72. Is Health Care a Human Right?

Health care is one of the hottest topics in our country today. While American health care is in need of reform, many have tried to argue for a government takeover of the entire system. These people often justify this by claiming that health care is a human right. But what is a human right and why is it so important for us to understand how health care and the market go hand in hand.


Negative and Positive Rights


Here’s a transcript of our conversation:


Connor: Hey, Brittany.

Brittany: Hey Connor.

Connor: I was once at a protest at the Capital and a lot of people were holding up signs. And the gentleman in front of me when I paused to kind of listen to what everyone was saying, his sign said Healthcare is a human right. And so that’s the question I wanna tackle today. First of all, to make sure, you know, even for the kids, obviously healthcare is making sure we’re all, you know, healthy. If you need to go to the doctor or you know, you get a cut or break a bone, or you get cancer, things like that. Healthcare is just generally, you know, going to the doctor, getting medicine, getting surgery, whatever it is you need to be healthy. That is all healthcare. And so there are a lot of people like this gentleman who feel like healthcare is a human right. They have a right to it. So, Brittany, I’m gonna ask you, what is a right when people just assert when they say, you know, I have a right to something, or that is a human right, what are they trying to say? Or, you know, what is the definition of that term?

Brittany: Well, I think the people that might be saying healthcare is a human right might be a little bit confused. I think they think a right is something important, right? Something that is important. And absolutely healthcare is important, but that’s not exactly what a right means. So we’ve learned that rights are these special promises, these guarantees that you really only have to be born to get. Now other nations don’t recognize that like ours do. We’re actually very lucky in America, even though they don’t always respect our rights, they at least pretend to acknowledge them, which is a good first step, I guess. but I like to look at what John Locke says and says we have a right to life, liberty, and property, that those are the essential things. And everything else kind of stems from that. Those are the only things that the government really is in charge of protecting. if, that is the, you know, constitutional republic or whatever you wanna call it, limited government you live in, but the people who assert that healthcare is a right, I do think get confused. They might be the same people that say, you know, I have a right not to be offended by something you say, but we know the First Amendment actually gives us a right to free speech, not a right to not be offended. So I think there’s a very big difference, and we need to be very careful about how we’re using that word.

Connor: And, I know you’ll agree with me, Brittany, so let me just clarify one thing. You said, that the first amendment of the Constitution does not give us the right to free speech.

Brittany: Yes, it protects

Connor: Yeah.

Brittany: Yes. Thank you.

Connor: We have, just to make sure, especially for the kids listening, right, that the law doesn’t give us any rights. The government can’t give, cuz what the government gives it the government,

Brittany: They take away

Connor: So, it’s important to understand that we have rights that exist before, the government even existed. Imagine if you and some friends go to an island out in the middle of the sea, and so you’re gonna start a new, little, you know, government just to kind of keep order and make sure everyone agrees to some rules. Well, you guys already have some rights. You can delegate to that government or to a police officer, or you know, your mayor, governor, whatever you wanna do. You can delegate, certain, certain rights. You can, you can empower the government based on rights that you have, but the government doesn’t just create new power and say, oh, here you go, I’m gonna give you a right. So that’s, a very, important distinction, I think to understand that we have rights that, preexist government before the government is even organized. we still have rights. And so then we can delegate, we can basically, we can lend loan we can loan some of our rights to the government to kind of use on our behalf, like defending us. I have the right to defend myself. And so as part of a government, I can say, Hey, let’s kind of all share that, right? With, you know, the police force or the military so that they can protect us, just like we can protect ourselves. But there’s one thing here that I think is super important to talk about, and I did not learn this really at all until after college. And so I hope, especially that this is helpful to the kids listening, because when I was taught, what I’m about to share, it, really clarified things for me to understand what rights are. So a right, for something to be a right, there has to be, a corresponding duty. In other words, there has to be a duty attached to a right. And, I’ll explain what that means. So if you’re confused, don’t worry. So if I have, the right to self-defense, if I have the right to, you know, protect myself, then that means that other people, burglars, murderers, criminals, my next-door neighbor, my mother-in-law, everyone, they have a duty. Okay? I have the right to life. I have the right to self-defense. so they have a duty to not hurt me. They have a duty to not, murder me, to harm me in any way. let’s do another one. I have, the right to we’ll use the First amendment example. I have the right to free speech. I have the right to speak my mind. I have the right to say what I want to write, what I want to publish, what I want. Other people have a duty to not, prevent me from speaking to not duct tape my mouth shut, to not, you know, shut my blog down to not do these things. And, maybe a few of you have caught on to what I’ve been saying, but if not, I’m gonna make it even more explicit. Right now, there are negative rights and there are so-called positive rights. So everything that I’ve been talking about so far is what’s called a negative, right? Because there’s a negative duty. I have the right to be left alone to not be injured. That means there’s a duty on the part of you, Brittany, my neighbor, and everyone else to not hurt me, right? So there’s a negative, right? You don’t have to do anything. You don’t have to bring me, you know, a casserole or chocolate chip cookies or, you know, pay my bills.

