Healthcare Is Not And Cannot Be A Human Right

According to the Catholic News Service, Pope Francis spoke at a meeting of volunteers and supporters of the Catholic medical charity Doctor With Africa in May, 2016:

‘In many parts of the world, especially in Africa’, the pope said, ‘basic health care is denied – denied! – to too many people. It is not a right for all, but rather still a privilege for a few, for those who can afford it.

‘Access to health services, to treatment and to pharmaceuticals is still a mirage,’ Pope Frances told the group…

This is just the sort of thing we would rather like our international leaders such as the pope to speak about. We want them to use their influence, such as it is, to encourage the better-off to help the poor whenever and wherever possible.

If the Holy Father had stopped there then we could have agreed with him whole-heartedly. but he didn’t; he went on to say,

Health is not a consumer good but a universal right, so access to health services cannot be a privilege[.]

Francis wasn’t the first pope to say this sort of thing. In fact, he was echoing Pope Paul VI’s odious 1967 encyclical, Populorum progressio (‘The Development of Peoples’).

Pope Francis’s statement was in turn quoted by US Senator Bernie Sanders in September, 2017, on Twitter:


The problem with this idea, that healthcare is a human right of the same type as free speech and the right to own property, is that healthcare is not a natural right. That is, it does not come as a result of one’s nature as a human being. Healthcare is a service provided by other human beings. If it were a human right then it would actually violate the human rights of those who provide it.

Healthcare isn’t just there for the taking. It isn’t generated spontaneously. It is the result of the men and women – the doctors and nurses and orderlies and lab technicians and radiographers and clerks and administrators and IT geeks – who labour together to provide the healthcare. If you have a right to healthcare then you have a right to their labour.

It doesn’t matter that they are paid for their labour. If you have a human right to have others labour to serve you then you are their master and they are your servants, compelled to serve you because it is your right. We have a name for that type of relationship.

Getting Racism Really, Really Wrong, Part 2

In a previous post we saw how racism is a form of collectivism. Like all forms of collectivism, it divides people into groups and classes according to their attributes rather than uniting them through their shared human nature.

Racism is collectivism plus discrimination and prejudice. The In group, the racists, regard the Out group as lesser, inferior, undeserving of the civil rights and liberties of the In group. This is the type of racism we are most familiar with, at least in the United States and Britain, especially for those on the Right. This is the racism, for instance, of the famous Jim Crow laws of the southern United States. White nationalists and supremacists aside, we can safely say that for most people this kind of racism is a thing of the past.

In the last decade or so, however, a new type – a new definition – of racism has emerged. It’s the definition of racism that is behind the charges of white nationalism, white supremacy, and institutional oppression of person of colour that we hear so often these days, especially from university campuses in the United States.

This new way of defining racism has an added element borrowed from Marxist theory. Marxism, another form of collectivism, divides the world into two groups: the bourgeoisie, the capitalist owners of the means of production, and the proletariat, the workers who toil for them. In short, they are the haves and the have-nots.

But Marxist thinking is more than just an economic alternative to capitalism. Its real concern is with the power relationship between the two groups. It is an unequal balance of power, a relationship of oppression. For Marx, the bourgeoisie are the oppressors of the proletariat.

These two things, the separation of people into groups based on a single attribute and the focus on the power relationships between the groups, have been imported from Marxism directly into modern discussions of racism by the Left.

Take this example: in September 2017 Ohio State University offered its students a seminar called Interrupting Racism: Tools & Tips For White People.

According to The College Fix website,

During the workshop, students were taught there are three “ingredients” of racism: race, power and prejudice. According to Angie Wellman, associate director in the Student Life Multicultural Center who led the event, every race that is not white lacks the power aspect, which is why white people cannot be victims of racism.

This definition of racism directly mirrors Marxist thought. The world is divided into two groups: whites and non-whites. In Western culture (as if that were a monolithic thing to start with) whites have power while non-whites do not. Therefore whites are the oppressors of non-whites. And since whiteness and not-whiteness are inescapably tied to one’s genetic make-up, whites cannot be anything other than what they are: oppressors. Whites who do not feel guilty for their oppression of non-whites are guilty of enabling if not actually advocating white supremacy.

It is this fundamental difference in definitions that leaves so many white people, often those on the Right, confused or even dismissive when told they are oppressors of minorities solely because of their whiteness. Often the only definition of racism they know is the traditional one. They look inward and see no racist attitudes to be guilty of. They respond, naturally and genuinely, that not only are they not racist but don’t even see a person’s race. But this ‘race blindness’, it turns out, is itself a sin; it fails to recognise the oppression of persons of colour and thereby perpetuates it.

