Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Not Everything That is Desirable is a Right

One thing that is sure to set me on a defensive path is to call something a “right” that most certainly is not.

Al Gore, since he lost his presidential bid, has become one of our nation’s most aggressive agitators. While I’m sure he isn’t abandoning the saving of the planet, I’m sure that his righteous pronouncements on progressive causes will be magnified by the magical sheen of his shiny new Nobel Peace Prize.

In a setting reminiscent of a bored college student making a video in his dorm room, Gore is shown proclaiming that healthcare in America “ought to be a matter of right,” addressing what he thinks to be an “immoral” healthcare situation.

No, sir, healthcare is not a “right”. Whether or not it is a desirable thing for our country to provide health care to the masses is an open debate. As our nation grows wealthier (and we have), it is reasonable to ask the question of how we will use that wealth to attend to public good--how much of our collective wealth are we willing to put into increased funding for education, infrastructure, and subsidized healthcare, for instance--or whether it is healthier for the economy and our society to keep that wealth in the private sector.

I think people know the direction I would be pointing, but that’s irrelevant. The truth is that every government expenditure is a balancing act; we can’t afford to do everything that everyone wants to do, nor should we try. I believe that there are some expenditures (national security, education, and infrastructure mainly--and not all of those in every situation) that are utterly necessary for the well-being of our nation. Most other things fall into the “yeah, that’s nice, but” category. As wealthy as our country is, our resources aren’t endless--even if money weren’t such a concern, there are still only so many doctors, so many nurses, so many MRI machines, and so many hospitals at our disposal.

And money is a concern. With the baby boomers now officially entering the Social Security system, our nation’s costs on entitlements are only going to increase while the pool of workers paying the bills for retirees will shrink proportionally. That means higher debt, higher taxes, or redirecting money from other areas. Bet on a mix of higher debt and higher taxes. Until we’ve managed to put together fiscally sound plans to handle our current budget problems, does it make any sense at all to even try to put in Gore’s preferred “universal single-payer government-provided or government-funded health care?”

What Gore is advocating is fiscally irresponsible--and crashing our already unbalanced (if impressively resilient) economy to satisfy some phantom “right” is insane. To pursue that end while calling our current system immoral is hypocritical: when the economy comes tumbling down, how will this new “right” be attended to?

Freedom of speech is a right. Freedom of association is a right. Freedom of religion is a right. I think you see where I’m going with this.

The government doesn’t have to spend a penny to provide those things to me (although it does spend considerable amounts preserving my opportunity to enjoy them). Health care will never and can never be equally distributed and truly universal in its coverage. Even countries that provide the kind of system that Gore prefers all practice some form of rationing and have seen secondary markets grow to attend to the needs that the government program can’t cover. Truly equitable, truly universal coverage is a myth because while free speech is boundless, health care is a limited resource. I think it’s good to understand the difference.

I’ll be happy to continue debating what health care subsidies are prudent and good for the government to provide. What I won’t do is accept that health care can ever occupy the same space as free speech and freedom of religion.

Unless, of course, this is one big misunderstanding and what Gore really meant is that health care is a right in the same way that we are guaranteed the right to keep and bear arms. That is, the government won’t buy me my H&K USP, but recognizes my right to ownership. I’m pretty sure that’s not the direction he’s traveling.

In sum: too much government spending bad, fiscal responsibility good. I put that last bit in for all the Republican leaders who might have lost their way.

Read the story.

Update: For the shorter response, read a little Steve Green. Then, for a laugh, read the “Correction” on his quickie post about Randi Rhodes unassaulted self. If Steve were a girl, his wife wouldn’t be able to trust me around the guy.

Or something like that.


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