Health Care is a Right

Health Care is a Right May 8, 2017

The Church teaches that it is. Multiple magisterial sources reiterate this fact. Therefore some guy with a keyboard named Kevin Williamson is in error when he denies that proposition.

I’m hearing several popular libertarian dogmas deny this fact.

The first is the claim that since health care requires other people’s property and labor there can be no right to it.

The folly of this argument is that, as Ayn Rand saw, if we grant that premise that means that there can be no right to life for children since children do nothing but require the labor and property of other people and they do it for years and years and years after conception. Yet it is often “prolife” libertarianized Christians who make this foolish argument against the right to health care because their masters in the GOP and the Right Wing Noise Machine command it and they are stunned when you point out the consequences of their logic.

That said, the situation is not really even as extreme as all that. Nobody but libertarians says that a right to health care means keeping health care professionals as a permanent unpaid slave class. It’s a silly fantasy trotted out *only* for the purposes of stampeding suckers.

How do I know? Because these same people shouting that there is no right to health care in the teeth of Church teaching spend millions of man hours also shouting that Americans have a right to own a gun–but they never say that means that gun makers must be a permanent unpaid slave class.

Here’s the deal: you can have a right to something without it necessarily being provided by slave labor. In fact, that’s the norm for adults. Turns out we pay gun makers. It also turns out that our rights to education, protection under the law, food, water, shelter, utilities and protection from foreign threats do not mean we enslave teachers, police, lawyers, farmers, water workers, builders, electrical engineers, and soldiers without pay. Mirabile dictu, we find ways to pay them and we do it through various combinations of private and state mechanisms.

So we can (and do) do that with health care workers as well.

What this all comes back to (as the link with a child’s right to life makes clear) is that that health care is a corollary of the right to life. A child does not have a right to life because of *charity*. His parents are not doing him a favor by not killing him. They are doing him justice because justice pertains to what is *owed*. A child is *owed* his life by his parents by virtue of being a human being and if they deprive him of it, they are *robbing* him.

But the same is true of any human being in danger of his life and health. The man on the side of the road in the Parable of the Good Samaritan was *owed* his life and the priest and Levite *robbed* him by ignoring him. The Samaritan did not, according to Jesus, do anything above and beyond mere basic duty. He acted, not as a hero or a saint, but as a *neighbor*. The priest and Levite *sinned* by depriving the man of simple justice. The Good Samaritan did not sin because he gave simple justice by giving him what we today call “health care”.

The lie of the libertarian is to conclude from this story that the moral is that health care should only be provided by “charitable” individuals. Now don’t get me wrong: “charity” (or more precisely, compassion by individual initiative) is great and Jesus absolutely encourages that.

But the core lie of libertarian dogma is that anything beyond individual initiative–and especially anything from a state social safety net beyond that–is an intrusion on the sphere of individual initiative and, above all, on Christian charity.

This is false. Why? Because health care is, as we have seen, Justice and not charity. People are *owed* health care for the same reason they are owed their lives and the same reason the man by the side of the road was owed his health. And because it is precisely the job of the state to ensure justice, it is therefore the legitimate job of the state to help ensure proper health care to all as part of the common good.

The Libertarian lie in reply to that is that every dime taken in taxes to provide for a state social safety net is a dime that the oh-so-super-generous Libertarian cannot give in charity. Prescinding from the fact that health care is, yet again, not charity but justice, note the subtext of narcissism to the argument. The focus of the argument is, ironically, not on the needs of the sick, but on the feelings of the Libertarian.

What it comes down to is this: The libertarian resents that a single mother whose four-year-old daughter has been diagnosed with leukemia and who faces a choice between death for her child or living in a cardboard box under the freeway might have the treatment covered by the state. He prefers, instead, that she be forced to busk on a GoFundMe (and I cannot tell you how many times I have had to post such things on this blog) so that he can feel warm inside if he happens to notice the blog and be in the mood to drop five bucks into the kitty for treatments totaling $750,000. In short, it’s all about him, not the sick person.

That’s crazy. The bottom line is: if it’s more important to you that you feel generous than that she get the treatment and the family not be bankrupted, I think you are a liar when you tell me you are oh-so-generous and concerned with charity. And it’s why the rest of the civilized world has universal health care and why the bishops of the US have been calling for it for literally a century.

Finally, there is the libertarian dogma, believed and professed with intense religious faith, that “Individuals do everything better and the state can only screw it all up.”

Time and again I have this experience:

“It is a liberal fantasy that government provides anything. For something to be given by government, they have to first take it from someone else,” he typed into his state-invented and state-provided internet.

Very simply, there is no evidence for this dogma. Are many things well-done by private initiative? Of course. But it does not follow that the state is worthless at providing for the common good, of which health care is a part. It was not libertarians who stormed Normandy in rowboats, brandishing grandpa’s rifle to destroy Hitler’s Third Reich. It was not Libertarians who built the interstate system (though it is Libertarians whose chintziness is allowing it to fall apart along with the rest of our infrastructure). It was not Libertarians who made the internet possible. It was not Libertarians, working in their basement with chemistry sets, who defeated polio and, more recently, the ebola plague (though it is emphatically Libertarian who are helping to kill children with their paranoid rejection of state vaccination programs).

And it will not be Libertarians who see to it that every sick person who cannot afford treatment get the treatment they need. On the contrary, they will continue to spread the lie–directly contrary to the teaching of Holy Church–that health care is not a right. And they will have blood on their hands as a result.

Kevin Williamson is wrong. The Church is right. And Catholics have a clear choice. We can listen to the Church and start working to implement her teaching or we can listen to falsehood and fight the Church. As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.

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