By Jason Sagall
The notion of a “right to health care” is the boldest and most fundamental claim offered in defense of Obamacare. Indeed, the law should be judged by whether it is consistent with the protection of rights. If the law cannot pass that test, the debate over it should end — and it must be repealed as an unjust means of striving to satisfy other social, economic or political agendas. The House’s “job-destroying” condemnations, or other specious arguments from consequences on either side of the debate, neither refute nor redeem the basis for the law.
Clearly, one should be left free to create and offer health care goods and services to others; one should be left free to seek out those goods and services; one should be left free to arrange by mutual agreement to give or receive those goods and services in trade or in charity. And if these actions are rights, surely one should be left free to refrain from these health care activities.
Obamacare’s “reform,” however, will (to name a few examples) leave a physician unfree to build a hospital; leave him and his patient unfree to follow a course of treatment tailored to and agreed upon by the patient, in order to comply with a government “best practices” bureaucracy; leave him unfree to offer a patient treatment denied by Medicare, even at no cost (to the patient); leave a drug manufacturer unfree to speak of published information about off-label uses of FDA-approved drugs; leave an insurance provider unfree to offer the most affordable policy based on a customer’s needs without government-mandated coverages; leave an insurer unfree to compete, and a consumer unfree to do business, with insurers outside their state; leave a citizen unfree to keep his earnings and take a pass on buying insurance altogether.
Apparently, protecting the rights to life, liberty and property are not the aim of a “right to health care.” This phrase has come to mean that a person has some intrinsic claim on the medical goods or services of others. It means that he is entitled to receive those products in the absence — or defiance — of a mutual agreement of trade or voluntary offer of a gift. Such a “right” must be compelled through the initiation of force or threat thereof.
In other words, the new “right to health care” represents the antithesis of rights.
Rights must be defined in a non-contradictory manner if the concept is to have any validity. Legitimate rights are secured only in response to initiatory force — in reaction to individuals who commit contract violation, fraud, harassment, theft or destruction of property, or plain violent acts against others. To protect a supposed right by initiating force (in contrast to acting to defend against it) is to overthrow the principle of rights in the process and replace it with arbitrary rule. Thus a “right” to any good or service is untenable.
Americans should hold to principle and defend the inviolability of the rights of the individual. But to hold a self-refuting view of rights is to maintain a contradiction. And no one has a right to a contradiction. At least, no one has a right to inflict it on other people. When the perversion of the meaning of rights leads to laws that violate rights — when a contradiction in your head becomes a gun to mine — no vote or campaign to repeal, no federal lawsuit, no tea party is too little or too late.
Jason Sagall is an analyst with Americans for Free Choice in Medicine. Originally published February 28, 2011.