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Is Healthcare a Right?

Before answer­ing that ques­tion, it is essen­tial to define exactly what rights are. The only truly valid rights are God-​given Nat­ural Rights. Thomas Jef­fer­son artic­u­lated the most accu­rate def­i­n­i­tion of a God-​given Nat­ural Right when he stated so elo­quently in the Dec­la­ra­tion of Independence:

We hold these truths to be self-​evident, that all men are cre­ated equal, that they are endowed by their Cre­ator with cer­tain unalien­able Rights, that among these are Life, Lib­erty and the pur­suit of Happiness

These rights are granted to every sin­gle indi­vid­ual directly by God. George Mason echoed these sen­ti­ments when he wrote the Vir­ginia Dec­la­ra­tion of Rights in 1776

SEC­TION I. That all men are by nature equally free and inde­pen­dent and have cer­tain inher­ent rights, of which, when they enter into a state of soci­ety, they can­not, by any com­pact, deprive or divest their pos­ter­ity; namely, the enjoy­ment of life and lib­erty, with the means of acquir­ing and pos­sess­ing prop­erty, and pur­su­ing and obtain­ing hap­pi­ness and safety.

Lib­erty is sec­ond only to life when it comes to impor­tance. Here is how Thomas Jef­fer­son described lib­erty in a let­ter to Isaac Tiffany

…right­ful lib­erty is unob­structed action accord­ing to our will, within the lim­its drawn around us by the equal rights of oth­ers. I do not add ‘within the lim­its of the law’; because law is often but the tyrant’s will, and always so when it vio­lates the right of an individual

I have always defined lib­erty as the free­dom to do as you wish as long as you do not hurt oth­ers or inter­fere with the rights of oth­ers. It is free­dom with the respon­si­bil­ity to not harm oth­ers or infringe on the rights of oth­ers. If some­one harms another indi­vid­ual or inter­feres with the rights of another indi­vid­ual then gov­ern­ment has the duty and moral oblig­a­tion to step in, restrain, and pun­ish the indi­vid­ual that caused the harm. Gov­ern­ments at all lev­els must leave indi­vid­u­als alone if they do not hurt oth­ers. A large per­cent­age of the found­ing fathers of this nation believed the only legit­i­mate func­tions of gov­ern­ment are pro­tect­ing the safety, prop­erty, and rights of indi­vid­u­als liv­ing in this coun­try. Forc­ing indi­vid­u­als to pur­chase health insur­ance and inter­fer­ing in the health­care mar­ket­place through oner­ous reg­u­la­tions vio­lates the lib­erty of indi­vid­u­als and businesses.

The free­dom to acquire prop­erty, hold on to prop­erty, and use prop­erty as you wish, are also essen­tial God-​given Nat­ural rights. Income and wealth are both forms of prop­erty. The pur­suit of hap­pi­ness men­tioned in the Dec­la­ra­tion of Inde­pen­dence refers to acquir­ing, hold­ing, and using prop­erty. If a gov­ern­ment body seizes an individual’s prop­erty, or income, and redis­trib­utes it to another per­son, that is a vio­la­tion of a God-​given nat­ural right.

Here is what John Locke, the pri­mary influ­ence for all of the framers of the Con­sti­tu­tion, had to say on this sub­ject in his Sec­ond Trea­tise on Government:

the supreme power can­not take from any man any part of his prop­erty with­out his own con­sent. For the preser­va­tion of prop­erty being the end of gov­ern­ment, and that for which men enter into soci­ety, it nec­es­sar­ily sup­poses and requires that the peo­ple should have prop­erty, with­out which they must be sup­posed to lose that by enter­ing into soci­ety which was the end for which they entered into it; too gross an absur­dity for any man to own. Men, there­fore, in soci­ety hav­ing prop­erty, they have such a right to the goods, which by the law of the com­mu­nity are theirs, that nobody hath a right to take them, or any part of them, from them with­out their own con­sent; with­out this they have no prop­erty at all.

John Adams agreed. Here is what he had to say on this sub­ject in “Defense of the Con­sti­tu­tions of of the Gov­ern­ment of the United States:

The moment the idea is admit­ted into soci­ety, that prop­erty is not as sacred as the laws of God, and that there is not a force of law and pub­lic jus­tice to pro­tect it, anar­chy and tyranny commence

Redis­tri­b­u­tion of wealth for char­ity and enti­tle­ments vio­lates the United States Con­sti­tu­tion. Here are three quotes that proves this:

James Madi­son Annals of Con­gress, House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives, 3rd Con­gress, 1st Ses­sion, page 170

I can­not under­take to lay my fin­ger on that arti­cle of the Con­sti­tu­tion which granted a right to Con­gress of expend­ing, on objects of benev­o­lence, the money of their constituents.

