The Human Right That Doesn’t Exist
This is one of the most noble goals we as a society should have. Every person should have access to modern healthcare.
But something dangerous happens when we label access to healthcare as a natural right.
Meriam-Webster defines human rights as: “Rights (as freedom from unlawful imprisonment, torture, and execution) regarded as belonging fundamentally to all persons.”
The term “human rights” replaced the earlier phrase “natural rights” after World War II.
Our philosophical forefathers used “natural rights” to define those rights that inherently belong to all people. John Locke was the first to distill them as the right to life, liberty, and property.
Thomas Jefferson used almost this exact language in the American Declaration of Independence. He stated that all people have the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
Natural rights (and human rights) were the natural byproducts of their understanding of equality. Basically, they understood that all people were fundamentally equal. Since God created all people, in respect to each other we are utterly equal.
Because of this equality, we have boundaries around our lives that no human can cross (without violating humanities inherent equality). These were…
- The right to life. Meaning no human can morally end your life.
- The right to freedom. Meaning no human can morally direct your life by force (slavery).
- The right to your property. Meaning that no human has a right to the fruits of your labor. Since you expended your life on your labor, anything that your labor produces belongs to you and no one else.
These are the fundamental human rights. They all have one thing in common: they are anchored in our equality. And none of these rights require that someone else’s rights be violated to fulfill them.
The right to life doesn’t require that you murder, rob, or enslave someone else.
The right to freedom doesn’t mean that you must murder, rob, or enslave someone else.
And the right to property doesn’t mandate that you must murder, rob, or enslave someone else.
And this is why the right to healthcare can not be listed as a human right. At least not one that the government must enforce.
If we want to use the government to grant everyone access to healthcare, then we must violate some people’s rights in order to do it.
To enact universal healthcare, we must tax some (usually the wealthy) to pay for it. In essence, the government must take money from some by force to pay for the medical care of others.
This violates one of the actual fundamental human rights.
Our inherent equality bars us from this action. Otherwise, we are empowering the government to overturn our equality.
The government is a human invention. It exists because we created it. Therefore, it can only do what we can do (at least morally). It does not have a higher moral position than people. It cannot get away with things that individuals can’t do.
A group of individuals could not go to someone’s house and demand money from them at gunpoint. Even if they were going to use that money to help the poor.
Despite their good intentions, that would be theft. Or looting. However you want to look at it, it would be wrong.
The government is no different.
When we pass a bill that taxes some to help others, we are legislating theft on a national scale.
It doesn’t matter that we have noble goals and pure intentions.
It doesn’t matter that we want to make the world into a better place.
It doesn’t matter that deep down we just want to help people.
How we are doing it is still wrong.
When we use the government as the instrument of social change, we turn it into a brute. Instead of protecting human rights, it becomes the thing that violates them.
It enslaves some for the benefit of others.
Its Not Slavery, Its Taxes
Some don’t see any difference between these taxes and the taxes we pay for other services. They believe that if my argument were true, any form of taxation would be unethical.
Lets be clear, taxes are a good thing. They fund the government to do what it is supposed to do: protect individual rights (human rights). We need a justice system, police force, and a military to do that. But taxes shouldn’t be used for anything but the protection of human rights.
Some also argue that these sorts of bills don’t hold people at gunpoint, and that slavery is too strong of a term.
But lets role play for moment, and I think you will see otherwise.
Let’s say universal healthcare existed in the states.
Now lets say that I decided to pay some taxes (the ones that funded the police, justice system, etc…). But I decided I didn’t want to pay into universal healthcare.
What would happen? The IRS would come after me. I would be fined. If I didn’t pay those fines, eventually they would come to “recover” their revenue from my property.
If I resisted what I perceived to be as theft and invasion of property, they would try to arrest me.
Then, if I resisted what I perceived to be a threat against my life and my right to freedom, they would draw guns.
And there you have it. They would extract taxes from me at gunpoint. Taxes that went to healthcare.
The government has become the mob that robs people at gunpoint to help others.
We need to help people. We need to make healthcare a universal reality. But we can’t use the government to do it.
“Charity must be completely voluntary. Otherwise it is just a nice word for slavery.” – Terry Goodkind
As a nation that was born into liberty, we must stay vigilant. We must not become seduced by ideas that sound good, but actually cause us to violate the human rights of others.
To quote the Book of Proverbs, “There is a way that seems right to a man,
But its end is the way of death.” (Proverbs 14:12)
Healthcare cannot be labeled a human right.
Even though society must make healthcare universally available, it cannot use the government to do so.
Even though is seems like the most obvious and easiest tool, it requires that we force people to comply at gunpoint.
This is never right.
I have faith that we can find a better way to the right thing.
About Sean Edwards
Sean Edwards is an author and a communication strategist. He graduated from the Western Washington University with a bachelor’s degree in history. Sean has a passion for discussing philosophy and American politics.