Monday, September 14, 2009

The "right" stuff

Jeff Jacoby discusses whether we have a right to health care:

It is not hard to understand the urgent passion with which so many people approach the issue of health care. And it would take a remarkably cold heart to be indifferent to the desperation of those who need medical help but cannot afford it. But rights do not spring from passion or need. Wanting something does not entitle you to it - not if someone else must provide or produce that something. The rights delineated in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution are negative rights only - they protect our autonomy, allowing us to peacefully live life and pursue happiness, neither coercing others nor being coerced by them.

My right to free speech or to own property does not give me a claim on anyone else’s time or labor or resources. But if I have a “right’’ to health care, someone else must be compelled to provide or pay for that care. Compulsion comes in different forms - higher taxes, insurance mandates, health-care rationing, intrusive regulations - but the bottom line is the same: a right to health care would leave society less free. . . .

Some people will always need help. No decent person ignores the cries of the sick or hungry or poor. Happily, there is no better system for achieving the widest possible access to health care - or any other good or service - than the one that requires the least degree of political interference: the normal interplay of supply, demand, and competition. Health care is too important to be left to the market? No, it is too important not to be.

Yep, exactly.

A "right" to health care is a "right" to the fruits of someone else's labor. If you feel a moral imperative to provide for someone else, good on you. But that doesn't give you the "right" to take what belongs to someone else.

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