The point of these articles is to discuss whether or not any individual can claim a “right” to healthcare and the answer is, no. This is determined by the true definition of the term “rights”. (See The reader must realize that I was not making the argument that every person should not have access to health care or that every human is not worthy of healthcare. We all wish for such a world but that is a separate discussion from the concept being pushed by liberalism of a “right” to healthcare. In part II of this article we shall elaborate on a term that has become wrongly accepted in our culture by conservatives and liberals. That is the term, “human rights”.

Though “human rights” has become a common phrase in our national dialogue, even being used in speeches at one point by Ronald Reagan, the concept is meaningless. Of course all rights are human rights. We wouldn’t argue that our houseplants have rights and even as much as we love them (and despite PETA claims to the contrary) our dogs and cats don’t enjoy “rights”. The vacuous term “human rights” supposedly designates some bastardized combination of civil liberties and natural law.

Natural law has been defined by Kirk (based on Cicero and Aquinas) as, “a loosely knit body of rules of action prescribed by an authority superior to the state. These rules variously (according to the several differing schools of natural-law and natural-rights speculation) are derived from divine commandment; from the nature of humankind; from abstract Reason; or from long experience of mankind in community.” Natural law is a viable and robust concept upon which nearly all Americans agree. The problems occur when we as a society allow our appropriately placed passion for natural rights and civil liberties to lend credence to the amorphous term, “human rights”.

The concept of human rights stems first from the Declaration of the Rights of Man as posited by the French Revolutionaries and more recently in the United Nations document, “The Universal Declaration of Human Rights,” which was not initially supported by the United States. These documents call for complete freedom of the individual with virtually limitless benefits which cannot be realized without enforcement by a coercive socialist state. The concept that these documents advance would fall into the category of “positive rights”, for example the right to food, clothing, shelter, etc.. These should be contrasted with negative rights. Walter Block’s essay, “Private Property, Ethics, and Wealth

Creation” says this about negative rights. “Traditionally, negative rights were derived from the right to be free of violence” and fleshed out “the nonaggression axiom.”

Dr. E. Calvin Beisner in a review of Block’s essay elaborates thusly: “Negative rights are realistic and realizable; positive rights are neither. In theory, ‘We could, if we all resolved to, keep our mitts to ourselves and not murder, rape, or commit mayhem on other people. . . . But could we, merely by resolving to, achieve a world where all positive rights obligations are being met? No. It is simply impossible . . . to give everyone in the world . . .the same level of income that North Americans now enjoy.’”

The conclusion should be obvious by now. While we all prefer that every person not only in America, but in the world, have access to the best of healthcare, we cannot claim a “right” to it. This is not merely a theoretical discussion fit only for ivory towers. This is a distinction that matters. When we claim a “right”, we give the state permission to enforce that right. This is a slippery slope. Likewise, when we commit ourselves to enforcement of such a vague concept as the broad brush “human rights” we open the door not for more freedom, but for despotism.