Brittany: You have to work for it. You just get it.

Connor: Yeah. You don’t actually have to do anything. It doesn’t require you to do anything, which is where the positive part comes in that we’ll talk about later. This duty that you have actually simply requires you to not do something. You have the duty to not murder me. You have the duty to not steal my stuff. And so you don’t actually have to do anything. You just have to not do bad things. And that’s how my rights get protected, my right to free speech, because you have a duty not to, you know, shut down my voice, the right to self-defense or, or life rather, because you have a duty to not kill me. And so those are what’s called negative rights in the Constitution. And the founding fathers of the Declaration of Independence, when they’re talking about rights, right? The rights of all mankind, they’re talking about negative rights. In other words, the right to be just left alone. Other people have a duty to just leave you alone. Let people be in peace. Let them do what they want, you know because they have a right to life and liberty in pursuit of happiness. People have the right to go do what they want, which means that other people have a duty to leave them alone. so people can do what they want. That’s how negative rights work. Now, well, what is a positive, right? Because when we’re talking about this healthcare example, Brittany, that’s where these positive rights come in. And, that’s where people, not only blur the distinction between negative rights and positive rights or confuse the two. They don’t even understand this at all. They just, they just say, oh, we have a right. I have a right to this. I have a right to that. And so typically, when these people are talking about a right to healthcare, or sometimes we hear this in housing, right? I have a, I have a right to safe and affordable housing, or, you know, the right to a $15 minimum wage or whatever, when people use, right? In that circumstance, they’re talking about a positive, right? A positive right? Has a positive duty, just like a negative, right? Has a negative duty. So what does that mean? Well, the right to healthcare means that someone else has a duty, not a negative duty, which means a duty to not do something, a positive duty, like the right to healthcare. The positive duty means someone has to do something. Someone has a duty to, you know, pay for that person’s healthcare. Doctors have a duty if there is a right to healthcare, healthcare, quote-unquote, because, you know, we’re not saying doctors should leave these people alone. It’s quite the opposite. These people are saying, Hey, doctors, you need to work for me.

Brittany: Yep, for free really

Connor: Right? You need to gimme medicine. Really what they’re saying is you well know Brittany, is they’re saying, Hey, taxpayers, you have to pay.

Brittany: Yep. Someone else pays for me. Yep,

Connor: Yeah, you, have to pay for this so that doctors will give me these services that they’ll give me medicine and surgery and all these kinds of things. So they’re saying not that other people have to leave them alone. In fact, quite the opposite. They’re saying, other people have to be my slaves. That’s literally what this boils down to. You have to give me stuff, you have to work for me. You have a duty to pay for my medical bills. You have a duty to give me a house, right? And, they’re literally turning taxpayers or the doctor or the home builder or the employer or whatever we’re talking about into a slave, because they’re saying, you now have a duty that you don’t have, on your own. You, didn’t have this before I met you before I started telling you I have this right? Or before the government created this, right? And, tried to, you know, change the law to say suddenly like the Soviet Union did this under communism, they said, oh, people have the right to, oh, you know, old people have the right to early retirement and kids have the right to education. Sick people have the right to, you know, time off work and all this kind of stuff. Well, of course, what they were doing is creating duties. They were, saying, okay, we’re gonna give these special favors out to these different people, and in order for this to work, we’re now creating positive duties on the part of everyone else who has to pay for them, or, you know, give them products or services. And so we’re, we’re basically controlling the economy, which we talked about previously, to turn these people into slaves, to work for other people because we told them to. a, right, that’s, like an entitlement. That’s saying the government is telling me, Brittany, that I have to be your slave because you say you have a right to something. So now I have a duty to give it to you. When back in that island example, you know, if we go off to an island form of government, no one has a duty to anyone else. You’re just all kind of on equal playing fields. But if one person says, oh, I have the right to, you know, shelter, you all have a duty to now build my shelter for me. Like that doesn’t make sense. That’s not fair.

Brittany: No. You’re also inviting the government to come in and punish you if you don’t do it right. So that’s another scary aspect of that.

