How to Abandon
Libertarianism in One Intemperate Moment
of Political Insecurity
I'm going to
remind libertarians of many thing they already know, but generally forget they
know when it comes to the idiotic national conversation we've had about healthcare
in the last decade.
rights are not what the government gives out to its citizens; rights are what
the government — in our nation, with our definition of governance — is required
to protect. That is the sole government responsibility
regarding rights. What the government
gives out to citizens are called entitlements,
and the list of entitlements the US Constitution authorizes our government to dispense
are as follows:
1. not a damned thing;
2. the list
ended three bullet-points ago.
Second, rights are free for the taking, but they are certainly not free. They are simply what the government leaves the
citizen alone to acquire for himself, to the degree the citizen wishes it, and
has the capacity to acquire or make use of it.
The examples to illustrate this are infinite. The First Amendment, for example, acknowledges
a citizen's right to property. But
property does not appear out of thin air; it generally belongs to someone else
first. Does a citizen's right to
property compel the current owner of the property to deed it over to the
citizen who desires it?
Of course not; that is both stupid and confiscatory. What the right to property permits is the
current owner and the potential future owner to arrive at a mutually agreeable
price and other terms under which the transfer of ownership shall be made. The government isn't obliged to give anyone
forty acres and a mule, nor to compel others to provide same. If a citizen wants these things, the citizen
is instructed to save his money and find someone who wishes to trade for it.
include — essentially — everything that isn't nailed down. Rights are, Constitutionally:
1] not limited to what Amendments 1-8 specify as rights [9thAM];
every aspect of human interaction not directly given to the federal government and not prohibited to the states to
control [10thAM]; AND
3] the states are prohibited from legislatively controlling anything that was
not also given to the feds [14thAM, Sec 1].
rights are, in a very real sense, any power to act that is not listed in
Article I, Section 8 of the US Constitution as a power for Congress to make law
upon — and those Congressional powers to legislate are very very few. Congress is given no authority, for example,
to regulate who is allowed to use our roads, therefore driving is a right. States cannot deny that right in their own
laws, though they are allowed to regulate how
the roads are used — speed limits, rights of way, skills tests, et cetera.
Congress is given
no authority, for another example, to regulate who may marry whom, therefore marrying
your homosexual lover is a right. States
may not deny that right in their own laws, though they may regulate certain
aspects of marriage, such as the minimum age necessary.
all things that libertarians comprehend about rights. Hell, these are all things that virtually all
Americans, libertarian or not and adequately inculcated in American civics,
understand about rights, even if they do not like the specific consequences. …and
I'm thinking particularly of the religious right morons and gay marriage, here. Even they understand this, as it makes their
So how is it,
then, that we conveniently throw all this comprehension of rights to the four
winds when the subject becomes healthcare?
Healthcare is not an issue given to the government to control; it is
therefore a right. Why do we indulge the
facile and insupportable, and claim a governmental role in healthcare when
government involvement does not join with any other right?
We have the
right to say what we wish. But if we
have stage fright, does the government provide us assertiveness training? No it does not. If we are inarticulate stumble-tongues, does
the government provide us speech therapy?
No it does not, not even when Dubya is elected President and could have
used it. Does the government provide a
bullhorn? …a soapbox? Does the
government reserve a sidewalk on a popular street corner? …compel the first
four hundred random passers-by to stop and grant rapt attention? And if we are unable to think of anything to
say, does the government provide a pre-written speech?
No. It does not. Our right to say what we wish begins and ends
with our own willingness and ability to actually use the damned thing. If we cannot speak in public, or cannot make
others listen, or cannot think of what to say that anyone would want to hear, the
government has no obligation or duty to assist.
The lack of government providence does not negate our freedom of speech.
We have the
right to write what we wish. But if we
are illiterate and cannot strings words together into sentences, sentences into
paragraphs, and paragraphs into thematic essays, does the government provide
literacy training? No, it does not. Even when it tries to it doesn't. …as anyone even marginally familiar with public
education in the United States knows. If
we have nothing to write with, does it give us a pen? If we have nothing to write on, does it give
us paper? If we have a batshit manifesto
burning a hole in our Kaczyniskiist hovel, does the government provide us a
No. None of these things. And yet, the absence of government assistance
does not erase our freedom of the press.
We have the
right to marry the person of our dreams, because the Constitution does not give
the government the power to stop us. But
if that person does not wish to marry us back, does the government compel the
object of our affection to meet us at the altar?
Of course not. Logistically, it would be
a nightmare for people like Jennifer Aniston. But this doesn't affect our right to marry
whom we wish.
We have the
right to employment, because the Constitution does not give the government the
power to prevent it. But if a citizen
wishes to be employed as the bazillionaire CEO of Microsoft, does the
government oust Bill Gates and install the new hire? If a citizen wishes to be employed as the next
Luke Skywalker in the Star Wars
franchise, does the government do lunch with George Lucas and make it
happen? If a citizen simply wants to be
hired by any old company at any old position making any old amount of money,
does the government impose itself to make even that happen?
not, and this still doesn't deny our
right to a job. Something about a free
We have the
right to buy the shirt we like, the sports car we want, the home we pine after
in the neighborhood we covet; in short, to acquire property. But if we don't have the money necessary to
complete the transactions, does the government give us the money? Alternately, does the government coerce the
transaction without it?
not. If we need money to buy what we
want, we are advised to avail ourselves of our right to a job. But the government's hands-off attitude
toward our right to accumulate property does not invalidate our right to
accumulate property. Our failure to
accumulate the property we want only speaks to our priorities, financial abilities
and other manifestations of a free market, and nothing else.
We have the
right to a haircut, a pedicure, a Papa John's pizza, and a Caribbean cruise — and
every other service you can name. But if
we don't have the money for these because we used all our money on that fancy
sports car two paragraphs ago, does the government step in with the cash? …with
coercion? …with even so much as a
chance. A commercial service being a
right does not suddenly imbue the government with the authority to compel the
service to be provided, nor its terms and conditions. More free marketeering.
is a right simply because the government is given no defined authority to
control it. It is a service — just like the
haircut we have a right to get. Our
right to acquire healthcare, as with the haircut, does not grant the government
any authority to compel it, nor to set the terms and conditions of its
acquisition. Our ability to acquire healthcare
rests entirely with us, with our priorities, and with our financial abilities. The free market, when applied to the right of
healthcare, does not suddenly mean that the commodity being sought must be free
of cost, or that the cost must be borne by the government.
today is exclusively discussed as a government providence. This is what democrats use to base their baseless
belief that it is a right, and what republicans and libertarians use to claim
that it is not.
should know better. Libertarians should
be smart enough to avoid the equivocative word traps laid out by the mealy-mouthed
Bernie "Trotsky" Sanders and
other "progressives". Any
libertarian who does not know, and cannot recite at a moment's notice, the very
specific and crucial difference between a right and an entitlement has no claim
to calling himself a libertarian.
This is a
"taxation is theft" moment in a "taxation is theft"
conversation. Rights are what the
government leaves you alone to get for yourself; entitlements are what the
government gives you. This is true
whether it is speech, press, property, employment, pedicures or a prescription. If the government is providing healthcare, coercing
it upon reluctant patients and setting the terms and conditions for its
providers, then it is an entitlement and not a right. If healthcare is a right — and it is — then
the government must stay out of the picture.
As libertarians, we know this. Let's
pretend we're libertarian, m'kay?