Thursday, October 09, 2008

Right, Responsibility or Privilege

I went ahead and published yesterday's post without completing it because during the time I was planning to write about that very question, I was instead taking care of Zack with his 104.1 fever. Now today he's feeling better... which translates into stir-crazy and frustrated at not being allowed to run and play outside. That didn't leave much time to write. On the bright side, the laundry AND the vacuuming are done.

Here are my thoughts, starting with the question: What is the purpose of government? If we want to have a society where there is at least a certain level of of safety, liberty and opportunity provided for every human being, then a government is needed to set and maintain that level. This is at the heart of the Declaration of Independence - that all human beings inherently have certain rights and that government is for the purpose of effecting the "Safety and Happiness" of its citizens.

Without any system to the contrary, those who are the strongest and most advantaged naturally prevail, their "Life, Liberty, and pursuit of Happiness" being in little need of protection. It is the weak and the disadvantaged that require help to maintain a basic level of safety and liberty.

What does a basic standard life, liberty and happiness entail? Certainly not spa treatments for AIG executives. But we do say that those with disabilities must be given access to public spaces. Is that a right? We've said it is with the ADA. And, the eighth amendment has been interpreted to say that prisoners right to have no cruel or unusual punishment means they must be provided health care*. So health care is a right for prisoners. To me, it follows that it is a right for the rest of our citizens as well. If we want a society that protects the weakest and disadvantaged, health care is surely as much in the greater society's purview as access ramps.

*U.S. supreme court ESTELLE v. GAMBLE, 429, U.S. 97, 1976 (and no, I didn't look that up myself)


  1. Was it on accident that you left the "pursuit of" off from in front of happiness?

    "What does a basic standard life, liberty and happiness entail?"

  2. I'm waiting for the first brave soul to dive into this one. This is a Rick Stevensesque post that deserves an equally Rickesque response. I'm afraid I'm not mentally organized enough to do it justice.

  3. Good call Julie. In it's original form, happiness seems to be a responsibility. However, Deanna seems to think that it's a right :)

  4. Haha, not intended to be Rickish. I just got started thinking about it.

    I'm not sure WHAT I think - that's what I'm trying to figure out. And ever since I worked through it and came up on the side of "right", I've been thinking the opposite - EATING isn't a right, HOUSING isn't a right.

    Maybe what's a right is access to health care. Just like you have equal access to housing, but you still have to pay for it. And there should be ramps for people to get into stores, but everyone still has to pay for their own purchases. The problem is, I improving access to health care would only solve a a little of the problem.

    Julie said that maybe a better question is "Why is health care so expensive?".