Rights are a very confusing notion. It seems to me there are two possibilities regarding Mr Obama’s recent claim that “health care is a right.” Either he means something completely different by “right” than I might understand it to mean (which is to say not a common notion of what is casually meant by “a right”) or he should not get anybody’s vote because he’s, well, insane. Bill Whittle, former democrat, at NRO puts this one perspective:
Well, back in the day, we would simply say that a right has legal authority — it’s in the Constitution and therefore it’s a not just a right, it’s a birthright. So why shouldn’t we amend the Constitution to include the rights to health care, food, housing, education — all the rest? What’s the difference between the rights we have and the “rights” Obama wants to give us?
Simply this: Constitutional rights protect us from things: intimidation, illegal search and seizure, self-incrimination, and so on. The revolutionary idea of our Founding Fathers was that people had a God-given right to live as they saw fit. Our constitutional rights protect us from the power of government.
The Declaration states that the “rights we hold to be self-evident” (and perhaps granted by Nature’s God) where Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness. Happiness almost certainly mean for Jefferson, Adams and Franklin to be the Aristotelian eudomonia (definition #2 at the link). Rights for our founders are emphatically not consumables that the government should provide for us.
There are two essential problems with Mr Obama’s (insane?) claim that health care is a “right”. The first is illustrated above, and that it is not a right as normally thought. The notion that health care is a fundamental right to which every person is entitled is radical policy of redistribution at best. The second problem with the idea of healthcare as thing which government can cure is that it’s wrong!
In the fouth and fifth centuries the Church, especially in the Eastern Roman Empire, began a program of providing health care, food, and shelter for the poor. At that time as well, for the first time, narratives of the poor and their plight entered into public discourse (in homilies for one). Caring and providing basic health care for those who couldn’t afford it was for the Church the exercise of the very important virtue of charity. As an aside, health care in and of itself is not, for the Christian, the first priority or an essential thing in life. That is receiving health care for myself is less important than my relationship with God. The apostles (and Jesus) first look to sins, forgiveness and repentance before healing. But, as so often happens, I digress. Mr Obama rejects all of this. Health care is a “right”. So apparently, if you have a need for this commodity, and I have resources you are in the right taking it. Sociologists cite that those on the right are better at understanding the left than the reverse. But in this case, I fail entirely. This notion that health care is a right seems closer to an immoral or even evil concept than one which should might be promoted as a good.
The essential problem of today’s healthcare “crises” is that we have to ration it. Why? 400 years ago, before industrial automation, everyday staples, clothing, and manufactured goods were could barely be produced in quantities for everyone. While there were inequities in production, even if these had somehow magically (or more to the point “angelically”) have been removed, there still wouldn’t have been “enough.” Likewise today, with health care, politicians rearrange deck chairs on the Titanic, promising (emptily) that just “better smarter” distribution of health care resources will make the problem go away. It won’t. The only thing that will “solve” the health care problem, just as with essential commodities, is if we repeat that self-same solution that makes manufactured goods and food cheap today. The effort involved in producing cloth today requires a few people and a bunch of machines and acres of cloth is created. Health care is an intensely human activity today. It requires people, specialists with training for the most part to supply the basic health care “product.” Until the health care product is put through the expansion of effort that automation can provide it will remain expensive. Specifically, when your doctor can see two or three order of magnitude more patients in the same he does now … then he will be able to charge two to three orders of magnitude less to you the consumer. Then and only then will health care become affordable and available to everyone. Today the biggest obstacle to this in the way of moving toward that end, is in fact people like Mr Obama and government regulation. Mr Obama is pushing for more government involvement in health care. Name one industry which was made more efficient by more government regulation.
Today there are books, in which a parent or person can navigate simple flowcharts of medical diagnoses. Many steps end with “see a doctor”, many do not. A small amount of automation and inexpensive (digital?) diagnostic tools connected to a computer, which if the demand was enough would become quickly very inexpensive, could do a lot more. If this/these devices could prescribe the necessary medications then the need for the specialized diagnostic tools of a Doctor would be less needed. Diseases move through communities in small local waves. When the flu is “in the school system”, pediatricians are deluged with a onslaught of kids with exactly the same disease, needing the same treatment. If the diagnostic device took your location and diagnoses from your community then their diagnoses could be made even more accurate. A random sample of those patients could even be sent to a trained diagnostician to check the accuracy/quality of the automated diagnoses. In fact the Doctor in a region might get a very small “licensing” fee from the community around him that uses it. He might be “pinged” with a query when the automatic diagnostic tool finds a situation which it cannot be resolved. The data (and some historical data) would then be avaliable for him, so much of the basic diagnostic data would already be available to him (saving him time). This is just a suggestion of how a medical technology might enable a Doctor to service and provide the medical product for orders of magnitude more patients.
What is the essential roadblock in the sale, development, and distribution of a program and equipment as described in the previous paragraph. That would be the Government. FDA, regulation and their laws all prevents this from being tested or tried.