Picture a little town in Flyover Country, U.S.A—let’s call it Liberty Falls. You know the kind: three stoplights, one gas station, a little corner grocery store, white picket fences, and a covered bridge.
Liberty Falls has 1,000 residents, and one doctor, a kindly old country doc who’s a few years shy of retirement. Everyone who has an ailment goes to see the doc, and they pay either by presenting their insurance card, or by forking over cash as private patients.
Now, some people in Liberty Falls have neither health insurance, nor the money to pay for a visit to the kindly old country doc. So the progressive and compassionate people of Liberty Falls pass an ordinance that proclaims the following:
HEALTH CARE IS A HUMAN RIGHT IN LIBERTY FALLS.
Because health care is a human right, it is now the task of the community to pay for the doctor’s visits of the townsfolk that don’t have health insurance. In the next annual town budget, local property and sales taxes are raised a few percentage points to get the funds for the health care expenses of the town’s poor folk. The lines at the kindly old country doc’s office get a little longer, as do the doctor’s hours, but all in all, everything works smoothly, and the citizens of Liberty Falls bask in the knowledge that everyone in their little town has a right to health care, and nobody has to go sick or die for lack of money for the doctor’s visits.
A year or two later, the kindly old country doctor has had enough of the General Medicine business. His hours have gotten a bit long, and he was ready for retirement anyway, so he closes his office, and takes up gardening instead.
Now the citizens of Liberty Falls have a problem. Not only do the paying and insured citizens no longer have a doctor to go to, but the uninsured folks are out of luck as well. What’s worse, the town has made health care a human right, so some of the citizens are considering suing the town for violating their rights as defined by the town bylaws.
Efforts are made to secure a new source of medical care, but there’s no other doctor living in Liberty Falls. The only college kids currently living in town are all in other fields of study, and the only one who got into medical school is planning to practice in nearby Megalopolis instead, because there’s more money and less stress in the Cosmetic Surgery field than in General Medicine.
What can the town do? The town council can’t move the sole med student to take over the kindly old country doc’s practice, and nobody else wants to go to med school just to face the sure prospect of being underpaid and overworked as the sole heath care provider in Liberty Falls.
Now the town looks to the outside for a new doctor to come and move in, so the town law of health care for all as a human right can be satisfied. But the town ordinances are a roadblock in this case once again. The people of Liberty Falls don’t like outsiders much, and they passed laws a long time ago that require professionals from other towns and cities to get a special temporary license to practice their craft. (This was done to protect the local professionals from unfair competition from nearby Shady Grove and Potter’s Landing, two towns with which the Liberty Falls folk aren’t on the best of terms.)
What happened to the right to health care now? What are the options open to the good people of Liberty Falls now? The out-of-towners face severe hurdles just to get an undesirable job (and don’t want the position for that reason), and the town’s youngsters can’t be forced to become doctors, no matter how much the town tries to convince them.
How, now, does Liberty Falls secure that “human right” they wrote into the town laws…without forcing anyone into the job, and thereby violating their rights? Do they force the old doc out of retirement? Do they force the med student into a field of study she doesn’t like, and then push her into a job she doesn’t want? Do they end up paying out half the town’s tax income to send people to Shady Grove’s doctor instead? All the coercive and fiscal power of the town government is completely useless when it comes to securing that right, if nobody wants to take the job willingly.
In order for something to be a human right, it cannot and must not be something that requires a good or a service from someone else. If you make it so, then the person providing that good or service will become a slave to the community, because they no longer have the option to refuse. That’s why health care cannot ever be a human right: because health care is a commodity, just like flat-screen TVs and sliced bread at the grocery store. You can’t claim the right to force J.J. Nissen to make bread for you, whether it’s for compensation or for free, and you can’t force Best Buy to keep stocking flat-screen TVs, either. If you run out of people to provide that commodity, you have no way to claim that so-called human right.
A human right only requires that people leave you alone to exercise it, not that they work for you, whether you give them money for their work or not. Freedom of speech is a human right. Freedom of association is a human right. Free exercise of religion is a human right. Free band-aids and vaccinations aren’t.
That, friends and neighbors, is why health care, while very desirable and a good thing to have, cannot and will not ever be a human right…and that’s why I have a capillary or two bursting every time I see that bumper sticker.