General Question

DrMC's avatar

What makes a right a "right?"?

Asked by DrMC (2126points) December 28th, 2009

Recently senators prepared to vote on cloture – the big hurdle for the health care reform legislation – Making medical care a right and not a priveledge was repeatedly mentioned by several.

I’ve done my homework, and read various painfully complex breakdowns.

I’m going to leave this open ended, in that I wont preface it with my opinion. (want a more spontaneous unbiased dialogue)
What do you think is required for something to be a “right”. Does healthcare or free healthcare meet this criteria?

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36 Answers

HasntBeen's avatar

The notion of “rights” occurs at the intersection of two forces: “justice” and “consensus”. Justice suggests universality and equality, while consensus suggests that something is constructed by agreement—by fiat of humans.

If you take away either, the idea of something being a “right” becomes shaky.

DrMC's avatar

That helps. And that was a really quick reply. Thanks

DrMC's avatar

I guess my thought at this point, the current debate is achieving marginal consensus by previously established criteria.

Most agree on the goodness to the population of some level of universally accessible (good samaritan) health management.

The debate has focused on preventing denial of insurance.

I suppose this might beat around the bush of equality of access, and universality as its goal.

Justice is more elusive.

is there a feasible way to achieve this without disrupting the current system, or acheiving less overall healthcare delivery?

mammal's avatar

a concensus

Violet's avatar

well, in the USA, a right is something we get just because we live in the USA. Of course there’s the Bill of Rights, but there is also human rights, and natural rights.
I would really like to have the right to free/low cost health care as well.

jerv's avatar

It should be pointed out that the US seems to be the one industrialized nation that seems to have a problem with considering healthcare a right. In fact, we seem to have differing opinions from the rest of the world on many things.

I have heard claims that anything someone has to give you is not a right. That includes food and healthcare amongst other things. However, that attitude seems to go against the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

“Everyone who works has the right to just and favourable remuneration ensuring for himself and his family an existence worthy of human dignity, and supplemented, if necessary, by other means of social protection.” – Section 23, subsection 3

“Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.” – Section 25, subsection 1

The counter argument? The US is not beholden to others and we do not have to do anything any other country does. Oddly, those people claim that while food and healthcare are not rights, gun ownership is.

Personally, I feel that rights are things that most humans with brains and hearts agree that all humans are entitled to, and that no government or other entity has the right to take away. For instance, having enough money to feed yourself and your family is, even if that money has to come from social programs of some sort. Being free to express your opinion and practice the religion of your choice without persecution is also a right.

Corey_D's avatar

Well I will be the one to express the minority opinion. I think rights are something that can be seen as proper from a study of human nature. I believe that human beings should be free to do whatever they want and to profit from their actions as long as they are not restricting the freedom of others to do the same. In other words they have a right to do anything other than using physical force against others.

In this sense rights are guarantees to freedom of action, not to specific material things. Rights must stay the same no matter what situation you are in and should not be dependent on the actions of others. But what meaning would a right to healthcare have without those who produce that healthcare for you? You can say all you want that you have a right to healthcare or to food but that won’t create them for you. Those things don’t exist until someone creates them, and unless that person is you then you’ll have to deal with the person who created them if you want them.

DrMC's avatar

Jerv – that link is excellent.

Article 25.
•(1) Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control

Now, what if
or medical care -

Were not sufficiently available? What then?

What if current planned methods would make it unavailble within 10 years?

jerv's avatar

@DrMC ~Then Capitalism will have triumphed :)

DrMC's avatar

I’m not giving up that easily. I think there is a logical solution evident by consensus. I’m trying to break down the concept of entitlement versus rights.

Capitlism dies without property rights or work ethics. Depends totally on rule of law. Fails when the ethics of the game players are corrupt. Unfortunatley the same is true for other systems.

There is a core concept in here resting on good versus evil. I’m sure it’s there.

DrMC's avatar

Corey, your ideas are much like mine.

The right to health care could translate into significantly reduced autonomy and freedom for those upon who it depends.

Rights are inalienable, or imposed IMHO. Slave owners did have a a right to be slave owners, and slaves had a right to be beaten. This seems unequal.

Policeman are public employees, who by choice assume the risk for pay to protect our rights.

Where in this spectrum do we resolve this issue?

mammal's avatar

More importantly, do we have an inalienable right to party?

DrMC's avatar

I think most party members are partying too much, and that’s the problem

Dr_Lawrence's avatar

Where I live, universal health care is a fact. It has been for about 40 years. Most civilized western countries now have universal health care in one form or another.

