The Right to Medical Care

Excerpts from “The Real Right to Medical Care versus Socialized Medicine

Rights – pertaining to the actions an individual must take in order to live – as moral principles defining and sanctioning his freedom to take those actions (not as an arbitrary, out-of-context assertion of claims to things or to obligations to be filled by others)

The Rational Concept of Rights

The only way that the individual’s freedom, and thus his rights, can be violated is by means of the initiation of physical force against him. Rights are a moral injunction to the whole rest of society – including, above all, its government – not to interfere with the individual’s freedom to take the actions that serve his life. They exist on behalf of the individual and are directed against the rest of the world. They are the means of subordinating the whole of society to the requirements of the moral law of each and every individual serving his own life.

It should go without saying that in serving his own life, each and every individual is morally obliged to respect the right of others to be free from any initiation of physical force on his part. This means that insofar as any individual’s exercise of his rights entails the cooperation of other people, their cooperation must be obtained voluntarily. There is no right to violate the rights of someone else.

The exercise of man’s right to life means simply that he has the right to take whatever actions are necessary to sustain and promote his life or further it in any way. Buying and selling become an integral part of the exercise of one’s rights in any modern society. Buying is the means whereby one enlists the intelligence and skills and the wealth and property of others in the service of one’s life. Selling is the means whereby one provides others with the benefit of one’s own intelligence and skills and wealth and property in the service of their life and thereby obtains the means of buying. Thus, in the conditions of life in a modern, division-of-labor society, the right to free exchange, the right to the freedom of contract, becomes an essential aspect of the exercise of the right to life.

Rights to things exist only in the context of the freedom of exchange and the freedom of contract. To take some examples, an individual has no such thing as a right to a job as such. He has a right only to those jobs voluntarily offered by employers. His right to employment is violated not when he cannot find an employer who is willing to employ him, but when he can or could find such an employer and is prevented from doing so by the initiation of physical force.

Similarly, no one has the right to such a thing as a house as such. What one has is the right to buy a house, or to buy the things necessary to build it. One’s right to a house is violated not when one cannot afford to buy or build a house, but when one could afford to buy or build a house if one were not forcibly prevented from doing so.

In exactly the same way, the right to medical care does not mean a right to medical care as such, but to the medical care one can buy from willing providers. One’s right to medical care is violated not when there is medical care that one cannot afford to buy, but when there is medical care that one could afford to buy if one were not prevented from doing so by the initiation of physical force.

One’s rights to things are rights only to things one can obtain in free trade, with the voluntary consent of those who are to provide them. All such rights are predicated upon full respect for the persons and property of others. This is the concept of rights appropriate to rational human beings living in a civilized society.

The Need-based or Wish-based Concept of Rights

In sharpest contrast, the need-based or wish-based concept of rights, exists in full contradiction of the rational concept of rights and entails the complete violation of all rational rights. It is a concept of rights whose literal meaning is “I want it and therefore I’m entitled to take it.”

According to this concept, people do have rights to jobs, houses, and medical care as such, just by virtue of needing or desiring them. Since a job entails the payment of money by the employer to the employee, and typically the provision of the use of part of the employer’s premises to the employee, the notion of a right to a job as such – that is, with or without the employer’s consent – implies an alleged right to take an employer’s money against his will and to occupy his premises against his will, that is, an alleged right to trespass on his property and to rob him.

Similarly, since a house, or any other material good, is a product of human labor, the right to a house as such implies a right to compel other people to build one a house, whether they wish to or not. It is tantamount to claiming a right to forced labor on their part.

Finally, in exactly the same way, the alleged right to medical care as such implies an alleged right to force others to pay for one’s medical care against their will or to force the providers of medical care, such as doctors and hospitals, to provide it against their will.

All such alleged need-based or wish-based rights are a contradiction of genuine, rational rights, which exist precisely as a moral sanction of the individual’s freedom from such outrages.

Socialized Medicine – a perversion of the right to medical care

The essential goal of socialized medicine is that the individual should be relieved of financial responsibility for his and his family’s medical care. Medical care should be provided to him without charge by the government, paid for out of taxes. To this extent, allegedly, his life will be worry free, because the government will take care of him. Medical care will simply come to him according to his need, paid for by others, presumably according to their ability. It should be obvious that such an arrangement entails the utter perversion of the right to medical care. The right to medical care ceases to be the individual’s right to take the actions required to secure his medical care – namely, to buy it from willing providers. Instead it becomes an alleged right to the fruits of others’ labor and ability, with or without their consent, for that it is the only way it can be obtained if the individual himself is not to pay for it and yet is to have a right to it merely because he needs it.


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