James Madi­son Speech before Con­gress 1794

The gov­ern­ment of the United States is a def­i­nite gov­ern­ment, con­fined to spec­i­fied objects. It is not like the state gov­ern­ments, whose pow­ers are more gen­eral. Char­ity is no part of the leg­isla­tive duty of the government.

Thomas Jef­fer­son 1st Inau­gural Address

A wise and fru­gal Gov­ern­ment, which shall restrain men from injur­ing one another, shall leave them oth­er­wise free to reg­u­late their own pur­suits of indus­try and improve­ment, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned. This is the sum of good government,

The debate whether health­care is a right or not first took cen­ter stage in this coun­try back in 1912 when Theodore Roo­sevelt first pro­posed national health care dur­ing his run as pres­i­dent for the pro­gres­sive party. It was revived by Pres­i­dent Tru­man in 1945 when he pro­posed national health insur­ance. Pres­i­dent John­son signed Medicare and Med­ic­aid in 1965, estab­lish­ing health­care as an enti­tle­ment that is pro­vided by the Fed­eral Gov­ern­ment. Ben Shapiro dis­cusses this deeply flawed notion that health­care is a right in this National Review Arti­cle. Here are the most impor­tant pas­sages from this article:

Morally, you have no right to demand med­ical care of me. I may rec­og­nize your neces­sity and offer char­ity; my friends and I may choose to band together and fund your med­ical care. But your neces­sity does not change the basic math: Med­ical care is a ser­vice and a good pro­vided by a third party. No mat­ter how much I need bread, I do not have a right to steal your wal­let or hold up the local bak­ery to obtain it.

Because med­ical care is a com­mod­ity, and treat­ing it oth­er­wise is fool­hardy. To make a com­mod­ity cheaper and bet­ter, two ele­ments are nec­es­sary: profit incen­tive and free­dom of labor. The gov­ern­ment destroys both of these ele­ments in the health-​care indus­try. It decides med­ical reim­burse­ment rates for mil­lions of Amer­i­cans, par­tic­u­larly poor Amer­i­cans; this, in turn, cre­ates an incen­tive for doc­tors not to take government-​sponsored health insur­ance. It reg­u­lates how doc­tors deal with patients, the sorts of train­ing doc­tors must undergo, and the sorts of insur­ance they must main­tain; all of this con­vinces fewer Amer­i­cans to become doc­tors. Under­sup­ply of doc­tors gen­er­ally and of doc­tors who will accept insur­ance specif­i­cally, along with overde­mand stim­u­lated by government-​driven health-​insurance cov­er­age, leads to mass shortages.

This arti­cle by the Mises insti­tute chron­i­cles the dis­as­trous effects mak­ing health­care a right has had on the cost of health­care in the United States and the prob­lems caused by this deeply flawed thinking.

Ben­jamin Wein­garten pro­poses a solu­tion to our health­care cri­sis in this Con­ser­v­a­tive Review Arti­cle

If gov­ern­ment extri­cated itself from the sys­tem, we would see inno­va­tion and falling prices. One can imag­ine any num­ber of solu­tions that the mar­ket would pro­vide, includ­ing one in which peo­ple are able to pur­chase cheap cat­a­strophic insur­ance and only pay for the med­ical care they need. They could shop for pro­ce­dures from menus with trans­par­ent pric­ing. Health care would look more like The Cheese­cake Fac­tory than the Soviet supermarket.

For those who could still not afford suf­fi­cient med­ical care in a sys­tem of greater options and cheaper pric­ing, the pri­vate sec­tor, faith and community-​based insti­tu­tions, and, if need be, a small and strin­gently man­aged gov­ern­ment safety net would pick up the slack.

If a gov­ern­ment safety net is used it would have to be admin­is­tered by the States because the US Con­sti­tu­tion pro­hibits the fed­eral gov­ern­ment from engag­ing in any entitlements.

My solu­tion to the health­care crises is to get the fed­eral gov­ern­ment out of health­care com­pletely and let each state come up with their own unique solution.

Before answering that question, it is essential to define exactly what rights are.  The only truly valid rights are God-given Natural Rights.  Thomas Jefferson articulated  the most accurate definition of a God-given Natural Right when he stated so eloquently in the Declaration of Independence:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness

These rights are granted to every single individual directly by God.  George Mason echoed these sentiments when he wrote the Virginia Declaration of Rights in  1776

SECTION I. That all men are by nature equally free and independent and have certain inherent rights, of which, when they enter into a state of society, they cannot, by any compact, deprive or divest their posterity; namely, the enjoyment of life and liberty, with the means of acquiring and possessing property, and pursuing and obtaining happiness and safety.