Accusations and allegations of racism cannot be simply denied. They must be fought against. And the only way to fight them is to reject the inherent Marxist assumptions from the start.

Blithering Idiocy About Brexit From the BBC’s Reality Check Editor

Chris Morris, BBC News’ Reality Check correspondent, has generously explained what a ‘no deal’ Brexit would look like. On the subject of trade he writes:

With no new trade agreement with the EU, the rules of the World Trade Organisation would apply. Tariffs would be imposed on goods that the UK sends to the EU, and on goods the EU sends to the UK.

It would not be the frictionless trade – certainly to begin with – that the government hopes to promote. Tariffs on many industrial products would be 2-3%, but on cars they would be 10% and on many agricultural products between 20% and 40%.

One would like, in one’s more generous moods, to assume that those whose job is to explain reality would have at least a minimal grasp of that reality which they attempt to explain. In this instance, alas, we cannot.

The World Trade Organisation (WTO) tariff levels are ceilings. That is, they are the maximum tariffs member nations may impose. There is nothing in the WTO rules to prevent Britain imposing a tariff level of nothing at all. The rules prescribe only the level above which we may not go.

The estimable Tim Worstall explained all this a year ago over at CapX. Read, as they say, the whole thing.



Getting Racism Really, Really Wrong

What do David Duke and the Ku Klux Klan, and The Daily Stormer and white supremacists generally have in common with Black Lives Matter (BLM), diversity officers and campaigners for greater racial inclusiveness and tolerance? They all start from the same fundamental mistake about race. As a result they end up as two sides of the same coin.

Let’s start with a thought experiment: imagine two apples, a Red Delicious and a Granny Smith, say. Are they the same colour? Are they the same shape and size? Do they taste the same? Do they have the same texture when you bite them? Do they both make equally good pies? The answer to all those questions is ‘no’. But, and this is the crucial point, they are both equally apples. The Granny Smith is no more or less an apple than the Red Delicious for being greener, crisper, sourer, and making better pies.

In classical thinking, the essence of a thing is its nature; it is what makes the thing what it is and not something else. If two things have different essences or natures then they are different kinds of things. Our two apples’ essence is apple-ness. It is their nature to be apples. Their colour, size, shape, taste, and texture, what we can call their attributes, may be different but they are both equally appley.

Now, what is the essence of people? What is it that makes people human beings and not hippos (except in the  metaphorical sense)? It is their essence, their nature. Just as apples are defined by their apple-ness, so human beings are defined by their humanness.

Let’s make a statement:

All people – regardless of age, race, sex, gender, sexuality, ability, religious beliefs, or whatever else attributes we care to name – share the same human nature in equal amounts.

That is, no person is more or less human than any other, regardless of his or her attributes.

Let’s make another statement:

Because all people possess the same human nature in equal amounts it follows that all people possess in equal amounts the same rights that come from that shared nature, i.e., the same natural rights.

If we keep these two statements in mind we can acknowledge both the differences we see in individuals – race, sex, sexuality, ability, and so on – and at the same time acknowledge the equality of all people and their natural rights.

Remember Shylock’s speech in The Merchant of Venice? He appeals to the common human nature that he as a Jew shares with Christians:

I am a Jew. Hath not a Jew eyes? hath not a Jew hands, organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions? fed with
the same food, hurt with the same weapons, subject
to the same diseases, healed by the same means,
warmed and cooled by the same winter and summer, as
a Christian is? If you prick us, do we not bleed?
if you tickle us, do we not laugh? if you poison
us, do we not die?

In the United States the Civil Rights movement, at least in its early years, made the same appeal to a common humanity. Remember Martin Luther Kings I Have a Dream speech?

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

What happens if we erase that distinction between essence and attributes and instead make the attributes the definition of what a person is? Well, we end up with identity politics. Instead of uniting people by emphasising their shared human nature and fighting for the unlimited exercise of everyone’s natural rights, identity politics divides people along lines of one or more attributes. If the attribute is race then the result is that we’re saying that whites and blacks are different by their nature. That means I have to accept that, not only I am white, but I cannot be anything else but white because my whiteness is what defines me and makes me who I am.

More than five decades ago Ayn Rand published an essay on racism. She wrote:

Racism is the lowest, most crudely primitive form of collectivism. It is the notion of ascribing moral, social or political significance to a man’s genetic lineage—the notion that a man’s intellectual and characterological traits are produced and transmitted by his internal body chemistry. Which means, in practice, that a man is to be judged, not by his own character and actions, but by the characters and actions of a collective of ancestors.

