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State mandated “affordable healthcare” may be a great idea – but it ain’t a “right.”

Freelance writer Lisa Wirthman has a long defense of state involvement in health care in today’s Denver Post. (See “Health vs Faith: The debate over insurance for contraceptives.”)

One early paragraph in her column sums up the issue and explains why she is wrong. She asserts

While freedom of religion demands careful consideration, so does the right of low-income women to receive safe and affordable heath care.

The fundamental error should be obvious: there is no “right of low-income women to receive safe and affordable health care.” None. Zero. Nada. Her entire analysis is based on a falsehood.

There are no “positive rights.”

The Future of Freedom Foundation explains it well in an article by Sheldon Richman, “Wrong Rights.” In oversimplified terms, a “positive right” is an entitlement. If, for example, Wirthman is correct and there is a right to receive safe and affordable healthcare, then someone has an obligation to provide that healthcare. The person asserting the right is entitled to the healthcare and it necessarily follows that someone MUST provide it, whether they wish to or not. There can be no moral justification for forcing someone to act against their wishes. That is the basis for tyranny.

“Oh, sure,” some say, “maybe it’s a teeny, tiny bit of tyranny, but it’s really no big deal because we are all better off  as a collective when some people are forced to act against their will.” If the danger of such thought is not evident, well, then nothing is.

Wirthman argues that society is better off when it provides “safe and affordable healthcare” to everyone. Maybe so. On the other hand, maybe the best way to do that is by voluntary action and not the use of government force. We can have that debate.

But without a fundamental understanding of “rights,” any debate is pointless. It is like arguing physics with someone that rejects Newton’s Laws of Motion.


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