Liberty is second only to life when it comes to importance.  Here is how Thomas Jefferson described liberty in a letter to Isaac Tiffany

…rightful liberty is unobstructed action according to our will, within the limits drawn around us by the equal rights of others. I do not add ‘within the limits of the law’; because law is often but the tyrant’s will, and always so when it violates the right of an individual

I have always defined liberty as the freedom to do as you wish as long as you do not hurt others or interfere with the rights of others.  It is freedom with the responsibility to not harm others or infringe on the rights of others.  If someone harms another individual or interferes with the rights of another individual then government has the duty and moral obligation to step in, restrain, and punish the individual that caused the harm.   Governments at all levels must leave individuals alone if they do not hurt others.  A large percentage of the founding fathers of this nation believed the only legitimate functions of government are protecting the safety, property, and rights of individuals living in this country.  Forcing individuals to purchase health insurance and interfering in the healthcare marketplace through onerous regulations violates the liberty of individuals and businesses.

The freedom to acquire property, hold on to property, and use property as you wish, are also essential God-given Natural rights.  Income and wealth are both forms of property. The pursuit of happiness mentioned in the Declaration of Independence refers to acquiring,  holding, and using property.  If a government body seizes an individual’s property, or income, and redistributes it to another person, that is a violation of a God-given natural right.

Here is what John Locke, the primary influence for all of the framers of the Constitution, had to say on this subject in his Second Treatise on Government:

the supreme power cannot take from any man any part of his property without his own consent. For the preservation of property being the end of government, and that for which men enter into society, it necessarily supposes and requires that the people should have property, without which they must be supposed to lose that by entering into society which was the end for which they entered into it; too gross an absurdity for any man to own. Men, therefore, in society having property, they have such a right to the goods, which by the law of the community are theirs, that nobody hath a right to take them, or any part of them, from them without their own consent; without this they have no property at all.

John Adams agreed.  Here is what he had to say on this subject in “Defense of the Constitutions of of the Government of the United States:

The moment the idea is admitted into society, that property is not as sacred as the laws of God, and that there is not a force of law and public justice to protect it, anarchy and tyranny commence

Redistribution of wealth for charity and entitlements violates the United States Constitution.  Here are three quotes that proves this:

James Madison Annals of Congress, House of Representatives, 3rd Congress, 1st Session, page 170

I cannot undertake to lay my finger on that article of the Constitution which granted a right to Congress of expending, on objects of benevolence, the money of their constituents.

James Madison Speech before Congress 1794

The government of the United States is a definite government, confined to specified objects. It is not like the state governments, whose powers are more general. Charity is no part of the legislative duty of the government.

Thomas Jefferson 1st Inaugural Address

A wise and frugal Government, which shall restrain men from injuring one another, shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned. This is the sum of good government,

The debate whether healthcare is a right or not first took center stage in this country back in 1912 when Theodore Roosevelt first proposed national health care during his run as president for the progressive party.  It was revived by President Truman in 1945 when he proposed national health insurance.  President Johnson signed Medicare and Medicaid in 1965, establishing healthcare as an entitlement that is provided by the Federal Government.  Ben Shapiro discusses this deeply flawed notion that healthcare is a right in this National Review Article.  Here are the most important passages from this article:

Morally, you have no right to demand medical care of me. I may recognize your necessity and offer charity; my friends and I may choose to band together and fund your medical care. But your necessity does not change the basic math: Medical care is a service and a good provided by a third party. No matter how much I need bread, I do not have a right to steal your wallet or hold up the local bakery to obtain it.

Because medical care is a commodity, and treating it otherwise is foolhardy. To make a commodity cheaper and better, two elements are necessary: profit incentive and freedom of labor. The government destroys both of these elements in the health-care industry. It decides medical reimbursement rates for millions of Americans, particularly poor Americans; this, in turn, creates an incentive for doctors not to take government-sponsored health insurance. It regulates how doctors deal with patients, the sorts of training doctors must undergo, and the sorts of insurance they must maintain; all of this convinces fewer Americans to become doctors. Undersupply of doctors generally and of doctors who will accept insurance specifically, along with overdemand stimulated by government-driven health-insurance coverage, leads to mass shortages.

This article by the Mises institute chronicles the disastrous effects making healthcare a right has had on the cost of healthcare in the United States and the problems caused by this deeply flawed thinking.

Benjamin Weingarten proposes a solution to our healthcare crisis in this Conservative Review Article

If government extricated itself from the system, we would see innovation and falling prices. One can imagine any number of solutions that the market would provide, including one in which people are able to purchase cheap catastrophic insurance and only pay for the medical care they need. They could shop for procedures from menus with transparent pricing. Health care would look more like The Cheesecake Factory than the Soviet supermarket.

For those who could still not afford sufficient medical care in a system of greater options and cheaper pricing, the private sector, faith and community-based institutions, and, if need be, a small and stringently managed government safety net would pick up the slack.

If a government safety net is used it would have to be administered by the States because the US Constitution prohibits the federal government from engaging in any entitlements.

My solution to the healthcare crises is to get the federal government out of healthcare completely and let each state come up with their own unique solution.