Jeff Frank

Graduate Student - Economics,

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Is Health Care a Right?

Sens. Bernie Sanders and Ron Paul debate whether health care is a right.


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    Jun 16 2011: let us do some logical analysis here.

    food is a right? suppose we have 3 people on a desert island, waiting for rescue. they have food for 2 persons. if food is a right, one person's rights will be violated. who violated his right? nobody, nature did.

    we can not have rights that defy nature. we can not command nature. if you think about it, basic human rights never defy nature. basic human rights seems to be positive, like the right to speak as you wish. but actually they are negative. the freedom of speech does not allow you to broadcast any message, but only disallows anyone to stop you doing so. if you are incapable of expressing your opinion, because natural reasons, your right is not violated.

    health is often taken away from us by nature. health care is a fight against nature. health care can also be denied by nature, since nature might not give us enough resources at a given place and time. thus neither health nor health care can be a right. you can not command mother nature to give them to us. the right to health or health care means that nobody should be forcefully denied health care if he is otherwise able to get it.

    we don't like nature. yeah, we like landscapes of course, and flowers. but many aspects of nature we hate. we fight nature, and we get more food than nature grants us, and we build machines, and cities, and we fight illnesses the best we can. and we can wish, want, demand or work for getting food, health care, shelter, internet access and whatnot to as many people as we can, ideally everyone.

    it is a task. it is our goal to do so. it is our obligation to our fellow man. but it is not a right to get it. it can not be. unless you can bring nature to the court.
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      Jun 16 2011: Krisztián, In your island example, your logic might make sense. In our world today and considering our scientific advances, healthcare is one right we can give to all people. In terminal cases or the nature of our finite life, logic would dictate to take appropriate measures and the right perspective. (

      We have indeed violated a lot of natural laws and this is indeed what we are trying to solve with our minds and hearts. Many people are trying but more people need to contribute. We accelerate our transformations both from the top and the bottom of our institutions.
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        Jun 16 2011: the intrinsic nature of things does not change with the circumstances. if we are in the position to give everyone healthcare, this is good, but does not make it a right. (i doubt that we are in that position though.)

        we don't have the right to have snacks or cellphones, but still, in the west, almost everyone can get them anytime.
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      Jun 16 2011: Krisztian, A woman would look at enough food for 2 out of three people and say:What can we stetch this with- a little coconut maybe and if there was nothing to add the obvious solution would be for all three people to be on 2/3s rations NOT to let one person STARVE!

      That's the problem. We have taken the discussion away from reality too far.
      Just because someone codified a set of laws that give the status of 'rights' to crazy stuff that does not mean the current state of affairs is correct.

      We are not talking about a cell phone or a snack we are talking about people living or dying and a little equity would be nice. How did some people's property rights (to the level of such insane excess) get codified over the right of a child to eat and survive? These laws were passed by strong greedy aggressive men long before anyone else with a heart had a say.

      You can win by ridiculing the way people use the word 'rights' forcing the conversation to adhere to the definition in law books but no one really believes that its right now or ever.
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        Jun 16 2011: no, what we need actually is taking the conversation far from reality. that is how thinking works. you can't analyze something that is too complex. that's why we do thought experiments, and create imaginary worlds in which it is possible to have food for two but not for three. because it is a detail we don't want to deal with. we want to strip things down to the simplest form to analyze their true nature. another technique is finding similar arguments that are clearly wrong to demonstrate the incorrectness of the other reasoning. please don't refuse the usual methods of formal reasoning.

        so no, you can't change the rules of game that way. because then i can reply: then both 3 persons' rights were violated, since they don't have enough food. if there is less than "should be", someone's rights are violated. and we are at the same point in the debate as we where some minutes earlier.

        right was originally meant to allow actions. if you have a right to do something, it means you are allowed to do it if you are capable of. it makes no sense to have a right to have something. having is not an action, but simply a state of affairs.

        every kind of "right" that is about having or being something is a misuse of the term. we do that a lot actually. we use "war" for every kind of struggle. it is okay as long as it is rhetorical. but if the question is directly whether our struggle against poverty is a war, the answer is a clear no, even if it is mislabeled "war on poverty".
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          Jun 17 2011: "no, you can't change the rules of game that way. because then i can reply: then both 3 persons' rights were violated, since they don't have enough food. if there is less than "should be", someone's rights are violated. and we are at the same point in the debate as we where some minutes earlier."

          What I think Debra is trying to show is that the example you gave is as much a ethical/philosophical issue as it is a simple matter of black or white. What Debra says does advance the debate to a point where we must consider steps that are incremental to achieving the ultimate goal: no more hunger in the world.
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    Jun 14 2011: whats the point of even calling ourselves an advanced civilization if we cant even offer health care to those who need it? even the most basic hunter gather societys could produce some kind of care for eachothe.r
  • Jun 13 2011: No.
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    Jun 16 2011: Health care is a right. By that, I mean that all persons have a valid rational claim that, other things being equal, they should obtain healthcare when they need it.

    That means that if a person is denied healthcare, there must be an adequate reason showing that the denial is rational under the circumstances.

    The claims are against the kind of beings who can attend to such claims: rational beings.

    The trick is of course to define rationality.

    I suggest that rationality grows out of empathy. When thought processes come under the rule that they must serve all, they are required to take on a certain form. That form is called rationality.
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    Jun 16 2011: Just because a society determines that something is a "right", that doesn't mean it becomes automatic. Our US society declares that each of it's citizens has a right to life, liberty abd the pursuit of happiness. Yet not a day has dawned in our 235 history where we can say that has been accomplished.

    But we need to keep taking steps towards that ultimate goal. Yes, it may be something just short of an illusion, but it's an illusion worthy of pursuing.

    Making basic health care affordable and available to everyone who needs it is an important factor in making strides towards those basic rights. If a government commits to giving a person that, then that government is helping in an important way to achieve basic human rights.
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      Jun 16 2011: I agree Jim, we keep taking steps towards that ultimate goal. We have the power to transform our world!
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    Jun 15 2011: Hot topic in America...and I wish I knew the answer. All I know is that it is not fair in regards to what health insurance costs (an average of 6,000+ per family a year), nor the cost of the health care itself (ie 28,000 for an operating room for 3 hours???)

    .All I know is that the happiest countries tend to have socialized medicine, and we are often looked at as being barbaric for denying health care for all of our citizens. We need to come up with a viable solution to this problem.
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    Jun 15 2011: This one is a hard one for me to understand. If we do not have health what does anyone have?

    Why do kids have a right to an education in a civilized country? I think the answer is that we educate the kids for their benefit and for the benefit of the entire nation.

    Any country that is worthy of being called a country, any country where businesses get the benefit of the roads, the ideas that come from universities, the financial laws that spring up to support those businesses - should protect the fundamental basic right to health.

    Anyone which does not has merely bowed to social darwinism and selishness over any sort of compassion, conscience or common humanity and its not a country or a philosophy that deserves any respect in my view.
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      Jun 15 2011: I don't think it's hard to understand if you separate rights from good ideas. Just because something is a good idea and may benefit from collective action does not mean it's a right.

      A right implies an obligation. You have a right to free speech—I am obligated not to interfere with it. It would be wrong for me to charge you money to prevent me from interfering with your freedom. In this sense it is a negative right—in order for your right to flourish, I only need to avoid interfering with it; it doesn't require action on my part. Many rights are like this: speech, religion, private property, etc.

      Now compare that to healthcare. Your right to healthcare is not secured when I simply leave you alone. It places a burden on me. What are my obligations? Am I required to develop or purchase an MRI machine because your health requires it? Do I need to develop pharmaceuticals to treat your ailments? If healthcare is a right, it implies obligations to individuals. What are those? Am I bound to these obligations regardless of whether it is profitable for me? You see, healthcare unlike free speech requires positive action from others—your right no longer only requires that I leave you free; I incur a cost for your right. Your positive right to healthcare has suddenly interfered with my negative rights.

      Positive rights, like the right to healthcare or food are not really rights at all. This doesn't mean that it's not in our best interest to secure food and healthcare for everyone regardless of income—it may be the best solution in many cases, but to speak of it as a 'right' only serves to muddy the waters with ideology when we should be thinking practically.
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        Jun 15 2011: I think that this way of thinking is serious evidence of the propaganda many countries are steeped in. Profit at any cost.

        I know my words are controversial here but can you not remember a time when you KNEW that it was your responsibility and that you had to run and tell your Mom when anyone fell down and was hurt so that she could come and help? And a little child shall lead them......

        We are human beings, stepping over our sick and wounded is not the way I want to live and to hear whole countries fight for the right to neglect their sick is a symptom of a very disfunctional world.No obligation to help?

        Your heart knows even if your brain has decided to buy social darwinism. If you feel no obligation when a fellow human being is suffering and dying, that is in my mind evidence of pathology. We have a really weird profit driven motive of what we are willing to claim as rights for our fellow man- I would suggest that they are pretty simple- water, food, safety and health and we'll build from there.
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          Jun 15 2011: If I have a right to food, then why shouldn't I simply walk into a grocery store, farm field, or your fridge every time I'm hungry and help myself? It would be my right after all.
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          Jun 15 2011: if you were hungry, i would give you some food, no problem.
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          Jun 15 2011: Thanks Tim, I'd do the same for you. But the question is, are you duty-bound to do that? Every time? If you are, can we use coercive force to make you give me food when I'm hungry? That's what calling it a right means—you are duty bound to feed me when I'm hungry and provide healthcare when I'm sick.

