Politics, Religion and Universal Healthcare
Bipartisanship and Healthcare

The Right to Healthcare - A Dissent

category_bug_journal2.gif After reading the first two posts here this week about universal healthcare, Paul Haist emailed with a different and interesting point of view. He is objecting, mostly, to my contention that healthcare is a human right:

"The seeming sanctity of civilized society exists as a construct of civilized society and, as such, is a logically invalid argument, undistributed middle or one of those fallacies.

"The perquisites of civilized society, such as justice, come to be understood, within the context of civilized society - and only there, as human rights. As long as you stay in the circle of civilization, justice exists.

"We take such rights for granted and consider them sacred because they seem inherently good (and likely are so, from our point of view), but are not even remotely absolutes of the human condition. That is, they are not rights outside of the universe we have created for ourselves; on the outside, there are no rights, not even to life, let alone liberty and the pursuit of whoopee.

"Civilized society is a very fragile and unnatural construct, which is likely, at any moment, to crumble into dust, as it has repeatedly, and with it, all the nice ideas of civil rights. Look at the world around us. It’s almost all chaos.

"Admittedly short of a philosophical treatise, there are not really any civil rights. No one is entitled to anything ever. In the end, the world will always be Darwinian. Life itself is a not a gift that belongs to its owner, so to speak, but a loan that may be called at any moment for any reason - almost always beyond our understanding.

"And there is no justice or injustice in the recall of that loan. We sign no contract and the banker is completely in charge.

"And our pain and suffering is of no consequence in the unfolding of the universe. We are incapable of having any understanding of our place in that unfolding, because we live inside it; we cannot be an objective observer. We surmise and philosophize, but we never really understand.

"The best we can do is try to do the most good for the greatest number in our own frame of reference (this world we seem to live in), in the hope of alleviating as much suffering as possible. But to say, for instance, that healthcare is a human right is an extravagant and unsupportable stretch of reason, altogether irrational.

"If we can create circumstances that make universal healthcare possible, that’s good and we should do that. But it is not a right or an entitlement. It is only a construct that will work as long as circumstances permit, rather like Social Security."

What do you think? Feel free to agree or disagree or offer other thoughts, but be polite; Paul is my brother and he's the only relative I've got.

Healthcare is a Human Right
The Universal Healthcare Tradeoff
Politics, Religion and Universal Healthcare
Bipartisanshp and Healthcare


Having a brother like Paul should be a Human Right!

Well, I for one, can't fault his argument. So I'll wait with interest to read your reply.

I guess my response is - I don't live within a philosphical construct. By Paul's reasoning, I have no right to life - so, that makes it fine for anybody to walk up to me and stab me, shoot me, set me on fire or any other method of ending my life?

If that's true, then why are people serving time in prison for murder? Because I live in a society which has *decided* that some things are wrong - for example, murder - and where mechnaisms exist to define laws, enforce them, and punish those who transgress them.

How did that happen? Because "the people" *decided* that it should be so - and successive generations of "the people" have decided that it is better to live within that societal framework than have no framework.

Personally, I view Universal Healthcare as something very similar - something which "the people" can decide is something that *should* happen - put in place the mechanisms to *make* it happen - and then it exists.

I wonder if the father who faces the prospect of making his family homeless in order to pay the medical bill for treatment to save the life of one of his children is particularly interested in the philosophical point of whether his child has a right to life.

If the US people want Universal Healthcare, of course they can have it - vote in legislators who agree, vote out those who don't. Other countries (my own included) make it work - is it beyond the wit of US legislators to make it work? It may not be a "right", in the philosophical sense - but it can be *made* a right, in the societal sense, and then enacted, and made a reality.

If you want it badly enough, that is.

It is difficult to "choose sides" in a debate like this since one side (Paul) is presenting a global macro view and you have taken more of a micro view, from within Paul's "construct", if you will. In my view, Paul is correct in an absolute sense, that we have no "right" to health care. However, the construct we as a culture have created over time includes expectations, which over time we morph into perceived "rights". We have no law of the land that upholds these wishfully generated rights.

Someone said that a society or civilization is judged based on how it treats the least fortunate of it's citizens. This hints at the moral and ethical issues underpinning our expectations and our evolved entitlements. While it is correct and proper (the right thing to do) to provide for those who cannot do for themselves IF we can afford to do so, it should be viewed as a privilege, not a right.

Yeah, that's the thing with any discussion of human "rights." We run into these logical fallacies at every turn. Even the right to life itself isn't sacred as those who favor choice regarding abortion are predominantly opposed to capital punishment while those who favor capital punishment are predominantly opposed to abortion... and don't even start with the morality of war.
In my "conservative" moments I used to question why I was required to provide uncompensated healthcare when the grocery store wasn't required to provide uncompensated food. There is an arbitrariness, I think, in our expectations. Virtually everyone voices their respect for the Golden Rule, but how that respect is translated into behavior is all over the board.

I agree with Paul on this one and he wrote an excellent set of comments for his position; but your basic argument to start with was more about whether Christianity should impact someone's desire to help others which we clearly don't see in most of those espousing the right wing so-called (by themselves) Christianity. Christianity should look at things beyond what is a human right and to what Christ would do. He helped everybody he could with restoring them to health as part of his mininstry. The bushites and their ilk are loudly epsousing their faith as the reason they are damning homosexuals (which I don't believe Christ would have done at all) or planning to take money from the public schools (already strapped for funds) and giving it to private schools or fretting over whether someone just said happy holidays or merry christmas; BUT when it comes to the things Christ really did talk about-- like got an extra coat, brother, give one to the person without any-- they are totally silent.........

