(Inspired by a recent email exchange with my brother, who encouraged me to flesh out a rant we were sharing about something in President Trump’s current budget proposal.)
Health care is neither a right nor a privilege. Neither are food or housing. They are transactions.
Food and housing are commodities. Unless you have the means to grow your own food and build your own house, you buy these things from someone that does. They have invested their treasure and sweat to produce these valuable goods and have a right to dispose of them as they see fit — usually in return for mutually acceptable compensation from the person receiving them.
Once you’ve exchanged a price for something, it’s yours, and now you have the moral and legal right to use or dispose of it as you see fit. What you don’t have is a right to have anything provided to you from someone else’s treasure and sweat without providing compensation from your own treasure and sweat.
Medical care is a product of billions of dollars of research, testing, training and production. All of that has to be paid for. If you want medical care, you need to contribute to paying for it. The fact you have to do that means it is not a right. It is a service. Calling it a right imposes a moral context to what is and can only ever be an economic concept. If you pay for your health care, you have a right to expect it to be effective and to improve your well-being — but you don’t have an absolute moral right to receive it in the first place.
If I have purchased something, and therefore have the right to use or dispose of it as I see fit, that means I have the right to present it to some third person without expectation of compensation. The word for this is gift. The recipient did not have a right to demand I do this; until I actually do it, I have the right not to. But once I have made the gift, then it is his — to use or dispose of as he sees fit.
If I have presented it to him on the mutual understanding that I will want it returned when he is finished with it (or after a set period of time), then it remains mine. He is obligated to care for it as I would if it were still in my possession, and return it to me as agreed. If he fails to do so, I am entitled to compel its return, if I wish.
These principles are a part of the concept of property. Contrary to Marx, property is not theft; property is a right. The denial of rightfully owned property, however, is theft — whether said denial is made by the thief, or by a court of law, or by the makers of law.
If I, over the course of years, have earned more money than I needed to live day by day, and put the surplus aside against a day when I can no longer earn a living, that surplus money is mine. If I have entrusted it to a third party on the agreement that he will safeguard it for when I need it, it is still mine. If the third party has misrepresented his intentions and uses my money for other purposes and is unable to provide it to me as agreed, he has committed theft. If he happens to be the government, he is no less a thief.
Being the government, he may well get away with it, but a thief he remains.
The safest place for my nest egg is in the nest of my choosing, not the government’s, but if he will force me to hand over a portion of my earnings and put it where he chooses, he is obligated to care for it as I would if it were still in my possession. If I can’t trust him to do that, he must be made to stop forcing me to let him take it.