What Does It Mean to Have a ‘Right’ to Health Care? New at Reason

Despite the popular misconception, health care is not beyond economic law. It has to be produced, which means people must mix their scarce labor with scarce resources to produce the things used to perform the medical services we want. It would be foolish to expect them to donate their labor and resources because other people need them; they have their own lives to live and livelihoods to earn. It would be wrong to compel them; they are not slaves.

In other words, no one can have a right to the labor services and resources of other people—which means no one can have a right medical care or insurance, argues Sheldon Richman. Politicians, of course, can declare a right to medical care, but those are mere words. What counts is what happens after the declaration. Since a system in which everyone could have, on demand, all the medical care they wanted at no cost would be unsustainable, the so-called right to medical care necessarily translates into the power of politicians and bureaucrats to set the terms under which medical services and products may be provided and received. This is crucial: a government-declared "right" (that does not reflect natural rights) is no right at all; it is rather a declared government power to allocate goods and services.

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