Jun 11, 2009

Health Care as a Right or a Privilege

ShrinkWrapped is having a very good discussion about the details. I, of course, get locked up on the bigger picture of anything that gets labeled a privilege. A license to drive is actually a privilege, not a right. Privileges are regulated and revoked with amazing alacrity, far faster than the attendant obligations of said privileges are enacted. (Do you want gun ownership, with its implicated operative of self-defense, to be privilege or a right?)

Rights should be seemingly innate, if not transcendent. But, assigning every aspect of life to a right denies us the strength-building resistant forces that sustain us when the System goes belly-up.

A privilege is something conferred by a political office. It can be revoked by same.

Our rights, as politically understood, are a passive consideration that is not conferred by a political entity, but recognized as an intrinsic value. Or, if you will, endowed by a transcendent entity, superior to any political one.

I'm not sure health care is in a secure position in the first instance. The very word "privilege" turns the head and assuages the ego. It is a term of political art. I'm skittish of privileges granted.

In the second instance of health care as a right, I consider the Good Samaritan scenario: the onus is on the care-giver to be compassionate. That is a state-mandated compassion that in effect, implies a Right. But which came first? The mandate was born from an innate and recognizable level of human social responsibility to another, not as an individual right to be demanded of another. That's likely just quibbling on my part in an effort to sort through the moral fog.

Unfortunately, state-mandated compassion operates further removed than the local innkeeper employed by the Samaritan. If someone could name one compulsive and mandated state entity that has successfully replaced the intimacy and accountability of one's immediate community, I'd entertain the idea of Health Care as a political right of some sort.But then I'd have to weigh the burden of it against the hardships and penury that will come of paying for it.


GUYK said...


PeggyU said...

Definitely. In the guise of compassion, government ruins lives.

As you pointed out, charity is most effective when it is personal. Mandated charity isn't charity, and it creates resentment toward the recipients. Furthermore, it removes the feedback inherent in such a personal system, so the recipient can more easily remain dependent and squander what he receives. It encourages a sense of entitlement by removing the aspects of honor and gratitude.

If you give me money because I have lost my job and can't feed my family, then you will be mega pissed if I instead spend it on cigarettes or lottery tickets ... and you won't be giving me any more money. Furthermore, word would get around quickly, and others would not want to help me out either.

On the flip side, since I would personally know the benefactor, I would have a feeling of obligation to do what was intended with the money and to pay it back as soon as possible. There would be the shame of facing that person if I reneged on my responsibilities.

Finally, personal charity begets generosity. People who succeed after being supported through hard times by private organizations often manifest their gratitude by supporting the organization so it can reach others.

ZZMike said...

Rights cannot be given, only taken away or restricted. More than that, "right" needs more definition. Do we have a "right" to kill our neighbor if he annoys us?

I go with the Founding Geezers that there are certain inalienable rights (such as life, liberty, the ability to pursue our own goals, ...)

Whatever the Government gives with the large print, it can take away with the small print.

Speaking of charity, there's an unnoticed paragraph in Obama's Cairo speech:

"Freedom of religion is central to the ability of peoples to live together. We must always examine the ways in which we protect it. For instance, in the United States, rules on charitable giving have made it harder for Muslims to fulfill their religious obligation. That is why I am committed to working with American Muslims to ensure that they can fulfill zakat."

Anybody know what those rules are? I suspect they aren't aimed specifically at zakat, but rather at Muslim "charities", some of which finance some very uncharitable things.

"State-mandated compassion" holds that we give to the government, then they decide where best to use our money. If we want to give to the Boy Scouts or the Holocaust Museum, we don't have to worry about a middleman. And we can be reasonably certain that every dollar we give goes where we send it. We have no idea where any dollar we send to DC goes.

Even more than that, a big part of the idea of charitable giving is that it's local. I'd rather donate to a local church or homeless shelter than one across the country.