Thursday, 05 January 2006
The Right to Healthcare - A Dissent
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.