More on Healthcare As a Right

While I’m pointing out Wall Street Journal op-eds, this morning “Theodore Dalrymple” has graduated to the bigs and, in his characteristically disdainful manner, takes the negative on the following proposition:

Resolved: Healthcare is a right.

As I’ve said here repeatedly, I’d certainly be interested in hearing the affirmative case. I’ve heard lots of claims but no case. In addition to “Dalrymple’s” questions I’d like to know how proponents reconcile the right to healthcare with the rights to property or self-determination.

Frankly, I’m skeptical. That doesn’t mean that I believe that we shouldn’t subsidize the healthcare of the poor. It just means that we should do so as we provide Social Security: it’s not a right, it’s a benefit Americans extend to permanent legal residents.

5 comments… add one
  • Jimbino Link

    OK, health care is a right. So is food, so we have private grocery stores. So is sex, so we have private offerings. Education is also a right, so we should privatize it along with health care.

  • “…it’s not a right, it’s a benefit Americans extend to permanent legal residents.”

    Calling something a benefit does not change the issues or provide a compelling argument against the points Dalrymple raises.

    Your last question about reconciling an alleged right to health care with our rights to property and self-determination applies equally to social security.

  • TimH Link

    I’m not sure whether or not healthcare is a right — certainly, it’s not a right like free speech, where it requires active intervention (censorship) to prevent it, because with health care, claiming the ‘right’ requires someone else (doctors, nurses, etc) to take an action.

    Maybe it’s a right like the right to education — where we have a right to some access to some of it some of the time. The level of that right, then, is what matters.

    Right now, if I go to an ER with a head wound, I have a ‘right’ to be treated — the hospital can’t turn me away. So in that sense, health care is a right, that we’ve already guaranteed. Does that make health insurance a right?

    That’s certainly less clear, and I think that arguments on both sides would get heated, but need to be centered around this: As long as we’re not turning people away from the ER, and as long as we’re investing considerable sums in individuals, through paying for public schools for all, providing job training, welfare, etc. for some, it makes sense for us to ‘protect’ that investment by ensuring that those who receive this government support stay healthy, and can therefore contribute to the economy. Any system should be designed with this in mind, and I’d argue that right now, we’re not doing that.

  • Brett Link

    To be honest, I find the whole debate rather irritating, because I don’t look at rights as some absolutist thing. I look at them more in terms of a utilitarian sense – “society does certain things because it is beneficial for the aggregate of its members over the long term”. Military and police protection fall into the “yes” category pretty clearly, while nobody would defend free booze as something society should provide to everyone. Health care’s more in the middle – it’s beneficial that everyone in society have access to health care, and since I’d argue that government can play a positive role in reaching that outcome, it should be involved.

Leave a Comment