Late yesterday afternoon, I ran a gauntlet on Park Avenue. As I made my way to Grand Central Station, there were approximately 100
filthy, rotten hippies protestors blocking the sidewalk around 51st street. As I made my way towards them I heard the chant “Health care is a right! Fight! Fight! Fight!”
It’s not a very good chant, I know.
The protestors were blocking the sidewalk, marching in a circle, holding signs saying “Medicare For All!” “Single-Payer Now!” and, strangely, “New York Women’s Liberation Movement!” (complete with the old clenched fist with the upside down cross representing the symbol for “woman”). I assume the woman carrying the sign found it in her mother’s attic next to the charred remains of several brassieres. I also noticed several people carrying the “Socialist Workers” newspaper.
Anyway, finding myself in the middle of this protest, I tried to start my own chant: “Sidewalks are a right! Get the hell out of my way!” It didn’t take.
Well, of course it didn’t take. The notion that I have a right to a clear sidewalk is ludicrous. It would impose on the rights of all of these people to assemble. We can’t have rights that force other people to do things for us. I don’t have a right to watch “Criminal Minds” starring Joe Montegna every Wednesday at 9:00 because if that is my right, I have removed the ability of the network to move or cancel the show; I have removed the right of Joe Montegna to leave the show. I don’t have the right to even own a television, because that right would force someone else to make the television I have the right to own.
Somewhat lame analogies aside, this is why the whole argument about whether or not health care is a right is so ludicrous. If health care is a right, does that mean the government has the power to force people to become doctors in order to treat a growing population? If there were 10,000 doctors treating 300,000,000 people in the United States, then there would be a serious shortage of doctors. If those 300 million people have a right to health care, would the government have the power to force people into medical schools in order to treat the sick?
I read recently a doctor expounding on the need for a public option by claiming, “I never said that health care was a Constitutional right; it is a human right.” It’s a stupid argument. Nobody in this world has a right to receive goodies from governments, or private citizens. Look at the Bill of Rights: it is a listing of negatives. All ten amendments that make up the Bill of Rights are limitations on the powers of government. This is not an accident. The Founders believed that human rights came from the Creator, and government needed to be prevented from getting in the way. When we start inventing rights like “the right to health care” or “the right to a clear sidewalk” we are giving government the ability to decide how we live our lives. We are investing in the government a power so profound that there is no end to it. My “right” to health care immediately takes away the right of someone else to not provide me with health care. This is not how a free society works. In a society where health care is a right, doctors and nurses become little more than serfs, forced to do work they may not otherwise choose to do.
A balanced diet and good nutrition are more important for health than doctors…do we now have a right to fruits and vegetables? Should government be in the business of forcing farmers to grow particular crops because they are healthier than other crops? Would government be able to force tobacco farms to become broccoli farms? Do we have a right to shelter? If so then any homeless person can go to any apartment complex with vacancies and move in…it’s that man’s right to shelter, after all.The simple truth of it is that our “rights” end when they involve other people. My “right” to swing my fist ends at your chin. My “right” to a clear sidewalk ends when it forces you to stay off the sidewalk. My “right” to health care ends when a doctor is forced to treat me.
Once we accept the notion that our rights are derived from government largesse we have completely inverted the entire system upon which the United States was founded: that our rights come from God and government is not endowed with the power to grant rights, it is stripped of the power to infringe on those rights.