Is Health Care as a Human Right Possible?

Stephen - Brighton, Michigan
Entered on December 30, 2008

It is popular to say that “Health is a Human Right.” It sounds egalitarian and noble. After all, Health is Life. How could anyone be against that notion? Well, let’s take a closer look.

Paul Farmer says that we have failed to make health a human right because “we are chronically short of resources.” I suppose the solution would be to make resources unlimited.

It should be a clue that we are on the wrong path if the only possible solution would violate the most basic principle upon which rests the entire body of knowledge in the science of economics. All resources are scarce. Everything is limited. That is a truth and the implications are profound.

If the goal is equality in health care, then we need to prohibit those with available wealth from procuring any heath care for themselves that others cannot afford. And we can take money from the wealthy to provide health care for the poor and everybody will wind up with a middle-level of health care. Of course, individuals will have to be appointed to decide what level of health care everyone will receive. Would we then no longer be “at the mercy of those with the power and money to decide the fates of hundreds of millions” or would we have brought it about?

And then let’s suppose – just suppose – that somebody invents a health-care treatment that society cannot afford for everyone. There will be democratic pressure to spend more than society can afford.

Furthermore, we must recognize that in a free society it would be an injustice to prohibit an individual from providing for himself a higher level of health care if that is what he wants to do. If an individual contributes to society and earns his wealth, a free society must demand that he be allowed to spend his wealth as he chooses. Thus, you cannot have both justice and equality. And that is another truth.

A free society based on free markets and capitalism will be best able to generate the wealth needed to provide a basic level of free services for all members of society. Those who produce more can earn more, and can thus spend more – not just on health care, but on food, shelter, and everything else according to their own choices. That cannot be prevented, nor should it be. You cannot enforce equality without impairing freedom.

So what to do?

It has been demonstrated that stable countries with economic systems based on freedom produce the most wealth. Do you want to minimize suffering, sickness, and premature death? Then promote free markets and capitalism. Not convinced perhaps? Do your own research. Which countries are unable to provide for the basic needs of their people, and what things do they have in common?