Sunday, August 16, 2009

Two Random Thoughts on Positive Rights

Part of the health care reform debate going on in the United States right now touches on whether health care is a right. As you can probably imagine, I state flatly that health care is not a right, and reject completely the notion of "positive rights" in general. A positive right is one which requires that you take from one, forcibly or under the threat of force (which includes taxes), in order to fulfill.

For those that do believe in positive rights (i.e., those that believe health care is a right), I offer this: do you also support the government provisioning of firearms to all who cannot afford them? By the prevailing logic of positive rights, the right to life (liberty, and the pursuit of happiness) is meaningless if not supported by the right to health care. Using that exact same pattern of logic, the U.S. Second Amendment, which provides the people the right to bear arms, is meaningless if not supported by the possession of arms.

The other problem I have with many of the supporters of positive rights is that they, generally speaking, assume that anyone who opposes health care as a right are against the poor, the disadvantaged, &c. However, the two issues are orthogonal. It is easy for me to reject the notion of positive rights, yet still believe that it is perfectly legitimate for a democracy to chose to provision for a certain level of basic health care to genuinely disadvantaged groups, much the same way that we, as a nation, try to feed and house those less fortunate. I just hold that this is a form of collective charity. The recipients of such benevolent benefits should be thankful that they have received something from others that they have no legitimate claim to. It is a big difference that simply recognizes the difference between a gift and an entitlement. Thus, to say that health care is not a right is not to say that we should not seek ways to help others.

1 comment:

  1. Well said. I just found your blog and this is the kind of thing I would write. Therefore, you are brilliant.