Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Guaranteed Health Care

Tibor R. Machan

This morning I was checking the news on CNN and happened to tune in just as a woman, about 50 years old, was being forcibly ejected from a Senate meeting discussing reforms in the health insurance system. As she was led out she kept shouting, "We want guaranteed health care," "We have a right to guaranteed health care," and so on. Not a soul replied to her, not in the audience nor from the dais.

Why is it taken to be a palatable notion that people should get their health care guaranteed? Of course, there are other services that are treated as if people had a basic right to them, such as primary and secondary education. But then there are many services people want, even need, that few would regard as due people as a guarantee. The food we purchase at grocery stores isn't anyone's by right--if it were, farmers and other food service professionals would have to provided it without payment and on demand. For that what is due when one has a right to something. My right to my life is not something the respect for which I need to pay someone. (Yes, the protection of such a right, by the legal system, requires funding but that's not the same as its respect! Once protection comes into the picture, someone has already done violence to a right! But those who don't do this aren't getting paid!)

Genuine rights can be respected without having to do anything except abstain from their violation. If, however, an alleged right such as to education or health care or insurance is observed, someone must do something for another whether he wants to or not. That is what property taxes are, forced payments extracted from residents to pay for educational professionals, overhead, equipment, transportation, and so forth. While when we want to get something as vital to our lives as food we need to meet the terms of those who produce it, this isn't observed with education and may not be for long with health services. But why?

I can only imagine that those who advocate health care as a guarantee must think of health care professionals as involuntary servants, sort of like those who used to be drafted into a conscript military. Same with people who defend primary and secondary education as a right--they must see those who provide it as conscripts. Or they must see those who are forced to pay for these services by the professionals who are to provide them as needing to submit to forced labor! And while this may all be palatable in a feudal society, it should not be in a society that aspires to be home to free men and women instead of slaves.

That fact that no one at that Senate hearing offered even the hint of a protest to that woman who insisted that health professionals and/or those paying for their work are he conscripted servants is very discouraging. At the highest levels of government it seems it is not really an outrage to declare a professional group to be involuntary servants rather than free men and women. This in a country the leaders of which still have the audacity to call it free! And as far as I can tell, not too many professionals in the field of health care protest the idea that what they do belongs to their clients by some kind of basic right. Oh, maybe a few doctors and nurses protest, in various obscure forums. But it appears that at a Senate hearing when someone declare professionals as essentially indentured servants of their clients no one speaks out in protest.

It seems to me that here is one place where our system of elementary and secondary education lets us down but that's no great surprise either. Considering that education, too, is deemed to be a right that people ought to have guaranteed to them instead of having it be provided to clients in a system of free exchange, waiting for educators to protest the idea of education and health care being a basic right is utterly futile.

No comments: