Thursday, March 19, 2020

What, exactly, is a right, and which ones are free for everyone?

We hear a lot about “rights” in these days and nights of political jockeying. What does it mean when someone says that you, or I, or we “have a right” to something? And what, exactly, is a right? 

A right is a moral or legal entitlement to have or obtain something, or to act in a certain way.

That the people are guaranteed certain rights is a major benefit of the United States of America that nearly everyone understands. That was affirmed in the Declaration of Independence: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

Later, when the U.S. Constitution was written and passed, Americans were guaranteed certain rights by the first ten amendments to the U.S. Constitution, the Bill of Rights. Some of these are: the right of freedom of speech, of religion, of the press, the right to keep and bear arms, the right to a speedy and public trial for alleged crimes, and protection against unreasonable searches and seizures.

Other rights are assumed, but not specifically guaranteed by the Constitution. As Eleanor Roosevelt said, "a right is not something that somebody gives you; it is something that nobody can take away."

Thus, having a right to something guarantees only that it cannot be taken away, not that it is automatically delivered to you without you doing anything to realize it. The Declaration mandates that one may pursue Happiness, but it does not automatically deliver it.

And some things claimed as a “right” are merely desires, and can be nothing more than outrageous cravings. 

Two perfect examples of such things are: Haagen-Dazs, an American ice cream brand, whose name consists of made-up Scandinavian words, insisted that it owns the rights to all fake Scandinavian words. And this: Spike Lee claimed that only he had the right to call things “Spike,” after The Nashville Network/TNN changed its name to "Spike TV."

Yes, those examples are absurd. However, the modern American Left supports a list of things that, while not absurd like the previous two examples, are things that it believes we Americans have a “right” to, like a college education, health care, child care, and housing. 

They further believe that they should be provided to everyone, for free. Yes, we all do have a right to pursue these things, but not a right to have them given to us.

Democrat nomination candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., said on ABC's “This Week” recently, “The United States must ‘end the international embarrassment’ of not guaranteeing health care as a right. We need more changes in our health care system, you talk about a public option, many people will not be able to afford a public option," he said. "What the American people have got to decide is one simple question: 'Do we create a health care system, guaranteeing health care for all people without insurance companies and drug companies making huge profits and distorting health care in America?' That is the issue.”

All of us have a right to get healthcare, of course, but no one has a right to be given health care that is paid for by the rest of us. Some Americans get health care as the result of the government’s Medicaid program for the needy. Others get care through Medicare as a result of having contributed their money to the Social Security program. But no one has a right to free health care, or any of the other freebies that Democrats campaign on.

The idea of “free stuff for all” carries real problems with it. Cost is a serious consideration. What will/can a government do to pay for the “free” services?

The gargantuan and Democrat-favorite “Medicare for All” would cost $32 trillion or more over 10 years, according to research from the Mercatus Center’s Charles Blahous.

The proposed FY 2021 federal budget is a record $4.829 trillion. The Blahous estimate of $3.2 trillion a year represents increasing government spending by nearly 67 percent.

And Blahous noted that his estimate is probably low. Free stuff tends to attract more users than stuff with a price tag. People will head for the doctor’s office or hospital with every sniffle or stubbed toe. Shortages of care would inevitably result, meaning that government would then decide who gets treatment, and who doesn’t.

Democrat candidate Mike Bloomberg has a solution: "If you show up with prostate cancer, you're 95-years-old, we should say, 'Go and enjoy. Have [a] nice – live a long life.' There's no cure and there's nothing we can do."

For less serious circumstances, you might get treated in a timely fashion. Or, you may have to wait a few weeks, or months. A Fraser Institute study released last December showed the median wait time for medically necessary treatment in Canada’s free system in 2019 was 20.9 weeks.

An article in HuffPost noted that Canada’s health care system lacks medical technology and demands high taxation to pay for it.

Rights are ours to be had, and some are guaranteed. But free stuff isn’t free.

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