Racism claims that the content of a man’s mind (not his cognitive apparatus, but its content) is inherited; that a man’s convictions, values and character are determined before he is born, by physical forces beyond his control. This is the caveman’s version of the doctrine of innate ideas—or of inherited knowledge—which has been thoroughly refuted by philosophy and science. Racism is a doctrine of, by and for brutes. It is a barnyard or stock-farm version of collectivism, appropriate to a mentality that differentiates between various breeds of animals, but not between animals and men.

White supremacists, the Klan and, yes, even BLM are ‘crudely primitive’ collectivists because they refuse to acknowledge the shared humanity of all people and instead divide them into separate groups based on race. But here’s the kicker: so do diversity officers and campaigners for greater racial inclusiveness and tolerance. The reason why they exist in the first place, the reason why they even have jobs, is based on the assumption that there are distinct classes of people who share nothing in common, not even their basic nature. As a result, the ignorant masses who are unaware of such irreconcilable differences must be re-educated and, if necessary, compelled by law to accept each other and to unite despite their differences. And the end of all that nonsense is that campaigners for greater racial inclusiveness and tolerance, white supremacists, the Klan and the BLM become merely two sides of the same coin.

We Really Do Want Our Markets To Be As Free As Possible

Theresa ‘The Appeaser’ May began her speech at the Conservative Party conference this week by re-iterating her party’s commitment to free markets. Unfortunately, she went on to announce several policies, such as the price cap on utilities and extra funding for the Help To Buy scheme, which completely undermined that commitment. As Inigo Montoya said, ‘You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.’

Mrs May is not the only one who doesn’t understand what the free market is. BBC journalists – even the heavy hitters such as John Humphrys and Nick Robinson – regularly use ‘free market’ and ‘capitalism’ interchangeably, as if they were synonyms.

Many people also talk about ‘the market’ as if it were a thing. It isn’t. There’s no such thing as ‘the market’. Or rather, there’s no such thing as ‘the market’. It’s an idea, a concept. It’s a useful bit of short-hand for describing lots of occurrences of something that is very real, namely, trade.

The market also isn’t out there somewhere, something that concerns only politicians and economists and academics and businessmen. To paraphrase Pogo, ‘We have met the market and it is us.’

When you fill up the car or make the weekly grocery shop or pay your mortgage and the utility bills, when you stop for a coffee on the way to work or a pint of milk on the way home because the kids used the last of it for breakfast, you’re part of the market. And you’re not alone. Millions of people in your country, billions of people around the world, are doing exactly what you’re doing: engaging in trade. Think of all those individual transactions and add them up. That’s what ‘the market’ is. ‘The market’ is all of those uncountable number of trades we make every day.

When you buy a ready meal you make a trade. The supermarket that sells you the meal and the company that made the meal and the transport drivers who delivered the meal to the store and the store employees who put the meal on the shelves, they all gain a slice of the money you pay for the meal. And in return you gain not only the  meal but also the time it would have taken you to make the meal yourself. Your time has value.

As long as both sides of the trade are making the trade voluntarily, both sides gain something. And the result of it all is that both sides are now wealthier because both side have traded something they value less for something they value more. Both sides have been enriched. Again, add up all those millions of daily transactions where both sides have got wealthier. That is exactly how countries and societies and, yes, individuals lift themselves out of poverty.

When a group of politicians or bureaucrats regulate markets what they’re really doing is putting restrictions on those uncountable daily individual transactions. And since you are part of the market, it means they are telling you who you may and may not make a trade with. They are telling you what you may and may not make a trade for. When they fiddle about with tax levels and price caps they are fiddling about with your decision about whether a particular trade is worth the cost and effort to you and with the other guy’s decision about whether a particular trade is worth the cost and effort of him of dealing with you.

It’s not just politicians and bureaucrats who want to influence those decisions or even make those decisions for you. There are also all those campaigners for this or that social cause who want to do the same. They don’t have the power to force you to change your decisions, but they do have another pretty powerful weapon: shame. They try to shame you into changing your trading decisions by telling you that if you don’t change them you’re unethical and evil, or by telling you you’re lazy or fat or drink too much. They campaign to shame companies into changing their policies and their procedures and their processes, which changes the companies’ costs, which influences both the companies’ and your decisions about whether a trade is worth the cost and effort.

The market does not exist to provide you with what you need. Even less does it exist to provide you what others decide for you that you need. It exists to provide you with what you want, and as much as you want of it, when you want it.

