A "RIGHT" TO HEALTH FREEDOM, NOT HEALTH CARE
Attorney Jonathan Emord
April 5, 2010
A right to health freedom and a right to health care are not synonymous. In fact, they are contradictory. The former frees us from government; the latter ties us to government. The former leaves the individual sovereign over his or her own health care; the latter makes the state sovereign. America’s Founding Fathers favored the former, and President Obama favors the latter. Barack Obama James Madison you are not.
Many of those who support mandatory health insurance conceive of health care as a fundamental right, not a privilege. In their view fundamental rights are not defined as freedoms from government but as entitlements to government. Under this “affirmative” rights construct, so popular with socialist academics in the 60’s and 70’s, government must tax and redistribute wealth to guarantee politically preferred Americans goods and services deemed “essential:” health care, food, shelter, clothing, employment, and even day care. Adoption of this affirmative rights construct compels the creation of a massive national government and renders subject to political control previously private properties and choices. It deprives the individual of choice over the disposition of earned income, so the government may confiscate and redirect that income to grant the entitlement. When the entitlement is legally recognized as a “right,” it becomes mandatory and, so, the confiscation and redistribution likewise become obligatory and permanent.
The Founders of the American republic believed freedom from government indispensable to individual liberty. They understood political power to be a necessary evil that their Constitution aimed to limit strictly so as not to deprive individual liberty. They trusted in the American people to determine how best to expend their own earnings and to pursue their own industry and improvement. They sought not to replace commerce with government but to ensure the free flow of commerce unfettered by government.
The alternative offered by President Obama (the “change,” if you will) conceives of government not as a threat to individual liberty but as a parental substitute for it. Under the Obama doctrine the government dictates how each of us uses our individual resources so that no American deemed “in need” is denied a government entitlement. Obama’s “parental nation” punishes those who succeed in the marketplace by taking the fruits of their labor because it believes those who earn not entitled, but those who do not earn entitled, to the fruits of labor.
The Founders of the American republic understood the rights to life, liberty, and property to deny government authority over the individual, thus rendering the individual sovereign and the state servile. Those rights did not give an individual a claim against the government for provision of particular goods and services. Rather, those rights gave the individual a claim against government interference with life, liberty, and property. The right to liberty did not afford the individual a legally enforceable right of access to, for example, a broadcast station to transmit that individual’s views in contravention of the editorial prerogatives of the owner of the station. The right to property did not afford the individual a legally enforceable right to a portion of someone else’s earnings. The right to life did not afford the individual a legally enforceable right to receive particular medical service from particular doctors.
There can be no adequate protection for liberty when the state presumes to dictate how privately held resources are expended for health care, food, shelter, clothing, employment, and day care. There can be no adequate protection for liberty when the state furthers the rights of some at the expense of others. An affirmative right to health care means that those who privately finance the provision of health care properties and services for profit no longer own the fruits of their labors but must dedicate them to ends prescribed by government bureaucrats. The fruits of their labors become partly or wholly public goods under government control and rationing. An affirmative right to health care means that those who presently pay for premium health insurance must be taxed to transfer their wealth to those who cannot afford any health insurance, giving the latter access to standard health insurance without the need to pay for it. The effect is to deprive one segment of the population of the resources they use for, among other things, quality health care in order to permit another, much larger segment to receive mediocre care. In the end both segments lose out, each experiencing the consequences of a general dumbing down of the health care market. Where before some could receive high quality care (and the provision of that care inspired innovation in medicine to the ultimate benefit of all), after the government intervenes none receive anything more than what is available to all, reducing excellence to the common denominator and yielding universal mediocrity in care and a loss of innovation.
As government presumes to dictate which medical services are available and to whom, bureaucratic fiat replaces private choice and independent professional judgment. Every doctor’s preference for care is second guessed by a government agent and the resources available for treatment become the subject of government rationing.
It is precisely because of this dumbing down effect and rationing of care that people in socialized countries who have serious medical conditions go to free countries for care. They wager it is better to pay for high quality care than to receive government sponsored care that is mediocre. The problem is that within their own countries they do not have freedom of choice. That is the effect of the progressive socialization of American medicine that the Obama administration promises to deliver.
Freedom exists only when rights are understood to liberate man from the state. Freedom cannot exist when rights are defined not by the absence of government but by entitlements to government. When rights are synonymous with entitlements it becomes impossible to maintain a challenge against state action that is predicated on a deprivation of private liberty or property to provide an entitlement. Since a right from government and a right to government may not infrequently conflict, in a regime that gives legal recognition to the latter, the former must fall when conflict arises.
In a truly free market, health care quality rises consistently and invites all to receive benefits made possible because a few were able to afford innovation. As economies of scope and scale proceed in a market free of government constraint, those innovations reach the general populace at affordable prices.
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When we socialize medical care, we hurt everyone in the long run. We lock into the early 21st century the practice of medicine and arrest the standard of care. When we liberate medical care to operate in a free market, we help everyone in the long run. We enable innovation to raise the relative standard of care unceasingly. Instead of a right to health care, we should demand a right to health freedom because progress in medicine, as in all human endeavors, depends on freedom from government.
© 2010 Jonathan W. Emord - All Rights Reserved