Hit & Run – Reason Magazine: An excellent explanation of Rights vs. Entitlements

This is very relevant when the ‘right to healthcare’ comes up:

Hit & Run – Reason Magazine
…From the founding until the twentieth century, the American regime assumed that government’s purpose was to secure pre-existing natural rights—such as life, liberty, property, or association. Everyone can exercise such rights simultaneously; nobody’s exercise of his own rights limits anyone else’s similar exercise. Your right to life or to work or to vote does not take anything away from anyone else. We can all pursue happiness at once. Entitlements, on the other hand, require someone else to provide me with the substantive good that the exercise of rights pursues. The right to work, for example, is fundamentally different from the right (entitlement) to a job; the right to marry does not entitle me to a spouse; the right to free speech does not entitle me to an audience.

That’s an explanation which is both fair and makes sense to me.


  1. Well said. :)

  2. I like that explanation. :)

  3. These are the kinds of arguments made by those who make enough money to buy health insurance, that are healthy enough that they can get someone to sell them health insurance.

    I don’t know what the best course of action for the future is, but I don’t like the idea that many people cannot get or cannot afford health insurance, that some that can decide not to just to save money. I also don’t like it that people find that they can make a lot of money by taking someone’s insurance premiums, then denying care.

    What this leads to is a situation where as healthcare providers we take care of people who have no means of paying the bills, that we are accused of being selfish and only in it for the money when we, like most other people, expect to get some payment for the work we do.

  4. Greg,
    I have to disagree. These arguments aren’t based on income or insurance status, but on the difference between rights and entitlements.

    Do I wish everyone had health coverage? Yes. They and I would benefit. Do I think there should be an entitlement to healthcare? No, or in my try to find a workable happy medium world maybe, and with a lot of strings attached, mainly individual consumption of healthcare has to cost something, else there’s no barrier to more free care now, forever. That path leads to bankruptcy, moral and financial.

    I would like to see more health insurance scrutiny. With you there.

  5. Freddy Hill says:

    “the right to X does not entitle me to Y”

    It makes sense when X=marry, Y=a spouse. However, I’m having trouble translating this into health care. What is the “right” in health care? What’s the “entitlement”?

    GruntDoc, I want to challenge you to come up with a sentence in the form, “the right to X does not entitle me to Y” where X and Y refer to health care in general or ED care in particular.

  6. I’ll open with:

    “The right to healthcare does not entitle to me the free care from my emergency physician”.

    x = healthcare
    y = free care from my emergency physician

  7. Freddy Hill says:

    Do we really have a right to healthcare? Where is it in the Constitution?

    [Pls don’t get mad at me. It’s just a game, but maybe the final answer will help me figure out where I stand in the coming debate on national health insurance]

  8. Agreed with both at some level here. The right to life does not entitle me the right to healthcare. There is no “right” to a specific commodity or service. We have the right to purchase a commodity or service, but no right to be given that.

    However, the whole argument is academic. We already provide commodities and services freely, such as education. The government already pays for the healthcare of millions of individuals. These are given as a choice of a service (entitlement) to be provided to our citizenry, not as a right. So the question is to what degree of provision of this service do we want to enact.

  9. I agree that no one has a fundamental right to healthcare, or to anything for that matter which requires others to perform services for free. However, the true questions are these: Should we provide some level of free care to our citizenry, and if so, what level of care can we afford? Already, the level of entitlements are on pace to bankrupt us, and this is before we seek to cover the uninsured.
    We are heading for some serious rationing people.

  10. And I’m certain none of us has lost sight of the following:

    1) WE are the government in a representative republic, and 2) The Government doesn’t have any money. The Government (us) gets its money by levying taxes and fees on us.

    These Bailouts are chump-change compared to Universal no-strings-attached healthcare.

  11. Freddy Hill says:

    “The right to live a healthy life does not entitle me to health”?

  12. Stacie McClellan says:

    How about

  13. Stacie McClellan says:

    Dagnabit! Lemme try again…

    How about: “The right to healthcare does not entitle the government to enslave health care workers by forcing them to provide services free of charge.”