The whole point of free speech is not to make ideas exempt from criticism but to expose them to it.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Snickers: A Basic Human Right?

(Foreword by Newland) From time to time I have mentioned that I admire Larken Rose's ability to distill his disdain for inane philosophy into common-sense arguments. Here's an example of it (and I apologize for the length, but this is so good....).

Most people don't think in distinct, specific concepts. They "think" (if it can be called that) in vague blobs of mush. They can't follow simple trains of logic, and have a complete lack of what I call "clarity of thought." For example, my wife just showed me an online poll, asking people whether they thought "health care" should be considered a "basic human right." What a fine example of meaningless mush.

Most people answered "yes," no doubt feeling very compassionate for having done so. Trouble is, none of those "compassionate" people have any idea what a "human right" is. They haven't bothered to THINK about it, because merely FEELING good is enough for them. Had they THOUGHT about it, they might have realized how stupid the question is.

What most people probably interpreted the question to mean is something like this: "Wouldn't it be nice if everyone got the health care they needed?" Well, duh, of course it would. But that wasn't the question. The question is whether the thing called "health care" is a basic "human right"--whatever that is. The implication is that if someone doesn't get the healthcare they need, someone's "rights" are being violated.

Let's consider the following question: Are Snickers (the candy bar) a basic human right? If so, everyone who lived prior to 1930 (when Snickers came into being) must have had their human rights violated. Poor them. Furthermore, it would also mean that every time someone craves a Snickers, but doesn't get one, his "human rights" are also apparently being violated. (By whom, I'm not really sure; the Snickers-makers, I guess.)

Think that example is silly? Yes, it is, but no more silly than asking if healthcare is a "basic human right." If you hit a deer with your car, out on a country road at night, and careen into a ditch, there's a good chance that you'll be wanting some health care. So WHO, exactly, would be violating your "basic human right" to such health care when you don't get any? (Try suing the deer.) And who has an obligation to supply you with the alleged "basic human right" of healthcare, when no one even knows you're in need of any?

Sorry for stating the bleeding obvious, but you can't violate someone's "rights" unless you DO something to them. If you torture them, rob them, assault them, or murder them, you may very well be violating their "rights." In other words, a "right" is a purely NEGATIVE concept: something that should NOT be forcibly interfered with by anyone else. "Rights" aren't a bunch of goodies that someone has to provide for you; they're the things that no one should STOP you from doing yourself. For example:

1) If you have a right to "freedom of religion," it means only that no one should forcibly prevent you from practicing the religion of your choice, or force you to practice a religion you don't want to. It does NOT mean that anyone has to make you a church, or listen to you pray, or pray with you.

2) If you have a right to "freedom of speech," it means only that no one should forcibly stop you from speaking your mind. It doesn't mean anyone has to give you a stage, a microphone, or an audience.

3) If you have a right to be free from unreasonable searches, or from being forced to testify against yourself, or from being imprisoned without a trial, or from being tortured--and the list could go on for ages--all it means is that no one should use force to STOP you from exercising your individual liberty.

So what would it even MEAN to say that "health care" is a "basic human right"? It means nothing, and makes no sense. A "right" cannot be something positive; it cannot be some THING that someone else should be FORCED to give you, like a house, or a job, or health care. To have such a "right" would require that someone else be FORCED to serve you. Unless you think you have the right to enslave others, you can't possibly have the "right" to any service or any product. You have the right to be left alone, and that's all. ALL true rights boil down to that.

The trouble is, collectivists like to hijack and mangle the concept of "rights," in order to justify the INITIATION OF VIOLENCE--the exact opposite of what a "right" really is. For example, when people try to pass off "health care" as a "human right," they are advocating the use of state VIOLENCE (via "taxes") to FORCE some people to serve other people. For example, socialists like Obama are pushing a system in which the government can forcibly rob some people, and/or forcibly conscript doctors and nurses, to give out health care to other people. They are advocating nothing less than widespread government violence, under the euphemism of "from each according to his ability, to each according to his need." (Sound familiar?) And they have the audacity to talk about it in terms of "rights." And the American people are so clueless they actually buy it.

(Apparently the old world slave-masters just needed better PR guys. Had they managed to pass off "affordable cotton clothing" as a "basic human right," they might still have those slave plantations.)

Unfortunately, having been thoroughly indoctrinated for years, most Americans not only believe, but PROUDLY believe, that no one has a right to keep what he himself produces, but that everyone has a "right" to what his NEIGHBOR produces. And it's hard to get any more economically idiotic, morally schizophrenic, and logically
insane than that.

To subscribe to Larken Rose's periodic mailings of lucid thought, send a blank message to


Donna said...

It is a bit scary how distorted something as simple as a "right" has become. Thanks for this Bob- puts it in writing almost exactly how I feel about some of this.

Bill Fleming said...

Bob, I am simply astonished that you would advance this argument given what you have been through lately.

You realize of course that it has been determined by the courts that prisoners can't be denied health care because it would constitute cruel and unusual punishment.

