With Obamacare being so much in the news, the term “rights” has been bandied about recklessly. Between the right to affordable healthcare, the right to freedom of religion, the right to freedom FROM religion, the right to free speech, and the right to property, it seems that far too many people are equating what they “want” with what they have a “right” to. So for the sake of clarity, let’s take a moment to uncliche this term and find out exactly WHAT a “right” is, and how it applies to the likes of Obamacare. The easiest way to do this is to look at those three things that everybody agrees ARE rights—life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
I have a right to life. It’s pretty obvious what this means. Now consider that I rolled my Jeep and I’m trapped inside, and you happen upon me. Common decency might lead you to pull out your cellphone and call 911, but there’s no guarantee that they’ll get there before my RIGHT to live is denied me. But YOU’RE there on the scene with me. Does my right to live obligate you—voluntarily or involuntarily—to risk your life to save mine? No. You may do so because you’re a good, decent person, but I have no right to EXPECT you to do so because you ALSO have a right to life, and my right to life doesn’t cancel out yours.
What about liberty? I have a right to liberty, and again, I think it’s fairly obvious what that one means. Consider that I have been forced into slavery against my will, held at gunpoint, and you happen upon me. Common decency might move you to try and free me, but does my right OBLIGATE you to that course of action? Again, no. You have the right to life, just as I do, so I can’t expect that you’d risk your life in order to free me. Further, you have the right to liberty, just as I do, so I can’t expect that you’d risk your own enslavement in order to free me. Again, my rights do not cancel out yours.
How’s about the pursuit of happiness? Note for clarification purposes that I never said we have the right to happiness ITSELF, but rather the PURSUIT of happiness. In other words, we have the right to “chase” happiness in our lives. So let’s consider for a moment that I’m a thief, or a murderer, or a slaver, or what have you, and my commission of these acts makes me happy. Does my right to pursue my happiness necessitate that you oblige? Once more, no, it does not. My right to pursue happiness does not cancel out your right to life (nix murder), liberty (nix slavery), or the pursuit of your OWN happiness (nix theft).
So, using our common agreement in these three rights as context, what IS a “right”? Simply put, it is any need or desire that you can achieve ON YOUR OWN, without necessitating that a second or third party enable or empower it. Of course, it might be argued that my parents had to “give” me life, but that’s a straw man argument. Before my parents “gave” me life, I DID NOT EXIST, so I had no rights to violate, no rights needing to be empowered by anybody else. They were completely free to live THEIR lives without creating me, but from the moment they DID give me life, neither they nor anyone else can take it away because, now having life, it is MINE to direct and maintain, and I am entitled to ALL the same rights that everybody else has.
So, let’s factor in Obamacare. Some claim that they have the right to affordable healthcare. Perhaps… but does such a right cancel out the right of the doctor to be paid for their services? Does it cancel out the right of insurance companies to provide the kind of service that they feel comfortable providing? Does it cancel out the right of the insurance companies to use those naturally occurring gaps in service to compete for business? Does it cancel out the right of the employer to believe as he feels led, and to pay for the coverage that agrees with his beliefs? Does it cancel out the employee’s right to petition the employer for change, or to go seek other, more agreeable employment?
Does it cancel out the average citizen’s right to determine where his paycheck—the material expression of a week’s worth of HIS time, HIS effort, and HIS creativity that he bartered away for a pre-agreed upon monetary value—goes to?
That’s my point, and it goes for ANY issue you care to bring up, not just Obamacare. ANY time your “right” necessitates the invasion or nullification of another person’s right, your “right” CEASES to be a right and instead becomes a PRIVILEGE—something that another person may, or may NOT, provide for, according to their WILLINGNESS to meet that privilege. To circumvent that willingness necessarily enslaves that person, stripping them of their liberty in however that invasion violates their other rights.