          I applaud the compassion of you and Debra, but I simply think it's an abuse of the idea of a right to include positive rights. You don't need healthcare, food, and water to be rights in order to help the sick and hungry. At best it confuses the issues and at worst sacrifices individual liberty.
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          Jun 15 2011: i am human, you are human, i feel obligated. so yes, i belive i am bound to do so. i think they should be called rights, if we cant find it to come together regadless of anything, to provide what we have in food and water tfor each other, than ants are more advanced then us. i think as people we have lost perspective on this. calling them and treating them as rights seems like a direction we should move. in the state of AZ its illegal to deny someone a drink of water if they walk up to your door or business and ask, its a old and forgotton law, but its there.
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          Jun 17 2011: Tim Blackburn,

          I'm finally beginning to understand and admire your thoughts and perspective on things. You never seem to over think issues (though I know you have given things lots of thought) and you have a compassionate streak to your thinking that is refreshing to say the least... You and Nicholas should team up and run for office somewhere (though I think Nicholas would die a thousand deaths before entering into politics)
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        Jun 15 2011: Mark, we will never convince each other on this one, I fear. If you have to use the definition of a word to justify the suffering it causes, I can't bridge the gap. When people have so much that they have to rent storage sheds to store stuff they will never look at again and when 1% of a country own more than the bottom 50% combined - while others are sick and dying without help -something more than 'rights' are operating there.I am proud to live in a country where we at least try to ensure that people do not die just because they are poor.
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        Jun 15 2011: Mark you say
        "You don't need healthcare, food, and water to be rights in order to help the sick and hungry. At best it confuses the issues and at worst sacrifices individual liberty."

        Have you ever once considered what proportion of your laws and government are dedicated to protecting 'PROPERTY rights' and how little is dedicated to HUMAN rights? Why are paltry property rights enshrined in law and superior to human beings' rights to actually exist.

        I give my head a shake and wonder why it isn't clear to everyone. When did we cash in our humanity?

        And you even have a 'right' to a gun to chase off the hungry and the hurting.
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          Jun 15 2011: Debra, property rights are a human right. As are the rights of free speech and religion and equality under the law. Only people who have prospered under the luxury of a free society would ever describe property rights as 'paltry.'

          Rather than ranting, maybe you could answer my simple questions in the posts above. If healthcare, food, shelter, etc. are Rights, what are the individual's duties associated with those rights and can the state then enforce those duties? You seem very content to ignore the relationship between duties and rights, but that relationship is fundamental. For instance, Toronto is not without homeless people. But many people have extra room in their houses. If shelter is a right, then those people should be able to enforce those rights by entering your house. Do you think that's right? Why or why not?
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          Jun 15 2011: There are many arguments that don't require the creation of rights. They basically boil down to helping people understand the real benefits that they get from living in a just society, which they so often take for granted. For example:

          1. It is my best interest that those around me are not sick and starving.
          2. I benefit from a society with fluid social and economic mobility regardless of my position in society
          3. A society with a large amount of hunger and poverty is unstable—it's in everyone's best interest to provide a safety net to people who have fallen on hard times.
          4. I reap more benefits that costs from living in a well-ordered society, I should be willing to pay back the institutions that make the relative luxury of our society possible.
          5. The more opportunity we provide to allow talent and hard work to flourish the more vital and successful our society will be. We should provide as much opportunity for personal growth to everyone, especially children, regardless of economic circumstance because we all benefit.
          6. If done correctly, the potential for economies of scale may outweigh the weight of bureaucracy and justify collective action.

          I could keep going. There are a lot of good reasons to support social programs and to use government as tool to do so. In the U.S. our highway system is a good example. We all benefit from a good transportation system with safe, well-maintained roads, but I would hardy call highways a human right.

          Although he seems to get ignored in a lot of conversations like this, I think John Rawls got it more or less right.
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          Jun 17 2011: Providing health care is an important bridge to build so that we can move closer to obtaining those illusive rights of life liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
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        Jun 15 2011: Mark
        I am with you on this.
        This is such a simple question.
        There is big difference between being a nice guy and doing right versus an OBLIGATION to take money from one person and give it to another because it's their RIGHT to have their abortion paid for, their fatty veins cleared out from all that smoking, or their liver fixed because of too much booze (or indeed a completely innocent 7 year old girl with a tumour). Nobody has the "Right" for Healthcare paid for by someone else.
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        Jun 15 2011: Hi Mark,

        If something is a good idea, then, other things being equal, one should act on that idea. Hence, there is a conditional obligation. Since there is a conditional obligation, others have a conditional claim (right) that there should be such an action.

        Your argument seems to suppose that rights and oligations are always absolute (unconditional).

        In fact, rights and oligations are rarely absolute. They are usually circumscribed by limitations.

