Well, as awful as they’ve been, you have to hand it to CNN for hosting a substantiative debate on healthcare between Bernie Sanders and Ted Cruz. Actually shocking that they’d turn away from bashing Trump to actually allow an airing of divergent viewpoints on a core issue.
The highlight for me? When Bernie Sanders turned to his senate colleague to ask the Big Kahuna question: Is healthcare a right?
Cruz did a pretty good job answering it, but didn’t quite get there, in my humble opinion.
So allow me to answer more simply: is healthcare a right?
Healthcare can’t be a right because in order to have healthcare you have to use goods and services provided by other people. Saying that healthcare is a right means you now have a right to the time and attention of a doctor. You have the right to the equipment and supplies he or she paid for. You have a right to the labor of his staff. In short, you have a right to the fruit of other people’s labor.
In our society, the unit of measure for people’s labor is the dollar. So by saying you have a right to healthcare is no different than saying you have a right to another person’s money.
And there is no right to another person’s money, time or property.
As Cruz pointed out, the rights listed in the Bill of Rights are things the government can’t do to you, not goods and services you have a right to receive.
The government can’t stop you from speaking your mind.
The government can’t search your house without a warrant.
The government can’t take away your right to self defense.
Healthcare is not a right. It can be, however, an entitlement. An entitlement is a privilege that society has decided it will bestow on all of its citizens.
Society has decided that no one should go without food, not that people have a natural right to free food, but that no one should go hungry. So we’ve created a bunch of government programs and charitable organizations which see to feeding the hungry.
Same with healthcare. If we as a society decide that everyone who wants it should have access to affordable health care, fine, then we simply need to iron out the details. (Hint: repeal and replace Obamacare as step one, two and three.)
But don’t tell me it’s a right. Because consider this: let’s say that next Wednesday, the government of the United States suddenly found out it was broke. Not a dollar left over for anything but essential services. All discretionary spending has to be axed.
In a world where the government was suddenly unable to financially support any entitlement program, Medicare and Medicaid would vanish. AFDC and the F-35 would go unfunded. CHIPS would close up shop.
But, would we still have:
The right to free speech? Sure. It costs the government nothing.
The right to keep and bear arms? Yep. The government didn’t shell out all those hard-earned dollars to fill my safe with guns and ammo. In fact, I had to pay them for the privilege.
The right against unlawful search and seizure? Sure.
Because here’s the hard truth. If the government, if anyone, has to spend money on it, it’s not a right. It’s an entitlement. And the two are very, very different.
Rights come from God or nature, depending on your preference, and cost nothing. Entitlements come from and are paid for by man. And man can decide he doesn’t want to pay anymore. What man gives, man can take away.
The rights granted by God or nature are immune to fiscal crisis. They don’t disappear simply because funding ran out as they require no funding. And even if the government, though extraordinary and expensive action, bans free speech, bans guns, those rights don’t cease to exist because a law was passed. No person can take away another person’s natural rights. They are, in the words of guys much smarter than me, “inalienable.” Unable to be taken away from the person who possess them. Those rights will merely be driven into the shadows hopefully to re-emerge again one day.
Not so with entitlements. They can be taken away simply by shutting off the flow of money that funds them.
And that is the difference. A difference folks like Senator Sanders have a hard time grasping.
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