Our author challenges a Stephen Spruiell piece from The National Review in which Spruiell claims that health care is not a right because it isn’t one of the “negative” rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. In other words, neither I nor the government nor anybody else owes you the “right” to health care, because it’s not really a “right” in the first place.
Our author claims that if health care doesn’t meet this “negative right” standard, maybe individual property ownership doesn’t either:
“The establishment by governments and quasi-governments of a regime of individual ownership has costs and benefits. On the one hand, it creates the incentive to make the land more productive. On the other hand, it creates an elite class of property owners and deprives others of opportunity to use resources that are naturally held in common”
He quotes much Thomas Paine to arrive at his position, summarizing Paine thus:
“Individual property rights are here recognized as “of a distinct species” from the “common right of all” to benefit from natural resources. Paine is commenting directly on the Lockean standard and fairly clearly rejects it.”
That’s John Locke. (See Also: Jean-Jacques Rousseau “man is born free and everywhere he is in chains…”) After Paine, our author offers that property ownership “rights” perhaps don’t meet the natural right standard either. He finishes with:
“I am with Paine that government is not only justified but obligated to provide compensation. Taxation supported public services like health, education, welfare, and infrastructure fulfill this obligation.”
This is a not entirely unreasonable argument (a decent one in light of Milton Friedman in his later years) and I think the main goal here is to challenge Spruiell’s in the box, partisan thinking.
Yet, as for me, I’m still with Locke. My right to property goes deeper than any social contract (Paine’s thinking too). I already trust my government to conditionally maintain such a contract, so why grant it the license mentioned above?
I’m already paying taxes for health, education, welfare and infrastructure anyways.
Addition: A Susan Pashkoff, who seems to know a lot about Locke, responds in the comments. Well worth a read.