Your brother is right in that there is no "right" to health care in the absolute sense but it is still important in maintaining a civilized society. And in the end it does come down to the fact that we want this society to go on (with all it's imperfections). Many of us see that education, good health, culture etc. are important to continuing a way of life that we value. It is a way of life that Christ and all those other great religous leaders that you mentioned also cared about.

I have two older living sisters (others gone)--78 and 81. I have repeatedly explained to them how to read blogs (they do use e-mail), but for some reason, they can't figure out consistently how to do it. I have just referred your blog to them and I'm hoping they find their way here. Both are fundamentalist Christians--one pro Bush, the other anti. I guess I could take your content and mail it to them in an e-mail, but I guess I'm being too controlling. I think every older American should be reading your site, whether they agree or disagree.

I must say Paul's words and his point of view are very thought provoking. I also must say that he backed up this thinking with logical reasons.
What he objected to was Ronni's phrase "health care is a human right." Perhaps he's right. Maybe it's not a "human right" but I do feel that in our society today, having health care available for everyone is the "right" thing to do. Why am "I" any more deserving of quality health care because my husband and I had good educations, well-paying jobs and a good retirement? Why is my neighbor next door less deserving? Because of life's circumstances, he worked at low paying jobs, had a lack of education and simply can't afford health insurance. He's a human being just like I am. We're not talking about his "right" to own that Lexus or take that trip to Paris...we're talking about his need for health care when he's sick and requires it.
So maybe it's all a matter of semantics. No, maybe health care isn't a human "right" but providing it for all human beings is certainly the "right" thing to do.

No offense but I found Paul's piece pedantic. There are times and places for things; philosophical treatises are important, for we must never forget the Big Picture nor deny our thinkers their (our) contribution. But in times of danger and injustice, efficiency is more productive, I think. Some people take the time to explain to their toddlers why exactly they cannot run into the street. Others will say, "No!" I believe the "No!" works better, and I believe the demanding of universal health care as a right is a much clearer message.

If Paul has or gets a blog, I would enjoy reading it.

some of us believe that life itself, a decent quality of life. is a human right. i am totally amazed by paul's position since i also believe that housing is a human right.

america is in deep trouble when thinking about other human beings becomes such a detached endeavor.

There may be no human rights or civil rights at all in one sense, but in the sense that matters - the consensus of the society in which we live - there are human rights and they're an area which has historically evolved. Until recently the consensus was progressing as society has matured. Not so much lately in this country. In the context of our values as a society, healthcare is already a human right - but not a legal right. In other words, people are shocked to hear about someone being denied necessary care, but what's been done to assure care for everyone is woefully inadequate to contemporary needs.

Ronni--I probably would not have made the statement that you chose to write (I admit that I cringed when I read it, yesterday.)

Paul--I agree with you in the absolute sense. I have no "right" to my next breath; but, I will fight for that breath. And, I will fight for your opportunity to take your next breath. (Same goes for Ronni's next breath...ad infinitum.)

dus7--I disagree with the strategy of "... demanding of universal health care as a right." The statement in question is inflammatory and indefensible, to me. Once I've hurled the challenge, what is my next move?

I would rather see the building of a coalition among government/business/academia stalwarts to present a coherent set of facts to the people: We will pay now or we will pay later. If we do the proper planning, universal basic health care can be implemented, managed, and cost-controlled in a manner to provide for the basic health care needs of all.

I am firmly against spending untold monies and untold worker-hours on medical interventions that are ineffective. To me it is criminal the amount of time and effort that is spent in the case of many prematurely birthed infants, and in the last 6 months of a growing number of adult patients's lives. Sorry, folks, but if it were up to me I would outlaw feeding and breathing tubes and such for anyone who cannot reasonably be expected to assume or resume "normal" life if they survive. I would rather spend the money on education and birth control. (And, yes, my health care directives are in line with these statements. No feeding tubes. If I am unable to feed myself, let me go. I will die at some point, regardless of what you do!)

I found your site on the Ageless Project. You have interesting perspectives on health care; my point of view is more conservative.

Please fisit my site


Here's my 10 3/4 cents, which is the old two cents adjusted for inflation. I am opposed to the liberal concept of socialized medicine. You cannot improve a complex and ailing healthcare system with government control, and taxpayer funding. As with any liberal idea that invokes public funding as it's 'cure', it benefits a pitiful few with an exponential increase in budgeting, and 'incidental' costs. Fraud, abuse, incompetence, all are symptoms of government involvement in ANY program. I know, I worked for the outfit, and if they could have their way, the entire U.S. government would be a 5 trillion dollar per year pecking order. Medicine in this era is undergoing a crisis because of lawyers, politicians, and a litigious public primed to sue at the drop of a scalpel. Doctors are under pressure to adhere to a mountain of regulatory requirements, and HMOs fight tooth and nail squeeze every dollar from their services. The market economy, left to it's own, can cure most of our capitalist ills provided it IS left to it's own. It never dawns on liberals that a deregulated industry can find, through market forces, a beneficial balance between heartless commercialism, and prudent consumer choices. Liberals only see themselves and their gentle giant, The U.S. Government, as the sole cure for our nation's ills. I can tell you with absolute assurance that our government cannot cure anything, including itself.

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