People who believe in free markets are not pointy-headed policy wonks, nor are they heartless bitter clingers to an outdated theory that only helps big business and hurts the little guy. We genuinely don’t want people to be poor. Many of us have been poor ourselves. We know from experience that being poor is not fun and we really don’t others to have to go through what we have gone through. That is the whole flipping point of it all. We want the market to be as free as possible because we want as many people as possible to get as wealthy as possible as quickly as possible by trading as much as possible.




Taking a Knee, Free Speech, and President Trump

Over the weekend much of the Twittersphere, at least the corners I inhabit, have been full of comments about NFL players ‘taking a knee’ during the National Anthem. There has been even more comment about President Trump’s criticisms of the players, both by those who agree with him and by those who don’t.

What was often missed in the Twitterstorm is that, Constitutionally speaking, taking a knee during the Nation Anthem is a legitimate form of protest. It is Constitutionally protected under the First Amendment as ‘expressive speech’. In fact, in United States v. Eichman, 496 U.S. 310 (1990), the US Supreme Court ruled that even such potentially offensive expressive speech as burning the American flag is  protected.

While taking a knee may be legal, however, that doesn’t mean it’s not offensive to a great many Americans. Football in the United States is about much more than just the game. It is an American subculture in itself, one that includes all sorts of other things such as, for many Americans, patriotism. As they see it, for NFL players to disrespect such an important aspect of patriotism as the National Anthem is grossly unacceptable. It’s no wonder so many ‘normals’, to borrow Kurt Schlichter’s phrase, are angry with the players and lost no time in taking to Twitter to say so.

They were not alone. President Trump also let his opinions be known. If Don Surber is correct, it was a good strategic move. It successfully shifted the media’s attention away from Congress’s failure to repeal and replace Obamacare, a key plank in President Trump’s campaign platform. Da Tech Guy also thinks it was a sound tactical ploy, though for different reasons.

President Trump’s tweets and comments fell into three general categories:

1. Calls for players who take a knee to be fired;

2. Calls for NFL commissioners to order players to stand;

3. Calls for fans to boycott games until franchise owners tell players to stand and/or players stop taking a knee.

For what it’s worth, I believe players should stand for the National Anthem. For many Americans, not to do so is nothing less than unpatriotic. As philosophers since at least Plato have explained, patriotism is a civic virtue in a citizenry.

That said, I’m afraid President Trump is only partly right in his comments. What he got wrong was saying that players should not be allowed to disrespect the National Anthem and calling for players who do so to be sacked. There is a basic, inviolable principle in liberal democracies: a man shouldn’t face the breadline simply because of his political views.

I am an absolutist when it comes to both free speech and the sanctity of property rights and contracts. NFL franchises are all privately owned businesses (‘privately’ here in the correct sense of not being owned by the government). Whether a business chooses to begin disciplinary procedures against employees who bring their employer into disrepute is up the business owners alone. It is not for government officials, not even the President, to override that.

As for President Trump’s statement that the NFL commissioners should make players stand, well, that too is not acceptable for the same reason.

What the President got quite right, however, was his calling on the fans to boycott the League. Whilst the players have every right to protest whatever issue they wish and their employers allow, the fans also have an absolute right to counter-protest against the players. They are entirely allowed to call the players ‘sons of bitches’ and any other name they can come up with. More importantly though, they also have another form of protest at their disposal, one far more powerful than mere words: the power of the boycott. If fans refuse to attend games or watch them on TV then two things will happen. Obviously, gate receipts and advertising revenue will fall. That will hit the franchise’s bottom line and hit it hard. But even worse, fans who watch the game on TV will see largely empty stadiums. That makes a terrible impression that can only damage the franchise’s image further, leading other fans to reconsider their willingness to associate themselves with the franchise. Those are two things that tend to concentrate business owners minds wonderfully. If fans act together the franchise owners will soon enough be willing to tell their players what NASCAR owner Richard Petty told his drivers: taking a knee will ‘[g]et you a ride on a Greyhound bus when the national anthem is over’.



US DOJ’s SCOTUS Amicus Brief In Gay Wedding Cake Case Is Good For Liberty, Free Markets, And Gays

The US Department of Justice (DOJ) has filed an amicus brief on behalf of Jack Phillips in an upcoming US Supreme Court case, Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado. Media reports describe the brief, not unsurprisingly, as further proof that the Trump administration is hostile toward the LGBT community. In reality, however, the DOJ’s intervention is not only good for liberty and free markets, but also very much in the best interests of the LGBT community.