        You also assume that rights are always enforceable. That is incorrect. It is one thing to say that others have a valid claim that one should act in a certain way. The notion of rights assumes that we are are rational. The initial force of the claim is rational rather than legal. It is entirely something different to say that beyond having a rational claim, others also have a right to take some action to enforce that right such as making the right legally enforceable and then using legal process.

        The easy question is whether there is a right to health care. There is. Other things being equal, every person should have access to whatever healthcare they need. The hard question has to do with the scope of the right, or in other words, with the exceptions to the obligation to provide health care. Another hard question has to do with the extent to which such rights and obligations should be made legally enforceable.
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          Jun 15 2011: This is a potentially interesting idea, but I think you need to explain it a little clearer so that those without the knowledge of legal jargon will have an easier time.

          For instance, you use the term "other things being equal" more than once. When are other things ever equal? What other things are you talking about? One other thing in the discussion of healthcare that clearly isn't equal is wealth, which is what creates much of the problem.

          Also, when talking about conditional obligations in this context, what conditions are you talking about? In my understanding conditional obligations work like this: I have a right to leave the grocery store with food on the condition that I pay for it. Paying the cashier creates a conditional obligation on the part of the store to give me the produce. That's a conditional right to food, which is much different than an absolute right to food. In the context of this discussion, what are the conditions you are thinking of when you speak of conditional rights? If we have a non-absolute right to healthcare, what are the conditions that must be met for us to act on our claim? Most people making this argument say that need alone is the only condition that must be met.

          I don't buy your first argument that good ideas necessarily create claims that there should be action. Flossing is a good idea, but my teeth are none of your business and I doubt you have a claim, conditional or not, that would allow you to interfere with my morning routine.
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        Jun 15 2011: Wooooooowh. I touched a nerve there!

        I do not bow to your tactic of classifying my remarks as ranting. Its a petty attempt to demean.
        You are right. There are homeless people in Toronto and some other Canadian cities. Are there none in the USA-- oh, right they have the freedom to migrate to warmer climates so that they are out of sight for many. Are you aware that homelessness is primarily an issue of mental illness? Even if most of them had homes to go to - they cannot maintain them or their financial lives. There are shelters but they are afraid to go to them. The reason that there are homeless on the streets of Canadian cities is that we as a culture have lost moral ground because of the emulation of the American model. Some of our politicians decided to save money by closing mental institutions and they downloaded those who needed help under the camoflage of 'mainstreaming' them.
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          Jun 15 2011: I have no intention of demeaning, we actually probably want the same things.

          You are ignoring the fundamental question so I will ask again: If healthcare, food, shelter, etc. are Rights, what are the individual's duties associated with those rights and can the state then enforce those duties?

          People love to call things Rights, but few ever think about the consequence of Rights: duties and obligations. Often those most ready to label things as rights are least ready to be bound by the duties the rights incur. People speak of shelter as a Right, but won't open their homes to the homeless, they call food a right, but expect somebody else to supply it, they call healthcare a right, but are not doctors and are not opening free clinics out of a sense of duty.
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        Jun 16 2011: Hi Mark,

        Anything that would effect whether an idea is a good idea would effect whether or not one should act on it. Thus, any such factor would fall within the matters that contribute to detemining whether one's chioce is subject to the obligation or an exception to the obligation.

        What "rights" talk is usually used to do is to improperly simplify the question of what a person should do or shouldn't do. It is typically used to manipulate the evaluation in favor of the wealthy and against the poor. Notice that you are very concerned to protect property, but you argue against recognition of rights that are more important to the poor than the rich: food, healthcare, and education.

        I am trying to point out that this improper simplification obfiscates the real issue: whether something, all things considered, is good or bad.

        I never said the real issue is an easy one to answer. To the contrary, it is quite complex. Taking everything into consideration is not something we can actually accomplish. Consequently, our judgments are estimations as to what is best. When we have taken into account all the things that occur to us as probably being major factors, we assume that the rest would more or less balance out.

        The question of whether your oral health is or is not something which I ought to make a claim about has to do with the evaluation of many factors, many of which we do not have complete answers to at this time. Imagine it turns out that poor oral health causes us to operate at about 75% mental capacity. Imagine also that the survival of our species depends upon whether we can generally move ourselves up to functioning at 95% capacity. In that case, your oral health would very much be my business.

        I take your assertion that your oral health is none of my business to mean that, under current knowledge, your oral health has negligible effects on anyone other than you, so its not rational to bother you about the rational claim against you.
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          Jun 16 2011: OK, that's a good answer, I appreciate it.

          I disagree with some of the points, particularly that "rights" talk is normally about defending wealth and power. I think it is more often about defending liberty, admittedly to the detriment of equality, but only looks like it defends power from the perspective of a society whose basic human rights are more or less secure. If you look through history to times and places when basic human rights were abused you will see that the first rights people seek are not food, education and shelter, but to be secure in their person and belongings, to be free and unabused—they first aspire to secure their negative rights like those enumerated in the US Bill of Rights.

