This just in from the folks at Reason magazine: What Does It Mean to Have a Right To Health Care? Excerpt:
Despite the popular misconception, health care is not beyond economic law; it is not a free good that falls like manna from heaven. It has to be produced, which means people must mix their scarce labor with scarce resources to produce the things used to perform the medical services we want. It would be foolish to expect them to donate their labor and resources because other people need them. They have their own lives to live and livelihoods to earn. It would be wrong to compel them. They are not slaves.
In other words, no one can have a right to medical care or insurance, that is, to the labor services and resources of other people—including the taxpayers. We hear a great deal about the need to respect all people; well, respecting people must include respecting their liberty and justly acquired possessions. Without that, “respect” is hollow.
Politicians, of course, can declare a right to medical care, but those are mere words. What counts is what happens after the declaration. Since a system in which everyone could have, on demand, all the medical care they wanted at no cost would be unsustainable, the so-called right to medical care necessarily translates into the power of politicians and bureaucrats to set the terms under which medical services and products may be provided and received. This is crucial: a government-declared “right” (that does not reflect natural rights) is no right at all; it is rather a declared government power to allocate goods and services.
Natural rights—which boil down to the single right not to be aggressed against—require only that one abstain from aggression. Thus all can exercise their rights at once without conflict. On the other hand, government-invented “rights”—such as the right to medical care—cannot be exercised at the same time; the potential for conflict is built in. For example, a person cannot use his own money as he wishes if the government health care system takes it by force through taxation to pay for other people’s services.
It’s difficult to add anything to that, but I’ll give it a shot.
Taxpayer-funded health care can’t be a right. It is an indulgence, an exercise in charity on the part of government. But most importantly, it is a fundamentally an infringement on liberty. If one has a government-guaranteed taxpayer-funded health care, that requires someone else (a taxpayer) to surrender a portion of their own wealth, their own property, to pay for it. That means that the taxpayer is required to labor for a portion of the year with no recompense.
There are several words for that; indenture is probably the most polite one.
I’m a minimal-government libertarian, but I’m not an anarchist. There are legitimate distributed interests that are best handled by government: Defense, for example. But defense is not subject to market forces the way health care is. Here’s the key excerpt form the Reason article:
The market method of deciding what is produced solves this complex problem. How? Through the price system. When people are free to trade goods and services in the market, they generate prices that inform others (even if anyone is aware of this) about the relative supply of and demand for things. Those prices then guide producers and consumers. While their objective is not to create a grand and complex process that encourages the coordination countless plans, economizes on resources and labor, and enables people to achieve their well-being in an unrivaled manner, that is in effect what they do. This is what Adam Smith meant with his “invisible hand” trope. Prices guide people to do “the right thing.”
But politicians don’t understand price theory – or if they do, they ignore it, to garner votes. I don’t know which is worse.