Voluntaryist.com | Here are some ruminations sparked by an article in THE WALL STREET JOURNAL on July 29, 2009, page A13. It was written by Theodore Dalrymple, the pen name for Dr. Anthony Daniels. The article was titled “Is There a ‘Right’ to Health Care?” and prompted a parallel question in mind: Is there a right to government (protection)? In other words, “Where does the right to government (protection) come from?” Below is a letter I sent to Dr. Daniels.

Dear Doctor Anthony Daniels:

I am a total opponent of government because taxation (which funds government) is theft and a violation of the commonly accepted moral dictate that “you shall not steal.” However, few people agree with my logic or conclusion.

Your article got me thinking along the following lines:

Do we as human beings have a right to food, shelter, clothing and schools? Would we be starving, homeless, naked, and ignorant if government did not provide us with these things? Obviously, not. (As one of my children pointed out: the assertion that people would be left to die in the street without a right to health care is a “straw man” fallacy. Yes, some people might die homeless in the streets, but history shows us that there is also a charitable side to human nature, and that many more people would be saved by way of private philanthropy than would die helpless.)

Since we human beings cannot simply pluck food, shelter, clothing and schools off of trees, someone must first create them. If these things are to be provided as rights to people, then the question becomes: who must pay for them? In other words, if these goods and services are to be provided as “rights” to people” it is fair to ask: At whose expense?

Obviously, these same questions can be directed at the institution of government, itself.

1) Are we entitled to government and the alleged basic services that it provides: police, army, and courts? 2) If so: At whose expense?

Now my answer to the first question is ‘No’, and that being the case, the answer to the second question is: each person must pay for the level of protective services he or she desires and can afford, or else do without, or provide whatever level of self-help protection they can personally provide themselves, or rely on the charity of others to provide whatever level of protection the charitable donors offer.

From your original article, I believe you would agree with my answers as they apply to your question: “Is there a right to health care” and, if so, at whose expense? Each person must provide for them self as they are able, or become part of a voluntary association that makes provisions for its members, or else depend upon the charity of some willing donor. Thus, there is no right to health care, no “more than there is a right to chicken Kiev every second Thursday of the month.”

So how would you answer my question? Is there a right to government (protection)? Isn’t the government stealing from us when it forcibly collect taxes to fund its protective services? Isn’t this a question of rights, rather than a question of how best to organize societal protection? Similarly, health care is a question of rights because the provision of health care services uses scarce resources. “Whose resources are to be used?” is exactly the question that must be answered. Are they willingly provided or are they surrendered under the threat of coercion?

These are the exact same questions that must be answered by advocates of government (protection). Some have tried to rebut my contention that taxes are theft by claiming that taxes are an obligation owed to the government. To them, I ask: where did this pre-existing obligation come from? Government cannot force its services upon us, and then demand that we pay for them. If anybody else did that to us we would call it ‘highway robbery.’ Why is it any different when government does it?

What do you think? Do you see the parallel I am drawing between health care and government-provided protection? Don’t the arguments in the one case apply to the other?

Carl Watner