          I imagine we could agree on this: asking whether healthcare is a right is the wrong question to be asking. Asking whether a nation should provide universal healthcare or when we should subsidize the healthcare of those who can't afford it, or how we can lower costs are probably much more fruitful. This is what I meant in my first response when I wrote, "to speak of it as a 'right' only serves to muddy the waters with ideology when we should be thinking practically."
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        Jun 16 2011: Hi Mark,

        We seem to agree that the real policy question is one of what we should do. I will be looking to whether inequalities in the distribution of resources is actually justified by something other than a distorted theory of rights. What is it we have really gained or lost by policies that have encouraged much greater disperities of wealth?

        I overstated the case when I said that rights talk is "usually" misused to benefit the wealthy. I should have said "often".

        Lets talk about why "negative" rights tend to be established first and whether this shows that they are more "fundamental".

        The "negative" rights generally correlate with obligations which do not depend upon the use of resources including time. By contrast, "positive" rights like rights to food, healthcare, and education would correlate with "positive" obligations that do require the use of resources. The resources will have other potential competing uses. Consequently, a positive obligation will be limited by other competing rational claims on the same resources. The fact of competing obligations does not result in the non-existence of any obligation, but rather requires a prioritization of rational claims on resources. One is excused from an obligation if there is a higher priority claim to the same resources, or an equal priority claim for which the resources are actually employed..

        Since negative obligations do not involve the complexity of negotiating the distriution of resources, and are not limited by available resources, they are more easily established. However, these facts do not necessarily relate to what is more fundamental or important.

        Consider that the rationales for freedom of speech and a childs right to a genuine education are more or less the same. These two rights support the same set of functions. In fact, neither is likely to fulfill its functions in the absence of the other. How then can one be considered to be a more fundamental right than the other?
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          Jun 16 2011: John Rawls is instructive on when inequality can be the result of a just system, or at least is the lesser of two evils when liberty and equality are at odds with each other.

          I think your theory regarding resources is interesting, but with a little thought I think I would disagree. Resources by themselves are not worth very much. They require work before they become valuable. This is why Locke equates private property with the labor required to make resource useful and why labor justifies property rights in his theory. Negative rights arise as a way of allowing people to do the work required to sustain themselves and to protect the liberty of the individual, which is sacrosanct. Negative rights lead to the kind of social contracts we establish to protect the individual. I think negative rights are established first because forcefully taking a developed resource is easier than developing it yourself. Without negative rights human relations quickly spiral into a might = right situation. A little Hobbesian, I suppose.

          Education is a good example because there is no natural 'resource' called education. The education of a child requires labor on the part of another person. A political theory that treats education like a resource necessarily treats educators themselves as a natural resource, which is to treat them as slaves.

          Please keep in mind I had to kind of hold nose to type that—I think Locke's theory of property is hopelessly out of date. It was written at a time when raw resources and property were considered unlimited and for the taking if you worked. That, clearly, is not the world we live in any more. Locke's theory lent imperialism the moral justification for eradicating native cultures and claiming their land. But the attempts to update it have come with a heavy expense to liberty, which is unacceptable in a free society. Rawls' theory makes a pretty convincing case for liberalism while still preserving justice, but even there basic rights are negative.
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        Jun 16 2011: Hi Mark,

        I did not mean material resources when I used the word. I am sorry I was not clearer. Squeezing posts into 2000 characters has its disadvantaages. I meant to include anything and everything that makes it possible to acheive a goal. Time, energy, education, enthusiam, allies, etc. are all resources as I was using the word. Most resources come in limited supply and consequently limit what can be accomplished. Since they limit what can be accomplished, they effectively place limits on our obligations.

        It has been a few decades since I read Rawls. Why did he end up taking negative rights to be more fundamental.

        What I do remember from Rawls was the original position and the notion that deviations from equality need adequate justification. They can only be justified by showing that they improve the condition of those who are worst off.
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          Jun 17 2011: Rawls assumes the primacy of negative rights because he is coming from the humanist tradition extending all the way back to the greeks. If you start with the sanctity of the individual and take as axiomatic that sacrificing the individual for the group defeats the whole purpose, you must first account for individual rights. He takes as a start for the definition of justice Aristotle's idea that injustice stems from pleonexia—the desire to forcibly take what belongs to someone else. If you don't deal with this first, you end up with a system where the strong prosper at the expense of the poor. It's unjust, and a just system is what he was trying to imagine.

