Jeffrey S. Ryan: Liddick’s flawed logic on health care
Charlie McCormick’s recent letter (“Health care is a right,” letters, SDN, March 10) was a welcome response to Morgan Liddick’s March 8 column (“Calling health care a ‘right’ is problematic.”) Mr. Liddick’s column was a multi-fronted offensive against any declaration that medical care is a basic human right, a right on an equal footing with all the rights already secured by the U.S. Constitution.
Mr. McCormick’s letter correctly cited numerous international covenants and declarations in which the U.S. consistently agreed that medical care is a basic universal human right to which all are entitled. The most famous of these declarations is the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the United Nations in 1948 and to which the U.S. was a signatory. The recognition of health care as a right is hardly novel.
Mr. Liddick’s column also contains fundamental factual errors and flawed logic. While Mr. McCormick rebutted some of Mr. Liddick’s argument, there remain further false assertions that cannot be ignored.
First, Mr. Liddick seems unaware that the Declaration of Independence is not a governing instrument. It creates no rights or laws. Its provisions are unenforceable in a court. It was, in fact, a declaration of war.
Mr. Liddick next attempts to differentiate between the nature of the rights guaranteed by the Bill of Rights and the nature of a right to health care. (Of course, the Tenth Amendment secures no rights at all. It addresses powers, mainly state powers. Governments have powers, individuals have rights.) Mr. Liddick defines individual constitutional rights as personal, or “indwelling,” as he puts it. They exist only to protect the individual from wrongful governmental actions. A right to health care, on the other hand, would be dependent on the services of others, who must be compensated for their work according to Mr. Liddick. He describes such a right as “external,” not “indwelling.”
This logic collapses as soon as it is examined. The Sixth Amendment guarantees an accused’s the right to a trial by jury. That requires the establishment of courts, appointment and payment of judges, prosecutors and public defenders. And it requires that uninvolved citizens must be compelled to report for court, miss work, and be otherwise inconvenienced. The Seventh Amendment guarantees the right to trial by jury in civil cases. More judges, clerks, and citizens are called on to meet that need.
In order to enforce these individual rights, the government and citizenry must provide services through systems “external” to the individual. The same approach would work just as well for health care.
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