I met a guy at a Christmas party a few weeks ago, and we started talking politics. He claimed to be a libertarian, but when I asked him more questions about his views, I learned that he believes the government should own healthcare and the internet, and that both should be provided to all as a basic human right. If you’re familiar with libertarianism, you understand why I was startled to hear this. Prodding further, I asked him why he identifies as a libertarian when his ideas of government stand in direct opposition to those of libertarian thought. His answer was that he “really hates capitalism.” At this point, I realized that however nice and amicable this guy was, he didn’t know the definition of a libertarian. I answered him by saying his views actually aligned with those of modern day liberalism. He immediately objected, saying that while he hates capitalism, he thinks socialism is worse. I was about to kindly inform him that his views on government are, in fact, socialist, but others joined the conversation and changed the topic to Game of Thrones.
This got me thinking about all the voices, both liberal and conservative, that are constantly shouting that services like healthcare and the internet are human rights. Can a service really be a human right?
When you make a service a human right, you put the providers of that service in bondage to the government. Let’s use healthcare as an example. When a government makes healthcare a basic human right, it means that every individual is entitled to healthcare simply because he exists. He cannot be denied any element of healthcare for any reason. From the doctor’s perspective, this means he has to provide medical care to every individual who walks into his office without taking into account that person’s ability to pay for the care.
By now, you should be able to see where this is going. By serving patients who are unable to pay for a doctor’s services, that doctor’s practice will rapidly lose money. As this continues, the doctor will have two choices: close up shop, or take a subsidy from the government. If that doctor wants to continue putting food on the table, he will take the subsidy, which seals his fate as the government’s bondservant.
Now that the government is writing the checks, it has the power to compel the doctor to perform any service for any person. In addition, it now decides the priority and amount of time the doctor is to give each patient. Because the decision makers are bureaucrats, not doctors, you will find that a man with lung cancer will receive the same amount of attention from the doctor as a woman with pink eye. After all, a doctor giving one patient more time than another is discrimination, right?
It goes further. Like the doctor’s practice when it was his own, the government’s financial resources are limited. The loss of revenue from providing healthcare to those who cannot afford it will eventually catch up to the government, which will necessitate massive tax increases, and eventually, budget cuts. At this stage, many doctors have either quit or lost their practice, and the government is short on money. This means the government must now decide who gets healthcare and who doesn’t – never mind it being a basic human right! To determine who is granted healthcare, the government will need to determine an individual’s value. The government may ask how much in taxes a potential patient pays, or if he has supported the opposing political party. A person’s usefulness to the government will become the deciding factor of their place in the growing line of people in need of a shrinking supply of healthcare. Eventually, in the name of public good, the healthcare industry will collapse and no one will have access to the healthcare he needs.
You may think I’m being dramatic, but history does not. Did a similar chain of events not take place in the world of home loans prior to the 2008 crash? The government treated home loans as a human right, and “encouraged” banks to provide them to families who could not pay them back. To keep the banks afloat, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac bought the loans from the banks, then packaged them into mortgage-backed securities and sold them on Wall Street. They kept doing this until investors figured out the securities were junk…
This cycle of banks granting loans indiscriminately and the government essentially subsidizing them inflated the bubble, until one day, boom. It burst.
The moral of the story is the government will try to take control of every industry in the name of “human rights,” and whoever dissents will be smeared as greedy, selfish or bigoted. History urges us to look past what seems good on the surface, like everybody receiving healthcare, and think critically about a policy’s logical outcome. The stakes are too high not to.