          He then develops the idea:

          "Each member of society is thought to have an inviolability founded on justice or, as some say, on natural right, which even the welfare of every one else cannot override. Justice denies that the loss of freedom for some is made right by a greater good shared by others…"

          It's REALLY important not to think that this makes collective action impossible, but only that justice is a prerequisite. It is still possible to have obligations to society:

          "This principle holds that a person is required to do his part as defined by the rules of an institution when two conditions are met: first, the institution is just (or fair)…and second, one has voluntarily accepted the benefits of the arrangement or taken advantage of the opportunities it offers to further one's interests. The main idea is that when a number of persons engage in a mutually advantageous cooperative venture according to rules, and thus restrict their liberty in ways necessary to yield advantages for all, those who have submitted to these restrictions have a right to a similar acquiescence on the part of those who have benefited from their submission. We are not to gain from cooperative labors of others without doing our fair share."

          Public healthcare could easily be just, and a good idea, but not a natural right.
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      Jun 15 2011: Debra
      What do you call healthcare?
      Would you say it's a Right to use tax dollars to fund which of the following?
      - Treatment for smokers' lung cancer
      - Treatment for fat people's heart attacks
      - Abortions for teenagers too stupid to use contraception
      - Cosmetic surgery for a woman or man with low self esteem
      - Cancer drugs that extend the life of the terminally ill by a few weeks, or stitching up folks which have been in car wrecks through no fault of their own
      Does everyone have the Right to healthcare funded by the state, and for the recipient to define themselves whatever they consider to be an appropriate treatment
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        Jun 15 2011: In truth James, the smoker's lung cancer should be paid for out of the profits of tobacco companies and the companies should be charged with crimes against humanity. Education should be provided in schools to help people become healthier citizens instead of promoting the old industrial model of churning out labourers.

        We can agree that the medical model is broken and I do, actually, agree to your main point within the confines of my own stance. All future' labour' for a country and companies should have full healthcare at least until adulthood. I think that there needs to be accountability but I am not sure yet how it can be implemented. There needs to be medical reckoning where serious decisions are made for the good of society. Politicians will not make them because they want to be re-elected.

        In the face of the recent pandemic worries I do know that guidelines were being laid down for crisis situations where the tough ethical choices had to be made. They were made too- like who would get the ventilators when there would not be nearly enough. If it can be planned ahead, that sort of integrity and that sort of courage could be applied to current medical ethical dilemmas facing our societies.

        Given your political model you know that no healthcare stance makes any sense to you. ‘Let them all die early so companies will not have to pay for their skills and experience as they age’ is a tenet of that philosophy.

        I notice that you did not accept the challenge to answer my last set of questions. Can I expect an answer?
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          Jun 16 2011: Hi Deb
          In the long thread, I missed your question.
          Can you remind me of your challenge? Pistols at dawn? ;)
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          Jun 16 2011: Just as an aside,
          I noticed the other day (when I was visiting the US, helping out their economy ;)), the US Government actually spends far more tax dollars on Healthcare than they do on Defence.
          This is prob something a bit lost and counter to our impressions sometimes in Europe of the US> Think about all those jets, the aircraft carriers, the tanks, the million men at arms, those CIA covert ops don't come cheap... and yet all of that actually costs less than the US taxpayers spend on public healthcare. So, three cheers for the USA!
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        Jun 16 2011: Hi James,

        Someone appears to have cooked those books!
        I'll bet the Enron accountants are doing their cushie time for a new employer!

        After all - who could find more 'tax deductions' than a crooked accountant and an arm of the government! eg.- line item:"One bomb for sucking the air out of caves in Afghanistan to suffocate unarmed civilians"- tax deduction for healthcare!

        Canada sure spends more on healthcare but is anyone going to swallow that set of numbers? You mean to say that even you believe that the military expenditures for mulitple wars and ongoing covert operations is LESS than what they spend on healthcare?

