Today we direct you to an excellent post by Bill Vallicella about the putative “right” to health care. A little while back I mentioned that left-leaning governments tend always toward acting in loco parentis; Bill’s post offers the Democratic health-care initiative as an illustrative example.
Bill makes the important point — seldom acknowledged — that “rights”, particularly as construed on the left side of the aisle, often imply corresponding duties.
Rights and duties are correlative. My right to X generates in others the duty to either provide me with X or not interfere with my possession or exercise of X. Thus my right to life induces in others the duty or obligation to refrain from injuring or killing me. So if I have a right to health care, then others have the duty to provide me with it. Think about that. But who are those others? The government? The government has no money of its own; its revenue comes from taxing the productive members of society. But why are these productive citizens under any obligation to provide ‘free’ services to anyone? Taxation is by its very nature coercive. How does one justify morally the taking by force of money from one person to give it to another? There is also the practical question of whether the productive will allow themselves to be fleeced.
Indeed, as American liberalism continues to let no crisis “go to waste” in its tilt toward classical fascism — as exemplified by the old slogan “All within the state, nothing outside the state” — we’d better learn to live within the guidelines our leaders recommend as being in everyone’s best interests. After all, if a State, in its paternal beneficence, is going to take on the responsibility for looking after our health, does it not then have the “right” to insist that, as wards and comrades under its sheltering embrace, we have a “duty” to conform to official standards for a safe and healthy lifestyle?
A government big enough and powerful enough to provide one with ‘free’ health care will be in an excellent position to demand ‘appropriate’ behavior from its citizens – and to enforce its demand. Suppose you enjoy risky sports such as motorcycling, hang gliding, mountain climbing and the like. Or perhaps you just like to drink or smoke or eat red meat. A government that pays for the treatment of your injuries and ailments can easily decide, on economic grounds alone, to forbid such activites under the bogus justification, ‘for your own good.’
But even if the government does not outlaw motorcycling, say, they can put a severe dent in your liberty to enjoy such a sport, say, by demanding that a 30% sales tax be slapped on all motorcycle purchases, or by outlawing bikes whose engines exceed a certain displacement, say 180 cc. In the same way that governments levy arbitrary taxes on tobacco products, they can do the same for anything they deem risky or unhealthy.
The situation is analogous to living with one’s parents. It is entirely appropriate for parents to say to a child: ‘As long as you live under our roof, eat at our table, and we pay the bills, then you must abide by our rules. When you are on your own, you may do as you please.’ The difference, of course, is that it is relatively easy to move out on one’s own, but difficult to forsake one’s homeland. Or is Obama yomama?
The nub of the issue is liberty. Do you value it or not?
Read the essay here. You can’t comment at Bill’s anymore, but our com-box is open as always.