There is no Right to Medical Care
Tibor R. Machan
In the advertisement "A Renewed American Agenda" (USA Today, May
4, 2006)?placed by The Bedell World Citizenship Fund of Spirit Lake, Iowa,
the organization urges us to "Recognize that All Americans Have A Right to
Medical Care." I suppose they mean well but in fact they are perpetrating
a gross misunderstanding about individual rights.
First, those who belong to this organization may mean no more than
that we in these United States of America have a legal right to medical
care, which is true enough but not crucial since governments can establish
such rights?entitlements?whether justified or not. Those who have power
have always been able to confer legal privileges on others especially if
they can obtain these privileges from people by force of arms, by taxation
or outright conscription.
Second, and which is the more vital point to make in response to
this claim about a right to medical care, no one in fact has a natural
right medical care comparable to one's right to life, liberty, the pursuit
of one?s happiness, private property, and so forth. These are what
political theorists call negative rights because all they require is that
people refrain from intruding on one another. But in fact no one can have
a right to medical care because if one had such a right, others would lose
their basic rights to liberty, and to property, which are unalienable and
cannot be lost (only violated).
Medical care is a value doctors, nurses and other medical
professionals would, if they were free men and women, provide to those
they would choose as recipients, on terms they regard as acceptable. These
provisions are not owed to anyone. Doctors, nurses, and other medical
professionals may not be placed into involuntary servitude to those
needing their services?the relationships must be voluntary, no matter how
vital those services are to the recipients.
The belief that others may justly be placed into involuntary
servitude so as to secure funds to pay medical professionals?who then will
service those who need their work?is a gross error. In a free country?a
just country?adult men and women treat each other as ends in themselves,
not as unwilling tools, instruments, or means to each other?s ends. Just
as I may not go over to my neighbor?s home and conscript some unwilling
individual to come and mow my lawn or even drive me to the hospital (but
must ask for this and await willingly given help), so any service such as
medical care must be obtained without coercion.
There are those, of course, who believe that once it has been
democratically determined that people must pay for medical services to
all, there is nothing wrong with collecting the taxes for this purpose.
This is wrong?no group or majority of a group may decide to take what
belongs to people. It is no less unjust to do such a thing than it is to
hang someone because the majority in some town decides it?s OK to do so,
without first following due process, namely, demonstrating via the justice
system that the hanging is deserved.
It needs to be reiterated again and again that taxation is a
reactionary device that had been used by monarchs to collect ?rent? from
the folks who lived and worked on what the monarch (misguidedly) believed
was his or her property. Taxation went hand in hand with serfdom and
neither has a place in a free society where individual citizens are
sovereign, not their government (which is merely an administrative agency
to secure the rights of all the citizens, even non-citizens, of a country).
The myth of having a right to medical care?or all sorts of other
services that need the work or resources of others?generates the mentality
that people can proceed with their lives without having to be responsible
for what living entails. These are all kinds of costs one must cover and
be prepared to cover, alone or with the voluntary cooperation?trade,
charity, generosity, or grant of loans?of others. Dumping these costs on
unwilling others is like dumping pollution on unwilling others, a natural
The folks at the Bedell World Citizenship Fund ought not to be
complicit in peddling the perverse political ideology that supports such