When Bernie Sanders talks about healthcare being a "right", is he talking nonsense? If you consider any other right in the Bill of Rights (eg right to bear arms), it's about freedom from government interference. It's something I can hold against the government. But what Sanders wants seems to be the opposite of that. To pay for a healthcare system, you need to tax people. So, basically, a so-called right to healthcare really means an obligation on the government to interfere with my money. This so-called right would limit my freedom instead of protecting it!

You seem to be assuming that the idea of a positive right is nonsense, though perhaps you don't intend anything quite that strong. If that's what you do intend, then I'll leave it to others to say moe about the debate, but I'd simply note that it's not just obvious that only negative rights can be genuine rights. What I wanted to do instead is to highlight an assumption that lies behind your example and point out that it's open to question. It's the assumption that there's some antecedent fact of the matter about what's "your money." Like it or not, the money you earn (whether as salary or as an entrepreneur) comes to you within a system in which government is already deeply involved. There are courts and police. There are regulatory bodies that keep the banking system (for example) from turning into the wild west. There's a vast network of infrastructure that in fact is provided through the government. The list could clearly be extended. That background of rules, institutions, personnel, physical systems... is the setting in which you make "your" money, and it's not unreasonable to speculate that without it, most of us, yourself included, would be much worse off. But all that machinery in the background doesn't come for free, and so your nominal earnings shouldn't be thought of as all properly "yours," with the government coming along and depriving you of some of what rightfully is your property. There's no simple a priori fact about what part of "your" money is really yours.

Saying all that is consistent with a wide range of views about how much we should be taxed and how big or small government should be. But there's another point. "Freedoms" that are merely nominal and that you aren't in a position actually to exercise aren't worth much. One of the arguments in favor of a welfare state of at least some extent is that it provides people with a background level of security against which they can exercise their freedoms without undue risk. In fact, health care provides a way of focussing the point. In the United States, most people get their health care through their employers, and many of them couldn't afford to pay for the insurance on their own. For many people, this means that their freedom is actually limited. If you have a medical condition that makes insurance essential, you may simply not be in a position to strike out on your own as an entrepreneur, even if you otherwise have the pluck and the talent to succeed in the long run. If health care were a socially guaranteed benefit, you would have more freedom in this case, not less.

The logic and metaphysics of rights is a big topic, and there are many people on this board who have real expertise. I hope some of them chime in. My point here is just to clear a little ground. Whatever the best overall analysis may be, and in particular whether we should treat heath care as a right, there's no quick way of settling the matter.

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