Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Bringing clarity to the core issue in the Baby Charlie case

For a razor-sharp incisive take on the questions that arise in the situation of Charlie Gard, his parents, the British Health Service and the EU, check out this piece by Daren Jonescu.

One of the most subtle and telling questions, raised by many, is what would happen should Charlie’s parents be granted permission to keep him alive with experimental treatments, only to find their son trapped permanently in a vegetative state. Should Britain’s national health care system be on the hook to pay to keep a baby alive indefinitely in such a condition?
In short, no — because the British government should not be providing health care. The question occurs to us, and seems complicated, only if we accept the key premises of the argument for socialized medicine, namely, (a) universal health care is a human right, and (b) government is the only proper guarantor, through confiscatory taxation and/or other coercive means, of this universal right to health care (i.e., medical services).
As for premise (a), health care that is not self-administered is a service that must be provided by other people, and as such cannot be a right, as this would mean other humans are morally and legally obliged to provide that service for us, in effect to become our indentured servants. (Consider: If no one chose to go to medical school, would this not constitute a violation of our “right” to health care? How can you have a right to the results of other people’s career choices?)
Further, it would mean that other citizens in our community may have the fruits of their labor expropriated to pay for these services on our behalf, which makes them our slaves. A right that, in order to be asserted, requires the coercive use and disposal of the lives, time, and labor of other people is no right at all. It is oppression with a sweeter name.
As for premise (b), since government assuming the role of chief provider or overseeing guarantor of health care makes sense in practice, and is legitimized in theory, only by the presumption of premise (a); and since premise (a), implying indentured servitude and economic slavery, has no moral legitimacy at all within the limits of a society that purports to be free or republican — that is, a society in which individual human beings are regarded as the basic political units — premise (b) may be dismissed as inherently illegitimate.

It's a little bracing to digest, but the fact that we live in a world of trade-offs is central to what is at issue here:

 . . . if the boy survived in a “catatonic” state requiring ongoing and prohibitively expensive care, then, in a just and free world, the parents would be responsible for finding ways to raise the money they needed through work or charity, and, if they should truly be unable to do so, then they might be faced with the most inescapable reality of life in the non-utopian world, which is that we can’t always have what we would like, and the world doesn’t owe us everything we would like.

Through no one’s fault, I am not a billionaire, and therefore can’t have billionaire things. I have no right to billionaire things, however much I may want them. As an adult wishing to live responsibly in a society founded in freedom and equality, I have to accept that I have no right to other people’s money or property, even when the consequences of not having them might be sad or tragic for me.

In any case, no reasonable person is asking for Charlie Gard to be kept alive in perpetuity in a vegetative state. The real issue is who should be making the final decisions about his fate, where there are decisions to be made. Apart from the self-refuting brutality of the government’s bureaucratic calculations about the economic value of a life, the only half-sensible argument for the State to have the final authority is that “the government-employed doctors know best.”

And so they might — but that is of no consequence to the matter of moral and legal authority. I may think you read stupid books, but I have no authority to burn your books and force you at gun point to read mine. And were the State to appoint me to the position World Expert of Literature, I would not thereby acquire any greater authority to burn your books and force-feed you mine. Your mind is yours, whether I like how you use it or not, and whether or not I might have better ideas about how you ought to use it. You may be encouraged to listen to my recommendations, and strongly advised to take them more to heart than the recommendations of others. I can go no further without violating your essential liberty.

Likewise with medical professionals, whether they have the stamp of State-approved expertise or not. All things being equal, an expert does not trump a parent, anymore than my superior taste in literature trumps another man’s freedom of thought.
The central issue here is not whether the hopes of Charlie’s parents are realistic, but whether a child ultimately belongs — in the sense of primary moral and legal guardianship — to his parents or to his government. 
And Jonescu draws the proper larger inference from the principles at play in this specific situation:

[The state] has no moral authority to decide the terms or limits of the right of self-preservation for the innocent private citizen in the first place.
And without that moral authority, the argument for socialized or single-payer health care is dead in the water — and deserves to be.
 Which is why we should all hope that the Ted Cruz-Mike Lee idea for once and for all resolving the repeal and replacing of the "A"CA comes to fruition. Let each state decide if it wants to implement policy based on a fiction, or operate in conformance with the realities of this world.


  1. Who is Darren Jonescue and what qualifies him as an expert on British jurisprudence?

  2. Have you read the Cruz bill and do you understand it or are you simply rubberstamping it because he's always been your man?

  3. I have only read summaries of the Cruz bill. If some glaringly problematic feature were in it, the summaries would have pointed it out.

    Jonescu teaches English literature at a Korean university. He doesn't need to be an expert on British jurisprudence to know that the government has not business interfering in the affairs of a family like this.

  4. OK, I kinda figured Jonescu was neither a Brit nor a British jurist. I'll buy that health care is not a human right. It is, however, a human duty, at least if you believe in Jesus and read the parable of the Good Samaritan as I always have. If a democratic government passes a law like universal coverage that clears their constitution, then hey, although pastors might not like it, they can take it off their tithe.

  5. No, if you live in a country that passes that kind of totalitarianism, you Marshall all your resources to get that reversed.

  6. Oh, break out the preemption or something? How can a country be totalitarian if universal health care is democratically enacted? If the people do not want it they will not brook it, right? We are all watching and waiting for this wonderful new Cruz plan to be enacted and start working its magic.

  7. But what we are hearing is the truth to the lie told all along--that Obama care will be repealed AND replaced. After nearly 7 years of whining from your ilk, we're gonna get the truth. And that is that all you can come up with "now" is just repeal. Back to the drawing board everyone.

  8. Re: how it can be totalitarian if democratically enacted: because the result is total control by the government of the health care system, and the kind of life-and-death decisions that are the subject of this post are taken out of the hands of individuals and families.

    Re: repeal and replace: actually, if you go back over the commentary from the Right, a number of us have been saying that "replace" is the wrong way to look at it. We don't need one program to replace another. It is said that the free market is the absence of "isms." It's just the natural way people economically interact free of bureaucratic interference.

  9. Seldom have zeros and ones been strung together to create a more stupid set of faulty premises, flawed analysis and erroneous conclusions. Rather than address the tonnage of rubbish in the quote itself, allow me to point out that the wrongheaded arguments collapse under their own weight when leading to a conclusion that the federal democratic system we select is a tyrannical force for indentured servitude and slavery while the exact same prerogatives are somehow Divinely endorsed when exercised at the state level. Utter nonsense. Cheers. ;)

  10. The point is that if State A wants to try a continuation of the "A"CA, public option or even single payer, they should go for it, and if State B wants to try a completely free market approach, they should go for it. Then, as time passes, we have some outcomes we can compare and contrast.

    Here at LITD, we're big on using states as public policy laboratories.

    1. Didn't the White Citizens' Councils use that argument during the Jim Crow era? ("If your state wants integration of the races, well then...")

    2. Apples and oranges. Jim Crow was about denying American citizens their constitutional rights. This is about arrangements whereby people get their health cared for.

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