How much more so for those who can't afford health care insurance, or who have reached their lifetime limit on their policy, or who have a preexisting condition that allows the insurance company to deny their claim even though they have diligently paid their premiums?

Snicker indeed, Bob.

Come on, man.

Braden said...

A very interesting post, but I disagree.

The summation for your post seems to be, "A 'right' cannot be something positive." That's simply not true. The U.S. Constitution contains many positive rights (right to a speedy, fair trial and a right to counsel). For these examples, the government often has to perform a positive action to ensure these rights.

To me, the difference between positive and negative rights comes down to language only.

For example:
-Everyone has the right to express themselves freely. (positive)
-The government may not deny anyone's freedom of expression. (negative).

For both of these, an actor (the government, society) has to take a postive actions (such as filing a lawsuit, holding a demonstration) and a negative action (staying out of people's speech) in order to maintain the right.

For health care it would be:
-Everyone has the right to receive health care. (positive)
-No government or society may deny to its citizens access to health care. (negative)

If you phrase it this way, then anyone who prevents you from receiving health care (your insurance company, the government, the hospital) would be violating your rights.

It therefore comes down to a matter of opinion of whether or not you believe every human is entitled to health care the same way they are entitled to other human rights.

Personally, I think someone can have a right, without it being a human right. Human rights are elemental parts of human nature (expression, religion) that all people are, and have always been, entitled to. Other rights are simply those that a decent, modern society must grant to its citizens (due process of law), and I think health care fits into the latter category.

Michael Sanborn said...

I think the question is a bit more complex.

It might be argued the rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness as outlined in the DOI, might be violated if people are denied the health care that would give them life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

It's a stretch, I admit.

Our government (us) has endowed itself with the legal ability to do what it perceives as good with its (our) money.

We let them start and now they won't stop. We hired Obama and he intends to provide what he perceives the people who voted for him want.

The health care system in the country is a mess. Government intervention is obviously required. Government ownership of a government health care system goes way beyond something that can probably be handled with regulation, inventiveness and tort reform.

Michael Sanborn said...

And by the way...
I absolutely DO have a right to every Snickers I can afford to buy for myself.

Bill Fleming said...

Guys, you're missing my point.

Okay, maybe it's because I didn't make it clearly enough.

Let's try again.

A convicted murderer on death row can be denied almost every right he has.

Go down the list and tick them off, no free speech, no guns, he can searched at any time and his possessions seized, he can't vote, he can't drink alcohol, etc, etc.

No more life, no more liberty, no more pursuit of happiness.

But he STILL has a right to health care, right up to and including the method used in his execution.

I'd say that kind of right is pretty fundamental, wouldn't you?

Bob Newland said...

Bill, regardless of what the courts have "determined," prisoners are regularly denied access to adequate health care. Prisoners are wards of the state; the state is a prisoner's "parent" pro-tem. I fail to see what my health care post has to do with my own recent experience.

And Braden, expressing rights as positive active "things" causes problems with definitions. The right to a speedy trial leaves open to interpretation what "speedy" means.

Assuming a "right" to health care leaves open what "health care" is. Government has already interfered immensely with the doctor/patient relationship and in so doing has created many fuzzy assumptions about what "health care" is.

Those who love the state, like Fleming, apparently, will assume that the state will do what's best. Those of us who know that the state almost NEVER does what's best also know that the state will destroy any sensible approach to health care.

Most people appear to treat the status quo as a given, and believe we should try to tinker with problems created by an inane and counterproductive public policy, such as welfare, instead of banishing it entirely as being not the proper function of government.

Bill Fleming said...

Bob, the status quo is precisely what I am arguing AGAINST.

As I've tried to demonstrate, seniors over 65, and prisoners (even foreign prisoners) have better access to health care than millions of other Americans. That's why the system needs reform. Its unequal protection.

Question for you... do you plan on collecting Social Security and Medicare benefits when it's time?

Steve Sibson said...

“Question for you... do you plan on collecting Social Security and Medicare benefits when it's time?”

Yes I do because I paid for it. That is what you are missing Bill. You have rights, but also the responsibility and duty to pay for them. We have a Second Amendment right to own guns, but do you argue that the poor can get their guns from the government? No!

Take the Canadian government health care, if you have the money, do you get to jump ahead of the line? No. So based on your logic, Canadians have less rights to health care than American prisoners.

The solution is more individual responsibility and less collectivist government dependency.

Bill Fleming said...

No Sibby, I'm sorry, but you're the one who is missing the point. You didn't pay for your Social Security benefits, you paid for those who came before you.

And your Social Security won't be paid from some account called "Sibby's Money" either. It will be paid by those who come after you.

There are lots of people who take lots more out in SS and Medicare than they ever paid in, and if you live long enough, you'll be no exception.

Insurance works the same way, by the way, except when you start making claims, you get cancelled.

Now, I'm tempted to take up your 2nd Amendment argument, but I'm probably going to skip it for now.

