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I’m fine with this view

A view that hardly anyone embraces


It is not an airtight view, but it is also not the least plausible view. Imagine a “basic needs” argument that suggests, a’ la David Braybrooke, that individuals truly have positive rights to a certain degree of sustenance, health care, shelter, and so on. Yet above that basic needs level, individuals don’t have positive rights to much of anything at all. They are left to fend for themselves, though of course they will benefit from social cooperation. After all, positive rights have to stop somewhere if only because of the scarcity constraint. Furthermore, perhaps what society owes a person is “enough to construct a meaningful life,” but not so much more.

You may or may not agree, but as a view it is not crazy.

Entirely cool with it myself:

To make this more specific, imagine a health care policy that stated individuals have a true right to access any health care technology invented up through say…2004 or so. Individuals would be guaranteed “2004 value health care lives.” (In 2004 that certainly seemed pretty good.) But for subsequent health care developments, a free market will reign. Is not guaranteeing basic needs an essential part of the egalitarian argument? Surely not everything needs to be equalized? Anyway, no one believes in guaranteeing individuals protection against all the rare diseases out there, as that would cost too much. So a line will be drawn somewhere.


Now, where is that line? 2004 seems a little late. 1904 or 1804?

15 thoughts on “I’m fine with this view”

  1. Since this must all be provided by someone else, should this mean that all owe services as well to keep it all running?

  2. That’s it, Boganboy. It’s not amatter of rights, it’s a matter of obligations. And like taxes, the incidence of obligations can only fall on people. Because there’s nobody else around. So who wants to take on these obligations?

  3. A positive Right is an obligation on a third party, and there is no positive Right without legislation, which usually places the burden of providing someone with something on the taxpayer via the State. If it is a positive Right then all must enjoy it, not just a selected few.

    Just believing people should ‘have a Right to…….’ doesn’t mean there is.

    So nobody has positive Rights to ‘a certain degree of sustenance…’ – where’s the legislation?

    And everyone has a passive Right to sustain themselves – by getting off their lazy arses and doing so.

  4. . . . where is that line?

    Post invention of common antibiotics, so mid twentieth-centuryish? Just going on pragmatism: a basic service at 1804 or 1904 levels might prove more expensive.

    Agree with the blokes on obligations, etc.

  5. It’s just a fancy way of saying “let’s put a cap on free healthcare”.

    But this being an American idea, it’ll quickly get bogged down with pork. Everyone and their mum will be running petitions to add their pet cause to the list of treatments. Lobbyists will write bills called “Save Children From Leukemia”, and politicians will vote for them. After all, who wants to be against childhood leukemia?

  6. Which date? I suggest you read James Le Fanu’s book on the Rise and Fall of Modern Medicine. He sees (WKPD) ‘a “Golden Age”, from the 1940s to the 1970s whose twelve “definitive moments” include antibiotics, cortisone, open heart surgery, kidney transplants, the cure of childhood leukaemia, etc. This was followed, for complex reasons, by a decline in the rate of therapeutic innovation creating an intellectual vacuum filled by two complementary scientific disciplines, epidemiology and genetics, that sought to explain the causes of disease.’

    So there you are: use, say, 1984. (Oh, all right – that’s inspired by another book too.)

    Old Le Fanu sometimes gets a little woo-ish for my taste but he also writes a lot of good stuff.

  7. “You may or may not agree, but as a view it is not crazy.”

    It absolutely is crazy. ‘Positive rights’ means someone has to be forced into providing it for you. Positive rights is justification for slavery.

  8. There are no “Rights” in the Ten Commandments, just a few duties: but near-universal (or sufficiently widespread) obedience to them will provide better for those in need than all the “Human Rights” lobby. No-one in the “Himan Rights” lobby has (yet) dared to suggest that a man has a “right” to make his neighbour get out of bed to give him a loaf when he has an unexpected guest …
    There can be NO rights without corresponding duties. One doesn’t need to argue from a religious viewpoint – that is just the easiest illustration – it is elementary logic.

  9. I think pinning things down to a certain year is …wise… What matters is availability and efficiency, and scaling up as needed when it comes to diagnostic tools.

    For instance CT scans, as are MRI scans, are needed, and efficient, for a host of problems.
    Biggest problem with their availability and cost is *not* because the machines are rare. It’s because they’re used to satisfy the curiosity of the medical staff and all to often to pad the Bill.
    All too often there’s no medical need to use them at all.
    So make them “free” when actually needed. Time/lives saved is worth the investment.

    Peeps are free to book a Tourist Run, but they can pay Tourist Tarriffs…

    Of course, that means telling people ( or rather all too often, The Family..) who are *convinced* they rate Special Treatment “No”.
    But that’s not exactly a technical or economic challenge, but an entirely social issue.

  10. I’d say a 1948 level of treatment is good enough for us UKians. That’s when the glorious NHS came into being.

  11. Tom @ 10.58,me too:

    NHS 1948 “It will provide you with all medical, dental and nursing care. Everyone – rich or poor, man, woman or child-can use it or any part of it. There are no charges, except for a few special items. There are no insurance qualifications. But it is not a “charity”. You are all paying for it, mainly as tax payers, and it will relieve your money worries in time of illness”.

    I know of two friends who are paying £500 a week for a carer to attend three times a day. I suppose that doesn’t count as ‘nursing care’, rather a ‘special item’. Along with dental care.

  12. Addolff: I thought we were discussing the level of care, not the amount. They didn’t have many machines that go beep in 1948.

  13. “Let me present socialism as a brand new idea that I don’t even have a name for yet. And I’ll say some bullshit like ‘only up to a certain extent’ to make it sound like I’m actually a capitalist. I’ll have them all fooled, I will.”

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