Connor: Exactly, exactly. So what I worry about here when people talk about rights is they really don’t understand the difference between negative rights and positive rights. They, confuse it or they don’t even know it. And, I think that distinction, that comparison is helpful because if we’re talking about true rights if we’re talking about like the only rights that actually truly exist, they are rights that you have. But imagine the government is abolished tomorrow. Well, healthcare, you know, forcing taxpayers to pay for healthcare, that goes away because, if the government’s gone, then so is the taxation system and the welfare and all that kind of stuff that sloshes all that money around. And so that’s how we can understand if is something right or not snap your fingers, and the government is gone. Okay? Does that thing still exist? Well, yeah, I still have the right to life. Other people, you know, can’t hurt me. I have the right to defend myself. If someone attacks me, whether there’s a government or not, bingo, that’s a right. But healthcare like do you have the right to, you know, tell the other people on the island, you have to give me money so I can pay the island doctor? Well, no, that’s clearly wrong. And so if the government isn’t there to force people to do it right, it won’t happen. And so that’s how we know it’s not a right. What are your thoughts?

Brittany: Yeah, I’m curious to know what you would say too, cuz I’ve heard this a lot and I agree with you completely, but I’ve heard people say, yeah, but you have a right to life and if you don’t get to see the doctor, your life is in jeopardy. So that means that this is a right and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. So what would you say to that argument? People who say that, well, if you have a right to life, then clearly you have a right to healthcare because healthcare keeps you healthy and alive.

Connor: That’s a good question. and so that’s why it’s so critical to understand negative rights, negative duties, positive rights, positive duties the right to life as a negative, right? Means that there’s a negative duty of other people to just not hurt you, you know, kill you, things like that. If we’re talking about the right to life in a positive way, I have the right to have a supported life. Not, the right to have my life be left alone and, not be impacted negatively by others. But, but rather, you know, I need to be fed. I need exercise, I need free gym memberships, right? I need healthcare, I need all these things. you can come up with all sorts of things for, the positive right of life. In other words, other people need to sustain me, right? I need a house because without a house, I’m gonna die. I need clothing because I’ll freeze to death, right? Like, you can come up with all these things that if people say there’s a right to life in the positive sense because I have the right to, to a good life, to a, you know, whatever, then we’re talking about the positive duty that other people have to provide me healthcare. Other people have to provide for me. Well, no, cuz that that goes away from what negative rights are from what the actual rights are that are protected in the constitution. These are not positive things because again if you start doing that, you get into a slippery slope. We talked about that. We talk about that. Yeah. Yeah. We talked about the logical fallacy of the slippery slope, where pretty soon one thing leads to another. And if we say that because I have a right to life, then other people have to fund my healthcare, they’re, forced to, do that duty. Well, why do we stop at healthcare? Because for someone to live, they need all kinds of things. And if we accept the idea that the government should force people to provide other people those things that they need, food, shelter, clothing, healthcare, dental work, you know, life insurance, babysitting, so, you know, mental health therapy, whatever. where do you stop? You, run into a full government system where some taxpayers are being forced to help others. And, that totally gets away from what the constitution was set up to do. It totally gets away from, what rights actually are that rights have to preexist government. I if the government, again, snaps its fingers, government’s gone. I don’t have the right to force other people to give me stuff, to give me healthcare. and so that’s not a right, a right should exist. Even if you snap the fingers and the government’s gone. If you have the ability to still enjoy and do things apart from that, then that’s when you know it’s a right. Guys, this is a super important discussion. It’s very critical to understand these distinctions because just as I saw that guy with a sign claiming that something is a right, you need to know how to counteract that. You need to know how to clarify for that person or your friends or your siblings. What is a right? It’s like imagine your neighbor starts to spread his lawn furniture into your front lawn slowly day by day moving you know, moving it over bit by bit. If you don’t know where your property line is, then how do you defend your property? How do you say, hey, whoa, whoa, you’re going too far? If you don’t know where the line is, then you can’t stop your neighbor from encroaching on your property rights. It’s the same thing with all of our rights. We have to know what they are, and what they really are in order to be able to oppose other people and tell them they’re wrong. Point out where the problem is when it happens. If we don’t understand what our rights are right then we can’t defend them when other people like the government started trying to violate them. So that’s why it’s so critical to understand this. That’s why the Tuttletwins books are so essential. and so guys, thanks for subscribing. This is probably a topic we’ll revisit because it’s so important. make sure you subscribe and share the podcast with a friend, Brittany, great conversation. Until next time, we’ll talk to you later.

Brittany: Talk to you later


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