Suffice it to say there are plenty of poor people who get the only guns, the only health insurance and the only college tuition they'll ever have from the US Government, and let's leave it at that (except to say that we call those people "veterans.")

Bob Newland said...

Bill, it appears to me that you accept what I believe to be a faulty (and evil) premise: that it is a proper function of government to attempt to supply some or all of its constituents with "adequate" food, housing, or health care.

Your proposed solutions to government's failures at (indeed, it's worsening of) these goals is to attempt to make impossible goals possible by trimming around the edges of policies that are destined not only to fail but to impoverish all of us on the way.

As for SS and Medicare; if there is an opportunity for me to recoup some of what the government stole from me under false pretenses, then I will avail myself of it.

Bill Fleming said...

Yes, Bob, I think its the proper function of government specifically under the "general welfare" and the "commerce" clauses.

Bob Newland said...

Of course, Bill, and that reading of the general welfare and commerce clauses gives government license to do anything its elected and appointed officials want to do.

And since that means that the Constitution can mean anything anyone in power says it means, then it has no meaning at all.

Bill Fleming said...

Well that's a little hysterical, don't you think, Bob?

I mean, the way you interpret the 2nd amendment is pretty broad too. We don't exactly have a militia any more do we?

But yeah, I guess if you want to make the point, words only mean what we agree that they mean. But that's not exactly new news is it?

Michael Sanborn said...

There we go again! At the time the framers framed, the militia was the citizen. And, the Second Amendment was not put into place so that us pheasant hunters could hunt pheasants, it was put there to make sure the citizens (militia) could protect themselves from an oppressive government. That makes oppressive politicians very uncomfortable.

The Supreme Court has agreed today to hear the Chicago hand-gun ban issue.

I believe they will find that Chicago's laws are oppressive and violate 2nd Amendment rights. Where,then will you stand, Bill?

Bill Fleming said...

If you're talking about making revolution, Mike, I think the idea of doing it with handguns and deer rifles and shotguns is probably pretty outdated.

Steve Sibson said...


The Second Amendment is about defending our freedoms not an anarchist attack on the government. To take back the government we elect true Americans and get rid of the corrupt who use coveting and taxpayers' money to buy their re-elections by promising things like free health care.

Bill Fleming said...

See what I mean, Mike? You and Steve have two completely different ideas on what the 2nd Amendment's all about. It should come as no surprise then that the "general welfare" and "commerce" clauses have varied interpretations as well.

And Steve, give us a break with the "true American" bullshit, will ya?

Bob Newland said...

To paraphrase a recent Disgraced American, Donald Rumsfeld, "We go to Revolution with the revolutionaries and the weapons we have," Bill.

Michael Sanborn said...

WW 1: The War To End All Wars (But they gave it a number)

WWII: The Big One

Someone once said that WWIII will be fought with nuclear weapons and WWIV will be fought with sticks and stones.

One fights oppression with the weapons one has.

Bill Fleming said...

Okay boys, as long as you're willing to admit that— taken to its logical conclusion— your argument is AGAINST nuclear disarmament, not for it... that the 2nd Amendment gives you the right to keep tactical nukes in your garage, and fly those little killer drones around town.

Taunia said...

Who has nukes in their garage?

I am not keeping up with the Jones' very well.

Bill Fleming said...

I know, me neither Taunia. The only yellow cake I like is the kind with chocolate frosting.

Steve Sibson said...


I agree fully with Michael on the general welfare issue. And I more closely agree with Michael on the gun issue than I do you.

What Michael probably doesn't want to hear is my response to your ponzi idea for Medicare and social security. If my rights are to be paid for by younger generations, then I have an even bigger problem with many of the future payroll taxpayers being killed in Planned Parenthood's abortion mills. Shouldn't you...that is if you are concerned about your version of general welfare?

Michael Sanborn said...

Start another thread on the Second Amendment and we'll argue there. No, I don't think having nukes in my garage would be necessary to defend myself against my own government.


While this thread is about health care and I realize it strayed to the Second Amendment. When we post about abortion, then comment about abortion.

The issue is divisive by nature and nobody has changed their mind on either side since 1973.

So, before you start ragging on Bill for removing your abortion post, you should know that I removed it.

Bill Fleming said...

The Medicare/Social Security scenario isn't my "ponzi idea" Steve, it's the way they work. I'm surprised you're just beginning to understand it. You too, Mike.

And just to be clear, if these are "ponzi schemes" so are all insurance policies — every one of them — public or private.

Philippe said...

Reading this article, I wonder if you are paid to confuse people or if you are just a simpleton. Anything is between would not fit.
You are probably happy with our current system, hopefully you and your family have coverage. But maybe as a good mask for your hypocrisy: you might put forward that our free enterprise health system has a few problems but we could fix them (without a creating a gulag)later, and that you agree that preexisting conditions should be outlawed after all.

Bob Newland said...

Philippe, I am paid huge sums to confuse people AND I am a simpleton.