February 5, 2011
ObamaCare vs. Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of HappinessBy Deborah B. Sloan
In response to Monday's ruling from Florida U.S. district judge Roger Vinson, which voided Obamacare in its entirety, a favorite mantra of the left has reemerged with vigor: "health care is a right." This claim is not merely false, but also destructive and tyrannical.
Before evaluating whether a particular thing is or isn't a right, the term must be defined. Merriam-Webster online defines a right as "something to which one has a just claim." This definition does not address the question of what it is that constitutes that just claim, but merely indicates that the existence of some such claim is an essential characteristic of a right.
It falls upon the science of ethics to determine the nature of rights' claims. In Moral Rights and Political Freedom, Professor Tara Smith defines rights as "moral claims to freedom of action". Notice that the corollary obligations imposed upon others by the rights to freedom of action are negative -- there is no requirement that an individual take any positive action in order to fulfill the claims asserted by the rights of another.
As human beings, our essential means of survival is rational, productive action. Rational action requires that each individual be left free to use his own judgment and initiate action for his own benefit. Freedom is therefore an essential basic need derived from the nature of men. All those who value human life must correspondingly acknowledge freedom as a fundamental right.
Further, this freedom to act is useless if the property acquired through productive action can be expropriated. To deprive an individual of his right to keep the product of his life-sustaining action is to deprive him of the right to sustain his life. Property rights are therefore an extension of the rights to life and liberty.
Also, freedom is necessary for the pursuit of happiness and fulfillment in life; no such pursuit can be advanced from within the confines of a cage. And no individual, even if compelled, could ever "redistribute" his happiness to another -- happiness is a unique, personal, self-generated virtue.
As suggested above, there is only one means by which men's rights can be violated: force (including its indirect form, fraud). The basic governing principle of a just, civilized society is that no group or individual may violate rights by initiating the use of force against any other group or individual.
This moral principle most certainly applies to government. Though its retaliatory use of force against criminals and foreign aggressors is necessary for our protection, the government may not initiate force against innocent citizens. This is where Obamacare and the fallacious claim upon which it rests -- that health care is a right -- enter the picture.
If health care were a right, then the corollary obligation imposed on all men would be that we must actively work to provide health care for all others, regardless of the burden imposed on our own lives and the lives of our loved ones. And the government would be obligated to enslave the people and forcibly expropriate our wealth to any extent necessary for the provision of universal health care. Case in point: the individual mandate, myriad regulations, and multi-billion-dollar tax increases that come along with ObamaCare -- and that is just the beginning.
If health care were a right, then every time someone spent his money for his own enjoyment, he would be violating the rights of those who need health care by betraying his corollary obligation. Spending his own money as he wishes "wastes" resources that could otherwise have been used to provide health care. Perhaps this is what liberals have in mind when they complain that taxes are too low.
Even more absurd is the implication that the "right" to health care has for the health care industry. Imagine, for instance, that a doctor invents and markets a new drug that can extend an average person's life by twenty years. Is this entrepreneur violating the rights of those who cannot afford the drug by selling it to those who can? Is everyone else now required to give up even more of our resources in order to provide this drug to all?
Perhaps it is absurd to suggest that there might be an entrepreneur left in an oppressive society that deems health care a right, or that anyone would be willing to expend effort toward production of such a drug in an achievement-punishing collectivist society with the principle "from each according to his ability, to each according to his need," ensuring that those with the most to offer society are to be its most hopelessly oppressed members.
If health care were a right, then life could not exist, nor could our corollary rights of liberty, property, and the pursuit of happiness. Since life is the standard and the fundamental justification for all rights and all values, a "right" that violates rights and makes life impossible is a wicked, life-negating contradiction.
To paraphrase Ayn Rand, the essential question here is not whether or not one person should help another -- the question is whether or not he has the right to exist if he chooses not to help.
Apologists for the left often say that those who want to impose government-run health care or other such redistributive measures have noble intentions. But to claim that health care is a right is to negate rights. Such a claim, when and to the extent that it is implemented, destroys rights and destroys the system that would otherwise facilitate the delivery of vital goods and services -- the open market.
Even absent a sufficient understanding of the underlying principles, only willful blindness could account for a person's inability to acknowledge the abundant factual accounts of misery and oppression that have been the result in every case where such "rights" as health care have been forcibly imposed on a people by their government. Such claims as "health care is a right" are not merely mistaken -- they are wicked and destructive. It is such "rights" that are currently destroying our society, and resolutely refuting them is the only way we can save ourselves.