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Friday, June 10th 2005

The Uninsured & Universal Healthcare: Ideologies (Part 3)

Finally, I come to it.

I am not a pragmatist. I do however define myself as an idealist. That title however has come, with time, to denote a bleeding heart. I’m much more cerebral about my ideals but they are certainly there. I would rather do what I believe to be right despite charges that sometimes such action lacks real world functionality.

To all who level such charges I paraphrase George Bernard Shaw:

The reasonable man adapts himself to the world…The unreasonable man expects the world to adapt to himself…Therefore, all progress depends on the unreasonable man.

Individual liberty versus equality. From slavery to the welfare state to the Cold War, it has simply been the underlying struggle of America’s more than 200 year history. There are notable historians and political philosophers who will say it is not simply that black and white. There are well versed and highly educated and intelligent individuals who claim that these two things — individual liberty and equality — are not mutually exclusive and to view all political debates in terms of one or the other limits your thinking and blocks out solutions to the problems facing the world.

However, more than the trailblazers of political correctness and moral ambiguity would have us believe, the world is often black and white. The world has come to accept all viewpoints and potentially legitimate; it is the greatest folly of the political correctness ‘movement,’ although giving such a title implies an organization not present. It dilutes individual responsibility, excusing any situation and with the erosion of responsibility comes the loss of liberty and morality as well. Perhaps what we have witnessed in the past forty years is merely the inevitable liberalization of the western world which history has clearly shown. Such inevitability does not however make the ideology correct, of course.

I’ve rambled off track and I’ve failed to mention universal healthcare once so far, but bear with me.

Individual liberty and equality are mutually exclusive except in the sense that there is an equality to every individual being free in his or her own right. It is the difference between a free market and socialism. The ultimate expression of equality – the complete redistribution of wealth; communism.

A defense of universal healthcare, whether the proponent recognizes it or not, is of course, like the defense of any welfare program, a defense of equality. Since, equality is exclusive of individual liberty, a defense of universal healthcare necessarily requires the erosion of someone’s liberty. In the case of programs which redistribute wealth involuntarily, such as universal healthcare, equality and someone else’s ‘rights’ are more important than your right to property and privacy.

It is another matter whether you believe that property is an inherent right. Proofs of that are long and arduous and beyond my scope. However, let’s just make it clear that I believe it is. So there are two final points to be made. One, even if you believe healthcare is an inherent right as well, there are still problems with universal healthcare. Two, healthcare isn’t an inherent right.

If healthcare and property are both inherent rights, then by definition one isn’t more important than the other. Being inherent gives them the ultimate weight. You cannot say something is more inherent than another. It may seem obvious in one’s everyday understanding of the world, to say if someone is dying, and you have a needle that could save him or her, then that needle can be taken from you, as this person’s life is more important than your ownership of that needle. But, if property is an inherent right, then that is not the case. I understand this is hardest thing for some to accept in this argument but from a logic and rhetoric point of view it is correct.

Fortunatley, I think there’s ample proof that healthcare is not an inherent right. Try to define the right to speech or life or property. Fairly simple, you can phrase them in your own words. Try to define a right to healthcare. Does it include a CT to make sure a sprain isn’t broken? Does it include birth control? Does it include the most expensive surgical procedures in the world just to relieve non-threatening foot pain?

It’s a subjective definition whatever you come up with. The only universal definition possible is that all people are entitled to the best and most advanced healthcare possible in the world. Even that however, I assure you, is subjective. I couldn’t pull 10 random doctors off the street and have an agreement, on the periphery of disease and healthcare, just what the best treatment is . As well, but of less importance, implementing the “best” healthcare is obviously pragmatically impossible. A universal healthcare system in the real world could never provide such a system of ultimate care. There is nothing inherent about healthcare.

If healthcare isn’t an inherent right but property is (I haven’t really shown that but I believe it), then how can you deny someone their inherent right, by taking their money to pay for someone else’s healthcare involuntarily? I don’t think you can.

I know this post has been far more cerebral than most are willing to accept.