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No Right to Health Care Supplied by Others

Here’s a letter that I sent today to the Boston Globe:

Commenting on the number of people who refuse flu shots once they learn that they must pay for them, Andre Laliberte writes that “People unwilling to cover the costs of a shot that may prevent them from getting sick shows that the only health care reform that some people want is one in which someone else pays for it” (Letters, Oct. 25).

Sad but true.  This parasitic attitude is the consequence of the chorus of pundits and politicians who’ve long sung in unison that health care is a “right.”  Genuine rights – such as freedom of speech – are not commodities to be purchased; nor does their existence require the on-going application of human labor and other resources to ensure that they are adequately supplied.

Genuine rights are negative, in the sense that they demand only that each of us refrains from harassing others.  Because each unit of health care requires labor and resources for its production, no one can have a ‘right’ to health-care in the same way that she can have a right to speak freely or to worship the God of her choice.  Enforcing Jones’s ‘right’ to health care necessarily means forcing Smith to work to produce this health care.  A political ‘right’ that cannot even in principle exist without the confiscation of persons’ labor and property is no right at all; it’s a wrong.

Donald J. Boudreaux