The USA does not need to do this because of that. They should implement it because it improves the quality of life for its citizens. It will free Americans from the tyranny of the insurance monopoly that values the lives of the rich and well-connected over the lives of all others.

Kelly_Obrien's avatar

The doctors do not do 12 years of intensive study and training for nothing.
They got their minds on their money and their money on their minds!

HasntBeen's avatar

I agree that the issue of calling it a ‘right’ is a bit of a strain… rights are easier to defend when they are restricting the government or others from infringing on the individual’s “space”.

But I do think it’s time for the U.S. to join the rest of the civilized world with universal health care. There is simply too much suffering over this… the issue is keeping us crippled, it is limiting our ability to call ourselves a great country.

Gossamer's avatar

three lefts generally make a right!

SirGoofy's avatar

Because “starboard” is….well…starboard.

lucillelucillelucille's avatar

A right is an action that requires no sanction.Health care does not fit that bill.It’s a commodity.

HasntBeen's avatar

@DrMC : you said “Capitlism dies without property rights or work ethics. Depends totally on rule of law. Fails when the ethics of the game players are corrupt. ”. I think that’s a fair statement, but I don’t see the relevance. The rest of the entire civilized (and capitalist) world has universal health care, the U.S. is the only holdout. There is no sign that capitalism has died in countries like Japan or Germany, if anything we are struggling to compete with them in key areas.

I think one of the key factors is the lack of freedom that employees have now… if they are at all dependent on their healthcare from the employer, that’s a powerful disincentive to change to a better job (or a job where they can be more useful to the economy). That’s a sort of economic constipation for all of us… to be freer would benefit the whole.

jerv's avatar

@Gossamer And two Wrights make an airplane.

@HasntBeen Actually, I’ve been trying for the last couple of days to think how to word a question about the free market that ties right into that. As for the lack of UHC hampering our ability to call ourselves a great country, I think we mave more than enough ego to allow ourselves that luxury. Whether we can rightly do so is a different matter ;)

@lucillelucillelucille Oh really?
1) An approval, by an authority, that makes something valid.
2) A penalty, or some coercive measure, intended to ensure compliance; especially one adopted by several nations, or by an international body.
3) A law, treaty, or contract, or a clause within a law, treaty, or contract, specifying the above.”
One could easily claim that discrimination is a right according to your statement; equality and fair treatment would require sanction! I am interested to know what you think does qualify as a right then because either you mis-spoke or we really have no rights. And remember, with the existence of slavery and various fertility treatemnts, life is a commodity!

@DrMC Unfortunately, in this country we have a screwed up notion of the distinction between rights and entitlements. Keeping every penny you get (earned or not) is a right whereas receiving the basic necessities of life is a luxury that must be earned.

HighShaman's avatar

I don’t believe that just because there is a “Concensus” ; that it makes anything “right” .

Back in the day , slavery was the concensus and it wasn’t right then and it isn’t right NOW…

I think something is right when others are not hurt in some way from the actions of those in the majority or “Consenus” ....

Nowdays; it is difficult to find much “RIGHT” in the USA and the world , as far as that goes…

jerv's avatar

@lucillelucillelucille So there is no such thing as “rights”. Got it.

wundayatta's avatar

All it takes is agreement. We, as a society, can agree that we will consider something a right because someone is a member of the society. Then it’s a right. Rights go away as soon as society stops wanting them, or stops agreeing to make sure everyone has them. We must protect our rights every day. We do this in many ways.

It Congress determines that health care is a right, then that means that we, as a polity, will do everything we can to guarantee that everyone has access to a minimum level of care. We will spend money to do this. We will design laws and regulations to support this new right.

It’s really somewhat simple. Rights are not natural. They are a product of human society, and not all societies guarantee themselves the same rights.

lucillelucillelucille's avatar

@jerv -I never said that.Not even close.You have a right to your own life.That’s the most fundamental right.

jerv's avatar

@lucillelucillelucille That is the problem when you leave to many blanks to fill in and nothing to say what you really think about rights of any type beyond, “Healthcare is a commodity”.

So tell us, do you believe that that means a life of poverty, starvation and disease? Or is there a certain minimum standard that can really be called “life”? Is anything more than a pulse considered “a commodity” in your mind? I’m trying to figure out where you’re coming from here.

Oh, and thank you for finally elaborating a little.

