Rights, in a free society, are defined in the negative: e.g. the right to free speech, without government censorship; the right to seek an education, without government prhoibition; or the right to vote, without government coercion. Positive rights are another animal entirely: the right not just to seek housing, but to be guaranteed housing; or the right to government-subsidised education, food, or transportation.
When Presidential candidates state that there is a “right to health care”, they are missing a piece: “without government intrusion.” The government should not choose our doctors, our method of treatment, nor whether or not we choose to seek health care for a particular issue. As the “right to health care” has become a positive right (i.e. the right to government-sponsored health care), we are losing the negative right (to seek health treatment without government interference). John Edwards inadvertently explained this in his most recent proposal:
“It requires that everybody be covered. It requires that everybody get preventive care,” he told a crowd sitting in lawn chairs in front of the Cedar County Courthouse. “If you are going to be in the system, you can’t choose not to go to the doctor for 20 years. You have to go in and be checked and make sure that you are OK.”
The logical consequence of government health care is that that government will have a vested interest in how individuals treat themselves, which necessarily eradicates the negative right to seek treatment without government interference. If they are to contain costs, they must mandate – with the threat of force – that individuals seek preventative care. Those who fail to follow a government-mandated health care scheme will either be face a loss of property (through fines) or liberty (through imprisonment).
This elephant stated it before, and she’s almost sad to see Edwards prove her right: the implementation of a positive right reduces the negative right. Now, where is the Left, with its incessant squealing about “Keep your laws off my body,” when you need it?