone is using government to get into everyone else’s pocketbook to pay for his health care expenses, he is simultaneously doing his best to protect his own income and assets from being plundered by the government to fund everyone else’s health care bills.
Over time, it is easy to see how such a system devolves in everyone’s warring against everyone else. It is also easy to see that such a system obviously does not nurture friendly and harmonious relations between people. This is especially true when these types of “rights” expand to such areas as education, food, clothing, and housing.
The true nature of rights — the type of rights the Founding Fathers believed in — involved the right of people to pursue such things as health care, education, clothing, and food and that government cannot legitimately interfere with their ability to do so.
Thus, the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, as described in the Declaration of Independence, doesn’t mean that someone else is forced to provide you with the means to sustain or improve your life. It means that government cannot enact laws, rules, or regulations that interfere with or infringe upon your right to pursue such things.
When Americans began looking upon rights as some sort of positive duty on others to provide them with certain things, that was when the quality of health care in America began plummeting. That was what Medicare and Medicaid were all about — the so-called right of poor people and the elderly to health care. It is not a coincidence that what began has the finest health care system in the world has turned into a system that is now in perpetual crisis.
There is one — and only one — solution to America’s health care woes — and it lies not in a government takeover of health care. In fact, the solution is the exact opposite: It is the end of all government involvement in health care — a total separation of health care and the state. That would entail not a reform or improvement of Medicare and Medicaid but rather their total repeal.
At its core, the solution to America’s health care crisis lies in the abandonment of the notion that health care is a right. Once people reach this fundamental realization, as our American ancestors did, the nation can get back on the road toward to a healthy, prosperous, and harmonious society.