By Scott Weiser
The most difficult issue we face in discussing health care is the often-ignored truth that no person’s exercise of their rights can impose on others any obligation other than benign tolerance of the peaceable exercise of those rights.
When someone proclaims that there is a “right to health care” they are mostly correct. We have the right to seek out health care. Government cannot prohibit this quest nor can it prohibit us from obtaining it…if it is available. But that does not give anyone the power to compel anyone else to provide or to pay for it.
Liberals love to trot out the hoary old canard that because we socialize the costs of military, fire and police protection we can and must therefore socialize the cost of everything else, including health care. The truth is that we collectivize funding for military, fire and police protection because they combat common enemies that if left unchecked damage the whole community. Short of communicable diseases however, health problems directly affect only the individual and the indirect effects on others do not make one person’s poor health a common enemy like fire, crime or invasion.
Your health care needs are largely dictated by your exercises of freedom and by the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune. You may sit at home and eat Cheesy Poofs and get as fat as Eric Cartman and have a heart attack or a stroke, or you may not. You may break your spine bicycling and require expensive care for the rest of your life, or you may not. You may suffer from a genetic defect that can’t be blamed on anyone, or you may simply be unlucky. All are unfortunate consequences of living that society is not obliged to indemnify you against.
There is a good reason for this. Granting society the power to indemnify your exercise of individual liberty is granting it the power to infringe upon that liberty. If taxpayers are compelled to pay for the medical consequences of your choices or random chance, then taxpayers justifiably must have the power to compel you not to make lousy lifestyle choices that might end up costing them money. Fair is fair, after all.
Do we really want to grant government the power to tell us that we cannot go rock climbing or motorcycle racing or that we cannot smoke or eat a greasy cheeseburger? Real liberty is your right to choose to take risks and to live in freedom. You get to take risks because our system burdens only you with consequences of your life.
We have the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, but we do not have the right to burden others through the exercise of those rights. We are free to live our lives as we please but that requires us to accept the consequences of freedom without complaint. It also requires us to respect the equal rights of others to live their lives in freedom without being compelled to serve our economic needs.
We all have our own economic burdens to deal with, and what each of us works to earn is ours and ours alone. The socialist notion that we owe our lives, our labor and our money to others “according to our ability” and that others may compel us to labor and sacrifice on their behalf “according to their need” has no place in our culture or society.
But that doesn’t mean that the poor, the ill and the unfortunate are unworthy of compassion or assistance. Americans are the most generous people on earth when it comes to giving to help the needy. We are champions of compassion, altruism, charity and rational self-interest and unstinting in our desire to help others. But that charity and altruism cannot be constitutionally made compulsory. Doing so destroys our right to liberty and binds us into involuntary servitude to others, which is prohibited by the 14th Amendment.
Those who need help can ask for it and we will respond to that need, but they cannot be allowed to use the inherent force of government to compel us against our will to do so.