DrMC's avatar

I like to think of rights on a primitive level. A lone human has the right to struggle for survival, and exist until he/she dies.

In a tribe, behaviors occur normatively. Anyone who poos in the chief’s tent will get bashed on the head. The chief can bash you by competition for his position, and general acceptance that violating his autonomy will be met successfully with force.

Rights are secured by force, and shared in a fashion that promotes well being of the tribe in adherence with <you fill in the magikal blank>

Societies form and through diligent research we uncover the wheel, and sacred plumbing. To keep commerce going and to protect against destruction from outside <you fill in the majikal blank>

Societies form large structures, countries, that can go to war, have different languages and eventually our county is formed by theft from the indigenous population. To shrug off overseas tyranny a declaration of independence is written including the term “inalienable rights”

Something new occurs, that actually has been brewing for centuries. Previously we had divine right, covenants etc that can be loosely translated into societal rights. <you fill in a Key blank>

The conversation so far is better than I had hoped. Thanks all.

DrMC's avatar

Hasn’t been – the dependence of all successful systems of monetary distribution on ethics and societal cohesion comes to play if you are trying to assert that one is more or less ethical than the other.

Is Left/Socialism or Right/Capitalism – better evil bad good?

All draw their <(utilitarian?)> effectiveness on societal ethics and cohesion. If no one plays by the rules you don’t have a game to play.

the question of rights, and rights to medical care will reflect on this central idea.

What ever argument you use, the concept of justice and fairness will have to depend on <you fill in the magikal blank>

This is where the beef is.

DrMC's avatar

Thank you all, things are brewing Majikally

lucillelucillelucille's avatar

@jerv -Right-an action which requires no sanction.Your life,which is your most fundamental right,does not require a sanction.You may exist without anyone’s permission.A commodity is not a right.By it’s nature,a commodity can become your property,once you can afford it.It is not a right if it must be coerced from another by force or by vote.(ie:sanction)You have a right to breathe,to exist ,to achieve happiness,etc…all of which require no sanction,someon’s permission or license,then it is NOT a right.Anything the State issues can be wthdrawn.
This does not negate your right to be
benevolent.Feel free to play Mother Teresa with the sweat of your own brow.You don’t have the right to the sweat of mine.I can’t make it any clearer than this.

jerv's avatar

@lucillelucillelucille Sounds like rights are pretty much a figment of the imagination then. Hell, air could be considered a commodity; ever seen an oxygen bar?

And then there are some self-important people think that even the breathing of others requires their permission.

But let us ignore those people for the moment and suppose that breathing is a right. Doesn’t it follow that maintaining other metabolic activities are also a right? And doesn’t living make it easier to pursue happiness? And won’t we exist a little longer with food and care? Considering that the human body can last at most 8 weeks without food under even ideal conditions, that means that you really only have the right to the first couple of months (at most) of life!

Maybe I would understand if I were selfish, greedy, materialistic, and devoid of empathy (if you knew me better, you’d know that if I say you lack empathy then you must be heartless! Pot, kettle, black…) but as it stands, I just can’t see it. I mean, I sort of get it, but I’m also getting mixed signals here.

How about if we back up a bit and define what “life” is though. Maybe that is where I have it all wrong here. Maybe all there is to life is having a pulse and anything more than that (eyesight, brain activity, voluntary motor control…) is a privilege.

DrMC's avatar

Ah crap, you guys have the pot boiling over now. It’s hurting me brains!

How about – given
Societies attempt to define rights – as automatic privileges you get for joining the society club once you are a person (born) or become a citizen.
The society will work to insure (guarantee) those rights.

The formation of the USA club was done with the declaration of independence. In it certain “inalienable rights” are defined.

I would assert that these “rights” are so self evident, they require no justification.

You could say the the constitution is a master-plan for a society.

Can our society define health-care as a right? and on what basis.

It is agreeably behaving like a commodity. Many other systems offer it.

There are utilitarian arguments for supporting it. (the ends justify the means).

Many think it would be better.

Is health care after age 65 a right currently? – is this an inalienable right?

Are all rights good. Is the right to hold slaves good? (certainly not right for the slaves)

Not all societies agree, and it is not consistent across time. (We used to think slavery was the norm.)

OK, I’m probably beating a dead horse at this point, but who knows.

DrMC's avatar

Here’s something that popped up in sermo

from the ayn rand club (libertian philosopher)

Nullo's avatar

I believe that many rights may be extrapolated from an absolute morality. For all other cases, I’m going with what what @HasntBeen said.

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