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Your blog and the National Review article provoked me into thinking about this issue, and concluding that Bill Whittle writes with a forked pen. Obama did not say that health care is a constitutional right like freedom of speech. We have many rights in this country, for example the right to police protection, that are rights because our society has decided they are appropriate for the government to provide, not because they are granted by the Constitution. Every other rich nation has decided that all of its citizens have a right to basic health care. In the US, we have agreed that citizens 65 and older have a right to Medicare. Obama believes basic health care should be available to all. It's not in the Constitution, but I think he's right.

 

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I agree with Mr. Obama on many counts, but think considering health care in terms of of individual rights is inaccurate. Despite being considerably to the left of the writer of the article you linked to (no surprise), I agree with the observation that the rights protected in the constitution are rights from particular things. (Which, by the way, are eroding and should be much more fiercely protected -- right to privacy anyone? -- but that's a different rant.)

That said, there are a lot of things that we, as a society, seem to have agreed should be provided to citizens as a whole. I think we have chosen to do this not because it is anyone's right as an individual, but because it benefits us as a group to do it that way. Police and fire protection, roads, schools, and occasionally health care and food (medicare, food stamps).* The principle as I understand it is not that everyone deserves food or care or schooling per se, but that it is in the interest of the rest of society that some basic standard of safety, infrastructure, education, etc. are maintained. I pay school taxes so my neighbor's children will have jobs and and contribute to the economy when they grow up (or at least not consider breaking into houses as their only profitable option). I want the neighbor's house to be extinguished so my house doesn't catch fire. I want flu shots in schools so that all the parents I work with aren't out sick leaving me stuck doing their jobs. (Or showing up sick giving me their germs.) Distributing the risk and cost of these services makes sense economically. Health Insurance is based on the distributed risk notion, but I don't think it works well as a private for-profit enterprise -- to work to protect society as a whole, it needs to be available to society as a whole, and it's not. Which is not to say that I think universal health care would be universally great care, it probably wouldn't. But I think we could do better overall than we do now.

 

*As I look a that list, I note that most of the services on it are paid for and managed at a state level and smaller, which seems to be where broader health coverage is gradually coming from as well. Or would be, if our states weren't going broke.

 

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Just for the record, I probably am sort of a flaming liberal (at least an FDR democrat which makes me somewhere between a communist and a socialist in the eyes of the wacko right).

I don't think healthcare is a right, but it is a social investment. Affordable healthcare is an investment in the general well-being of a society, on par with education. One of the most reactionary empires in the western world, the Austro-Hungarians, had a universal healthcare system, and I don't think they gave much of a shit about their subjects "rights."

 

 

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It was with interest that I read your blog entry of October 10 regarding political balance, because I used to struggle to understand why I supported universal healthcare, food stamps, and homeless shelters without ever believing that it was a fundamental human right. The conclusion I finally came to was that all of these things consume something that someone else has produced, and that no one has a right to demand that someone else give up their time and work if they are unwilling to provide these for themselves. The Bill of Rights-style rights (liberty, privacy, and so on) do not consume others' work, and I think that's the primary difference.

 

 

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Of course, being the pedantic liberal I am I read "But these new so-called "rights" are about the government who the Founders saw as the enemy giving us things: food, health care, education... And when we have a right to be given stuff that previously we had to work for, then there is no reason none to go and work for them" and found myself thinking about education. I guess according to his reasoning, citizens need not expect their children to have a school to go to. And really what he's said is that there's no reason for anyone to pay for schooling for their children since it's provided by the government at no charge. Which is why there's no such thing as private schools. And why no one chooses to go to an elite and expensive college rather than attending a local, and far less costly community college. No reason, right? "None!"

Nevermind the difference between government provided food and the stuff I choose at the grocery store. I have a right to representation and certainly have no reason-- none-- to choose to pay for my own attorney.

By no means do I discount the entire article... but if he decides to take a hard line that is just plain wrong, then I can't help but read the entire article with a bitter taste in my mouth and a suspicion that much else in the article is likely being misrepresented, too.

And most importantly, when I really think hard about articles like this I start getting mad. I feel like our writer is choosing to deliberately misrepresent his point of view in a way that's palatable and attractive. Like he got so excited about his half-baked thoughts that he forgot that he needed to back them up with reason. Like he thinks we're all so stupid we'll go "hurray! Yes!" and not think about it. Or maybe he knew he could sell the article by writing it the way he did... which is really irresponsible, if you ask me.

 

 

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Whittle reminds me of one of your callers. He pretends to be all business, but he wants to draw you into his fantasy and distract you from your real priorities. He claims he's here to help us decide whether health care legally qualifies as life, liberty, or the pursuit of happiness, but he doesn't really answer that question and instead spends most of his time imagining ways that health care could lead to a rush on the treasury. His argument sounds good, but if you take it apart, all he does is consult himself on the matter and find that indeed(!), he has no problem fantasizing about himself being right. Big whup. All that stuff about rights-in-quotation-marks and "ridiculous extremes" turns out to be just a red herring.

 

Broken into its parts, this article is just a rehash of the "slippery slope" argument used to prevent queer people from gaining the right to marry. My puppy may be the love of my life, but you don't see me lining up at the courthouse to exchange rings with a dog. And you won't. Ever. Because bestiality has as much to do with gay weddings as big-screen TVs have to do with health care: absolutely nothing.

 

Does health care qualify as life, liberty, or the pursuit of happiness? Would I put my life on the line for my neighbor's "right" to fungal cream? Those are good questions. But do I think Obama's ideas will lead inevitably to...(checking back to the article's conclusion)...to slavery for everyone! slavery with too many rights and too much health care!? (Sorry to get facetious, I'm laughing at Whittle's expense, not yours) Frankly, I'm too busy trying to figure out who actually stole our money, who actually took our rights, and which candidates I can trust to fix this mess to bother fielding that one, you know?

 

Whatever your priorities are, left or right, health care or no, I say hang up on this guy, Matisse.