According to the LA Times the story begins five years ago, when Charlie Craig and David Mullins asked Masterpiece Cakeshop about a cake for their wedding reception. Phillips, the owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop, declined. He said that making cakes for same-sex couples violated his religious principles.

Craig and Mullins filed a complaint with the Colorado Civil Rights Commission. Colorado, like some twenty other states, requires businesses serving the public to offer equal service to all customers, regardless of their sexual orientation. An administrative judge, a state commission, and the Colorado Appellate Court all decided that Phillips had violated Colorado law. As a result, Phillips no longer offers customised wedding cakes.

With the backing of the Alliance Defending Freedom Phillips has appealed to the US Supreme Court, asking to be exempted from the Colorado law under the First Amendment’s protection of free speech. The DOJ’s Acting Solicitor General Jeffrey B. Wall has filed an amicus brief on behalf of Phillips, arguing that Phillips’s rights to free speech and to the free exercise of religion should take precedence over Colorado’s law prohibiting discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation.

The exemption that Wall calls for in the brief is not all-encomposing. Again according to the LA Times, Walls says that it should apply to only those businesses whose “product or service [is] inherently communicative.” In other words, it would not apply to most businesses. “A commercial banquet hall may not refuse to rent its facilities, nor may a car service refuse to provide limousines,” he says. He also says that the exemption should not include cases of racial discrimination, a distinction that is in line with previous Supreme Court decisions.

The scope of the claimed exemption is, for supporters of free markets, too narrow. For markets to be truly free, transactions must be voluntary on both sides. If a business is forced to provide a service against its principles, regardless of however abhorrent we may find those principles, it is not a voluntary transaction. The transaction is lop-sided.

The customer may, of course, back out of the transaction for any reason. It may be that the price is too high. Or the customer may hear that the baker’s cakes turn out to be not up to the quality promised. Perhaps the customer finds out that the bakery’s health department rating is less than perfect. Or, more to the point, it may be that the customer hears something about the baker that convinces him not to give the baker his money. Whatever the reason, the point is that there is no restriction, apart from contracts, that prevents the customer declining to continue with the trade.

The businessman, on the other hand, is compelled by law to trade with each and every potential customer who comes long. And this point is vitally important: the baker’s cakes don’t magically appear from nowhere. They are not baked by friendly, helpful elves who live in trees. Everything a baker sells is the result of either his own labour or that of his employees.

What the Colorado law amounts to, in the end, is that the baker has no control over his labour. He is compelled by law to provide his labour for anyone who demands it, regardless of his conscience, his principles, or his beliefs. In what way is this just?

If the law requiring a business to deal equally with all customers were removed it would return trade to a level playing field. Both parties would have to be happy with the terms of the transaction for it to proceed. It would, in short, be truly free trade.

As for the interests of the LGBT community, it would seem obvious that forbidding a business from discriminating against some customers simply because of their sexuality is a good thing. And no doubt that is exactly what was intended by the legislators who enacted the anti-discrimination laws.

Those legislators, unfortunately, got it exactly wrong. The law, as it stands, denies gays and lesbians the market’s single most important product: information.

What we call the market is really just the sum of all the individual transactions we all make every day. If you stopped for a coffee on your way to work this morning then you were part of the market. When you go for the weekly shop or fill up with petrol or sign up for Amazon Prime then you are part of the market. All those individual transactions we make every day, when they’re added up, make up the market. And that market gives us information. And information is power. Mind, it’s not just the transactions that do take place; it’s also those that don’t. When a business owner refuses to serve a customer because he’s gay or black or a policeman or in the military, that is information about the business owner. It tells us that the business owner doesn’t like gays or blacks or a policemen or servicemen.

It’s not at all unreasonable for a customer not to want to hand over his money to a businessman who despises him. In fact, it’s quite understandable. That’s why boycotts have been a tool for fighting prejudice since at least 1880, if not longer. Boycotts hit a business owner where it hurts the most: in the bottom line.

But if the bigoted businessman is forced to trade with any and all customers then the market loses that crucial information about who the businessman is and isn’t willing to trade with. The information about the bigoted businessman is lost. And as a result it is impossible to know who deserves to be boycotted and who doesn’t. Even if the the discriminated-against customer refuses ever to trade with a bigoted shopkeeper, he will likely deal with one simply because he has no way of knowing who the bigots are. How can this possibly be in the LGBT community’s best interests?

The DOJ’s brief is a good start, but it doesn’t go nearly far enough.