To Secure or to Grant Rights

The following is a transcript recovered from an old C4L blog that I maintained during my heady days as a minarchical statist. Originally published on 26-July-2009

Table of Contents

1 Preface

Nothing amuses me more than running into people online who have their emotions vested so deeply in the popular topic of Health Care. When confronted with the financial, economic, logistical madness that would be entailed in the president's plan, some folks get rather offended -- like you were barging into their house and eating their ice cream or something.

I guess the internet has the curious ability to make every bandwagon you jump on feel like your own private limo. It certainly is rude to ask someone "how y'payin' for all that?" and I suppose it would be uncalled for if the answer to the question wasn't invariably "you -- with or without your consent."

The most common defense for socializing health care that I run into is a rhetorical question: "Don't you think people have a right to health care?"

The first logical fallicy of that question is the assumption that government exists to give you your rights.

That may feel weird to some people but it's true. We can't, and really shouldn't try, to enumerate all of the unalienable human rights that exist. The argument about whether health care is or is not a human right (and I think it's not but don't have time to explain it in this blog) is beyond the point. But let's just take the three, big, vague, self-evident ones that you find in the Declaration of Independence and use them in this proof of concept.

2 Life

You have a right to Life. But the government doesn't give you life. Human life predates all forms of government we have names for. Governments never gave anybody life. Indeed, I would contend that governments are better at taking life than giving it. The state of being a self-replicating biochemical reaction relies not on the things a bureaucrat writes on paper but on the laws of Nature and, if you would permit, nature's God.

3 Liberty

You have a right to Liberty. Liberty is the power to govern yourself. It's the ability to make decisions that help guide you in living an equitable and moral life. The power to self-determination is also far from novel to the human species. Moreover, historic documentation indicates that people have indeed self-governed without the assistance or direction of a formal institution. This is not to say that we should all live in anarchical utopias so much as it disproves the idea that government gives you Liberty.

4 Pursuit of Happiness

You have a right to pursue Happiness. It's catchy in part because it's so ambiguous. What makes one person happy does not necessarily work as well for another. Yet we all want to go after those things that do make us happy. In my particular case, my happiness comes principally from my family and from working hard and seeing the fruits of that labor. None of these things came by a mandate from any king or parlaiment or Congress or three-letter agency. I suppose if someone does extract happiness from red tape, partisan bickering, and warmongering, that's one context where Government could deliver.

What is interesting is that even in the same text that enumerates these three rights and their importance, it does not say "Governments are instituted to give people these rights." Instead the Declaration says that Governments are instituted to secure these rights.

This is one of the distinguishing marks of American culture. It is one of the reasons we are such a great country. Historically, the idea of "rights" were derived from some external source. When an old feudal lord was lecherous enough to institute the practice of prima nocta, he would claim it as his "right" as a lord. Where does he get this right? Mostly, he gets it from the fact that a bunch of dudes with swords and crossbows will ruin your day if you question it. It's a right from an external source.

Even when the Americas answered to the British Crown, many would plead for their rights as Englishmen – deriving their rights from the empire they were citizens of. We all know how pleading for rights (that were granted by the consent of a dictator in the first place) worked out for the American Colonies.

It was by necessity that we introduced the idea of deriving rights not from a piece of paper, not from an external entity, and not from a mere social precedent but from our humanity. Being human is the one thing we could always count on. The fact that you are human cannot change by force of conspiracy, bribery, or coercion. And if your rights are rooted in that, then no stroke of any pen can take those rights away.

Thus the Declaration of Independence declares that governments exist not to grant but to secure the rights we already have. The rights we're born with. The rights that our Creator endowed us with. Whether that Creator is a flying spaghetti monster or the laws of biochemistry is immaterial to this argument.

This is why the Second Amendment does not say "the government should give Ishpeck a gun" but instead, "the government can't take Ishpeck's gun away." This is why the Fourth Amendment does not read "the government should set up a nice, cozy, private place for you to hide in" but that whatever place you live in is off limits to constables without warrants.

Returning to the question that spurred this brain-dump: Is medicine a human right? Observation of the nature of government and its relationship to human rights indicates that even if health care was a human right, Government does not exist to guarantee anybody access to medical care.

Human rights are always to be protected from government, not cottled by it. History indicates that trusting governments to nurture your rights is like trusting a pedophile in a day care center. Accordingly, any right one may claim to health care manifests an urgent need to keep government out of it – for to invite that ravenous dog in to your hospitals would take away, not secure said rights.

If health care were an unalienable human right, entrusting it to the very same institution that gave us the Patriot Act, Guantanamo Bay, the Bailouts that we plead so fervently against, and more unconstitutional wars than we can keep track of seems down-right silly to me.

The common argument that attempts to legitemize universal health care cannot, even in its home court, win a rational mind over.

Date: 2012-09-22 09:35

Author: Anthony "Ishpeck" Tedjamulia

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