positive rights

Health insurance is a right? Nice try.

In President Obama’s weekly address delivered on Saturday, he regurgitated the many tired talking points about how smoothly the implementation of Obamacare is going, despite all evidence to the contrary. But the kicker came at the end when he made the claim, free of any previous argument or support, that “health insurance isn’t a privilege – it is your right.”


Liberals have long argued that health care is a right, but as they continue to nudge language and policy in the progressive long war, this may be the first time they’ve claimed that health insurance itself as a right. But how can it be? Health insurance is a commercial product.

In a free market we certainly have the right to acquire commercial products, but do we have a right to them on a fundamental level? Did we have the right to health insurance before it was created in the mid-20th Century? What if once we eventually are subject to a single-payer universal healthcare program, health insurance no longer exists? Will we still have the right to it?

The Perpetual Battle for Natural Rights

With all the scandals today – namely, at the IRS, AP, and NSA – many believe our government’s actions are violating our natural rights: mostly, our freedoms of speech, press, due process, and privacy. These “natural rights” are fundamental basic human rights, not based on man-made positive law. Many of these rights were codified by our founders in the Bill of Rights… but not without tumult.

There are those today - even within the liberty movement - willing to compromise on many issues that would infringe on the natural rights of others, in both domestic and foreign policy. I think they are wrong. In this brief history of how our Bill of Rights came about, I encourage you to look for parallels between today’s struggles and our country’s founding.

A Constitution Without Rights

John Locke, regarded as the Father of Classical Liberalism, grounded the premise for his 1690 Second Treatise of Government on the idea of natural rights. This idea, while revolutionary at the time, provided a template for subsequent political theory. Merging Locke’s idea with the British Bill of Rights of 1689, George Mason, a member of the Virginia delegation, penned the Virginia Declaration of Rights in May of 1776 - preceding both the Virginia State Constitution and the Declaration of Independence. In its Article 1, he penned these words:

Obama declares a “right” to health insurance

President Obama's weekly address

Facing criticism and bad poll numbers over the 2010 healthcare law, known to most as “ObamaCare,” President Barack Obama extolled the perceived benefits of its provisions in his weekly address to the nation and proclaimed that Americans have a “right” to health insurance coverage.

“Right now, we’re well on our way to fully implementing the Affordable Care Act.  And in the next few months, we’ll reach a couple milestones with real meaning for millions of Americans,” said President Obama, in reference to the state health insurance exchanges that will open on October 1st.

The reality here is that the implementation of ObamaCare isn’t going all that smoothly. Many states are experiencing problems implementing the exchanges, the most recent of which is Oregon. The government is three months behind on data security testing, which opens up concerns about identity theft. The Obama Administration has also delayed two major provisions of the law, the employer mandate and consumer-cost caps.

That doesn’t leave much confidence that ObamaCare is being implemented when the administration has tacitly admitted that the law has very real, very concerning problems. And we have even mentioned the most serious adverse effect of the law yet, which is rising insurance premiums.

Comment Check: Defining Liberty, and my personal split with Ron Paul

I was looking through the comments on some of our posts, and I came across an interesting one on one of Jason’s entries. The article Jason wrote was “Ron Paul may not win, but his influence will be lasting,” and the comment in question was from a Jill. Q, who wrote (and here I am copypasting everything):

[T]here’s something weird going on when Paul, the small-government constitutionalist, is considered the extremist in the Republican Party…”

He’s not my idea of a “small government” anything. Ron Paul opposed the supreme court’s 2003 landmark decision on gay rights, Lawrence v. Texas. He said that it was an infringement on states rights to tell them that they can’t ban homosexuality.

Do you agree? Is this your idea of “liberty”, Jason? If it is, go ahead and vote for Ron Paul.

“Under those amendments, the State of Texas has the right to decide for itself how to regulate social matters like sex, using its own local standards. But rather than applying the real Constitution and declining jurisdiction over a properly state matter, the Court decided to apply the imaginary Constitution and impose its vision on the people of Texas.”

I think this is actually a good point to make, and I want to take it as an opportunity to discuss some ideas about negative and positive liberty and what I think about them as well.

First, a clarification: I don’t think anyone here considers Ron Paul to be the best, in terms of doctrinal purity, libertarian, but he is certainly a standard bearer, and has definitely put the movement “out there.” So we look to him as someone who is great for messaging libertarianism to others, but not necessarily the “best” libertarian. I think most of us here would prefer if Gary Johnson was in Paul’s place on that front.

How to really fix health care

Harvard economist Jeffrey Miron offers three policy proposals to help reform health care the right way. Miron suggests that we need to correct the suggestion that health care is a right, repeal ObamaCare and phase out Medicare:

Jessie Jackson Jr: Let’s add rights to end unemployment

Jessie Jackson Jr wants to add more rights to the United States Constitution.  Not an explicit right to privacy, or a closure on the Kelo mess.  No, he suggests a few things that are far more left-of-center than that.  What this video, with the hat tip to Hot Air.

Oh yeah, he actually said that crap apparently. Really.

However, let’s take one of his suggestions and show just how silly his whole argument really is.  Education.

While the United States Constitution provides nothing in regard to education, many states have clauses along those lines in them.  These state constitutions require them to provide education for every child in that state, one of Jackson’s so-called “basic rights”.  However, these states don’t result in laptops and iPods for every student.  It never will, because education isn’t dependent on the private ownership of material goods.  It just doesn’t happen that way.

There is no right to health care

In his column last week, Walter Williams explained the difference the rights protected by the Constitution and rights that are essentially equivalent to slavery:

True rights, such as those in our Constitution, or those considered to be natural or human rights, exist simultaneously among people. That means exercise of a right by one person does not diminish those held by another. In other words, my rights to speech or travel impose no obligations on another except those of non-interference. If we apply ideas behind rights to health care to my rights to speech or travel, my free speech rights would require government-imposed obligations on others to provide me with an auditorium, television studio or radio station. My right to travel freely would require government-imposed obligations on others to provide me with airfare and hotel accommodations.

For Congress to guarantee a right to health care, or any other good or service, whether a person can afford it or not, it must diminish someone else’s rights, namely their rights to their earnings. The reason is that Congress has no resources of its very own. Moreover, there is no Santa Claus, Easter Bunny or Tooth Fairy giving them those resources. The fact that government has no resources of its very own forces one to recognize that in order for government to give one American citizen a dollar, it must first, through intimidation, threats and coercion, confiscate that dollar from some other American. If one person has a right to something he did not earn, of necessity it requires that another person not have a right to something that he did earn.

Health Care: Right or Privilege?

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Negative and positive rights

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