        As to pistols at dawn - my questions were posted a couple days ago on your Socailism is religion question. and ignored.
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    Jun 13 2011: I think the answer has to be no... Assuming you mean steal some tax dollars from one group of citizens to pay for healthcare for another. I think it is something we should do, by the way, and I think it is compassionate and right, but not a "Right".
    I say not a "Right" for the following reason.
    - Would you use tax dollars to pay for minor cosmetic surgery?
    - Would you use tax dollars to pay for Viagra?
    - Would you use tax dollars to pay for treating obese folks, say who'd had smoker-induced heart attacks?
    - Would you use tax dollars to pay for Liver treatment for an alcoholic?
    - Would you use tax dollars to pay for abortions?
    - Would you use tax dollars to pay for emergency treatment for someone mangled in a car wreck (I assume the answer to this one is Yes!)?
    So, at what point do you draw the line and say that "commonwealth" provided healthcare is a Right, as opposed to something we think is right and we're happy to long along with without obligation. There is a big difference between Compassion and Obligation. I am not sure which of the above I want to pay for as a charitable gift... abortions for poor girls, maybe Viagra for good people who turned impotent, but less inclined to pay for the healthcare of fat smokers. Other folks, well it's probably their responsibility to pay for Healthcare, pay for Insurance, or at least not be a Fat Smoker.
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      Jun 14 2011: Really obese people; alcoholics; Viagra user's; etc... Are a really small percentage of all the people in the planet and more specifically in America. Plus the whole obesity problem is all because of the government of the USA, not protecting its population against disgusting food industries only thinking money. (I did not mention abortion because it is a right and a necessity in my feminist opinion), and I agree about smokers; But the question that prevents us from being that egoist is: Does these men and women, poor or weak, criminals or horrible persons; don't deserve help and protection? I understand your fear and its the fear of every citizen, but people that need are more numerous that people don't. And lots of countries have reputation for their healthcare's , and are proud of it!
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        Jun 14 2011: Antoine
        I think you're missing the point... You've just made a bunch of value judgements that are personal to you. Abortion is a right, treating smokers is not, etc. Many folks around the World would completely disagree with you, so at what point do you say that healthcare is a Right? Something you might consider a what is to be a Right is possibly abhorrent to someone else.
        I might think a good public healthcare system is a right thing to do, but that is not the same as it being a Right. I might think that supporting the vulnerable with my charity is a good thing to do, but it is not my Responsibility or Obligation. To steal my tax dollars and force me to pay for healthcare for the stupid and feckless doesn't seem like it can be supported as a Right!
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          Jun 14 2011: James,
          You contradict yourself in your discourse, you tell me YOU personally think that it is normal, and then you talk about stealing tax money?? To steal is quite a strong word, and you should more concern about your government stealing you for stupid wars and research, than ''stealing'' for healthcare. Yes I agree about smokers, to help them would surely bug me but never I would have the sensation of being stolen!! As for your accusation of only basing on my own opinions, as an existentialist (if you know what that is) I believe that men define humanity through opinions, choices, and action, and my opinion is what matters the most for me, because it will help to define humanity as I want it to be defined. I want it to be defined as generous, caring and not always stopping at a panel saying: MONEY.
          As John Lennon said: You may say I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one!
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        Jun 15 2011: Haha!
        Consistency is the mark of an inactive mind ;)
        Ok, I guess to say the Government steals my tax is a value judgement, but I think that makes the overall idea that none of this is a Right all the more obvious.
        - Does the Government have the Right to steal (ok, take) my tax dollars?
        - Do fat smokers have the Right to free healthcare paid for by that money?
        These are not black and white, and certainly neither are "Rights"...

        Now, it might be the case, that I feel compassion, and I use my money to pay for healthcare for fat smokers, pay for abortions, organise liver transplants for alcoholics, or indeed pay for a sweet innocent girl with some terrible illness of no fault of her own to be treated, or some bomb maimed Iraqi. But, clearly none of this a Right. It might be nice (and hey, I am a super nice guy) but it is not an Obligation or a Right.
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          Jun 15 2011: Sorry, I looked at your profile and saw you were from the UK, but are you American? Just wondering as the UK has socialized medicine or the NHS . And isn't that, then a right (in a way since you paying for it with taxes)?

          And if you are from the UK, are there certain regulations regarding what can and cannot be treared under the system such as obesity?Again....just wondering and a bit confused as you are PASSIONATE about this topic!!
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          Jun 15 2011: (to James),
          I finally get your whole point on the Right, or no right; even if I find a bit confusing to focus on this trick of language, But as this website is for ideas, I clearly say that for me, yes it is a right, and I hope this Right will spread to humanity.
          I'm sure you're a nice guy , as I clearly saw in your first discourse some good intentions,
          and I hope if the government do take your money, you won't feel too much remorse, or the sensation of being stolen ;)
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        Jun 15 2011: Lisa
        Of course i'm not an American!
        Not sure of your question really. Clearly Healthcare for one person, paid for by another, is not a Right.
        Actually, I'm not particularly passionate about the topic; more passionate about sloppy argument.
        I think it's probably a good thing to do, to look after the sick and the feckless, and if this means paying for the treatment of fat smokers, alcoholics, and teenagers that didn't have the sense to go on the Pill, so be it. But it is not a Right.
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    Jun 17 2011: "No, what we need actually is taking the conversation far from reality."
    "no, you can't change the rules of game that way. because then i can reply: then both 3 persons' rights were violated, since they don't have enough food. if there is less than "should be", someone's rights are violated. and we are at the same point in the debate as we where some minutes earlier."

    Your analysis strikes me as "long" on reasoning and logic but "short" on creative thinking, common sense, and - yes that dirty word - reality. The end result being an obtuse analysis of a simple question that offers little to think about and use.

