Is it a right?

Here is a good question that arose during the Supreme Court presentations on Obamacare. Is healthcare a right? You know, like life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness? Like the rights spelled out in our Bill of Rights.

More to the point: Should it be free? After all, some folks cannot afford healthcare. If they cannot afford it, it ought to be free to them, right? Public education is. Because we figure that education is a right. So, should healthcare – bottom line – be free?

Suppose a person has no money. But she has the right to healthcare. Does that include a heart transplant? At humungous cost? If not, why not? I can think of any number of procedures and treatments that will cost many hundreds of thousands of dollars to keep her alive. Is she entitled to them? How about a new hip at age 60? At 70? At 80? Is there a cutoff, when a “right” no longer exists?



This week students broke into a meeting of administrators at a California college. They demanded free college education. No fees. No tuition. Higher education is their right, they told the world. There are many who agree. College should be as free as public high school, they say.

I wonder. What if the guy wants to pursue a degree in playground supervising? (Some big college football players get such degrees.) Should he get a free four years? Wait, a free six years? Too many college kids take that long these days.

And if the idea is that education is a right and therefore free, how about masters’ degrees? And if they are free, why stop there? Some brainy people have two or three masters’ degrees. Should they be free? A masters’ often paves the way for a doctorate. Any reason why we should charge for this? If education is a right, why stop there?

Food, of course, is a right. Lots of people believe that. Food is so much of a right that we the people feed lunch to millions of students every day. We feed breakfast to millions. As well as afternoon snacks. And we dole out billions of dollars in food stamps.

If food is a right, why don’t we have government simply open up grocery stores and hand it out? Why bother with all the red tape associated with food stamps? Government could buy Walmart.

We could locate the Walmarts in the middle of the free housing. The free housing the government provided. Once we agreed that shelter is an absolute right. Whenever anyone needed shelter, he could drop down to the nearest housing office and pick up the keys to an apartment.

As long as we are handing out rights, surely the right to transport is a biggie. You must be able to move from point to point. That being the case, should we declare all trains, subways, buses and taxis free? As a right? Where those services won’t work, should we hand out cars?

I am not being cynical. Just asking some questions. The main question being: When it comes to our rights, where do we draw the line? Should some surgeries and treatments be free, but not all of them? Should healthcare be free to some, but not others?

Think about that. Why should my hip surgery be free while your kidney transplant is not?

Lastly, who should make such decisions? Who should decide what is a right and what is not? Who should decide who is entitled to such rights and who is not?

From Tom ... as in Morgan.

For more columns and for Tom’s radio shows and new TV shows (and to write to Tom): tomasinmorgan.com.

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