Saturday, February 20, 2010

Why shouldn't we have Universal Healthcare?

My fundamental objection to universal health care philosophically is this: it denies the fact that life is not automatic but is a continuous course of self-directed action. It denies that life is a value that must be earned by effort- you cannot get away with living without providing through effort the preconditions for your own survival. No one has a right not to die, only a right to pursue life. I can CLAIM a right to be cured of some disease I catch, but if I catch it on a deserted island, who will be able to provide me with the cure I claimed by right? I can claim I have a right to be cured of cancer, but what if other men have not discovered that cure for me? Is there such a thing as the right to charity? The rights to goods? The right to services? What right do I have to any value I do not invent, create devise, or trade for myself? If it is wrong to take shoes I desire by shoplifting them under my coat, why is it right to have a third party (the government) take them on my behalf?

The issue involves the nature of rights; Are rights negative claims to freedom of action or positive claims to the property of others?

What is a 'right'?

Ayn Rand:
A “right” is a moral principle defining and sanctioning a man’s freedom of action in a social context. There is only one fundamental right (all the others are its consequences or corollaries): a man’s right to his own life. Life is a process of self-sustaining and self-generated action; the right to life means the right to engage in self-sustaining and self-generated action—which means: the freedom to take all the actions required by the nature of a rational being for the support, the furtherance, the fulfillment and the enjoyment of his own life. (Such is the meaning of the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.)

The concept of a “right” pertains only to action—specifically, to freedom of action. It means freedom from physical compulsion, coercion or interference by other men.

Thus, for every individual, a right is the moral sanction of a positive—of his freedom to act on his own judgment, for his own goals, by his own voluntary, uncoerced choice. As to his neighbors, his rights impose no obligations on them except of a negative kind: to abstain from violating his rights.

The right to life is the source of all rights—and the right to property is their only implementation. Without property rights, no other rights are possible. Since man has to sustain his life by his own effort, the man who has no right to the product of his effort has no means to sustain his life. The man who produces while others dispose of his product, is a slave.

Bear in mind that the right to property is a right to action, like all the others: it is not the right to an object, but to the action and the consequences of producing or earning that object. It is not a guarantee that a man will earn any property, but only a guarantee that he will own it if he earns it. It is the right to gain, to keep, to use and to dispose of material values.

The fundamental right is the right to life- which means freedom from force and the ability to take all necessary actions to protect and enhance your own life as long as you don't violate with the rights of another. Productive work is necessary to live by the nature of reality- since man does not get his sustenance and physical needs met as manna from heaven, he must create the physical values necessary to sustain himself by work. He must produce at least what he consumes. If a man is insufficiently productive to provide his own needs, he must live off of the productive work of others- if he does so with their consent, fine. That's sharing, cooperation, love, benevolence, charity. When he does so without their consent that's parasitism, theft, fraud, compulsion, violence and is evil: a violation of the precondition of rights- that you cannot exercise them legitimately by violating the rights of others.

Property rights are the recognition of the right to life. If man needs food and material goods to survive, and he provides them by his own effort, those goods are to be considered his rightful property.

Advocates of UHC claim, in essence, that because people "need" health care it must be provided by force if it cannot be obtained on the open market.

But why is "need" a superior claim to "property"?

If someone has failed to produce more then he consumes, he will be "in need". He can bring that need to the attention of someone who has been sufficiently productive, and ASK for that need to be met. The other person, because his productivity has produced his own values (food, clothing, shelter, money) can CHOOSE to offer his surplus to meet the needs of the other person (note: to offer more than his surplus would be to put himself "in need"). This is how all beneficial, kind and non-sacrificial human cooperation takes place. Such cooperation protects and acknowledges the rights of everyone involved.

Now, if a person is "in need" (it doesn't matter if it's through no fault of his own or through laziness, etc) and instead of asking, he FORCES the other person to meet that need, it is an immoral act, no matter what form that force takes: be it fraud, direct theft or indirect theft.

Note also that when someone initiates force in order to have his need met, he also can easily take more than that person's surplus goods because the owners estimate of his own needs is not taken into consideration and so create a second person "in need". If that person resorts to force against a third person, you can see how this can potentially create an endless chain of all men using force against all men. This is life not by production, trade and voluntarism, but by mass looting.

If I get cancer and cannot provide for my own needs, I can request charity from others legitimately. If they love me (if I've shown them my personal virtue and value), they will help- not out of pity, out of justice to their own values. If they hate me (if I've been a jerk or whatever), they won't. If these are my only options, I have an incentive to be virtuous and kind towards others throughout my life, so as to earn the affection on which I will have to depend in an emergency. Perhaps I have not developed any friendships or relationships with others because I've been a jerk or dickwad to everyone- or everyone sees that i'm "in need" not because of forces outside my control, but because I didn't plan, didn't produce, smoked 3 packs a day when I knew the risks and essentially created my own emergency. Nobody I know is willing to help me. What are my options? Do I swipe my buddy's wallet? Do I have some third party drain my mom's bank account? Do I pull a gun? Do I FORCE my brother, sister, friend or acquaintance to help me? If I do, will they be more or less likely to love me and want to help?

I think if you put it into personal terms it's easy to see that the answer is no. I have no right to initiate force and violate my friends' rights. I can try to change their mind through persuasion or virtuous action, or I can appeal to strangers.

Some people will establish charities out of respect for human life in general. Who? Most likely those with the greatest productive surpluses: the "rich". Historically, the great producers (the Carnegie's, the Mellon's, the Gates') have been great philanthropists. They were virtuous, however, for creating the wealth (which was hard) not for giving it away (which only requires a checkbook).

So, turned away by the people who know me, I go to an organized charity established by someone with great productive surplus who can thereby afford to risk his money on my future virtue. So not only is it in my interest to be virtuous and to cultivate friendships, but it is in my interest to demonstrate civic virtues: to make sure that I respect productive work, that I push for no law chaining men down to mediocrity, that I work for a social system that allows as many men as possible to rise as high as possible. If I am not productive myself, I will have a chance in life by allowing those that are productive to amass as large surpluses as they can. It is their surplus I will be dependent upon in an emergency. If I live by envy and hatred, i will not want anyone to rise higher than I do, and I will work to see them cut down to size. But I will pay for my own hatred when I need to ask help of such men and they are no longer there.

These men must also rise by their own effort- a free system does not allow anyone to violate the rights of others. No 'Robber Barons' are possible without laws that enable them. Note: to the degree Carnegie, Mellon and Gates use government force to amass their fortunes, they are mixed if not actually evil. I am operating on the assumption that equivalent men (on whatever scale) would arise in a free market economy.

So a system of voluntary charity gives me what incentives? It encourages me to be virtuous, kind, deserving, to develop friendships, demonstrate responsibility, encourage productive ability and to establish a system of laws that allow for and encourage the greatest amount of productive achievement in the society at large. It is in my self-interest to pursue these values. It is on these that I will depend if I get into trouble.

Would anyone like to project what the opposite system would encourage? I don't have the stomach for it. All I can say is read the paper, and look around you at what has become of your culture and your fellow men. We are about to enslave every man to every other man in a system devised to make "need", not rights, the driving principle governing 1/7th of the entire economy. Before you act to advocate such change, take the time to at least consider the ideas above and give them your attention with your fullest and most honest clarity of mind.

-Richard Gleaves

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