Our nation was founded on the principle that the government’s main responsibility is to preserve life, liberty, and property. These principles are called “negative rights” because they negate one’s ability to harm another. Individuals do not have the moral or legal ability to subvert another’s life, liberty or property, and our government’s duty is to protect those rights. Natural rights philosophy continues to affect political debates to this day. We, as citizens, ought to contemplate these ideas and bring our political climate back to its roots.
Unfortunately, many people express a strong misunderstanding of natural rights philosophy. The fundamental flaw that I often see among younger people is this idea that there is a fourth right: the right to healthcare. People on both the left and the right believe that healthcare is something “owed” to all individuals, and if someone is deprived of this healthcare, his human rights have therefore been undermined.
The main problem with this argument is that, in order to preserve the right to healthcare, one must violate the right to property. Healthcare is a “positive right,” meaning that it requires that you give someone something. This differs from the three fundamental “negative rights,” which essentially say that you have the right to be left alone. In order to preserve the right to healthcare, you must utilize force to make healthcare providers cover/treat people either for free or for a cost that is not market or company-determined. Thus, the government MUST violate the right to property to uphold the right to healthcare. That’s philosophically inconsistent. A right cannot exist to violate another because that undermines the idea of even having rights in the first place.
Although the “right” to healthcare is philosophically invalid, it doesn’t matter to most people. For some reason, US citizens seem to be gradually moving away from their classical and philosophical roots. “Who cares about all of those lofty ideas,” they ask. Well, those lofty ideas are what you are basing the entirety of your actions upon. Whether you know it or not, all of your real-world opinions are based on a set of underlying assumptions. If any of those assumptions are false, then your real-world opinion is false, too.
That’s why we ought to contemplate philosophy. That’s why we ought to debate. The day our young people truly appreciate natural rights doctrine will be the day that individual liberty can thrive once again.