Will the Real “Right” Please Stand Up?

The Associated Press reports, “House Democratic leaders, pledging to meet the president’s goal of health care legislation before their August break, are offering a $1.5 trillion plan that for the first time would make health care a right and a responsibility for all Americans.” With the passing of this bill, “the federal government would be responsible for ensuring that every person, regardless of income or the state of their health, has access to an affordable insurance plan. Individuals and employers would have new obligations to get coverage, or face hefty penalties.” (http://apnews.myway.com/article/20090715/D99EO8BO0.html).

There is a problematic contradiction in this formulation. If healthcare were to be considered a ‘right’, on the same level as the rights in the Bill or Rights and famously declared in the American Declaration of Independence, it would require the state to take property away from individuals through taxation or inflation as well as forcing individuals and companies to use their own money to purchase something by law. They would be required to buy a product. The law, by definition, is coercion. The law only has any bearing as long as it can work forcefully. Murder can only be outlawed if it can be forcefully prevented and punished. The Bill of Rights requires, then, that the law act forcefully to protect the rights outlined therein. With the addition of a right to healthcare, a new set of coercive measures must be taken by the government. Namely, taxation to pay for healthcare, and penalties to require people to purchase healthcare. This ‘right’ is of a different sort than the rights that made up the original framework of this country: Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are ‘negative rights’. They are rights that are protected by protecting against actions that would take them away. Murder is negatively punished, because by doing so, it protects and enforces someone else’s right to life. Anything that would hinder the freedom of the press is punished in order to protect that liberty. Anything that would infringe upon someone’s right to legally and freely purchase healthcare should be protected against. A positive right is a right in which something must be given to you that you don’t already have. A ‘right to healthcare’ is a positive right. Yet, positive rights come at the expense of losing negative rights. In order for healthcare to be provided, the government must take property away from someone in order to redistribute it. Or, the government must force people to use their own private money in a certain way so that they get healthcare. The right to property is thus eroded, and stealing by the government becomes a lawful activity.

According to French political philosopher, Frederic Bastiat,

“[the law] could not organize labor, education, and religion without destroying justice. We must remember that law is force, and that, consequently, the proper functions of the law cannot lawfully extend beyond the proper functions of force.”

“But when the law, by means of its necessary agent, force, imposes upon men a regulation of labor, a method or a subject of education, a religious faith or creed-then the law is no longer negative; it acts positively upon people. It substitues the will of the legislator for their own wills; the initiative of the legislator for their own initiatives…Try to imagine a regulation of labor imposed by force that is not a violation of liberty; a transfer of wealth imposed by force that is not a violation of property. If you cannot reconcile these contradictions, then you must conclude that the law cannot organize labor and industry without organizing injustice.”

“With this in mind, examine the protective tariffs, subsidies, guaranteed profits, guaranteed jobs, relief and welfare schemes, public education, progressive taxation, free credit, and public works. You will find that they are always based on legal plunder, organized injustice.” -Frederic Bastiat

When government gets into the business of securing ‘positive rights’, negative rights are lost. The government must steal, trampling upon property rights, in order to secure positive rights. There is no way to solve this contradiction. A government can not secure both. Education, healthcare, welfare and other ‘social justice’ issues destroy true justice. If the law becomes an agent of social justice, it is no longer an agent of true justice and can not protect people against stealing, murder, or anything else that would take away human rights. This was the set up of the totalitarian governments of the 20th century. People could be killed, tortured, stolen from, forced to believe lies, spied upon, in order to institute some sort of ‘social justice’ (like racial purity, or social equality). You can not have it both ways. You can either have your welfare state of positive rights, or your negative rights to protect you against murder, theft, and oppression.

Deuteronomy 16: 20: “Justice, and only justice, you shall follow, that you may live and inherit the land that the LORD your God is giving you.”

Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.” -C.S. Lewis

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~ by thelastinkling on July 15, 2009.

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