[March 25, 2003]

"Right"-to-Health-Care Junkies

by Wayne Dunn

A "right" to health care is the new opiate of the masses. And politicians are among the biggest pushers.

As with most druggies, America started off with the light stuff. It began in the sixties with the marijuana of socialized medicine, Medicare and Medicaid. We were at a (Democratic) Party and, hey man, other countries were doing it; so we inhaled. Now we're hooked.

Costly? We get by with a little help from our friends (taxpayers who foot the bill).

The habit worsened until the Clintons offered us the "right"-to-health-care bong. But Americans mustered the self-esteem to decline (thanks to a GOP intervention) and in 1994 checked into rehab by a Republican landslide.

However, junkies often relapse. What America wouldn't stuff into the congressional crack pipe and smoke all at once, it's injecting into its political mainstream squirt by legislative squirt. Even the guys from the right-wing rehab center traded in their ties for tie-dyes and now support "rights" to prescription drugs.

Why is a "right" to health care wrong? Why should we just say no? Because saying yes would not only achieve the opposite of the desired results, it would diminish real rights.

Legitimate rights don't place demands on other people. Your right to worship, for example, doesn't obligate me to take you to church or sing you a hymn. My right to free speech doesn't force you to toss me a megaphone or buy me some airtime. Your neighbor's right to pursue happiness doesn't require you to rent him a condo or fly him to Maui. Real rights demand only that you respect the rights of all. That's reality.

But then reality is what "right"-to-health-care addicts, like all druggies, are evading.

Health care is important, they argue; people need it. But it's precisely because it's important, it's precisely because people need it that we must not blur the distinction between needs and rights. You may really need a romantic partner, for instance, but that doesn't mean you have a right to one. If you did, it would mean the forfeiture of that person's right to his or her own life, liberty and pursuit of happiness.

Well, just as "rights" to other people's romantic favors would ravage their actual rights, so too would "rights" to other people's goods and services-- which is what health care is. Phony rights demolish genuine rights.

Health care doesn't just pop into existence. It stems from individuals' intellectual achievements and productive abilities. It's the product of doctors and nurses spending a decade mastering their craft, of scientists toiling years to make life-saving breakthroughs, of capitalists staking fortunes on risky new ventures. And it's the product of businessmen transforming those dollars and breakthroughs into medicine and equipment, which doctors then bring to bear on human suffering.

Sure, we can pass a law giving you a "right" to all that. Heck, with enough votes, we can pass a law giving your house to the homeless (after all, they need it). But just because something's legal doesn't make it right. Slavery, remember, was legal.

And slavery is really what's at issue here: the enslavement of some to the needs of others. For to the degree health care is made a "right," health care providers are enslaved. Doctors, nurses, scientists and businessmen with too much self-respect to have their abilities declared your "right," will simply abandon medicine, leaving your medical future to those lacking such self-respect. (It's already begun.) Investment dollars will divert from health care interests into freer and thus more profitable areas. (That's begun, too.) Oh, but this has its upside: there'd be no gripes about the "high cost" of new prescription drugs -- there'd never be any new drugs.

To preserve health care and rights, Americans must quit health care "rights" cold turkey. 

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© COPYRIGHT 2003 by Wayne Dunn