Proverbs 14:15 MSG
There was a small village and the people needed some sort of transportation to take their crafts and vegetables to market on Fridays so they chipped in to buy a horse to pull their wagon.
He was not much of a horse. He was old and slow and a little cranky, and some folks thought it was foolish to buy him, but the village council voted and everyone who needed transportation was required to chip in on the purchase.
The horse was also rather fat and ate more oats than anyone thought he would so he was expensive to maintain. And, of course, he needed to be shod. And he needed to be groomed and boarded and he turned out to be much more expensive than anyone thought.
Some folks thought he was too expensive to maintain and thought he should be sold. A town meeting was held to decide what to do. After much discussion, the people realized they had four choices:
1. They could sell the horse and buy another that was better but that would cost even more money.
2. They could shoot the horse and let everyone find their own way to market on Fridays.
3. They could continue as they were until the horse died of old age or heart attack and then figure out what to do next.
4. They could work together to fix the horse, put him on a diet and get a vet to examine him, give him better feed and vitamins, and exercise him every day and not just on Friday which would make him a better, happier, more productive horse.
They chose number 4 because that was the only sane and responsible choice.
Most people, when determining what is a right and what is not, rely on evidence that is authoritative in nature. The authoritative argument holds that a right is what someone in a position of authority tells you is a right. They point to religious authorities such as God or the authors of the Bible, but this argument impresses only those who believe in God and/or the Bible and does not have anything like universal acceptance among those who don't. Or they might site an historical figure such as Thomas Jefferson, as Jefferson spoke of rights in the Declaration of Independence. They often forget, however, that Jefferson said “we are endowed by our creator with certain unalienable rights and AMONG these rights are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” The word “among” indicates his list of three is not meant to be exhaustive, as any philosopher of the Age of Enlightenment would agree. The authoritative form of evidence is a legitimate one but it almost always requires some sort of corroboration to be conclusive for it is, basically, just another form of hearsay evidence.
Now, for my own theory:
There are two kinds of rights: 1.) human rights, and 2.) legal rights. Sometimes they overlap and sometimes they don’t. Human rights are rights that are both natural and available. That is to say, they are in keeping with and necessary for us to be authentically human and they are available to us, within our reach, in the real world. This means, of course, that human beings do not have a right to things that exist only in the world of fantasy or fiction. Neither do they have a right to those things which are not essential to their authentic humanity.
So, by way of example, people in the desert who have no access to water have no right to it even though it is essential to their humanity. If water should become available, however, they would have a right to it. (This was the practice in much of the ancient near east and as we see in the Hebrew scriptures wherein wells or springs in the wilderness were set apart for public use.)
Legal rights are rights that are determined and enforced by a culture and are, often, unique to the culture from which they arise. The right of a woman to be safe from assault by her husband is an example of this. This right has only recently become a right in this country but is scoffed at when we suggest it be adopted in some other countries.
So, I believe that health care is necessary for people to be authentically human and, since we have the ability to provide it for all it is a human right.
Dean Feldmeyer is the author of 5 novels, 4 non-fiction books, three plays, and over 100 essays, articles, poems, and short stories, some of which can be found on this web site.