    As I said above, I believe health care is not a right, but it is a vehicle for making progress towards those rights we believe to be ours - life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
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      Jun 17 2011: creative thinking is not needed to answer this question.

      and my point exactly was that you can't be sloppy with your wording. especially dangerous when you have a word with two different meanings, and you use different meanings in different steps in a line of thought.

      actually, it is not advisable to use such metaphors at all. enough to say that health care is of major importance. and if you rephrase the question in precise terms, it becomes much clearer:

      is health care very important? - yes
      should we provide everyone basic health care? - who are we? what is basic?
      should we put health care before everything else? - um, no, i guess
      should every citizen of the united states has access to health care without paying for it? - that's a difficult one
      can we provide every citizen of the united states access to health care? - depends on the desired level, etc
      can we provide every citizen of the earth access to health care? - not anytime soon, practically speaking

      see? precisely formulated questions are easy to answer.
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        Jun 18 2011: I think you and I agree more than we disagree, but you'd never know it by our exchanges!!

        "creative thinking is not needed to answer this question."
        Maybe we need to define creative thinking then. Because in my view there is hardly ever an issue (I can't think of any) that would not benifit from creative thought.

        You: "No, what we need actually is taking the conversation far from reality."
        Unless you are referring to creative thinking here, then I totally disagree with you that the issue of health care needs to be discussed "far from reality". The opposite is true.

        I don't know why you found the need to re-phrase the question and can't get your arms around the basic definition of "rights", but I'll answer the questions you posed to yourself to give you a better idea of what I think the relationship is between health care and "rights".

        Question: is health care very important? - yes"
        I agree. As I have said, it is very instrumental to attaining our basic rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

        Question: "should we provide everyone basic health care? - who are we? what is basic?"
        "We" are the people of the US. "Basic health care" is not hard to define, but I won't do it here and you should get tripped up by what the definition is. Come on, Kristian! Basic health care is basic health care!

        Question: "should we put health care before everything else? - um, no, i guess"
        I agree.

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          Jun 18 2011: calling health care a right, or talking about right to food, right to life standards is an intellectual sloth. it these are rights, then we don't need to debate the costs, the possibilities, the state of economy, the possible solutions. we can just say, since it is a right, we have no choice, but to provide it at any cost.

          want state financed health care? argue for it! simply falling back on "health is a right" is not acceptable.
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        Jun 18 2011: (continued)

        Question: "should every citizen of the united states has access to health care without paying for it? - that's a difficult oneNo, it's not a difficult one.... YES!! we must pay for it with our taxes, etc.

        Question: "can we provide every citizen of the united states access to health care? - depends on the desired level, etc"
        The desired level is basic health care. My answer is "Yes".

        Question: "can we provide every citizen of the earth access to health care? - not anytime soon, practically speaking"
        We are talking here about US, I think - right? But still, my answer tyo the question is yes, that should be our goal and that should be a place where we invest ourresources (brains, money, etc.)

        YOU: "see? precisely formulated questions are easy to answer."
        I don't see where "preciseness" and "formulated" factor into your wording of these questions.And I don't think the questions you posed are necessarily "easy" to answer. The challenge is to answer them correctly.
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        Jun 18 2011: I don't believe health care is a "right". It is an important factor in achieving the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
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    Jun 16 2011: Yes Jeff health care is one of our basic rights. We the people empower the government to ensure that we are all provided with our basic rights. We empower the business to take from mother earth and provide for our basic rights. The government maintain this system of government and business by the principles of freedom, justice and truth. We can sometimes choose lifestyles that are detrimental to our health but even that should be addressed by our government in our educational system and information campaigns.

    The bottom line is we work in the institutions that we empower to take care of everybody, many of us work in most of our adult lives, I would expect that among my other basic rights, I'll have a healthcare system that will take care of me and my family until the day I die.
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    Jun 14 2011: YES!
    You're paying for it? So what??? I think that with the possessing of a human conscience and nature, comes responsibility, human beings can't allow themselves to be egoists, they just can't!! It would be impossible, and the world has always been like that, the generosity of ones, against the egoism, or ego centrism of others.

    Religion tends to reward such good conduct, but as I'm an atheist I put it on the count of responsibility, and humanity, that's all. Do not make the same choice as American economic system (and as a matter fact health-care system :P) for instance, that chose the side of the dollars, and self-interests; but that's my opinion.

    choose you're side: money and security? generosity and morality?
    both are good and bad, I chose my side.
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      Jun 15 2011: You only have Rights over what you contract to do freely, and generally pay for.
      If you don't pay for something, hard to argue you have a right to it.
      I quite fancy you Ipod please can I take it. Oh no, apparently that's called stealing!!!
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      Jun 16 2011: Antoine
      Probably the only 3 things that matter in life are: Rights, Love and Math. Anything else can be figured out from these 3 things... So the notion of Rights, obligations etc is a really important thing to get your head around.