Melissa Beagle
PHIL 3316
Professor Browning
May 5, 2018
A Misguided Entitlement to Healthcare
Being able to function autonomously in society requires one to be in relatively good health, something which many of us take for granted. Accidents and the onset of serious illnesses are unpredictable, and when these incidents do occur people tend to seek help from those in the medical field to cure their ailments. Help from the medical field however does not come cheap, and for some the accessibility to it is nonexistent due to their own economic circumstances, causing some people to have to rely upon programs that extract money from those who do have it and redistribute it to them in the form of healthcare. Thus, healthcare has been relegated to a commodity that many expect to be handed to them rather than something they have to work to attain. The state’s infringement upon the right to one’s own holdings perpetuates people’s reliance upon the earnings of others and the false entitlement to healthcare, stifling independence and undermining the value of hard work in the process.
People possess the natural right to their holdings and the state is to uphold that. This notion, as exemplified by libertarianism is, generically speaking, a political philosophy that affirms the rights of individuals to liberty, to acquire, keep, and exchange their holdings and considers the protection of individual rights the primary role for the state . In his 1974 book Anarchy, State, and Utopia, American philosopher Robert Nozick puts forth his own libertarian theory of justice by giving his take on the acquisition of holdings and the minimal state. Here Nozick lists out three principles: (1) the principle of justice in acquisition, (2) the principle of justice in transfer, and (3) the principle of rectification for violations of (1) and (2) . These three principles fall under the category of property rights, detailing how one is entitled to their earnings from the just acquisition or transfer of them (i.e. labor, trade, sale) and the proper compensation for any grievances caused by an unjust attainment of holdings. Under this theory then the state does not have the power to compel someone to give up their holdings for the redistribution of it without violating that person’s property rights, a concept which can be applied to healthcare.
Healthcare obtained through the state’s procurement of holdings from one person to give to another is an unjust method of acquisition. For the state to coerce its citizens through modes of taxation in order to receive funds to redistribute to others is a direct breach of their powers. The funds that the state obtains through any forceful manner goes directly against Nozick’s theory of justice and likewise, the citizen who utilizes these funds in the form of healthcare has come into the acquisition of it based on an illegitimate method. Here then the citizen who relies upon the earnings of another to obtain their healthcare has no actual entitlement to it. Yet while there are many who, due to unfortunate circumstances, do not have holdings of their own to obtain healthcare justly, there are still many others who have come to falsely believe that because they live in a society where healthcare exists they are entitled to it without needing to put the effort in to obtain it.
The belief that anything worth merit is to be obtained through hard work and dedication by one’s own efforts is invaluable to fostering the independence of an individual. While it is necessary for one to have to rely upon others while they are young, learning to stand on one’s own two feet is vital to the maintenance of society. A well-functioning society cannot function without people who can carry themselves and not have to rely upon others to provide for them. The state’s providing of a safety net negates the urgency for one to procure the funds for healthcare themselves, which propagates the notion that one does not need to put in hard work to obtain anything since there will be someone there to provide everything that they need for them. Seeing healthcare as a valuable commodity worth working for rather than something that will be handed out by the state not only adhere to property rights but will help to promote the autonomy of the state’s citizens as well.
While libertarian theories assert that providing healthcare would be considered an injustice, other philosophical systems such as utilitarianism argue for the plausibility of a right to healthcare. For the utilitarian, the main goal is always to do that which maximizes utility. If it can be proven based on empirical grounds that the aggregate will benefit from the right to healthcare, utilitarianism dictates that the right to healthcare exists. Despite benefitting the many though, this argument comes into direct conflict with the rights of those who will have to give up their holdings in order to comply with the demand for healthcare, maximizing their suffering in the process. Unlike libertarianism, which operates on observing the rights of every person in the state, a utilitarian system will violate the rights of certain individuals to provide a commodity to other individuals in a manner which is difficult to consider just.
The attainment of healthcare is an important step to helping to ensure that the onset of accident or illness does not completely debilitate an unsuspecting victim. The acquisition of healthcare however is something that needs to be done upon fair grounds. As per Robert Nozick’s libertarian theory concerning justice which he elaborated upon in his book Anarchy, State, and Utopia, an individual is entitled to their holding which they obtained through the just acquisition or transfer of them and the state exists to ensure that that entitlement is protected. Thus, the state cannot extort funds from its citizen and redistribute them as healthcare to other citizens without violating this right which it is supposed to protect, nor is it just by this theory for any citizen to feel entitled to something which they did not earn through the principles of justice. The reliance upon the redistribution of other’s holdings perpetuates a dependent lifestyle, something that needs to be replaced by a sense of independence to maintain a well-functioning and autonomous society. Healthcare is a valuable commodity, and while being able to receive treatment is necessary to being in good health, the distribution of it needs to be done in accordance to the holdings that each individual is entitled to and their property rights.